A 200-year-old sword is the last thing Ruben Mita expected to find buried in his back yard.
But that's exactly what the budding archeologist dug up while ferreting around in the garden of his Woodlands Park home.
"I was outside mucking around," he says. "I saw something poking out of the ground and thought it was just a root. Then I started pulling at it. The sword just came straight out – I didn't need to dig or anything." Ruben, 11, and his mother Sarah Candler were amazed at the find but had no idea what it was.
"I wasn't sure what to think when I first found it," Ruben says.
Sarah got in touch with the Auckland War Memorial Museum where staff could do little to solve the puzzle.
"They were mystified," she says. "They said there's lots of people in New Zealand who would know how to clean and preserve it but wouldn't be able to identify it. We don't have that specialist knowledge of swords here." Her next port of call was the British Museum in London and they put her onto experts at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.
Robert Woosnam-Savage, the museum's curator of edged weapons, revealed the artefact to be a falchion – a one-handed, single-edged sword of European origin which combined the weight and power of an axe with the versatility of a sword.
"The original falchions were used from the 13th century through to the 16th," Mr Woosnam-Savage says. "What we have here is a 19th century piece made in the historical style. They were usually made for decorative purposes, such as a wall hanging, though some were made to deliberately deceive. This piece has a cross very similar to some original Spanish swords of the 16th century so I wouldn't be surprised if it had been manufactured in a Spanish centre." Quite how it ended up in the family's back yard is a mystery. "The people at the Auckland museum were very surprised when we told them about it," Sarah says. "People don't come to them with this kind of thing at all, it's very unusual."
An interest in history runs in the family. Ruben's grandmother is an antique restorer while his grandfather was a historian who looked after castles and historical homes in Wales.
Ruben, a student at Glen Eden Intermediate, is investigating the sword's origins further for a school project but is yet to decide what he will do with it.
"We want to get it cleaned because it's actually very intricate," Sarah says. "There's a lot of decorative work all down the blade. If anyone can help us find out more we would be happy to exhibit it somewhere."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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