Press Release: Authentic 3,000-Year-Old Bronze Age sword put on display at Field Museum

January 17, 2023 Exhibition

Once thought to be a replica, this authentic, ancient sword will be on view as a teaser for First Kings of Europe exhibition

Installation of a Bronze Age Era sword (1080-900 BC) in the Field Museum’s main hall as a preview for an upcoming special exhibition, First Kings of Europe. © Field Museum

Nearly 100 years ago, the Field Museum acquired a bronze sword from Europe, but it was thought to be a well-made replica. But a new analysis of the sword revealed that the sword is the real deal, dating back 3,000 years to the Bronze Age.

While preparing for First Kings of Europe, a special exhibition opening at the Field Museum in March 2023, Hungarian archaeologists working alongside Field Museum scientists asked to see the “replica” sword that had been retrieved from the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary in the 1930s, where it may have been placed in an ancient ritual 3,000 years ago to commemorate lost loved ones or a battle.

The group of Field Museum scientists, including a chemist, and archeologists used an X-ray fluorescence detector, an instrument that looks like a ray gun. When they compared the sword’s chemical makeup to other known Bronze Age swords in Europe, their content of bronze, copper, and tin were nearly identical.

Bill Parkinson, a curator of anthropology at the Field who helped create the upcoming First Kings of Europe exhibition, says he was surprised by the results.  “Usually this story goes the other way round,” he says-- “What we think is an original turns out to be a fake.”

Had this sword been known to be authentic earlier in the planning of the exhibition, it would have been included in the Bronze Age era section of the show, which will showcase items from southeastern Europe, spanning thousands of years. Instead, the newly-authenticated sword will be installed in the Field Museum’s main hall as a preview for the new exhibition.

First Kings of Europe opens on March 31, 2023. More information on the First Kings of Europe can be found here. For more information, contact press@fieldmuseum.org.