Bronze Age arrowhead made of meteorite discovered in Switzerland

Bronze Age arrowhead made of meteorite discovered in Switzerland

Experts from the Bern Historical Museum have made an “extremely rare” archaeological find: they announced that a Bronze Age arrowhead had been discovered at a site near Lake Biel which was made from metal sourced from a meteorite that likely landed in modern-day Estonia.

Bronze Age arrowhead uncovered from ancient Swiss settlement

In a statement given to 20 Minuten, experts at the museum confirmed that a 39-millimetre, 2,9 gram arrowhead was uncovered during the excavation of a so-called pile dwelling settlement on Lake Biel. For reference, pile dwellings are ancient stilt houses placed on or near shallow lakes. They were mainly inhabited during the Bronze Age and found at locations near the Alps - the sites around Biel / Bienne are some of the best-preserved ancient settlements in the world.

The arrowhead itself was dated to between 900 and 800 BC, meaning it is roughly 2.800 years old. However, while an exciting find in its own right, a new analysis of the artefact revealed it to be exceedingly special.

Swiss arrowhead made of Estonian meteorite

Experts revealed that the arrow had been made from iron sourced from a meteor. Before humans discovered how to make and refine iron using limestone, ironstone, coke, air and high heat, the only malleable iron tools were made using material sourced from meteorites.

"Archaeological objects made of meteoritic iron are therefore extremely rare and they were probably not used as commodities", experts noted. In fact, globally, only 55 objects like the arrowhead have been found so far. 

What’s more, scientists concluded that the arrowhead had travelled a long way before finding itself buried beneath a Swiss lake. Analysis of the metal revealed that the meteorite used to make the arrowhead likely fell to earth in Estonia, meaning either the material or the arrow was traded, sold and travelled nearly 2.000 kilometres across pre-Roman Europe to get to Switzerland.

Rare archaeological find to be displayed in Bern

Now, the Historical Museum in Bern is set to put the arrowhead on display alongside the Hand of Prêles - a 3.500-year-old bronze and gold hand discovered in Jura in 2017. The exhibition will run between February 1, 2024 and April 21, 2025.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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