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Iagoba Ferreira

Joined: 15 Sep 2008

Posts: 192

PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2010 4:59 am    Post subject: A&A "12th century spear" : Always check the s         Reply with quote

It now appears as "original under research" since more than a year, and well before I contacted with A&A regarding this, but probably the only research of it has been done by me. It's not published in English (only in Spanish in my blog) so here goes.

While looking at the catalogue, I was puzzled by this piece, which was based on a original in the "Museo arqueológico provincial de Alava". That institution had a lot of branches, which from quite years (probably more than half a century) have become autonomous Museums, one of them the armoury museum, under the name of "Museo de armería de Alava" since 1968.

I live in Vitoria, where are those museums, so I know all pretty well, specially the Armoury one (dunno why Laughing Out Loud ). And I had never seen that piece... Confused

That's all the spears in the medieval section. This does not mean that they are medieval...of course. Any Armoury museum worthing the name will have wrong names and dates on his tags...Laughing Out Loud

The newest book (from 1983) showed no candidates...

The answer came when I was reading the Osprey's book “El Cid and the Reconquista 1050-1492″ (I'll just say it's not one of Osprey best ones...). One of the colour plates showed an identical piece, and with the same provenance like the A&A one:


In the same book there where some drawings of weapons, one of them matching (more or less) in shape, attributted chronology and origin:

Which looks to be one of the pieces from the museum, but quite freely drawed...note thaty are labelled as being from the XV-XVI, too...the 12th-14th century dating is of unknown origin.

Looks like Mc Bride added some light and shades to the drawing, which were interpreted as an hexagonal socket by A&A...among other liberties.

The conclusion is clear, nor the authors of Osprey took the trouble to have a photo of the real thing, nor they knew wehre it was , and A&A design was based, again, only and exclusively on that drawing by McBride.

Many lessons can be learned. I merely had the luck of having the possibility of visiting the museum, thus knowing quite well the pieces, but anyone could have arrived to the same conclusion.It may be a good replica of a medieval spear (I won't judge that, as I haven't the knowledge -still-) but not of the alleged one.: Always check the source! Wink

Of course that in the museum no one knew of this replica...

To end, if anyone ever wants to make a question of anything in this museum, I'll be happy to help. Wink

PS: I hope it has not been a too pedantic post... Confused
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Alan H. Weller

Location: Palo Alto, CA
Joined: 31 Oct 2006

Posts: 28

PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2010 8:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Two weeks ago, I visited the referenced small museum in Vitoria ( Museo de armería de Alava) while on vacation in northern Spain. It was a pleasant surprise. Its well chosen collection of Spanish/European edged weapons and armour is nicely displayed chronologically, including Celtic-Iberian swords and continuing onwards. It also houses a collection of firearms and of "colonial" weapons. Here is what Wickipedia says about it:

Arms Museum of Álava. Is is home to weapons from various ages, from prehistoric axes to 20th century handguns. There is a large collection of medieval weaponry and reconstruction of the battle in Vitoria (1813).

Vitoria was the site of the last great battle of the Peninsula Wars, which was another triumph for Wellington. Naturally, in the museum there is an emphasis on weapons from that era, as well as displays demonstrating the battlefield.

Unfortunately, photography is firmly prohibited, a rule that I was reminded of in each of two visits. For this reason, I was not able to report back to this forum with pictures and only have my memories. Other than that, the staff was extremely helpful and courteous, and spent a great deal of time answering our questions (in Spanish).
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Iagoba Ferreira

Joined: 15 Sep 2008

Posts: 192

PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2010 8:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Two weeks ago, I visited the referenced small museum in Vitoria

Sometimes I'm able to drop there, if anyone gives me a touch with advance. It's really a pleasure to show it, it's quite unkown. How did you find it, please?

the staff was extremely helpful and courteous, and spent a great deal of time answering our questions (in Spanish).

