In 2017, while on a guided tour of the Armenian St. Lazarus monastery located on an island in the Venetian lagoon, Vittoria Dall’Armellina made a discovery even the guide did not expect. A PhD student at the time, Dall’Armellina noticed a metal sword on display that was labeled as a medieval artifact. As a Bronze Age weaponry specialist, Dall’Armellina had a hunch the sword was much older than that.

After two years of research, Dall’Armellina discovered that the sword is actually one the oldest swords ever found, dating back as far as 5,000 years. Chemical composition analyses revealed that the weapon is made of arsenical bronze, an alloy of copper and arsenic typically used between the end of the fourth and beginning of the third millennium BCE. Its chemical composition matches those of others found in the Royal Palace of Arslantepe, an archaeological site in Eastern Anatolia.

According to Father Serafino Jamourlian, an archival researcher at the monastery, the sword was part of a shipment of archaeological artifacts sent by an Ottoman Empire civil engineer to Father Ghevont Alishan — a poet and historian who died in 1901. Jamourlian believes the sword was a gift of thanks to the monastery.

Now the sword enjoys its own display at the monastery.