The Little Wittenham Iron Age Sword
(c. 100 BC)

Prehistoric Europe and Etruscan Gallery,

Gallery 29, First Floor


Focus on the Object

The bronze scabbard is of extremely high quality with intricate decorative features. If you look closely, you can see delicate ‘ladderwork’ decoration along its length.

The handle end features a panel of raised spirals which date the sword to the late Iron Age (about 100BC). There are also two rivets which were a design feature used to hold the scabbard onto the person’s belt. However, their function was obsolete by this time and they seem to have been included out of habit rather than necessity.

The sword (now corroded inside the scabbard) is made of iron. From the Xray in the case you can see that it is about 5cm shorter than the scabbard, but the fit at the handle is so good it seems likely that the sword was damaged and reforged, rather than being mismatched.

The handle was probably made from wood, leather or horn and has now perished. The scabbard is made up of 2 beaten bronze plates overlapping at the sides.