The Oxborough Dirk
- 1/1 Next
- The Oxborough Dirk
Copper alloy ceremonial dirk. Edges of blade are deliberately blunt and there are no rivet holes at butt.
- Found/Acquired: My Lords Wood, Found 1988, set vertically into peat, butt uppermost.
- (Europe,United Kingdom,England,Norfolk,Oxborough,My Lords Wood)
- Famille à languette large. Plougrescant-Ommerschans Type.
- Length: 709 millimetres
- Width: 181 millimetres
- Thickness: 73 millimetres
- Weight: 2.36 kilograms
A man walking in woods near Oxborough literally stumbled across this dirk in 1988. It had been thrust vertically into soft peaty ground nearly 3,500 years ago, but erosion had exposed the hilt-plate, which caught his toe.
The 'weapon' respects the basic style of early Middle Bronze Age dirks, but it is extremely large and unwieldy, 70.9 cm long and 2.37 kg in weight. The edges of the blade are very neatly fashioned, but deliberately blunt and no rivet holes were ever provided at the butt for attaching a handle in the customary manner. The dirk was evidently never intended to be functional in any practical way. Instead, it was probably designed for ceremonial use, or as a means of storing wealth.
Although of an extremely rare type, one of only two from Britain, there are also four excellent parallels from continental Europe - two each from the Netherlands and France. Two of these earlier finds give the type the name Plougrescant-Ommerschans type. The five weapons are so similar, in style and execution, that it is possible that they were all made in the same workshop. However, on present evidence we cannot be sure whether this was in Britain, or the neighbouring parts of continental Europe.
Not on display
2016 1 Apr- 30 Sep, The Netherlands, Leiden, Rijksmuseum van Oudeheden, Vlijmscherp Verleden
2013 14 Sep - 2014 24 Feb, Norwich, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia
2010-2011 2 Oct-23 Jan, Norwich Castle Museum, The Art of Faith
2003 23 Oct-2004 18 Jan, London, Hayward Gallery, Saved! 100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund
1997 6-26 Jan, London, Christies, Treasures for Everyone: Saved by the National Art Collections Fund
1996 4 May-29 Aug, Norwich Castle Museum, The Great Treasure Hunt
Purchased after Export Licence refused.
Britain, Europe and Prehistory
If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Object reference number: BCB12475
British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.
The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.