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K. Horton




Location: Youngstown, Ohio
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PostPosted: Thu 01 Jan, 2009 9:58 am    Post subject: Leaf blades in the migration era         Reply with quote

Hello Gents,
A quick question, I saw a sword and was intrigued, but question if it is a noted fact that leaf blades were used by the migrating peoples of western Europe during this time or after?

Ken
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Jan, 2009 10:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you mean roughly 300 to 700 A.D. as the migration era, the common sword form among Germanic migrating tribes was the basic spatha (straight edged.) Some of the Mainz Gladius early in this period do have a slight waist region that reminds me of a leaf blade. I am not sure when the leaf blade became rare in mainland Europe, but it is probably near the end of B.C. era. (diminishing of the LaTenes.) Celtic peoples near English Isles may have continued using the leaf blade form longer. It probably would not be that hard to research... I am interested in learning what others here who are fans of the leaf blade can tell us!

Check Peter Johnson's comments on primary history of the leaf blade in this post;
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=6021

Attached image is from Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies, volume 6, "War and Society in the CeltIberian World", Martin Gorbea and Alberto Lorrio. It shows the time frame of the Hispanic-Iberian long form of leaf blade to the West as being around 300 to 200 B.C.



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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Jan, 2009 12:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Leaf blades are LONG gone by the Migration era. In Western Europe they are mostly on their way out when the Iron Age starts, though Spain hung on a while longer. As mentioned, the Mainz style Roman gladius was in use into the first century AD, but I'm not sure if that is really considered a leaf shape. But it disappears well before the Migration era starts.

I'm not as familiar with Iron Age Ireland, but I'd be surprised to see anything remotely leaf-shaped there as late as 400 AD. (But I like surprises!)

Straight blades for the Migration era, with either parallel edges or tapered.

Vale,

Matthew
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K. Horton




Location: Youngstown, Ohio
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PostPosted: Thu 01 Jan, 2009 12:41 pm    Post subject: Leaf blades in the migration era         Reply with quote

That's what I was thinking, but was waiting to be surprised. Thanks to those who posted so promptly, I would still like to hear others chime in..why is it do you think they were pushed to the way-side? Strictly a cultural thing or a change to something more functional? The sword I liked was an interpretation of a sword during the dark ages with a leaf blade and a Germannic hilt..Without actually posting a pic. that gives away everything as to who makes it. Is it ok to post a pic from the website?

Ken
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Jan, 2009 1:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There were some around in England near Romano-Brittish era (A.D.) I'm not sure this one ever made its way to a museum, but a hand drawn sketch (page 198 of the original text) in LLewellynn Jewitt's text "Grave-mounds and their Contents", 1870 shows a clear sketch of a leaf blade unearthed in Little Chester along with other objects (winged lance head etc.) making it debatable as existing into A.D. era., Roman occupation time frame. It would probably still fall short-early compared to migration era, but it is getting closer. The Roman town/ fort (Deventio) is believed to have begun around AD 55-57. So, the settlement grave find is likely A.D. anyway.


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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 12:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
There were some around in England near Romano-Brittish era (A.D.) I'm not sure this one ever made its way to a museum, but a hand drawn sketch (page 198 of the original text) in LLewellynn Jewitt's text "Grave-mounds and their Contents", 1870 shows a clear sketch of a leaf blade unearthed in Little Chester along with other objects (winged lance head etc.) making it debatable as existing into A.D. era., Roman occupation time frame. It would probably still fall short-early compared to migration era, but it is getting closer. The Roman town/ fort (Deventio) is believed to have begun around AD 55-57. So, the settlement grave find is likely A.D. anyway.
That's a bronze age sword, dating roughly to 1000-900BC. I know the exact sword, so I could look up some more information.
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 12:34 am    Post subject: Re: Leaf blades in the migration era         Reply with quote

