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Peter Lyon
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PostPosted: Wed 11 Feb, 2009 11:02 pm    Post subject: 5th-6th century sword questions         Reply with quote

I have a couple of questions about 5th-6th century European/British swords - not my main area of knowledge, so hopefully someone might be able to answer these.

The composite handguard and pommels I have seen all seem to use either wood, horn or bone for the middle piece, with metal plates each side. What other materials were used? In particular I am interested to know if rock crystal or other transparent/translucent materials were ever used.

The rings on hilts, especially pommels. When did they appear and disappear? And what is the current thinking on their function?

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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Thu 12 Feb, 2009 1:35 am    Post subject: Re: 5th-6th century sword questions         Reply with quote

Peter Lyon wrote:
I have a couple of questions about 5th-6th century European/British swords - not my main area of knowledge, so hopefully someone might be able to answer these.

The composite handguard and pommels I have seen all seem to use either wood, horn or bone for the middle piece, with metal plates each side. What other materials were used? In particular I am interested to know if rock crystal or other transparent/translucent materials were ever used.
AFAIK only organic materials or metal (f.e. iron with niello and silver inlay).

Quote:
The rings on hilts, especially pommels. When did they appear and disappear? And what is the current thinking on their function?
They occured during the Vendel period, around 6th-8th century. The latest theory AFAIK is that they're tied in to the custom of ring giving, where the ring bearer makes a commitment (which probably is where exchanging rings in marriage also comes from) and the ring represents loyalty to the giver.
Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Thu 12 Feb, 2009 1:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Peter!

The rings on hilts appear sometimes late 6th C and go out of fashion during the late 7th C. Iīve never tried to nail down an exact dating or period for this feature, so this is more a general guide, than an exact timing.
In the very early stages the ring was an actual ring and a separate piece held with a U-shaped device. Rather early on it became a feature, rather than a proper ring: a very fat doughnut shape that was made in one piece with the U-shaped securing device.
It is speculated if the ring is a mark of rank and that it may have been used in the swearing of oaths (warrior kissing the ring on the hilt of his lordīs sword).
The hilts with a true articulated ring have these upper hilts that are less wide and with "stubbier" proportions: a bit like the pommel of the Sutton Hoo sword.
When the ring becomes a more pronounced feature, it turns into a gesture, not being a true ring any more. These can be very "fat" but are made hollow. The upper hilts they sit on are generally wider and of a proportionately thinner cross section than the earlier type.
In the later examples the decoration becomes more elaborate and almost baroque, with an abundance of niello, silver and garnets in some examples.
Earlier hilts can be more severe and restrained, with zoomorphic motifs on the small pommel mostly and restrained deocrative lines on other parts of the hilt.

On hilt materials, I have heard of wood, horn and bone being used as the "spacer". I have seen swords with bronze or iron (sometimes with silvering/gilding) as the "spacer" and then it is common to see niello and/or garnet inlays as well.

Never seen or heard about rock crystal or amber or any such used for the hilts. Could look very nice on a version of the Excalibur however Wink Big Grin

EDIT:
Hey Jeroen!
Simultaneous posting!
It makes sense what you say it is the receiver who gets the ring sword and not like I had heard it is the sword of the lord that has the ring in the hilt to swear on. The kings in the sagas are called Ring Givers, after all!
There are also quite a few of these ring swords. If they were exclusively for the lord to have, there would have been vary many lords around....
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Thu 12 Feb, 2009 2:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Johnsson wrote:

EDIT:
Hey Jeroen!

Hi Peter!

Quote:
Simultaneous posting!

