- Museum number
Bronze sword or dagger with handle for attachment of grips; grip widens gradually from the pommel towards the guard and ends in a pair of deep concavities immediately above the guard; Babylonian, reign of Marduk-nadin-ahhe; hilt originally inlaid; engraved cuneiform inscription on both sides of the blade immediately below the hilt junction.
- Production date
- 11thC BC
Length: 23.40 centimetres (blade)
Length: 37 centimetres
Length: 14.50 inches
Weight: 421 grammes
Width: 4 centimetres (blade)
Width: 2 inches
- Curator's comments
Said to have been found with 123060 which has Babylonian cuneiform inscription stating that it is the property of Shamash-killani, an officer of the king; object may have been used by a member of the royal forces and deposited in his grave. Cited by Brinkman ('Journal of Cuneiform Studies', 16 (1962), p.89) as a duplicate inscription to another inscribed dagger of the same type and published by Pope in The ILN 29 October 1932, p.666, figs 4-5 (in possession of Mrs Christian Holmes) and which is inscribed on one side with "Proprty of Marduk-nadin-ahe, king of the Universe" (which duplicates inscription on another dagger in the Louvre, reproduced as fig. 3 in this article) and "Son of Ninurta-nadin-sumi, king of Babylon" on the opposite side. Pope here states that they cannot be the remains of some battle as he cites the Iranian dealers "Rahim, Rabenou and several others report that they are from widely scattered sources in various parts of the district".
The sword was made by first casting the blade and tang, trimming, hammering and polishing the cast, and then pouring hot metal into a mould added around the tang and upper blade; the handle would then be trimmed and polished. It was analysed by the BM research laboratory 1977 but no trace of gilding was found.
Pope, A.U., 1932. 'More light on the Luristan discoveries', 'Illustrated London News', 29 October 1932, pp.666-67.
Original catalogue entry by St J. Simpson for Cernuschi loan (2008)
Dagger or short sword with cuneiform inscription
11th century BC
Length 37, Length of blade 23.4, Width of blade 4 cm, Weight 421 g
Gadd 1932b: 44-45, pl. XVIII; Hutchinson 1934: 164; Herzfeld 1968: 30, no. 5; Langdon 1938: 279, 283, no. IX, v. IV, pl. 55.D-E; Nagel 1960: 95, no.3, abb. 3; Brinkman 1962: 89, item 6.2.2; Maxwell-Hyslop 1946: 45, type 35a; Maxwell-Hyslop & Hodges 1964: 52, pl. XII.5; Maxwell-Hyslop & Hodges 1966: 171; Moorey 1971: 32; Moorey 1974: 32, 46, pl. II.B; Curtis 1995: 15; Calmeyer 1995: 36, pl. 1 (right); Overlaet 2003: 161, fig. 127.3
London, The British Museum, 123061 (ME 1932,0514.2)
Purchased from Abdullah J. Hakim in 1932
Double-edged flanged bronze dagger or short sword. The hilt widens gradually from the pommel towards the guard and ends in a pair of deep restrictions or concavities immediately above the guard. The hilt recesses were originally inlaid with wood which was probably secured with wire wound around the restrictions.
This type of sword was popular in Mesopotamia between the 12th and 10th centuries BC (Iron I) and possibly slightly later, averaged about 32-33 cm in length and usually has heavily worn edges which implies that they were regularly used and sharpened. Their shape, size and balance indicate that they were intended for close quarters fighting and were used to stab and rip. Most are plain, including those found at Kassite sites in Mesopotamia, but a small number from the Iranian art market have lightly engraved cuneiform inscriptions added immediately below the blade/hilt junction. These give the names of Babylonian kings and officials from the late Kassite period and Second Dynasty of Isin, and are consistent with the archaeological evidence for the dating and likely original provenance for these swords. There is a short Babylonian cuneiform inscription on both sides of the blade immediately below the hilt: šá d.amar.utu-sum-šeš.meš lugal šař lugal ká.dingir.ra.ki (obverse), lugal ki.in.gi uri.ki (reverse). This translates as “Property of Marduk-nadin-ahhe, king of the world, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad”. This king reigned 1099-1082 BC, and is shown wearing a pair of such daggers thrust through his belt on a kudurru in the British Museum.