K. Horton wrote:
That's what I was thinking, but was waiting to be surprised. Thanks to those who posted so promptly, I would still like to hear others chime in..why is it do you think they were pushed to the way-side? Strictly a cultural thing or a change to something more functional?
There's basically two reasons. One is that swords were getting longer and longer. The longer it gets, the more stretched the leafshape, which makes it nearly a straight edged sword. So functionally it doesn't make much sense anymore. The last type of leafblade was actually a bit of a hybrid between a leafblade and straight edged sword: the Mindelheim type (see more information here http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=3475)

The second reason is that swords are replaced by daggers during the middle iron age (Hallstatt D) in Northern Europe, and pretty much all knowledge regarding sword construction is lost. When swords evolve back out of daggers (la Tene swords), they are completely different from the bronze age and early iron age swords. Only in southern Europe, the bronze age construction and leafshaped blades survive longer into the iron age (Greek xiphos f.e.)
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 12:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
I'm not as familiar with Iron Age Ireland, but I'd be surprised to see anything remotely leaf-shaped there as late as 400 AD. (But I like surprises!)
Ireland has not many iron age swords. The few they have, are fairly short straight edged La Tene style swords. Irish swords do get very interesting after the Roman period though. Aside from gladius style blades, I also recall there were some very bizzare swords, with cutting edges expanding towards the tip. But so far I've found it practically impossible to find any further information regarding these swords.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 7:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeroen Zuiderwijk wrote:
Ireland has not many iron age swords. The few they have, are fairly short straight edged La Tene style swords. Irish swords do get very interesting after the Roman period though. Aside from gladius style blades, I also recall there were some very bizzare swords, with cutting edges expanding towards the tip. But so far I've found it practically impossible to find any further information regarding these swords.


Ah, thanks. That's pretty much what I remember from an Osprey volume on the subject, but I didn't want to use that as my documentation! Yeah, the big flaired blade is wacky.

Matthew
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 7:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Its interesting that a bronze age sword turned up in a Roman settlement area. (Obviously, they may not have been the first to bury someone in that spot though.) It definately looks to be Celtic in style, but, I did not know that they were in that location that early. I have the full manuscript of the excavation of the area. Its pretty thorough. The author considered that the grave and sword could have been earlier, but, not nearly that much earlier! The spear head described as being found in the same grave was described as made of iron.

The illustrations are of two spearheads found in the same grave. The top is iron, the bottom is bronze.



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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 9:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It could be as simple as straight/narrow bladed swords proving more functional.
Intuitively, one would think that more weight in the striking end is a good thing, especially when you are used to blunt weapons and axes.
With swords, however, a point of balance further towards the hand is usually preferable, as it improves manouverability and speed. A propperly sharpened sword will be quite sufficient to kill even without beeing weighted like an axe, and dealing a heavy blow is only an advantage if the other guy doesn't hit you first.
Presumably, if leaf blades where a very good design, one would be seeing more of them across cultures and time periods.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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G Ezell
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 9:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One cannot forget the pugio, they lasted until at least the third century, although they may not qualify as swords...

When did the pugio type dagger die out in the north, are there any 4th or 5th century examples?
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 9:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
Its interesting that a bronze age sword turned up in a Roman settlement area. (Obviously, they may not have been the first to bury someone in that spot though.) It definately looks to be Celtic in style,

Well, it's definately not Celtic. There were no Celts around yet 1000 BC:)

Quote:
but, I did not know that they were in that location that early. I have the full manuscript of the excavation of the area. Its pretty thorough. The author considered that the grave and sword could have been earlier, but, not nearly that much earlier! The spear head described as being found in the same grave was described as made of iron.

The illustrations are of two spearheads found in the same grave. The top is iron, the bottom is bronze.
I wouldn't put much trust in dating from the 19th century. Aside from that, there is the possibility that this sword and spearhead were found in Roman times, and reburied. The bronze spearhead is AFAIK older then the sword (middle bronze age vs late bronze age), so they don't match in period either.
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 10:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
It could be as simple as straight/narrow bladed swords proving more functional.
Intuitively, one would think that more weight in the striking end is a good thing, especially when you are used to blunt weapons and axes.
With swords, however, a point of balance further towards the hand is usually preferable, as it improves manouverability and speed. A propperly sharpened sword will be quite sufficient to kill even without beeing weighted like an axe, and dealing a heavy blow is only an advantage if the other guy doesn't hit you first.

