Museum buys ceremonial bronze age sword for €550,000

Photo: Rijksmuseum voor de Oudheden.

Leiden’s archaeological museum RMO had been trying to get its hands on it for almost a century: the 3,500-year-old Ommerschans sword. On Wednesday, the museum acquired the sword at auction for €550,000, bringing home to the Netherlands one of its most important bronze age artefacts.

Most of the preliminary work was done by Luc Amkreutz, curator of the museum’s prehistory collection. He was the one who maintained contact with the sword’s owner in Germany.

‘This sword belongs to the top rank of historic artefacts. There are no superlatives that can convey the value of this sword. Every historical period has its icons. This one illustrates a whole period in our history,’ an excited Amkreutz told the Volkskrant.

The 68-centimetre sword belongs to a group of six rare weapons found in France, England and the Netherlands. Unsharpened and too heavy to wield in battle, they are thought to have been used for ceremonial purposes.

‘As students we attended lectures about this sword, it’s in all the textbooks,’ the paper quotes Amkreutz as saying.

In spite of Amkreutz’s efforts, the owner, whose family took the sword to Germany in 1927, put it up for auction at Christie’s in London. The museum was told of the auction date only six weeks in advance, giving it very little time to find sponsors. The Rembrandt Foundation didn’t take long to make up its mind, however, and donated €217,000.

‘This is one of those artefact that belongs in this country,’ the foundation’s Fusien Bijl de Vroe-Verloop told the paper.

The extent of the museum’s own resources combined with money from other sources meant it could  bid up to over €2 million.

The auction could be followed live via a link-up with Christie’s in London on Wednesday, where two representatives of the museum took part in a spirited bidding war. Loud cheers rang out when the auctioneer’s hammer came down in favour of the museum. ‘Our efforts have been worth it,’ a relieved Amkreutz told the paper.



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