La Tène Sword & Scabbard
Iron Age Finery from Little Wittenham
In 1982, a superb example of an Iron Age sword, in a decorated bronze scabbard, of the so-called 'Hunsbury' type was discovered near the hillfort of Wittenham Clumps in Little Wittenham. It is one of the most elaborate and best preserved of such weapons ever found in the country and probably dates from the mid-first century bc.
The iron sword is a broad example of the ‘La Tene II’ tanged form, with a two and a half inch wide by twenty-eight inches long blade. The tang is only a quarter of its original length, having been broken two inches above the shoulder. The hilt ends in a solid cast-bronze ogival guard decorated with a row of raised dot castings, and following the profile of the scabbard-mouth.
The scabbard consists of two bronze sheets. A decorated front-plate, thirty inches long, rolls over at the edges to grip a plain back-plate, the sheets being fastened at the tip by a solid cast chape. The front-plate has several cast decorative motifs attached to it and the back-plate has an unusual iron suspension loop. An upper decorated panel of repousse work on the front-plate creates a striking appearance, and is complemented by a fine fluted mid-rib flanked on either side by panels of laddering down to the tip. The chape, carrying further incised ornament, adds a further three-quarters of an inch to the over all length. X-Ray photography has shown that the blade of the sword only reaches to the chape constriction and the tip is broken.
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