Our understanding of the spread of Christianity across the Baltic region might be changed by the discovery of a 1,000-year-old sword from the Crusader era. 

The weapon was found by a landowner in Salo, near Turku, the former capital of Finland. Adjacent to the discovery site is a stone church from the Middle Ages. 

Located near Turku, the former capital of Finland, Salo becomes a focal point as a landowner unearthed a 1,000-year-old sword from its grounds. Photo: J. Ruohonen

Send for the archaeologist 

Fortunately, the discoverer promptly followed the correct protocol and contacted the authorities. 

In this instance, it was Juha Ruohonen, an archaeologist at the University of Turku, who takes up the story: 

"The finder, a landowner, contacted me directly the day after discovering the sword on the last day of August. He sent photos of the weapon to my email." 

"Coincidentally, I was leading excavations at a Viking Age cremation cemetery about 50 kilometers away that day. I began my research at the discovery site the following week." 

Ruohonen quickly assessed the location: 

"The archaeological site is on a gentle sandy slope, situated less than 150 meters from a medieval stone church dating back to the 15th century. It's located in a private garden adjacent to an old house from the 1900s." 

The decorated bronze mounts from the leather belt, alongside several crosses, offer valuable insights into the ornate fashion and personal adornments of the individual buried in the grave. Photo: J. Ruohonen

More items to be found? 

However, the find site revealed more than just man-made structures: 

"In connection with my research, it turned out that there is not only a single grave in the area but also an entire inhumation cemetery with dozens of graves. It was unfortunately not possible to excavate more." 

"The grave as a whole is significant. In addition to the sword, it contained a knife with its leather sheath still intact, a leather belt adorned with many exquisite bronze mounts and several crosses, as well as textile remnants from the deceased." 

"Our understanding of men's clothing from that era is limited, so these findings offer valuable insights into the textile materials of the time."

But it's the sword that has garnered the most attention, and its significance may only become clearer with further analysis – and additional funding: 

"Swords are relatively common finds in general, but they usually date back to the 900s. Younger swords, like the Salo discovery from the late 1000s or early 1100s, are quite rare." 

"I expected, of course, to find more archaeological objects because it was unlikely that only a sword would have been present. There aren't many known inhumation cemeteries, for instance, because metal detectors identify finds only from the soil's surface." 

"The find is highly important regionally, and in a broader context, it relates to the spread of Christianity in the northeastern part of the Baltic Sea." 

"We are now eagerly awaiting the results of the radiocarbon dating. While we hope other scientific analyses can be conducted, additional funding is certainly required." 

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