In 2017, archaeology grad student Vittoria Dall'Armellina was visiting Saint Lazarus monastary as part of a tour group. The monastery is located in a small island in the Venetian lagoon and is home to the Mekhitarist friars, an Armenian Catholic congregation who settled there in 1717 and have furthered the preservation of Armenian heritage and antiquities ever since.
During the tour, Dall'Armellina noticed a unique item in one of the final display cases. It was an old metal sword, about 17 inches long, and it resembled artifacts that she'd learned about while studying as a Bronze Age weapons specialist.
"I noticed it immediately," she told CNN. The sword was labeled as a medieval artifact, but Dall'Armellina had a hunch that the object was much older than that.
It turns out that the sword is one of the oldest ever discovered. The sword was probably crafted as an object to be buried in "royal tombs" in the Caucasus, Anatolia and Aegean regions during the Bronze Age. Chemical examination revealed that the sword is made of arsenical bronze, an alloy of copper and arsenic. This alloy was typically used between the end of the 4th and beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, before the use of bronze took hold.
"Swords are objects loaded with symbolic value," Professor Elena Rova, who supervised Dall'Armellina's doctoral research, told CNN. "They signify royalty, and a ruler's right to sovereignty -- take for example the legend of King Arthur. While this symbolism is well documented in medieval times, it has roots in much more ancient traditions," Professor Rova added.