'Median' dagger from Deve Hüyük

'Median' dagger from Deve Hüyük
Accession number: 
Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford

Iron 'Median' dagger from Deve Hüyük

Iron dagger from Deve Hüyük of 'Median' design.  Rectangular pommel, plain grip, kidney-shaped guard; traces of the graining of a wooden scabbard in the corrosion of the blade. 
Length 0.346m. 
Moorey 1980, no. 150 (Ashmolean 1913.705A).


The Deve Hüyük assemblage included seven iron daggers with T-shaped hilts, of which this is one of the best-preserved examples; another well-preserved example is now in the British Museum collection (Moorey 1980, no. 153).  The so-called “Median” dagger, known to the Greeks as an akinakes (Hdt. 7.54) is one of the most distinctive Achaemenid weapons: they appear very often on the Persepolitan reliefs, where they are worn by several of the tributary peoples on the Apadana, by Persian guards, and others (e.g. here).  

As the Persepolis reliefs show, these daggers were typically worn on the right thigh, in a scabbard with a rounded chape; the scabbard was hung from a belt, with a cord above the chape securing it to the lower part of the thigh.  The British Museum has a scabbard of tamarisk wood for an akinakes, acquired in Egypt, of precisely the shape depicted on the Persepolis reliefs.  Our dagger from Deve Hüyük was certainly buried in a wooden scabbard, whose graining has left an imprint in the corroded metal of the blade.  If the chape fell off the bottom of the scabbard, this could lead to nasty accidents, as Cambyses found in 522 BC (Hdt. 3.64).  A dagger of this kind was used for the assassination of the alleged false Smerdis/Bardiya later the same year (Hdt. 3.78).  For an excellent extended discussion, see Moorey 1980: 55-58, and cf. also J. Curtis and N. Tallis, Forgotten Empire (2005), 233-234.