A PhD student had a hunch that a monastery's sword, labeled as medieval, was actually much, much older. After two years of study, "it all came full circle," Italian archaeologist Vittoria Dall'Armellina, who's now completed her schooling at Venice's Ca' Foscari University, tells CNN of the discovery of the 5,000-year-old sword, among the oldest ever found. Dall'Armellina first spotted the 17-inch-long blade at the Museum of Venice's Saint Lazarus monastery, the 300-year-old home of the Mekhitarist friars, an Armenian Catholic congregation, during a pleasure trip in November 2017, per Live Science. She partnered with the University of Padua to carry out chemical composition analyses that show it's made of arsenical bronze, an alloy of copper and arsenic often used between 4000 BC and 3000 BC, before tin bronze became widespread.
The sword is similar to a pair of swords from the period discovered in eastern Anatolia, or modern-day Turkey. Indeed, that’s why Dall'Armellina, a specialist in Bronze Age grave relics with a focus on Anatolia, "noticed it immediately," she tells CNN. Some digging in the monastery's archives revealed it was first found in Kavak, in eastern Turkey, though further study could reveal "the exact source of the metal," per a release. It was sent in 1886 to Father Ghevont Alishan, a congregation historian, by Yervant Khorasandjian, a civil engineer of the Ottoman Empire, who studied with Alishan in Paris in the late 1800s, per CNN. Father Serafino Jamourlian, an archival researcher, believes Khorasandjian came upon the sword while supervising public works projects—he was no archaeologist—and sent it to Alishan as "a gift of thankfulness." (Read more discoveries stories.)