Front-plate and chape from a dagger sheath
Iron Age, 450-350 BC
From the River Thames at Wandsworth, London, England
In the Bronze Age swords, daggers and spears were often placed in rivers as part of rituals and sacrifices. Many have been found in the River Thames. Even when the Bronze Age came to an end in 800 BC people continued to make offerings of swords and weapons, as this and other objects in the British Museum show.
This is a bronze sheath to hold a short iron sword or dagger. The iron blade of the dagger rusted away or fell out of the bronze sheath before it was found. The front of the sheath tapers to a long point and the sheet bronze is folded back at the edges to fit it to the back, which was made from iron. The front of the sheath is decorated with a geometric pattern of small triangles set between parallel lines. This is typical of sword sheaths of this date. Later in the Iron Age sheaths were decorated with the flowing patterns of La Tène style art.
In the early centuries of the Iron Age people across Europe preferred short swords and daggers. These were unlike the long swords used both at the end of the Bronze Age and later in the Iron Age. This evidence shows that warriors would have fought each other differently at this time.
E. Jope, 'Daggers of the Early Iron Age in Britain', Proceedings of the Prehisto-10, 27 (1961)
S. James and V. Rigby, Britain and the Celtic Iron Ag (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)
R. Bradley, A passage of arms (Cambridge University Press, 1990)