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The 75 cm long sword from the Wallace Collection in London was made in India in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. The design is of Persian origin, from where it spread across Asia and eventually gave rise to a family of similar weapons called scimitars being forged in various Southeast Asian countries.

Two different approaches were used to examine the shamsheer: the classical one (metallography) and a non-destructive technique (neutron diffraction). This allowed the researchers to test the differences and complementarities of the two techniques.

The sword in question first underwent metallographic tests at the laboratories of the Wallace Collection to ascertain its composition. Samples to be viewed under the microscope were collected from already damaged sections of the weapon. The sword was then sent to the ISIS pulsed spallation neutron source at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK. Two non-invasive neutron diffraction techniques not damaging to artefacts were used to further shed light on the processes and materials behind its forging.

Ancient objects are scarce, and the most interesting ones are usually in an excellent state of conservation. Because it is unthinkable to apply techniques with a destructive approach, neutron diffraction techniques provide an ideal solution to characterise archaeological specimens made from metal when we cannot or do not want to sample the object,” said Barzagli, explaining why different methods were used.

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More information Past Horizons:
http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/02/2015/non-destructive-techniques-reveal-forging-methods-of-historic-indian-sword

Alex Santana, VIRTUALARCHAEOBLOG

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