They are truly attentive and helpful. Happy

There are some photos on the wiki:

But the ban on photos is really a sad thing Evil as I'm sure they will help to know more about the collection. Taking in account that the "cataloge" is out of print since decades have no way to get a decent image of any piece.
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2010 11:30 am    Post subject: Researching weapons and armor.         Reply with quote

Hello Iagoba

Good to hear from you. The follow up to the info you had provided me has lead me to surmise that the illustration by McBride was based on the line drawing by Dr Nicolle. I am not sure if he is basing this illustration on art or artifact but the description seems to indicate the later.

I was going to see if their where any depictions in Hoffmeyer's Arms & Armor in Spain but seem to have miss placed my copy of Vol 2.

What I think may have happened is Dr. Nicolle was possibly working from a photograph of the spear head you posted (the one on the right in each picture) and the copy he was working from was not as clear as the ones we have. Also it may have been small enough to make it difficult to see. I have not had a chance to talk with him about this. The other explanation could well be a miss edited site in the description. This might be the more likely as anyone who has studied Dr. Nicolle's published works knows that the amount of descriptive information in them is enormous and there are always a few things that slip through any such publication.

I would agree you have shown that the spear identified as the source for the depiction is different than shown. I fear I have not had the time to follow up as much as I had planned on the original depicted in Dr. Nicolle's work. I had hoped to converse with him about it but have not had the opportunity as yet.

There is much one could do tracking down all the nuances of sources for items like this. We do our best with each piece. In this case I think we made this spear first in 1993 and at the time had only the two illustrations to work from. It has been a popular piece for people and I would expect it is well within the envelope of spear design for the period. At a certain point the student of arms must rely on the research of others in certain areas where it is not possible to do first hand discovery oneself. I appreciate your help in making our information more reliable.

As to the future of the manufacture of this spear design, I would expect at some point we may well chose to produce a different example from the period and retire this piece. The decision to do that is based on a lot of factors including authenticity but also such things as budget, popularity and our focus.

I had meant to get some verbiage up on the site about this but have at this point not had the time to adjust it of late.

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Iagoba Ferreira

Joined: 15 Sep 2008

Posts: 192

PostPosted: Wed 12 May, 2010 2:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

First of all, I'm sure that this piece it's not "fantasy" or "historically INaccurate", but it should be taken in account by itself, as many other replicas. I'm sure that currently A&A is more suspicious regarding the originals, and that's always a good thing. About the model, I like it a lot, to say the truth, as usually the spears are not so distictive or different enough...without becoming fancy, which it's not the case.

About tracking the pieces of the armoury collections, and specially the Spanish ones, I know it's a real mess (and probably our "own" fault)... Mad Looking the chain of interpretations of this piece is a good example of this lack of information. I'll be really happy to help anyone having a doubt regarding pieces from Spain, as it's one of the few things I can do in this respect... The Museo de Armería de Alava has a book published in 1983 still easy to find, around 30€, named "MUSEOS DE ARMERIA Y HERALDICA ALAVESA", but even this old book is better than the ones currently sold about the Armería Real or the other collections... Sad

To end, if anyone wants more info or photos from items from Alava or Vitoria, I may have it. There has been a research on the "white weapons" (spears, swords, knifes, axes, staff Spanish is shorter Wink ) which it's not still made avalaible to the public, and many fake, misidentified and even some unkown pieces have been researched for the first time. The museums core is made from pieces bought from anticuarians in the 60's...and in their opinion any spear is medieval or any sword is napoleonic or a rapier... WTF?! The only group of medieval weapons well published from Alava is the VI-VII centuries burial site of Aldaieta, with quite a lot of spears (about 60 AFAIR), franciscas (around 40,even a type only found in the Basque Country) and a quite long seax. There is a very complete book about the site and the pieces in spanish named "necrópolis tardoantigua de Aldaieta".

Speaking about Spanish spears, there are some in the graves of the battle of Alarcos (1195), and those can be dated to the exact day...

Hoping to have been of help... Wink
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