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: investigatinghistory.org 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 investigatinghistory.org 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.

Comments

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.

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