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Sword removed from stone in the Vrbas river, Srpska             Source: Izvor / N1

Medieval Bastard Sword Pulled From River Stone


Weapons experts confirm that a medieval bastard sword found in a stone is a significant archaeological find.

This summer at the bottom of the river Vrbas in Republika Srpska, archaeologists discovered a medieval bastard sword that had been plunged into a stone and the two have now been slowly separated under water. Janko Vracar, a historian of the Republika Srpska Museum, told reporters that based on analysis of the blade the sword was used from the end of the 13th to the first half of the 15th century.

According to a report in ARPSKA Times, medieval sword finds are rare in the Balkan region and only one has been found in almost a century, which is why authorities deem the recovering of the weapon and its conservation a “priority”. It is a fairly well-preserved specimen, according to Vracar and its rescue and successful conservation is a priority not only for the museum but for the City of Banja Luka and Republika Srpska.


Swords, In Stones

This sword found in a stone in a river has of course led reporters to draw comparisons with Excalibur, the famous sword in the legend of King Arthur which only the true king of England was able to extract from the stone (or the lake, depending on the version) in which it was kept. Most mythologists and historians would agree that the legend of Excalibur is a metaphor for the extraction of iron ore from stone and the event of the Iron Age, after which humans “ruled the land”. But in the real world other medieval swords have been found thrust into stones, like for example, in Tuscany’s Montesiepi Chapel.

Galgano Guidotti was born in 1148 AD near Chiusdino and, after living his younger years as a wealthy knight, in 1180 Giudotti began following the words of Jesus. Soon after turning to the cloth he began having visions of Archangel Michael who led him to God and the twelve apostles on the hill of Monte Siepi. When Michael commanded Giudotti to renounce all of his earthly possessions he replied that this would be “as difficult as splitting a stone” and to prove his point he thrust his sword into one. The following year Giudotti died and in 1185 AD Pope Lucius the 3rd declared him a saint and the Montesiepi Chapel was built up around the sword in the stone.

Sword in the stone around which was built Montesiepi Chapel, Italy. (CC BY- 3.0)

Sword in the stone around which was built Montesiepi Chapel, Italy. (CC BY- 3.0)

The Rise of a New Arthur

In 2018 many hands grasped at Bosnia’s figurative sword in the stone in the race to become the “chosen one” to rule the land in what turned out to be a controversial general election. According to a report in RFERL the United States expressed concerns about “shortcomings” in Bosnia's election process including the accuracy of voter registration polls, impartiality of election observers, equitable access to media, and misuse of public resources.

Today, more than a year after the election, politicians have failed to agree on the formation of a new government, however, maybe now that archaeologists have separated the sword from the stone in the river, an allegorical, metaphorical and mythological plug was pulled, and the rightful king will now emerge from the pit of snakes.

Top image: Sword removed from stone in the Vrbas river, Srpska             Source: Izvor / N1

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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