Metal detectorist finds 1,800-year-old Roman cavalry swords in Cotswolds

Metal detectorist finds 1,800-year-old Roman cavalry swords in Cotswolds

Two rare Roman swords dating back to 160AD have been unearthed north of the Cotswolds by a metal detectorist.

Glenn Manning found the cavalry swords and remnants of their wooden scabbards, along with a broken copper alloy bowl, while participating in a metal detectorist rally in March.

The weapons are middle imperial Roman swords commonly referred to as a spatha, according to professor Simon James from Leicester University who assessed the swords.

These swords, he said, were in use in the Roman world likely from about 160 AD, through the later second century and far into the third century AD.

“This new discovery shows what an incredibly deep history the Cotswolds has... This is truly a remarkable archaeological find and I can’t wait for visitors to see them on display in the years to come,” Cotswolds district councillor Paul Hodgkinson said.

The length of the swords indicate they were cavalry weapons intended for use on horseback.

During this time, it was “not illegal” for civilians to own such weapons and to carry them for travelling.

This was because Roman provinces were plagued with banditry around the time, experts said.

“In terms of parallels, I can’t think of finds of more than one sword being deposited in any similar circumstance from Roman Britain,” professor James said.

“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,” he said.

The finds have been deposited with the Corinium museum to ensure their preservation, with experts arranging for the swords to undergo further analysis under X-ray.

Further archaeological analysis at the dig site in the north of the Cotswolds may follow.

This would help put the swords into context, as it is not yet known how and why they ended up buried in the Cotswolds, the district council said in a statement.

The discovery comes as a cache of “excellently preserved” 1,900-year-old Roman swords were unearthed in a cave near the Dead Sea by archaeologists in Israel earlier this month.