The Roman sword found just off Oak Island.

Unraveling the Origins of the Roman Sword Discovered Off Oak Island

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Last month, we reported on the startling discovery of a Roman ceremonial sword off Oak Island , located on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada, radically suggesting that ancient mariners visited North America more than a thousand years before Columbus. While the announcement was largely met with surprise and excitement, many have also questioned the authenticity of the artifact. Here we explore the origins of the mysterious Roman sword.

Discovery of the Roman Sword

The finding of the Roman sword off Oak Island, which was originally announced by Johnston Press and published in  The Boston Standard , was revealed by researchers involved in The History Channel’s series  Curse of Oak Island , which details the efforts of two brothers from Michigan as they attempt to solve the mystery of the Oak Island treasure and discover historical artifacts believed to be concealed on the island.

Oak Island, Nova Scotia

Main: Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Credit:  Farhad Vladia / Panoramio . Inset: The Roman sword found in water just off the mysterious Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Credit: and National Treasure Society

J. Hutton Pulitzer, lead researcher and historic investigator, along with academics from the Ancient Artifact Preservation Society, have compiled a paper on the finding, which is scheduled to be published in full in early 2016.

According to Pulitzer, a shipwreck, believed to be Roman, was found off Oak Island, and within the wreck a well-preserved Roman ceremonial sword was retrieved. 

Pulitzer told the Boston Standard that the sword was hauled onto a fishing boat decades ago, but was kept secret because the finder and his son feared they would be punished due to strict laws in Nova Scotia regarding retrieving treasures from shipwrecks. 

However, relatives of the finder, who is now deceased, recently came forward to reveal the precious sword to researchers. 

A close-up of the sword found off Oak Island.

A close-up of the sword found off Oak Island. Photo courtesy of and National Treasure Society

Verifying Authenticity

In his blog article ‘ How can a sword cut history? ’, Pultizer states that the sword underwent various analyses, including XRF testing , and has been verified by the Roman Antiquities  authority as a gladiator ceremonial votive sword. XRF testing (X-ray fluorescence) is a proven technique for material analysis, including metals. The results found the same arsenic and lead signature in the metal of the sword, down to the atomic level, as that found in other ancient Roman artifacts.

Interestingly, the sword was also found to have magnetic qualities, causing it to point true north, a navigational feature built into some swords of the era through the use of lodestones. Ancient peoples were aware of the magnetic properties of lodestones from as early as the 6 th century BC. Cast iron replicas of Roman swords do not possess such characteristics.

“History shows many such items were given out by the Emperor to legion commanders, possibly as “protection, strength, and guidance of Hercules” prior to entering into battle or departing on a special mission,” reports Pultizer. “When such ceremonial swords were made they used solid cast, then hand crafted using a lost wax technique, and lastly gilded with gold like various Egyptian artifacts, making them very rare and highly prized.”

The Roman sword found off Oak Island is believed to be part of a rare set of votive swords. Four similar swords having been recovered and verified, now in private collections and museums, including the Museum of Naples, Italy, which issued cast iron replicas of the sword. Many replicas of these rare swords can now be found on websites such as eBay and Amazon.

Cast iron replica from the Naples Museum

Cast iron replica from the Naples Museum ( Design Toscano )

Symbolism of the Sword

Arts and antiquities collector and researcher David Xavier Kenney , has extensively studied the features and symbology of one of the Roman votive swords belonging to the same set, currently owned by a private collector in the Netherlands and dated to between 190 to 192 AD.

According to Kenney, the sword hilt depicts a statuette holding a piece of driftwood, tree trunk, branch or club overhead, ready to destroy a shrine that includes a type of Irminsul of the north (pillar that played an important role in Germanic paganism) associated with solar worship.

Roman votive sword studied by David Xavier Kenney, dated to 190 to 192 AD.

Roman votive sword studied by David Xavier Kenney, dated to 190 to 192 AD. Credit: David Xavier Kenney.

Connection with North America

Kenney maintains that the symbolism of the sword may reflect an ancient belief that there was a legendary or mythical sacred island to the far north in the west that was associated with a meteor strike, the magnetic, the water compass, navigation, and solar worship.


Why don't you guys mention that a very similar sword was found on ebay? and also there are for sale on Walmart and Amazon? There is A LOT of people waiting to see the white paper, let's see if it survives the peer review! Also, so far there is no evidence of the supposed roman shipwreck; I can't wait to see that white paper also!

