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50 years ago, a rare and strange sword was found in a tomb in China. Despite the 2,000-year-old sword, known as Gouijan, It was not even a speck of dust and it also had very particular characteristics for a sword that had been made so long ago. Considered a treasure today in China, the sword is a legend for the Chinese as "Excalibur" is for the West.
In 1965, archaeologists conducted an investigation in Hubei province, just seven kilometers from the ruins of Jinan, capital of the ancient state of Chu, when they discovered fifty ancient tombs. During the excavations of these tombs, Researchers unearthed Gouijan's sword along with 2,000 other objects.
According to the director of the archaeological team responsible for the excavation, the sword was discovered in a tomb, in a box near a skeleton. The team was impressed when a perfectly preserved bronze sword in a sheath appeared inside the box. When it was drawn, the blade of the sword was shown without any blemish despite being buried for 2,000 years in wet conditions. A test carried out by archaeologists showed that the blade could easily cut a stack of 20 sheets.
The Goujian sword is one of the first swords known as ‘Jian’, straight double-edged swords used for the last 2,500 years in China. 'Jian' swords are among the first types of sword in China and are associated with the mythology of the country.
The Gouijan sword It is made of bronze with a high concentration of copper, making it more malleable and more difficult to break down. The cutting edges are made of tin. It also has a small amount of iron, lead, and sulfur. The sword measures 55.7 centimeters long and 4.6 centimeters wide. It weighs 875 grams.
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On one side of the sheet, two columns of text with eight characters can be seen, near the handle, which are a Chinese inscription. The identity of the king to whom the sword belonged has sparked intense debate among Chinese archaeologists and linguists. After two months, experts have reached a consensus that the owner of the sword was Goujian (496 BC-465 BC), so it has been dated around 2,500 years ago. Goujian was a famous emperor in Chinese history who ruled over the Yue State from 771 BC. until 476 BC
Apart from the historical value, many scholars have wondered how this sword was able to stay dust-free in a humid environment for over 2,000 years and how delicate motifs were carved on the sword. Goujian's sword is as sharp today as when it was made.
Researchers have analyzed the bronze shards in hopes of finding a way to copy the technology used to make the sword. They discovered that the sword is resistant to oxidation as a result of sulphating its surface. That, combined with the hermetic sheath, has allowed the legendary sword to be found in perfect condition.
The sword was loaned to the ‘National Palace Museum’ in Taipe, where it has been on display since 2011, along with several bronze pieces from the excavation.