World's oldest surviving sword? The 5,000-year-old Anatolian weapon is discovered in the Armenian Monastery of Venice after being mislabelled as 'Medieval'

• The sword from the end of the 4th century BC was held in a Venice museum

• A PhD student saw the sword in a medieval section but thought it was much older

• The sword has been reassessed and dates from Eastern Turkey in 3000 BC


One of the oldest swords in the world that was mislabelled in a museum on Saint Lazarus Island, Venice, is around 5,000 years old, according to a new study.

The ultra-rare sword, which doesn’t resemble most ancient weapons in the world, was made around the year 3000 BC and came from eastern Turkey.

However, the sword was contained in a cabinet as part of a medieval collection.

It was only when a local PhD student and expert in ancient weaponry noticed the sword that it was removed for further analysis to pinpoint its date.

The sword could have been a ceremonial object or an offensive weapon that was used in combat.

Another hypothesis is that it was part of a burial and was casually retrieved by townsfolk before ending up in a museum.

The 5,000-year-old sword has no visible inscriptions, embellishments or distinctive features.
The sword was being kept inside the Mekhitarist Monastery on the Saint Lazarus Island in the Venetian Lagoon.

Vittoria Dall’Armellina at Università Ca' Foscari in Venice saw the sword in a small cabinet surrounded by medieval items at the Mekhitarist Monastery on Saint Lazarus Island in the Venetian Lagoon.

Mekhitarist Monastery, which is the headquarters of the Armenian Catholic Mekhitarist Congregation, includes museums, a church, residential quarters, a library, museums, a picture gallery, a printing plant, and research facilities.

The weapon caught the eye of Dall’Armellina, whose master’s degree and Ph.D. included a study on the origin and evolution of swords in the Ancient Near East.

She thought the weapon she had spotted didn’t look like a medieval artifact, but a much older sword, similar to those she had already encountered in her studies.

It looked similar to those found in the Royal Palace of Arslantepe in modern-day eastern Turkey, which would put its date to 5,000 years ago and make it one of the oldest swords in the world.

Ph.D. student Vittoria Dall’Armellina with Father Serafino Jamourlian, a friar who contributed to the study

But contrary to some Arslantepe specimens, the sword is not decorated and has no visible inscriptions, embellishments, or distinctive features.

Strong resemblance to the twin swords of Arslantepe, as well as information about its metallic composition, allowed experts to determine that the sword dates back to around the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd century BC.

Arslantepe swords are considered the oldest type of sword in the world.

The Saint Lazarus Island sword turned out to be made of arsenical bronze, an alloy frequently used before the widespread diffusion of bronze.

Analysis of the sword, which is made of Arsenical bronze, an alloy frequently used before the widespread diffusion of bronze

Arsenical bronze uses copper and arsenic, as opposed to copper and tin or other constituent metals to make bronze.

This type of sword was found in a relatively small region in Eastern Anatolia, between the high course of the Euphrat and the Southern shore of the Black Sea.

Further analysis of trace elements could further pinpoint the exact source of the metal.

Due to less-than-optimal conditions, it has not been possible to detect any traces of usage.

But it’s believed the sword traveled from Trebizond in Turkey to Venice in the second half of the 19th century.

Portrait of Father Ghevont Alishan published in Alishan's 1901 book 'Hayabadoom' - which means 'Armenian history'. Ghevond Alishan, a famous poet, writer, Mekhitarist monk, and zealous archeology scholar, died in Venice in 1901 and was gifted the sword before his death

This is due to an envelope containing a worn-out slip of paper that came with the sword.

The note on the paper, written in Armenian, talks about a donation to Father Ghevond Alishan, a famous poet and writer who died in Venice in 1901.

Ghevond Alishan, who was a friend of English art critic John Ruskin, was born in Constantinople – now Istanbul – and traveled to Venice before his death.

Further studies are being done on the weapon, the history of which is still 'shrouded with mystery'.