I got excited after the first story about the sword but, alas, I too have found out about it being on ebay. The one in the picture is in too good of condition to have been down there for 1000 years or so. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.


--Still learning--

I doubt very seriously that an EBay replica would stand up to an Xray fluorescence exam. EBay are probably just cast iron or pot metal.

I guess that you missed the part about cast iron replicas having been made?

Why would the romans make a unique sword for every soldier? Debunking the find by saying you've seen it somewhere else isn't enough.

I guess you missed the part that they are rare set of ten and this: "History shows many such items were given out by the Emperor to legion commander". Legions commanders lead about 5k men.

Did you read the article? It is clearly stated, "Many replicas of these rare swords can now be found on websites such as eBay and Amazon."

guess you missed the part where Hutton lied about the E-Bay sword saying that it was a company mass producing it and that they had have been banned from E-Bay when it fact it was a small antique shop in Milan that only had the one to sell and it was not made out iron and there still very much active , or that Hutton has never revealed where the story of the 10 swords came from or showed any evidence of him actually doing any tests on the sword himself, add on to that his forever changing story , no pictures of any of the supposed other authentic swords and the tests done that showed it was modern brass it makes a compelling case that Hutton really is making it up as he goes along

I have been following the Oak Island story since I was a young child, and am now 60. I doubt we will ever have the true story in my lifetime.

This "Gladiator Sword" is available on eBay, Amazon, Wal-mart and even Linen and Things.

And what (pray tell) would a ceremonial gladiator sword be doing on a roman ship in Nova Scotian Waters anyway?

The 'Design Tuscano' link you provide says these are replica's from the Naples Museum...but funny enough I cannot find any references to this sword in a Naples museum (only thing that pops up are the replica's).

Do what's more likely? A decorated/honoured gladiator from Rome was aboard a ship with his ceremonial sword in Nova Scotia when it (and he) went down in the water - or that the sword is a fake - like so many other readily available replica's that look exactly the same online?

"What's more likely" has no place in the discussion. It may well be a fake but that will be revealed through research not conjecture.

No place in the discussion eh? Perhaps you failed to notice the entire article speaks to conjecture and hypothesis - without a single piece of hard fact revealed (as you say) through research. So I'd say I have every place in the discussion to make such a statement. Feel free to highlight the section of the article where research has revealed anything concrete and I shall happily retract my statement. Waiting...

The article clearly mentions replicas were made and gave an example. Since it was so famous the replicas are sold on ebay, amazon, and Design Tuscano is probably the wholesaler. Did you miss the part that their are 4 originals all sharing the same ancient metal composition and have magnetic stone too?

strange that all we have is Huttons word that he tested the other swords

Start by proving the existence of the shipwreck in the waters near the island and then tell us about the evidence that points towards it being Roman. Surely the boat is a better indication of a Roman presence than this sword.

Let's also not forget who is behind this whole discovery. Jovan Philyaw, now known as J. Hutton Puitzer.
Doing a little internet research on him doesn't exactly inspire my confidence in his credentials or integrity.

You should read the original article linked to this article, it mentions the overwhelming proof they have and shared some highlights. The rest will be published in the full white paper. Let's keep an open mind!

How does a sword that is supposedly bronze have magnetic properties? How does a sword with magnetic properties point to true north? How the hell do you use a sword as a navigation device? How does anyone take this guy seriously when he calls himself "treasure commander" and dresses like one of Teddy Roosevelt's rough riders?

I hope he knows that his "white paper" doesn't mean he just has to type this garbage on white paper...actually I think Pulitzer is crazy like a fox and is laughing all the way to the bank.

I too dress similar to a trooper from the American Expadissionary force of 1898. And I will add that the Spanird had smokless powder in their rifles! The villains!!! Bully I say, BULLY!!!!!!

There is a lot of ancient evidence behind this magnetic property and why it seems very credible. Just because you are unfamiliar, doesn't mean it wasn't possible. Given 10 were made they probably used lodestone which dates back to 6th century BC:

I am familiar with lodestones, and how they point to MAGNETIC north. Explain how a magnetic lodestone points to TRUE north? That is what they are claiming. And how do they know 10 were made? You can't just throw stuff like that out there without citing the source. The sword in the Museum in Naples? Which museum? The Nazionale where they keep the Pompeii stuff? Let's see some evidence. So far all I see is BS from a charlatan and way too many are taking what he says as faith.

