500-Year-Old Sword Gets a Facelift

Martin Rundkvist
Martin Rundkvist Wikimedia Commons

On August 30, while metal-detecting in Djurhamn, Sweden, archaeologist Martin Rundkvist unearthed a real treasure: a 36-inch 16th-century sword. The double-edged, single-hand grip weapon was "unusually designed," Rundkvist wrote on his blog, Aardvarchaeology, "but similar in details to the so-called rikssvärden, or 'swords of the realm,' ceremonial weapons commissioned by King Gustaf I." (Read more about how his team dug it up.) Since then, conservationists at the Studio Västsvensk Konservering, in Göteborg, have been cleaning up the sword, and in the process, learning more about its history. The photograph above was recently taken by the studio's Vivian Smits. "The blade bears traces of at least three 'fresh' sword blows," she told Rundkvist, indicating that the weapon was probably lost during combat (that is, before its owner had a chance to repair it.) Moreover, since 16th-century Djurhamn was a large and busy harbor, Rundkvist guesses that the sword's owner dropped it into water from a nearby bank. (Today the area is a marshy forest.) Makes sense...though one of Rundkvist's commenters proposed an intriguing alternate theory:

After a night of drinking and partying in the Atlantic City of 16th century Sweden, the owner of the sword found that he had lost his cabin key when he went abord his ship. In anger he banged the sword repeatedly on whatever he was nearest which awokened the big burly ship mate, who wrestled the sword from the inebriated aristocrat and hurled it overboard.

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