Dagger decorated with hunting scenes
This masterpiece of Mycenaean art displays a unique decorative technique known as 'painting with metal.' It is a bronze blade with four gold nails on the hilt. The blade is richly decorated on both sides with well-preserved complex scenes. One side illustrates a group of men hunting a lion: they carry long full-bodied rectangular or figure-of-eight shields, spears and bows. The other side depicts a lion chasing deer. The decorative technique employed consists of holding thin sheets of gold, silver and copper in place using niello, a black substance made of metal oxides. Niello comes in powder form and is applied to the object, which is then heated. As the niello melts it adheres both to the bronze surface and to the metal designs, which it holds in place. This technique was used almost exclusively in the Peloponnese from the late 16th to the 14th century BC, on a small number or daggers and vases, found in tombs of the nobility.