The Romans ruled the Mediterranean world for many centuries. Britannia was a Roman province for 400 years. Roman shipping plied the Atlantic off the British Isles, so is it beyond imagination that an occasional ship ended up in North America?

According with Mr. Lawrence, The Roman Sword was acquire by the Romans from Walmart or Kmart
While traveling toward the American Continent.
In today's metal Analitic technology, we can count how many molecules are part of the sword structure and I guess by human nature, we love to put in doubt almost everything that appears too good to be true.

What needs to be checked is whether the Romans - who wrote in great detail about absolutely everything, particularly their travels and conquests - ever mentioned a long voyage to an unknown land.

And why would they document a secret mission to the Americas? America was a well known and heavily guarded trade secret in ancient times. Look up your history and you will find stories from Carthridge too

Nothing would or could have been written by a crew who never made it back to Roman soil.

Romans were not exactly great seagoers. Typical Roman military ship was galley, and those kind of ships do not have much seaworthiness on open ocean, and range is poor due to large crew and limited storage. Roman cargo ships on other hand were also designed to be used mostly on Mediterranean and on fair weather conditions. Typically coastal storms could wreck major navies of the day, like on Caesar’s invasion to Britain. And Roman seagoers rarely left vicinity of coast for a prolonged time. Those ships Columbus used were far more seaworthy ships than any Roman ship. 

Isn't it quite possible that at least an occasional Roman military or commercial vessel survived a trip across the Atlantic? People have made it across both major oceans in rowboats, so is it beyond reason that a Roman ship might have survived such a journey, too?

This "find" is mentioned on the latest Archy Fantasies podcast. They talk about these anomalies, even if genuine, don't prove anything as they have no context. It is worth listening to the podcast.

It was revealed to be a Total Fraud. I rather like that show but it is starting to look like to be almost Pseudo-history.

Maybe nobody could tell that after Columbus discover America, maybe during those time somebody from Rome or Roman person brought that sword went to Oak Island and left that sword there. Now, somebody said that Romans was first who went in America and discover the place. Well, there lots of opinion occurs or versions might be correct, we don't know....

According to the tests run by professors in Halifax, they felt the sword was not authentic (as reported on the Curse of Oak Island tv show). Were the tests mentioned in this article, after the tests shown on the tv show? According to those experts, the type of casting and the metallurgical makeup of the sword pointed more toward something made in the 1940's. They said the metallurgy of the brass did not match the brass of the Roman era.

The sword was already proven to be modern

I believe that the “Roman” artifacts found off Oak Island are a hoax perpetrated by J. Hutton Pulitzer.

There are several reasons why I believe this:

Roman ceremonial swords were used during the Holy Roman Empire, not by the original Romans.

Pulitzer has not produced the sword to experts for testing. All we have ae his claims that it was tested.

The site of the sunken Roman ship has not been excavated even though he claims that the site is known to the Nova Scotia authorities. This makes no sense. While it is true that there  are dozens of wrecks off the coast that have not been excavated, most date to the 18th to 20th century. If a wreck of a Roman ship was discovered, not only would the Nova Scotians be interested, archaeologists would fight for the opportunity to excavate such a find.

I doubt that Pulitzer has any historical knowledge except for what he may have read. Otherwise, he would not keep dodging the questions concerning his credentials.

Pulitzer changed his name. He claims that it was because of a stalker who began stalking him after he hosted a show called Net Talk Live! in the Dallas West End Marketplace. He claims that a man in the audience pointed a laser pointer at his forehead during the show. However, as far as I been able to discover, these claims were never substantiated. Even though he states that several people got a “good look” at the guy, he has never provided names of these witnesses.

Pulitzer is very defensive whenever questioned about either his find or the name change. An example is

In The petroglyph that Pulitzer states shows marching Roman legionnaires, the image could depict the “Pilum” carried by Roman soldier, it could also depict stone age hunters going on a hunt with their spears.

I could probably think of other reasons if I decide to dwell on the subject but I think my point is explained.


However, I do agree with Pulitzer in that “experts” in the field of archeology are not willing to even consider alternative theories to what we have been taught. The idea that ALL anomalous finds were dropped by “modern” collectors in recent times is laughable.


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