Oxborough Dirk

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Oxborough Dirk
Brit Mus 17sept 052-crop.jpg
The Oxborough Dirk at the British Museum
Size70.9 cm (27.9 in) high
Created1450–1300 BC
Present locationBritish Museum, London
Registration1994 10-3 1

The Oxborough Dirk is a large ceremonial weapon or dirk from the early bronze age. One of only six such objects across Europe, it was found in a rural part of the county of Norfolk, England in the 1980s and is now part of the British Museum's prehistoric collection.[1]


It was found by chance in 1988 protruding from a peat bog near Oxborough, Norfolk, where it had been deposited point down. A walker had discovered it in woods near the village by accidentally tripping up on the hilt of the sword. Six years after its discovery, the sword was purchased by the British Museum with the support of the National Art Collections Fund.

Rare find[edit]

The Oxborough find is one of only six large dirks known in north-west Europe, though excessively large versions of other types of objects from this era are also recorded. The six are so similar that they may have been made in the same workshop, in which case this one could have been imported in to Britain from the continent. The six almost identical swords have been found across three countries in western Europe: two in France, two in the Netherlands and two in England. All six of these very rare swords are labelled the Plougrescant-Ommerschans type, after two of the sites from where they were found.[2] The others were discovered in Beaune and Jutphaas and a second from Norfolk. The Beaune example is also in the British Museum's collection.[3]. The second Norfolk example is in the collection of Norwich Castle Museum.


The Oxborough Dirk is dated to between 1450–1300 BC and measures 70.9 centimetres (27.9 in) long with a mass of 2.37 kilograms (5.2 lb), making it "ridiculously large and unwieldy" and clearly never intended for practical use, which the lack of holes on the hilt for fitting a handle also demonstrates. It was probably either a votive offering or a store of value that could be retrieved at a later time. It is currently on display in Room 50 at the British Museum.[4][5]



  1. ^ British Museum Collection
  2. ^ Dutch article on Ommerschans weapon
  3. ^ British Museum Collection
  4. ^ "British Museum – Ceremonial bronze dirk". britishmuseum.org. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
  5. ^ S. Needham, 'Middle Bronze Age ceremonial weapons: new finds from Oxborough, Norfolk, and Essex/Kent', The Antiquaries Journal-5, 70 (1990), pp. 239–52.

Further reading[edit]

  • C.B. Burgess and S. Gerloff, 'The dirks and rapiers of Great Britain and Ireland', Prähistorische Bronzefunde-2, 4:7 (1981)
  • S. Needham, 'Middle Bronze Age ceremonial weapons: new finds from Oxborough, Norfolk, and Essex/Kent', The Antiquaries Journal-5, 70 (1990), pp. 239–52