Analysis of the artifact indicates that it is probably a genuine article.
Given that it is a real sword buried inside a stone, a curious artifact at the Montesiepi Chapel in Siena, Italy, will be instantly recognizable to followers of the Arthurian legend and anyone who has seen Disney’s The Sword in the Stone. An examination of the artifact’s chemical composition indicates that it is most likely authentic and not a modern fake.
According to the sword’s history, Galgano Guidotti, a cunning warrior who was born in 1148 and later became a Catholic saint, used it. Galgano’s father passed away while he was a little child, according to the legend, which is largely based on the canonization procedure that occurred soon after his passing.
Galgano was a disobedient youngster who mixed with the wrong crowd. Today, that might be interpreted as drug users, but back then, it meant “very eagerly in internal wars led by local lords of Gherardesca, Pannocchieschi, and others, shedding the blood of his neighbors”.
The analysis confirmed it is from the right time period. Image credit: Fabio Gismondi/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Galgano carried on in this manner for many years, enjoying the brutality, but one day he lost control of his horse and experienced a religious insight, eventually converting to Christianity. He reportedly dumped his fiancée and started living as a loner, but visions kept pestering him to create his own hermitage.
According to legend, Galgano symbolically renounced his violent life by driving his old blade into the stone. According to some accounts of the narrative, it “yielded like butter” rather than acting like a rock, leaving the hilt sticking from the top and the tip sticking out the opposite end of the rock. The sword has stayed in the stone ever since, which is presently located inside the Rotunda in Siena, Tuscany.
As absurd as it may sound, there is a slight twist in store for you in the form of scientific analysis. Chemist Luigi Garlaschelli analyzed the artifact in 2001 and dispelled the rumor that the sword was a recent fabrication by discovering a number of unexpected traits.
“The style of the sword is consistent with that of other similar weapons from the same time,” Garlaschelli wrote at the time, “we can even label it as a Xa-type sword, typical of the late twelfth century”.
Through a hole he dug in the rock, Garlaschelli was able to extract samples of the sword for examination.
“Although iron artifacts cannot be unequivocally dated,” he wrote, “the composition of the metal did not reveal that modern alloys had been used, and so it is fully compatible with a medieval origin”.
The sword’s authenticity as a genuine artifact from Galgano’s era was further supported by study.
“We compared the ‘fingerprints’ of trace elements within the sword’s metal with that of pieces of iron slag that can still be found around the great abbey of St. Galgano. This slag is the waste from the small foundries used by the monks to manufacture their small iron objects, using local iron ore,” Garlaschelli explained.
Even stranger, a pair of mummified arms held close to the sword that was supposedly those of criminals who had attempted to steal the stone before being killed by god were likewise carbon-dated to the 12th century. The sword’s blade and protruding hilt were found to be indistinguishable at the same time.
Beyond hazy legends that the stone miraculously transformed into butter, it is still unclear exactly how the sword got inside, which is bothersome.
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