Lot 144. A ceremonial bronze dirk of the 'Plougrescant-Ommerschans' type, Middle Bronze Age, circa 1500-1350 B.C.; 26 ¾ in. (68.3 cm). high. Estimate GBP 80,000 - GBP 120,000 (USD 101,840 - USD 152,760). © Christie's Images Ltd 2017

ProvenanceFound between 1894-1900 in a heath field between Witharen and Ommerschans, the Netherlands.
Dutch private collection; thence by descent to present owner.

ExhibitedA cast has been exhibited at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden, Netherlands, since 1927.

PublishedJ. J. Butler & J. A. Bakker, 'A Forgotten Middle Bronze Age Hoard with a Sicilian Razor from Ommerschans (Overijssel)', in Helinium, Revue consacre´e a' l'arche´ologie des Pays-Bas, de la Belgique et du Grand Duche´ de Luxemburg, vol. 1, Wetteren, 1961, pp. 193-208. 
J. J. Butler, 'Nederland in de Bronstijd', in Fibulareeks, no. 39, Netherlands, 1969, pp. 115-119. 
J. J. Butler & H. Sarfatij, 'Another Bronze Ceremonial Sword by the Plougrescant-Ommerschans Smith', in Berichten Rijksdienst voor het Oudheidkundig Bodemonderzoek, Netherlands, 1970-1, vol. 20-21, pp. 301-309.
D. Fontijn, 'Rethinking Ceremonial Dirks of the Plougrescant-Ommerschans Type', in Patina, Amsterdam, 2001, pp. 263-280. 
E. van Ginkel & L. Verhart, Onder Onze Voeten: De Archeologie van Nederland, Amsterdam, 2009, p. 85. 

The Ommerschans Hoard

The Ommerschans Hoard was found in a peat deposit in the vicinity of the city of Ommen situated in the Salland region in the Eastern Netherlands. According to different accounts the discovery took place between 1894 and 1900 and until 1927 the finds were kept in the home of the forester of the landowner's estate on which the hoard was unearthed. 

In May 1927 Dr Holwerda, Director of the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, accompanied the Mayor of Ommen to inspect the find, recording the objects and the circumstances of the discovery. It was then arranged for the hoard to be sent to Leiden on loan and on this occasion a plaster cast of the ceremonial dirk was made (Butler & Bakker 1961, pp.193-195). 

The hoard comprises an over-sized ceremonial dirk, which was found deposited over a birch platform, together with a number of smaller bronze and stone objects: a Sicilian razor close to the Pantalica A type, two chisels, a rod, two pins, four fragments of metal, a spiral, a fragment of flint chisel, a fragmentary flint, a flint or stone implement, a stone chisel, a stone tablet and a whetstone. All the contents of the find were then nailed to a wooden board by the forester and are included in the lot, with the exception of the spiral and a stone implement which have now been lost. 

The most remarkable piece of the hoard is a bronze ceremonial dirk of exceptional workmanship. The exaggerated size and its thinness, the absence of rivets for fixing to the hilt and the blunt edges have been interpreted as signs of its non-utilitarian nature. In all, only five dirks of the ‘Plougrescant-Ommershans’ type are known. Two were found in France, Plougrescant in Brittany and Beaune in the Burgundy region; one, the Oxborough dirk, was found in Norfolk, England, and sold in these rooms (6 July 1994, lot 363) and is now in the British Museum, inv. no. 1994,1003.1; the remaining two were unearthed in the Netherlands (Ommerschans and Jutphaas) (Fontijn 2001, p. 267-268). 


The Oxborough Dirk. Ceremonial bronze dirk, 1500BC-1300BC, Plougrescant-Ommerschans Type (1994,1003.1) © The Trustees of the British Museum

This group of dirks certainly stands out amongst the archaeological record of this period for their rarity, exceptional quality and for the striking similarities between each example despite being spread over a large geographical area.  

Another object of great interest within the hoard is the bronze razor, whose shape has been identified as characteristic of the Pantalica A type produced in Bronze Age Sicily. This rare find is a testimony to the wide network of commerce during the Bronze Ages and adds to the importance of this unique ensemble of objects.

Christie's. Antiquities, 5 July 2017, London, King Street