Bronze Age. 1,600-1,300 BC. Maiersdorf, near Wiener Neustadt, Lower Austria.
The bronze ornamental dagger is one of the finest examples of Bronze Age smithing, and its fantastical scratch decoration is particularly appealing.
GIFTS TO THE GODS?
Maiersdorf lies in the “New World”, a narrow valley at the foot of the Hohe Wand mountains in southern Lower Austria. Around 1835 a tourist from Wiener Neustadt saw a pair of farm children playing with a bronze item. This later proved to be the ornamental dagger from the Maiersdorf trove. Unfortunately, no one knows when and how exactly this was discovered. The tourist bought all the finds that he could locate in the area. After his death, they passed into the possession of an imperial representative, and were acquired by the NHM from his estate around 1892.
Research in the 1920s showed that the dagger could have been found at a point north of Maiersdorf. Other items from hoards of various ages are known from this area, which was possibly the site of a spring sanctuary where gifts were deposited over an extended period.
In the Bronze Age, daggers were both weapons and status items, and were correspondingly valuable. Their shape changed over time, with small triangular daggers dominant in the early Bronze Age, and blades becoming longer over time, developing into long daggers and short swords.
The Maiersdorf dagger is described as an ornamental dagger because of the quality of the work and the rich ornamentation. The technique used to make it is unusual. Unlike most daggers, where the blade and handle are cast separately and then riveted together, the handle here is hollow, with a wooden core. The bits that look like rivets are only decoration.