Place of Origin: Northwest China
Date: 7th to 6th Century
Overall Length: 214mm
This dagger has a characteristic hilt with a taotie mask (a zoomorphic Chinese evil fiend) at the base, and an elaborate scrolled openwork pommel at the other end. The eyes of the mask, and similar circlets which are present on the pommel, would have originally been set with small turquoise stones. The grip area is faceted but otherwise plain, suggesting that the knife was made with practicality in mind. The tapering blade with broken tip has a raised medial rib on each side. The broken end reveals that the rib was hollow and later filled with a slim brass rod, possibly for mounting or strength. The complex oxidisation and patina of the surface creates an arresting visual affect. The dagger is accompanied by two bronze spearheads and a bronze spear butt of unknown origin, and together they make a fascinating display.
The dagger shares characteristics with two known examples from the Harris collection (1) and, interestingly, appears to represent a transitional stage between the two.
(1) So and Bunker, Traders and Raiders, 1995, p.126-127, no.’s 43 and 44.