Rare Roman Soldier’s Dagger Restored To Its Former Glory
In Germany, a remarkable Roman silver dagger has been unearthed by a young student. The find has been painstakingly restored and is once again in pristine condition. The silver dagger is believed to have been carried by a Roman soldier into battle in the 1st century AD.
The dagger was found at an ancient burial ground in Haltern am See, near Münster, which is in western Germany. This cemetery was near a former Roman military camp that was built in the area some 2,000 years ago and was later abandoned. This area has been the subject of archaeological excavations for over two centuries but there have been some significant remarkable discoveries in the locality in recent years.
Silver Roman Dagger
The Roman dagger was hard to recognize at the time of discovery as it was surrounded by a thick layer of corrosion. (LWL-Römermuseum Haltern am See / Facebook)
Despite the thick layers of rust, the weapon was in remarkable condition. This artifact, was painstakingly restored over nine months by experts. Galileu reports that “the dagger is large: it is about the size of an adult man’s forearm”.
Roman Dagger’s ‘Blood Channel’
The Times reports that it was “so well preserved that even its lime-wood sheath and the flaxen twine from its belt survived for 2,000 years”. They were able to restore it to a pristine condition and it can now be seen in its original glory. The dagger’s details such as its “red enamel and glass as well as silver and brass handle decorated with ornate patterns of foliage and leaves” survived and can be clearly seen according to the Daily Mail .
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Fortunately, the restorer was able to take the Roman dagger out of its sheath. (LWL-Römermuseum Haltern am See / Facebook)
This weapon would have been the possession of a Roman soldier and worn by him when going into battle. The dagger may have been owned by an officer.
It was not only an ornament but was designed to be used in battle and to kill and was most likely used in close combat. This is because “it features blood channels - grooves said to reduce suction when it was removed from the flesh” according to the Daily Mail .
Roman Defeat in Germania
The discovery of the silver dagger is a rare and unique find. According to Michael Rind, the director of archaeology for the local Westphalia-Lippe district, “the find is without parallel” according to the Daily Mail . It is so important because of its condition and also because there is so much information about the context of the discovery.
Finder Nico Calmund and fiber optic restorer Eugen Müsch are proud of their work on the Roman dagger. (LWL-Römermuseum Haltern am See / Facebook)
Galileu reports that the “discovery will help them to better understand what happened in that region of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago”. The Roman encampment , near where the weapon was found, was part of a network of fortresses in this part of Germany. They were designed to subdue the local population as the region was turned into a Roman province.
Dagger Lost During Roman Retreat
However, it was abandoned after the defeat of Varus and his legions at the Battle of Teutoberg Forest in 9 AD. Here the local Germanic tribes laid an ambush for the Romans and killed between 15,000 and 20,000 legionnaires.
This battle effectively ended all attempts at Imperial expansion east of the Rhine and ensured that the Germanic tribes remained free of Roman domination for the duration of the Empire. It is believed that the camp, was abandoned after the withdrawal of the legions from the area.
The fact that such a valuable and prestigious weapon was discarded may indicate that the Romans left the region in a hurry. Excavations are continuing at the site and more exciting discoveries are possible. The restored dagger will go on public display at the Roman Museum in Haltern sometime in 2022.
Top image: Reconstruction of what the Roman dagger would have looked like with the belt. Source: LWL-Römermuseum Haltern am See / Facebook.
By Ed Whelan