'The original may yet be discovered': seven Bronze Age swords supposedly from Netherley, Kincardineshire
Netherley; Kincardineshire; Scotland; UK
Among the leaf-shaped swords in the collections of the University of Aberdeen are three that have been recorded as having similar provenances in Kincardineshire. University museum records show that they have been described in very different ways over the two centuries since the first of them was reported as a ‘Roman gladius’. Since then discussion has varied, now focusing on whether they were made in the later Bronze Age or if they are recent replicas. Through a combination of metallurgical analysis and archival research, this paper untangles the stories of the swords. From what can now be shown to have been a single original sword, at least six copies were made; in addition to the two in the University, four reached the collections of other museums, making this perhaps the largest known group of 19th-century replica prehistoric metalwork from the British Isles. The history of these swords demonstrates changing attitudes of antiquarians and archaeologists to the distant past, particularly the shift from an interest in links to Roman invaders, founded in Classical sources, to the search for indigenous histories.