Iron Age, 120-50 BC
From the River Lark at Isleham, Cambridgeshire, England
Given as a gift to gods
This decorated bronze scabbard once held a long iron sword. It would have created a great visual impression when worn. The sword and the scabbard would have been made by a different master craftperson.
The scabbard is made from two sheets of bronze. A cast mount strengthens the mouth of the scabbard where the sword is put in and taken out. A decorated strip of bronze is soldered down the back. The front of the scabbard is decorated with two La Tene-style patterns, made by engraving the pattern into the metal, and then using a punch to fill the areas so they could be seen more clearly.
Many swords, spears and shields that date to the Bronze and Iron Age have been found when rivers were dredged. It appears that they were deliberately placed in rivers as gifts to gods or spirits. This scabbard and the sword it contained were of great value, but someone thought it was important to present them as a gift to a god or spirit.
Length: 76.6 cm
P&EE 1976 7-3 2
Room 50, Later Bronze Age & Celtic Europe, case 9
S. James & V. Rigby, Britain and the Celtic Iron Age (London, The British Museum Press, 1997), p.65, plate 75.
Related objects & informations:
Front-plate and chape from a dagger sheath
River Thames spearhead
Weapons and warriors in Iron Age Britain
Britain in the Iron Age
Conserving the Isleham sword and scabbard
Bronze in Iron Age Britain