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The giant Bronze Age ritual dagger found in a field in Norfolk 2

a photo of a bent dagger with green verdigris

The Rudham Dirk, an oversized dagger that was ritually bent and deposited. © Norfolk Museum Service

The Rudham Dirk, an oversize Bronze Age ritual dagger that was famously used for years as a doorstop by a Norfolk farmer

It is 800 years older than the ancient city of Rome and is even older than the Pharaoh Tutankhaten, but this ceremonial Bronze Age dagger, which is thought to be about 3,500 years old, was found during ploughing in a Norfolk field in 2002.

Known as the Rudham Dirk, the near-unique Bronze Age treasure was used as a doorstop by the finder – a Norfolk farmer – until it was properly identified through the Portable Antiquities Scheme in 2013.

Only six examples of its kind – pairs are now held in France, the Netherlands and Britain – are known in Europe, with the British Museum’s equivalent, the Oxborough Dirk, also discovered in Norfolk in 1988.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund paid for the Rudham ritual dagger and it is now in the collection of Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

a photo of a bent dagger with green verdigris

© Norfolk Museum Service

“What makes the Rudham Dirk particularly distinctive is its monumental size,” says Dr Tim Pestell, Senior Curator of Archaeology at the museum, who adds that the find points to the beliefs and “contacts” of people during the earliest stages of metalworking industries.

“At approximately 68 centimetres long it is about three times the size of a normal Bronze Age dirk, and so large and heavy it is completely impractical as a weapon.

“With a blunt blade that was never sharpened and no rivet holes for a handle, the Dirk was deliberately designed as a ceremonial weapon.

“This is almost certainly the reason why it was found bent in half, deliberately folded as part of the object’s ritual ‘destruction’ before its burial – a practice well known from Bronze Age metalwork.”

East Rudham is just over 16 miles away from the find location of the Oxborough Dirk, which was found sticking out of a peat bog in 1988. Experts conjecture that the region’s proximity to the North Sea trade routes to Northern France and Netherlands may account for its similarity to those found on the continent and although all six known daggers have stylistic differences, there is further speculation that they may have been made by the same person – or at least in the same workshop.

However, as with most archaeological discoveries, many questions remain. The exact reasons for its ritual damage has fuelled debate around the tradition of hoarding and ritual depositing – although most archaeologists agree that the tradition of depositing metal objects for religious or ritual reasons began in the Bronze Age and is especially prevalent in East Anglia.

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