Metal detectorist stumbles on two ancient Roman swords in UK. Now a mystery lingers

Underneath the countryside of the United Kingdom sat a pair of 1,800-year-old swords. The weapons were long-forgotten and rusting — until a metal detectorist came along.

Metal detectorist Glenn Manning was searching the ground of the Cotswold District as part of an event, the Cotswold District Council said in a Sept. 18 news release. He stumbled upon a “remarkable” and mysterious find.

Manning unearthed a pair of ancient Roman swords, officials said. Photos show the long, brown weapons. They have short handles and a flat, rectangular blade.

The length of the blades indicates these were “cavalry weapons” and “intended for use on horseback,” officials said.

“They’re two of only four unique cavalry swords from Roman times,” Councilor Paul Hodgkinson said in the Cotswold District Council’s Sept. 18 YouTube video.

Simon James, an archaeologist with the University of Leicester, identified the swords as spatha, the release said. He dated the weapons to the late second century A.D., about 1,800 years ago.

A close-up photo shows the ancient Roman swords.
A close-up photo shows the ancient Roman swords.

The swords were found with “remnants of their wooden scabbards and fitments” and a broken copper bowl, the release said.

“The question is, and the mystery is, why were those swords buried in the north of the Cotswolds? What were they doing there?” Corinium Museum Director Emma Stuart said in the video.

Archaeologists think the swords might have been used by military officials and civilians, but they don’t know how the weapons came to be buried, they said in the video.

“In terms of parallels,” James said in the release, “the closest that springs to mind was a pair of similar swords found in Canterbury — with their owners, face down in a pit within the city walls, clearly a clandestine burial, almost certainly a double murder.”

Archaeologists plan to excavate the area where the weapons were found in hopes of finding more context, the release said.

The swords were given to the Corinium Museum for preservation where they will be studied and likely X-rayed, officials said.

Cotswold is a district about 85 miles northwest of London.

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