This sword was reportedly “found near Kermanshah, it is said in a cave” (Reports to Trustees, 6 May 1932) and together with a Middle Babylonian bronze bowl and a second sword (BM 123060) which has a Babylonian cuneiform inscription stating that it is the property of Shamash-killani, an officer of the king. These are not the only swords of this type to be found in this region with cuneiform inscriptions, although none come from archaeological excavations. A number of inscribed arrowheads are also known dating from the 11th and 10th centuries BC. It is unlikely that these are from an ancient battlefield and Pope (1932: 666) cites his Iranian dealer colleagues “Rahim, Rabenou and several others” who “report that they are from widely scattered sources in various parts of the district”. Although dealers’ reports are hardly to be relied upon, the most likely scenario is that these swords were found in graves and that they represent ancient booty, although Herzfeld (1968: 29-31) suggested they were from the graves of Assyrian soldiers garrisoned in Luristan and Calmeyer (1995: 36) suggested they may have been dedicated to local sanctuaries or given to soldiers who had served as mercenaries in Babylonian armies.
- Bibliographic references
Gadd 1932b / Bronzes from North-West Persia (pp.44-45, pl.XVIII)
Hutchinson R W 1934a / Two Mesopotamian daggers and their relatives (p.164)
Pope 1938 / Survey of Persian Art (vol. I, pp. 279, 283, no. IX, vol. IV, pl.55.D-E) (article by S. Langdon)
Maxwell-Hyslop K R 1946a / Daggers and swords in Western Asia (p.45, type 35a)
Nagel W 1960a / Die Kőnigsdolche der Zweiten Dynastie von Isin (p.95, no.3, abb.3)
Brinkman J A 1962 / A preliminary catalogue of written sources for a political history of Babylonia: 1160-722 BC (p.89, item 6.2.2) (states is a duplicate inscr.)
Maxwell-Hyslop & Hodges 1964a / A note on the significance of the technique of 'casting on' as applied to a group of daggers from north-west Persia (p.52, pl.XII.5)
Rice TT 1965a / Ancient Arts of Central Asia (fig.17, p.28)
Maxwell-Hyslop & Hodges 1966a / Three iron swords from Luristan (p.171)
Herzfeld E 1968a / The Persian Empire. Studies in geography and ethnography of the ancient Near East. Edited from the posthumous papers by Gerold Walser (p.30, no. 5)
Moorey P R S 1971b / Catalogue of the Ancient Persian Bronzes in the Ashmolean Museum (p.32)
Moorey P R S 1974b / Ancient Bronzes from Luristan (pp.32, 46, pl. II.B)
Curtis 1995d / Later Mesopotamia and Iran: Tribes and Empires 1600-539 BC (Proceedings of a Seminar in memory of Vladimir G. Lukonin) (p. 1, pl. 1 (right))
Calmeyer 1995a / Middle Babylonian Art and Contemporary Iran (p.36, pl. I (right))
Overlaet B 2003a / The Early Iron Age in the Pusht-i Kuh, Luristan (p.161, fig. 127.3)
Simpson 2008a / Bronzes du Luristan. Enigmes de l'Iran ancien (IIIe-1er millenaire av. J.C.). (pp.83-84, cat. 23)
Frame, RIMB 2 / Rulers of Babylonia, from the Second Dynasty of Isin to the end of Assyrian domination (1157-612 BC) (RIM.B.184.108.40.206)
- On display (G55/dc1)
- Exhibition history
2008 9 Feb-22 Jun, Paris, Musée Cernuschi, "Bronzes du Luristan. Mystères de l'Iran ancien. IIIe-Ier millénaire avant notre ère".
1994-, BM, G55: "Later Mesopotamia" gallery, case 3
1975-1990, Jul-Dec, BM, Iranian Room [IR], case 3, no. 17.
Persian Landing, case 1.
Iranian Room, case 2.
- Fair; no active corrosion (October 2007) when condition reported for loan; heavily cleaned in the past, partially to bright shiny metal, for instance on the inscription, lower blade (one side) and edge of blade/hilt junction; some old edge damage along the blade reflecting ancient use; traces of dark material in the hilt recess possibly resulting from original hilt inlays.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Reported to Trustees, 6 May 1932.
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number