Ötzi's Knife & Sheath

There are two parts to the construction of Ötzi the Iceman's knife:

  • The 13cm knife consists of a small triangular flint blade and a flat ash wood handle. The flint blade came from quarries in the Lessini Mountains north of Verona and was inserted into the wooden handle and bound with animal sinews and string was attached to a notch at the end of the handle.
  • The 12cm triangular sheath was made from a mesh of tree bast sewn along the longest side with grass fibres. The opening of the sheath was reinforced with double plaiting. On one side a leather strap was attached to allow the sheath to be fixed to the belt, for easy accessibility.

Sheath Step 1:

The first step is to select about 20 lengths of natural coloured dried grass (or raffia) that are twice the length of the finish sheath (about 25-30cm).

Buddle the loose ends together and wrap natural cordage (e.g. nettle/yucca string) or sinew around the grass ends several times.

Knot the cordage/sinew tightly so the grass/raffia is secure.

Sheath Step 2:

About 1-2cm above the knotted end, tie a knot in a new length of cordage/sinew to one strand of the grass/raffia.

Then select the next strand of grass/raffia and tie the cordage/raffia in a knot or weave in a loop.

Repeat this process with all the stands until the final knot. All knots should be in an even horizontal row around the sheath.

Finally cut off any excess cordage/sinew from the row of knots.

Sheath Step 3:

Repeat step 2, starting around 2-3cm above the previous row of knots.

Try to keep the row horizontal and not allow too much loose cordage/sinew between each knot, as this will make the sheath unusable.

This is very time consuming, but do not rush as it will ruin the overall appearance of the sheath.

Sheath Step 4:

After about 6-7 rows of horizontal knots, you should be at the top of grass/raffia.

Carefully tie the last row of knots around the looped end of the grass/raffia (you may wish to add more rows at the top for strength and decorative purposes). There were two plaited rows where on the original.

Finally tie a longer strand of cordage/sinew or leather around the top of the sheath to for a loop that can be attached to a belt. This can be decorated with beads, antler etc.


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