The First Halberds in Europe

The project seeks to investigate the chronology, manufacturing technology, and function of early metal halberds from the Italian peninsula. Prehistoric halberds have long been at the forefront of Bronze Age studies. Areas of scholarly debate encompassed the place and time of their origin as well as their real or intended function, but the dearth of radiocarbon dates and targeted edge-damage analysis have left these and other questions unresolved. This is especially true of the Italian evidence, which is less understood compared to other regions of Europe.

The project comprises three main steps: (1) literature review including collation of all radiocarbon dates, chemical analyses, and use-wear data available for early Italian halberds; (2) fresh chemical and use-wear analysis of Italian halberds from the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the British Museum, the Ashmolean Museum, the ‘Pigorini’ Museum (Rome) and the ‘Poldi Pezzoli’ Museum (Milan); (3) radiocarbon dating of halberds from Spilamberto, Rinaldone, and other Copper Age sites in Italy. 

Project Leader: Andrea Dolfini, Newcastle University

Other Staff: Cristiano Iaia, Newcastle University


Sponsors: The Prehistoric Society

Partners: The Ashmolean Museum, The British Museum, The Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, The ‘Pigorini’ Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography, The ‘Poldi Pezzoli’ Museum, Soprintendenza Archeologica dell’Emilia Romagna

Related Publications:

  • Dolfini, A. 2013. The emergence of metallurgy in the central Mediterranean region: A new model. European Journal of Archaeology 16(1): 21-62.
  • Dolfini, A. 2011. The function of Chalcolithic metalwork in Italy: An assessment based on use-wear analysis. Journal of Archaeological Science 38(5): 1037-1049.
  • Dolfini, A. 2010. The origins of metallurgy in central Italy: New radiometric evidence. Antiquity 84: 707-723.