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What is your deffinition of "historically accurate"
Exactly like an original, made in the same way with the same tools and steels
13%
 13%  [ 8 ]
Exactly like an original, but made with modern tools and steels
25%
 25%  [ 15 ]
all components are copies of origianls but from different artifacts of the same type and time
11%
 11%  [ 7 ]
all components are copies of origanals but from artifacts of different types but same time
1%
 1%  [ 1 ]
has the same asthetics and feel of an origianl but is not an exact copy
45%
 45%  [ 27 ]
all components are from origanals but not from the same time
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
looks authentic from 5ft (2m)
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
looks authentic from 10ft (3m)
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
it is moving when I use it so no one will know
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
if it says it is "historical" that is good enough for me
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
I really don't worry about it
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
all of the above
1%
 1%  [ 1 ]
Total Votes : 59

Author Message
Ben Potter
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Location: Altadena, CA
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 9:14 am    Post subject: Historical accuracy         Reply with quote

if you are making swords (or amour or anything else) that is not strictly a reproduction it tends to get labeled as "fantasy" . For example you have a blade that is from the 15th c, a cross from the 14th c and a pommel for the 13th (which there are historical examples of) or a piece with a blade type and hilt that are contemporary but there is no extent piece with that configuration).

But when you look at many "historically accurate" production pieces they are much farther from being accurate(like mill marks, fullers that are the wrong size and shape, hit fittings that are obviously made with modern techniques, poor balance.)

What does "historically accurate" actually mean to you as sword buyer/users?

Ben Potter Bladesmith

It's not that I would trade my lot
For any other man's,
Nor that I will be ashamed
Of my work torn hands-

For I have chosen the path I tread
Knowing it would be steep,
And I will take the joys thereof
And the consequences reap.
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,297

PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 9:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's almost a question that can't be answered! Because to me, "historical accuracy" is a sliding scale of at least 3 dimensions, with any number of factors to consider. An item can be completely accurate in appearance, shape, weight, and feel, but be made entirely with modern methods and even modern materials (to a certain extent). Obviously, fiberglass doesn't look like wrought iron, but many of us consider mild steel to be "close enough" for armor and helmets. So we'd call a helmet "historically accurate" if we can pick it up and look it over and not find any significant variation from the originals. But we'd still know that it was made from modern sheet metal, so it's going to be too thick in some places and too thin in others, and have slightly different metallurgical qualities. Brass or bronze pieces mayhave a different alloy than the ancient ones, while otherwise being quite good. I've seen helmets raised in one piece which were actually less accurate in shape than some welded from several pieces.

It's also a huge judgement call! There are folks who refuse to touch Indian-made reproductions, considering them all to be trash. But again, there are Indian-made items now available which are more accurate than some custom-made equivalents that cost 3 or 4 times as much. Some of us have learned that there must be some (grudging) compromise if you want to equip larger groups of Roman reenactors, for instance, without 20 people relying on one sporadic helmet-maker!

Too many variables! Basically, I don't think an item has to be made entirely like the original to be historically accurate. But I do tend to find that things that are considered "good from 10 feet away" are actually pretty bad from about 3 times that distance! There are some folks out there who would consider basic beliefs like mine to be unacceptably lenient, and others who think I am a frothing stitch-counting "authenticity Nazi" (if you'll excuse this rather twisted term of endearment!). So I can't really make a vote in your poll!

Matthew
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Anders Backlund




Location: Sweden
Joined: 24 Oct 2007

Posts: 629

PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 9:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was tempted to pick out "I really don't worry about it", because usually I don't. But the question was in regards to my personal definition of the term, and I do believe clear definitions are important. ("I don't give a damn" is not a definition.)

So, I'd say a historically accurate sword or armor does need to correspond closely to the known styles of the period it wants to represent, but the components do not need to be exact copies of one or several actual artifacts. It is enough if it immitates the general look and performance.

The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

"This doesn't look easy... but I bet it is!"
-Homer Simpson.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 9:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You can read a past discussion Spotlight Topic on this very subject if you want: What is 'historical accuracy'?
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Eric Allen




Location: Texas
Joined: 04 Feb 2006

Posts: 207

PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 10:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew said pretty much exactly what I was going to say, and probably more clearly and concisely than I would have.
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 12:37 pm    Post subject: What is your definition of "long"?         Reply with quote

Very hard to construct a useful definition that could be used to label any particular example as "historically accurate". Sure, one can find examples of, for example, swords, that are clearly more historically accurate than most, and examples that are not at all historically accurate. That's like saying we can find long pieces of string, and short pieces of string - but try to construct a definition of "long" that can be used to usefully classify. (Yes, trivial to have an arbitrary cut-off length for defining "long", but note "usefully".)

It's even worse with arms and armour, since there are multiple dimensions (which are difficult to compare with each other) along which to judge the degree of "historical accuracy".

So, I don't think I can add much to how to "measure" (as if!) the degree of historical accuracy. However, I can say:

It doesn't have to be a replica to be historically accurate. It doesn't even need to be historically accurate to be a replica (OK, one might say a replica of a historical weapon is a poor replica if it isn't historically accurate, and I'd agree that is is at least for some purposes, but consider, e.g., fantasy replicas).

