History | November 26, 2021 5:17 pm

Discovery of Dagger Sheds Light on Ancient Roman Battle

An illuminating find from 2,000 years ago

Graubünden, Switzerland.
Angelo Burgener/Unsplash

Over 2,000 years ago, in what is now Switzerland, the forces of the Roman Empire fought a battle against the Rhaetian people. Theirs is a culture about which present-day scientists and historians know relatively little, save the areas where they lived and their eventual absorption into the Roman Empire. But a recent archaeological discovery from an unexpected source could help dramatically expand our knowledge of this ancient culture.

In 2019, Lucas Schmid was using a metal detector to search for artifacts in the canton of Graubünden. An amateur archaeologist who was studying dentistry at the time, Schmid came across something that had been buried since 15 B.C., when the battle between Roman and Rhaetian forces took place.

Schmid unearthed a dagger, which one of the Romans had buried in the ground following the battle for reasons unknown. (An article on the find at Smithsonian Magazine suggests that it may have been intended as a form of religious offering.) Once the discovery of the dagger had occurred, the Archaeological Service of Graubünden (ADG) began a larger excavation — and that, in turn, led to even more artifacts dating back to the battle being unearthed.

The ADG’s operation unearthed weapons left by both sides in the conflict, including Roman coins and Rhaetian swords and arrowheads. And now, the objects are on display at the ADG — offering present-day viewers a glimpse into a conflict that transformed the region.