Italian archaeologist Vittoria Dall’Armellina was a PhD student at Ca’ Foscari University in 2017 when she visited the Saint Lazarus monastery.
Sitting atop a tiny island in the Venetian lagoon, the monastery is home to the Mekhitarist friars, an Armenian Catholic congregation who settled there in 1717 and have furthered the preservation of Armenian heritage and antiquities ever since.
During a guided tour of the monastery’s museum, in the last display case before the exit, something caught Dall’Armellina’s attention: a metal sword, about 17 inches long, resembling those she came across in her studies as a Bronze Age weaponry specialist.
Courtesy of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice/Andrea Avezzu
“I noticed it immediately,” she told CNN. The sword was labeled as a medieval artifact, but Dall’Armellina had a hunch that the object was much older than that.
She was correct. Two years worth of research confirmed the sword is among the most ancient ones ever found, dating as far back as 5,000 years ago.
Chemical composition analyses carried out in partnership with the University of Padua revealed that the sword is made of arsenical bronze, an alloy of copper and arsenic. This alloy was typically used between the end of the 4th and beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, before the use of bronze took hold.
The chemical composition of the sword matches that of other specimens found in the Royal Palace of Arslantepe, an archaeological site in…