The Sword in the Stone Page 3
Chris put a hand in, skinned his knuckles and pulled out a sixth century throwing axe..!
Wow!!! We were gobsmacked, he went in again, after a little more levering out popped another axe, bigger this time, a more substancial dark ages battleaxe-head...!
Now the roots were cleared some of the stuff in the hole were slowly starting to move more freely. A tug on a thin iron rod and one half of a sixth century iron cooking skillet saw the light of day for the first time since the passing of fifteen centuries. At the time of writing, this piece is unique and has no other parallel here in Europe and is being studied and recorded as are all of the other components of this sixth century hoard.
More roots and rubble were removed and at last Chris`s long iron object was properly revealed and he`d been right. What he`d felt initially in the hole was the flat of a sword blade wedged at an angle in the gap and what a sword. From what we could make out bearing in mind of the restricted room we had available it was obviously a long sword of some kind at least 3 and half feet long, it hard to judge exactly. Moreover it was firmly clamped by one end and no amount of gentle persuasion was going to shift it.
After three hours of continuous labour on the slab it was evident that the sword wasnt going anywhere that day. Ideas were kicked around, use a car jack to shift the slab (improbable, too heavy) use acid and or chisels to enlarge the gap and free the thing ( thats more like it )
Dynamite ( are you serious? ) .....
Chris continued digging from the opposite end of the fracture over and above the actual slab where he eventually broke through into the hole from above luckily revealing the clamped sword-tip. Another problem reared its ugly head the sword was just out of reach here too but now he could at least see where it was caught up.
A sturdy root had the blade in a vicelike grip bending the blade just enough to prevent it from being slid from its resting place, the problem was this root was at full stretch from both ends of the hole and unreachable.
Now have any of you ever see a grown man cry? I think thats about the closest Chris ever came to it.
We were now by this stage in the proceedings losing light and Chris had been working on this cache for nearly 13 hours nonstop and looked as if he`d been in a bare knuckle fight and lost .
Further adding fuel to the fire Rick and myself didnt help much by continually reminding him that it looked as if he was about to leave his find of a lifetime alone in the woods a region which was wholly inhabited by gangs of bandit treasure hunters. But there was nothing more to it but to pack up our gear and leave, we still had to venture our way back down that rock filled gulley, not a prospect we were relishing in the now rapidly fading light.
To say Chris was overwrought at the thought of leaving his "Baby" alone in the forest all night would have been an understatement and we further added to his agitation by teasing him rotten that he`d have to resort to " professional " help to extract it properly. Who needs friends Eh?
That night Chris told me he`d had the worst nights sleep ever, and he was convinced that someone was going to stumble across his well camoflaged spot.
After a nights rest he now found he had a pretty good solution, he bought himself a cartridge butane gas burner slim enough to pass down the neck of the opening and with this he`d be able to hopefully burn the offending root away.
Armed with the gas burner and a couple of spare cartridges we returned to the find spot
it was completely undisturbed and within minutes Chris had reduced the root to charcoal.
A slight tug on the sword tang and the blade slid easily from the crack revealed in its full glory.
Incredibly the blade was still very flexible, although heavily surface rusted it was complete and over three and half feet in length. It was a typical sixth century pagan longsword without a crossguard. Swords from this period very often only had a wood or bone and leather hilt which doesnt survive. The condition was outstanding, I`d only ever seen examples of this kind of sword that had been excavated as grave goods in museums and these examples had been virtually destroyed through burial decay.
This one along with the rest of the cache had been more or less continually exposed to the air and the elements for 1500 years the limestone rock steadily soaking the rainwater away preserving these incredible artifacts.
Our thoughts later turned to the circumstances under which these objects were cached and never retrieved. The area where they were discovered had always been a contested border region because of its proximity to the River Danube during Roman times. The river acting as a secondary natural barrier to hostile barbarian tribes we can only assume that this continued to be the case during the dissolution and eventual breakup of the Holy Roman Empire during the time the hoard was cached. Someone living down in the valley during this period felt it necessary to have a small arsenal ready to hand up in the hills, that could be retrieved at fairly short notice if so needed, whoever it was they must have taken their secret to the grave as with hindsight it was an obvious place to cache a hoard. ( note: So obvious in fact Chris was the only one amongst us to head straight to it within 10 mins of starting to search , theres a lesson there for us all. )
The complete cache was deposited with the German Authorities for study and recording at the end of Nov 2000 and Chris is eagerly awaiting the outcome.
Postscript:- When I first put this article together in 2000 the whole hoard was thought to have been deposited sometime in 6th Century AD, after extensive investigation of the objects that were cached the deposition date was adjusted backwards to sometime in the 3rd Century AD
The complete hoard was acquired for the State Authorities in 2001 and should by now be on display in the State Collection.