I think we generally judge historical accuracy "on the curve". Try judging the historical accuracy of cheap Chinese production katana using the same criteria you would use to judge the historical accuracy of medieval swords, and compare with the usual comments on them from the nihonto-ist perspective.
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Jeff Kaisla




Location: Qualicum Beach, B.C., Canada
Joined: 09 Jan 2008
Reading list: 9 books

Posts: 106

PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 1:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'll agree that the term "Historical Accuracy" can have different degrees of definition....even for myself.
I'd say your first 5 options on your poll would satisfy me if I were commisioning a piece....unless I specified that I wanted it done exactly like an origional, in exactly the same way, and you'd better dig up the bog iron smelt it yourself... WTF?! Wink then I'd call that 100% historcially accurate. Otherwise I'm happy with the product looking like it could have been from period in style and dimensions.

But an all encompassing definition...I don't think I could lump it all into one catagory, the term itself is too vague and there are too many variables.

Take Albion Next Gen swords for example, are they historcally accurate? Given the amount of research and design on period pieces, even though Next Gen models are composite of different specimens....in my opinion, I would be comfortable saying that, yes, they are historically accurate, and Im proud to say that when I show off my pieces. But are they MADE in a historically accurate way? No. I don't have a problem with that, but to claim 100% historical accuracy wouldn't be...well....accurate. Wink

So in summary, aesthetic historical accuracy, and pieces that are constructed in a historically accurate fashion are two different animals and I for one am content with either.
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Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 2:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Using artifacts of the "same type and time" can be interpreted broadly or very narrowly. I value it about the same as "has the look and feel of a historical sword."

I allow for many medieval blade types to have been in use for several centuries, with a variety of possible match ups of furniture styles to a style of blade, unless proven otherwise. Also, period rehilting, changes, and repairs to the original are known to have happened and are mentioned by Oakshotte. There has been at least one post in the past couple of days of an unusual combination of pommel and blade on a museum artifact. If we copied that artifact exactly, we might be mismatching components that were not commonly assembled at the time when the blade was initially manufactured....

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2010 12:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The term "historically accurate " by itself doesn't mean anything, at least to reproductions. Reproductions are per definition only approximations. However, I use the term historically accurate reproduction if the shapes, construction, materials, function etc. are good enough to place it in the hands of someone from the period, and he wouldn't notice anything odd. I look at historical accuracy to a level that I'd find acceptible in high standard living history.

Compromises always have to be made at some point, so these compromises should be clear. IMO when you start making up stuff during the reconstruction that can not be supported by any archeological evidence, or which goes right against it, then I'd consider it based on a historical artifact, rather then a reproduction. This actually includes probably 99% of all reproductions. When I make a reproduction, I hate it when I have to make something up myself. I try to make very sure that I have at least all the archeological evidence at hand that is available. To make one sword, I sometimes look at several thousand examples in order to fill in gaps on information I can't get from that particular sword I'm making. Interpreting archeological evidence is also a profession in itself. Not many people have a feeling for that. You need a properly trained scientific mind-set in order to evaluate how to extract and apply the information that you need. At the same time, you also need the skills of a craftsman to turn that into the material. Under accurate reproductions I consider several levels:
- Everything done as exact as can be done, shape, function, style, tools, fabrication methods, materials (with what is available in this time).
- Same as above, but with modern materials as approximation (modern copper/tin bronze, or carbon steels)
- Same but finished with modern tools, yet making sure to end up with something that looks the same as if it were done with authentic tools (although generally I would put a higher level finish on the reproductions with modern tools, as with authentic tools it can be achieved, but takes so much time).

I don't consider a reproduction historically accurate If the "reproduction" includes materials like synthetic dyes, modern glues, chrome-tanned leather, wood types not available to the original maker, or compromises in the construction, clear machine made lines and shapes, with bronze wrong alloying elements (incl. f.e. zinc, with steel I'm less purist, unless specifically going for more accurate steel itself), personal styles of the modern maker that are different from the original artifacts, anything made up by the modern maker not matching archeological evidence, combinations from different locations/time that don't match etc. In those cases, I would not accept it to be used in high standard living history.

Jeroen Zuiderwijk
- Bronze age living history in the Netherlands
- Barbarian metalworking
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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2010 5:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree with much of what has been said above. To make the terms "Historical" and "Accurate" meaningful, they need to be qualified, they need to relate to something:
-In what way, how and compared to what.
And also: what kind of information has been used as the basis for the work?

Working with reconstructions professionally as a smith and developing swords for Albion, I am constantly faced with these questions. The task of making a reconstruction, copy or replica will always start out with making clear what the focus of the study is going to be. What aspects am I interested in? What aspects of the original am I going to focus on in the study/documentation? What is it we need to learn? What can the original tell me and what questions must I look elsewhere to find an answer to?
It is important to be aware of what the goal is, since it is *impossible* to study every aspect of an object. We also have to be aware there are things we cannot know. Making reconstructions is also a great way to see what we need to study more.
Creating reconstructions, mean that you have to rely on surviving fragments of a past time. If some parts remain hidden or there can be no information to be had, some careful judgement has to be observed when evaluating other sources (just like Jeroen commented on above). These can be similar objects from the same time period, depictions in art, or clues provided by the materials used and techniques of the craft. It is beneficial if many perspectives can be used in the study of the original: to use different kinds of "spectacles". Looking at an object with the eyes of an archaeo-metallurgist will provide different data than if you see the object with the eyes of an artist, or practitioner of martial arts.
The tale of three blind men describing the same elephant comes to mind: -"it is like a long snake!", -"no, it is like a grove of trees!", -"no, it is like a huge paint brush!"

To me this is all about what attitude you have towards the original material and the process of recreating objects from a past time. The more you study something, the more it becomes apparent how much more there is to know.
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