Yep, happens occasionally it seems Happy

Quote:
It makes sense what you say it is the receiver who gets the ring sword and not like I had heard it is the sword of the lord that has the ring in the hilt to swear on. The kings in the sagas are called Ring Givers, after all!
There are also quite a few of these ring swords. If they were exclusively for the lord to have, there would have been vary many lords around....
Yeah, and that's also probably why the Sutton Hoo sword doesn't have a ring, as the owner was a king!
Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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Jean-Carle Hudon




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PostPosted: Thu 12 Feb, 2009 6:18 am    Post subject: unarticulated rings         Reply with quote

Peter,
thank you for that explanation. I have the del tin lombard model, ordered because I liked the look of it and the period, but I was disappointed that the ring was fixed in the hilt , which I only realized when I received it.
I wrote Del Tin about that, and he assured me that he copied a true weapon, which left me perplexed. I did not doubt his word for a moment, but couldn't figure out why one would bother to have a ring if the darn thing isn't really a ring, but the evocation of a ring. This intrigued me as I knew that ''true'' ring hilts did exist, ie with a ring that could still move.
So thank you for that, now I have an answer to give visitors who see the model on my wall and ask why....JCH

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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Thu 12 Feb, 2009 10:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Where can I drum up some extant examples of these ring swords? Sounds like a fascinating tradition. This early portion of the middle ages is almost totally mystery to me.

M.

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G Ezell
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PostPosted: Thu 12 Feb, 2009 11:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

http://mis.historiska.se/mis/sok/resultat_bil...mp;page=11
http://mis.historiska.se/mis/sok/resultat_bil...mp;page=14
http://mis.historiska.se/mis/sok/resultat_bil...mp;page=15
There are a few examples linked.

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Antonio Lamadrid





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PostPosted: Thu 12 Feb, 2009 1:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here there is information about one sword found in Kent with a loose ring.

http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/adsdata/arch-...01_041.pdf


Great pics thanks to Kirk Lee Spencer in this thread:

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...=valsgarde


The evolution of the ring-hilt swords, from Ewart Oakeshott's Sword in hand.


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Kirk Lee Spencer




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PostPosted: Thu 12 Feb, 2009 6:13 pm    Post subject: Re: 5th-6th century sword questions         Reply with quote

Peter Lyon wrote:
.... In particular I am interested to know if rock crystal or other transparent/translucent materials were ever used.

The rings on hilts, especially pommels. When did they appear and disappear? And what is the current thinking on their function?




Some horn is translucent, especially the lighter caramel colored horn. I believe it would be very fine looking in the upper and lower guard of the more slim forms..

Transparent/Translucent garnet and enamel has been used in the guard of Behmer type 3 swords.

Also Type 4 swords, from further east, have what looks like small pommels made of stone. If so, I don't see why they could not use rock crystal.

There were also stones attached to the scabbards.

If I remember correctly their is another conjecture related to the loose ring type ringhilts in which the ring was used to secure what were called "peace bands"... some kind of band that secured the sword into the scabbard to demonstrate willingness to parley without violence (sort of like having your swords "safety" witched on.)

ks



 Attachment: 149.46 KB
MIG.Bh3.ChildericGarnetHilt.Frankish.BK.jpg
Behmer Type 3. Childeric Garnet Hilt. Frankish. Image from "Barbarian Kings" by Lionel Casson

 Attachment: 139.24 KB
MIG.Bh4.L114.bl92w44g101.TamanRussia.StateMusBerlin.jpg
Behmer Type 4 from Taman Russia Preserved in the State Museum Berlin

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David Huggins




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Feb, 2009 2:45 am    Post subject: Ring         Reply with quote

The ring also appears on other objects, a shield boss, drinking horn, lower part of a crossguard so I think the theory concerning the 'peace band' has to be looked at again. Fellow forumite has some intersting things to say about the 'ring' in his fourthcoming book and I wouldn't like to be a spoiler by revealing to much at the moment!

Apart from garnet inlay i can't think of any mineral use in hilt garniture.

best
Dave

( nice image being provided o this thread Happy )

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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Feb, 2009 6:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The "evolution" drawing and the PDF present it very well. The later form of the ring hilt, though, why does it look more like a blob hilt? It's almost as if someone took a stone, wrapped it in a bit of foil, and stapled it to my sword.

M.

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