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Josh MacNeil




Location: Massachusetts, USA
Joined: 23 Jul 2008

Posts: 197

PostPosted: Wed 30 Dec, 2009 3:45 pm    Post subject: Back suspenstions...         Reply with quote

Not sure where to post this one, so I hope it fits with off topic stuff. If not I apologize. Anyways, with all the talk of scabbard suspensions lately, I've been thinking a lot about back suspensions. I've been looking at a lot of medieval art from various time periods and regions, and can't find any depictions of knights, men-at-arms, other military, or any sword wielding individuals wearing a sword slung over the back/shoulder. Nor have I seen any reproduction suspension systems designed this way. Was it simply not practiced enough to be commonly found in art, or is the visage of a warrior with a sword slung over his back another product of Hollywood imagination?
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Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
Joined: 10 Feb 2005
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PostPosted: Wed 30 Dec, 2009 5:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think this has been covered previously. I tried our Search feature, but could not really find what I was looking for in previous posts.

I have tried a couple of these type suspensions. You can force them to be plausible, but drawing a common medieval length of sword from over your shoulder is tough. (Even un-armoured.) Trying to put the sword back in is really difficult. I figure someone will eventually produce some period art depicting "back" suspensions. But, think such a thing would be more likely useful for general travel and transport rather than "battle ready" type application.

Shoulder slung suspensions, where the sword is still somewhere low and diagonally in the front, are entirely different in terms of functionality. I actually prefer this over anything else I have tried.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Andrew Maxwell




Location: New Zealand
Joined: 03 May 2009

Posts: 90

PostPosted: Wed 30 Dec, 2009 7:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
I figure someone will eventually produce some period art depicting "back" suspensions.


I think that is actually pretty unlikely- I did a bit of searching a while back and spoke to numerous people with good knowledge of period weapons and suspensions- and no-one seems to have seen or heard of a "back" suspension used in period. At all. It seems to only occur in the realms of movies, fantasy novels and role-playing games Happy

Which actually makes sense, because it is mechanically horribly awkward (as you have noted) and our ancestors weren't idiots. Big Grin
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Nat Lamb




Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
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PostPosted: Wed 30 Dec, 2009 9:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I may be the victim of Hollywood here (or perhaps Toho...) but I believe that No-dachi were sometimes carried on a back strap. Of corse these were ment to be removed from the back and un-sheathed proor to the comencement of hostilities. Of course this is recieved wisdom, I have no actuall sorces for this...
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Doug Lester




Location: Decatur, IL
Joined: 12 Dec 2007

Posts: 167

PostPosted: Wed 30 Dec, 2009 11:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe that the Scots sometimes carried their great swords on their backs but it was only for transport. They would take off the harness and draw thier swords before going into battle and reclaim the harness afterwards.
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Joe Fults




Location: Midwest
Joined: 02 Sep 2003

Posts: 3,440

PostPosted: Wed 30 Dec, 2009 11:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This does come up from time to time and has been discussed in depth before on this forum. You can find illustrations of swords being carried in a sheath or covering on the shoulder of a soldier in woodcuts that depict troops on the march. However, during the life of several threads about back-scabbards I have not seen anybody produce solid evidence of a back-scabbard in period illustrations on European origin. I have also not seen any photos of surviving examples. Either or both of which would go a long way to answering questions about the use of rigs of this nature.

The fact that I have not seen any evidence means only that it has not yet been presented to me. Still it does strongly imply (to me) that swords were very seldom or very rarely carried in this way. At least not in Europe.

In a more practical sense, the modern back-scabbards I have experience with were all much less user friendly than a waist mounted suspension. I felt that my range of movement was more limited and weapons of significant length were not easy to extract from the rigs I tried without taking the whole thing off.

Something from hollywood (IMO).

"Our life is what our thoughts make it"
-Marcus Aurelius

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
-John F. Kennedy


Last edited by Joe Fults on Thu 31 Dec, 2009 12:08 am; edited 1 time in total
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Joe Fults




Location: Midwest
Joined: 02 Sep 2003

Posts: 3,440

PostPosted: Wed 30 Dec, 2009 11:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One very long discussion in the spirit of this one I think:

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...arry+sword

"Our life is what our thoughts make it"
-Marcus Aurelius

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
-John F. Kennedy
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Joe Fults




Location: Midwest
Joined: 02 Sep 2003

Posts: 3,440

PostPosted: Wed 30 Dec, 2009 11:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another along the same line (there are others...I found it helped to use the AND function in the search tool):

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...arry+sword

"Our life is what our thoughts make it"
-Marcus Aurelius

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
-John F. Kennedy
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Troy G L Williams




Location: Moody, Texas
Joined: 20 Jun 2007
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Posts: 79

PostPosted: Thu 31 Dec, 2009 11:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In my opinion, from the sources I have read and depictions of knights and soldiers, I have not seen a suspension that would make me believe they ever carried a sword on their back to draw it. Most swords that indivduals wish to carry on their back seem to be ones that would be used from horse or used to remove a knight from a horse. I believe, IMO, that the folks that wish to carry the swords on their back due so to show their pride in the arms they have purchased or created. Thank you Hollywood. Wink
v/r,
Troy Williams

"Itís merely a flesh wound." -Monty Python and the Holy Grail
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David Teague




Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Joined: 25 Jan 2004

Posts: 409

PostPosted: Thu 31 Dec, 2009 11:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Doug Lester wrote:
I believe that the Scots sometimes carried their great swords on their backs but it was only for transport. They would take off the harness and draw thier swords before going into battle and reclaim the harness afterwards.


The extant woodcuts of Scottish Gallowglasses show them carrying their 2 handed great sword on the shoulder like a musket... not slung from the back.




Thanks Hollywood!

This you shall know, that all things have length and measure.

Free Scholar/ Instructor Selohaar Fechtschule
The Historic Recrudescence Guild

"Yea though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou's sword art is with me; Thy poleaxe and Thy quarterstaff they comfort me."
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