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Roman plumbata 4th or 5th Century throwing dart plumbatae plumbatarum

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Material  Iron & Lead
Dimensions 15cm long x 2.0cm wide
Roman Empire 4th and 5th Century AD

A very well preserved Late Roman Plumbata or throwing dart.  Essentially an Iron dart head or spear head, with a lead weight attached to the anterior end.  The result is a short dart which when mated with a short wooden shaft with feathers allowed a soldier to throw the dart either over hand or under hand.  The whole dart in original form with the wooden shaft would likely have been at least 30 cm long depending on the type.

The visible Iron shaft in this piece is 9cm long, with the remaining 6 cm being the lead weight.  The condition of the piece is excellent, showing the long triangular head with the slightly angled barbs. The lead has a pale patina and a small area which has come off shows some of the iron shaft underneath.  At the rear, the lead weight is hollow to fit the organic wooden shaft which has now since long eroded away.

This Plumbata appears unbent and is still very straight, indicating that this was not one that had been used, but rather part of a supply or just made item that had not yet seen combat.


The following are some sketches of other examples, including some spear heads.  As is obvious there was some variation in style and size.


The following are some examples of reconstructed Plumbata

A Plumbata being thrown (image courtesy of Fectio - Dutch Late Roman re-enactors)

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(1) References to similar items: FEUGERE, Michel; Weapons of the Romans, page 184 2002

(2) Reference to similar items: BISHOP, M.C & COULSTON, J.C.N; Roman Military Equipment "From the Punic wars to the Fall of Rome", page 201 2006.

(3) Reference to similar items: STEPHENSON, I.P; Romano-Byzantine Infantry Equipment, page 114-119 2006

**Note on background. Close up view of the wall of the Colosseum of Pula, Croatia. Picture taken 2014