Ah, but the leafshaped swords don't have the balance point more forwards. The leafshape is accomplished by a different distribution of the metal cross-section wise then a straight edged sword, not lengthwise. Leafshaped swords get more narrow towards the hilt, but also much thicker, whereas in the wider area the blade is much thinner, asides from perhaps a midrib. The result of this is that the sword is strong regarding in plane bending at the striking point and strongest in out of plane bending near the hilt. This gives a very structurally optimized construction. Added advantages the continuous increasing width from the tip makes the cut wider in a thrust, and also the cut more effective due to the curve in the edge. In that respect it's an ideal shape, both structurally and in cutting and thrusting.

Quote:
Presumably, if leaf blades where a very good design, one would be seeing more of them across cultures and time periods.
Well, the problem like I mentioned earlier is that for longer blades the leafshape gets too stretched to be of noticable effect. The leafshape is ideal for swords with a blade length of 40-60cm, longer and you can just as well use a straight edged blade. Leafblades do show up in different cultures in short blades from time to time though, such as the Roman gladius and pugio G. Ezell mentions. And in principle a lot of spearheads use leafblades as well. Though different weapons, they profit from the same advantages from the leaf shape. And in a way, the kopis is a single edged version of a leafbladed weapon.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 11:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There were separate machette-falccata like single edged weapons used by Germanic tribes from B.C. times through the beginning of the migration era, and even a pattern welded Merovingian one exists that has been referenced in posts about metallurgy several times here. http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=2729 These have some narrowing of the profile near the hilt end, and flaring of the profile into a wider cutting edge near the CoP, as well as a scimitar like curve in many cases. They were more like long knives rather than the longer spathas. I am thinking these could have utilized the similar design advantages that you mention in the original leaf blades. Possibly, it's the migration era descendant of the older leaf blade concept. I have never had the chance to see an actual museum specimen.
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K. Horton




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 11:46 am    Post subject: leaf blades         Reply with quote

awsome Guys!
A lot of info to digest and think about, I am not very knowledgable on this subject, hence my question. You all have responded with much and it is appreciated. If leaf blades are of a good design, why not keep it in production? Okay, so don't make long blades..make them as long as structurally possible. What is the reason now? This would still serve a purpose in close quarters battle up until heavy cavalry...right? Why the preference change? Worried I am the kind of person who would use something until it was no longer functional, especially if it served well for my purposes.

Ken
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Jan, 2009 6:55 am    Post subject: Re: leaf blades         Reply with quote

K. Horton wrote:
awsome Guys!
A lot of info to digest and think about, I am not very knowledgable on this subject, hence my question. You all have responded with much and it is appreciated. If leaf blades are of a good design, why not keep it in production? Okay, so don't make long blades..make them as long as structurally possible. What is the reason now? This would still serve a purpose in close quarters battle up until heavy cavalry...right? Why the preference change? Worried

A couple of reasons I could think of is that the material has changed drastically. The leafbladed weapons were made of soft bronze or iron, and could bend easily. This is the main weakness, so the structure is optimized to prevent that. With springy steels, that's not really necessary anymore. Then there's also the fact that you have to know that a leafbladed shape is an option. Just as bronze age people didn't know sabers f.e., later cultures didn't know leafblades anymore. So they'd have to be redeveloped.

Quote:
I am the kind of person who would use something until it was no longer functional, especially if it served well for my purposes.

Yeah, but sometimes designs become functional again. Take for example the rapier. There are bronze age rapiers, which have virtually the exact same blade design and cross-section as the real rapiers. Yet in the 3000 years between bronze age rapiers and real rapiers the design is not used. So under specific conditions, an obsolete blade design from thousands of years ago can return again. Right now swords as a whole have become obsolete, but that may not stay that way either. Who knows in a few centuries or millenia people will be carrying leafbladed swords again Happy
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