2,000-year-old theft victim returns home

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A 2,000-year-old sword stolen more than a decade ago from Peterborough Museum has been returned.

A 2,000-year-old sword stolen more than a decade ago from Peterborough Museum has been returned.The sword and scabbard, which date back to the first century BC, were taken from a cabinet at the museum, in Priestgate, in 1994.

Extensive efforts were made by the British Museum and Cambridgeshire police to trace its whereabouts, but it seemed to have disappeared, and the museum thought it had gone for good.

That was until it was recognised by a collector at an auction in Germany this year.

Lutz Hoffmeister, of Deutsches Klingenmuseum (the German Blade Museum) in Solingen, said: "The collector who bought the sword showed it to me. Then I was given a tip-off from someone in America who believed it could have been stolen. I immediately contacted Ben Robinson, Peterborough City Council's archaeologist, and it lead to its return.

"I'm very happy that it's been found again. It belongs to Peterborough."

A German representative flew to the UK with the sword before returning it to Peterborough.

The blade, which is believed to be worth more than 28,000, was originally found at Orton Longueville during gravel extraction in the 1980s.

Mr Robinson said: "This sword, along with two others and several other fascinating items, was recovered from an old river bed. They had been placed in the River Nene as offerings during the Iron Age, more than 2,000 years ago.

"Some watery places were especially sacred to prehistoric people and valuable items were given to the gods at special locations. This is the origin of our custom of throwing coins into wells and the medieval legends of swords in lakes.

"It's a miraculous return. I couldn't believe it. It's astounding to have disappeared for so long without a trace and then to have reappeared.

"It has gone through so many hands, but it's in fantastic shape, and it's wonderful to see it in this condition.

"It's craftsmanship is exceptional. It's one of the brilliant examples of swords found in this country.

"But before it goes on display again in the museum, we want to get top notch security, because we don't want it to go missing again."

A temporary exhibition about the sword and its discovery will be set up at the museum within the next week.

This will be followed by a permanent exhibition later in the year.

Details will be posted on the museum's website at www.peterboroughheritage.org.uk