The discovery of a 2000-year-old dagger was a vital clue to revealing a forgotten battle between the Roman Empire’s legions and tribal warriors

A dagger found from 15 BC in Oberhalbstein (Graubünden, Switzerland), before and after restorations
A dagger found from 15 BC in Oberhalbstein (Graubünden, Switzerland), before and after restorations Archäologischen Dienst Graubünden
  • Volunteer archaeologist and dental student Lucas Schmid discovered the silver and brass dagger in 2019. 
  • The discovery with a metal detector led to an excavation of a Roman battlefield. 
  • Further work continues in the Oberhalbstein region of Graubünden, Switzerland.

In Switzerland, a volunteer archaeologist using a metal detector uncovered a 2000-year-old dagger. It proved to be a vital clue in the story of a long-forgotten battle between the Roman Empire and tribal warriors. 

Lucas Schmid was a dental student and a volunteer archaeologist when he uncovered the ancient silver and brass weapon in 2019, The Smithsonian reported. 

Schmid unearth the dagger in the mountainous Graubünden region of Switzerland, an area believed to be the site of a lost battlefield where Imperial Roman soldiers fought Rhaetian warriors in approximately 15 BC. 

His discovery sparked an excavation of the area that revealed a trove of ancient military artifacts.

A map showing the area of Switzerland where the dagger was uncovered
A map showing the area of Switzerland where the dagger was uncovered Google Maps/Insider

The dagger, dated to around 15 BC, is a rare find. Only four of its kind have been found in former Roman territories, the team behind the discovery explained

Schmid’s find led to the discovery of hundreds of other ancient artifacts. A new investigation of the site, run by a team from the Archaeological Service of Graubünden, the University of Basel (Switzerland), unearthed spearheads, lead slingshots, parts of shields, coins, and hobnails from Roman soldiers, Live Science report. 

These objects are now being displayed for the first time by the Archaeological Service of Graubünden (ADG), The Smithsonian reported.

A dagger found from 15 BC in Oberhalbstein (Graubünden, Switzerland)
A dagger found from 15 BC in Oberhalbstein (Graubünden, Switzerland) Archäologischen Dienst Graubünden

Talking to LiveScience.com, Schmid said that he didn’t think the area had been well-searched and started finding buried metal fragments. “It was clear to me that more artifacts could be expected,” he said.

Although he said he had a hunch the area would host some fruitful finds, he added: “I did not expect to find such an important item at this rather unlikely place.”

In his conversation with Live Science, Peter-Andrew Schwarz, an archaeologist at the University of Basel, said that the excavation of the site also recently unearthed a Roman coin minted between 29 BC and 26 BC during the reign of the Emperor Augustus.