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Home > Auctions > 26th February 2019 > Iron Age Celtiberian Inlaid Dagger and Scabbard

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LOT 0450

Sold for (Inc. bp): £10,000

11 1/2" (344 grams total, 29.5cm).

An iron dagger and associated scabbard; the dagger with carp's tongue blade, flared lower guard, rounded grip, hollow T-shaped pommel with four large rivets, silver inlay to the hollow lower guard; the scabbard with median projections to connect with the lower guard and two T-shaped cotton-reel attachment points for the belt or baldric, four discoid lateral buttons to the finial; the lower guard with panels of inlaid silver wire in lattice patterns with guilloche border, similar ropework and guilloche patterns to the waist, and lower body, cross-in-circle designs to the lateral buttons; the blade lentoid in section with midrib; Iberian workmanship. [2]

CONDITION REPORT: [Click to show]

Property of a Suffolk gentleman; acquired before 2000. Accompanied by a report of metallurgic analytical results, written by Metallurgist Dr. Brian Gilmour of the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford.

See Capwell, Dr. T. Knives, Daggers and Bayonets, London, 2009 for discussion.

The dagger and its elaborate sheath bear distinctive decoration in the technique later known as Tauschierarbeit when it reappeared in the early medieval period. The process involves laying out a design on the metal surface, then carefully incising a narrow (typically 0.5mm or less) slot into the surface. The slot is then further worked with a graving tool to enlarge the hollow inner faces, creating a wedge-shaped profile to the cut with the narrow edge at the top. The silver wire is then made slightly over-width for the slot's dimensions, placed over the slot and slowly worked down with a flat-faced hammer so that the displaced metal expands into the lower part of the slot and fills the void. The process is repeated for every separate line in the design.

The four discoid buttons at the lower end of the scabbard are an unusual feature of this type with parallels in many Iron Age cultures of Europe. The two attachment studs would have passed through corresponding slits in a leather or woven textile belt or baldric.

The designs chosen for the inlay are all geometrical, mostly based around concentric rectangles and lattice or guilloche patterns. The reverse of the scabbard and hilt are both undecorated because expensive and labour-intensive ornament was reserved for the surfaces which could be displayed. The ornament may have held some symbolic meaning which is no longer recoverable. The organic grip would have been carved to accommodate the fingers and to facilitate a firm hold on the hilt.