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John McNamara





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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2010 1:42 pm    Post subject: Strange Ancient Tanged Bronze "Sickle" Sword / Dag         Reply with quote

This is a strange ancient "sickle" sword from either Afghanistan or NW Pakistan. It is bronze and is next to a 12 inch ruler for size comparison. It is has a tang on the top and was likely a burial, votive weapon rather than functional. Has anyone ever seen anything like this before? I would love more information on it. I vaguely recall seeing something like it in the past but cannot remember where. Maybe in some ancient texts or art depictions????

Any information would be appreciated.

Thanks



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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2010 3:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Where is the edge?
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John McNamara





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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2010 3:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have not handled this piece so I can only guess it is likely only on the tip. Sorry I do not have more info. I have been wondering that myself.
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Kirk Lee Spencer




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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2010 8:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Resembles this "proto-khopesh"? in the British Museum.

I have a note in the file name that it is made of copper and was found in Northwestern Iran.

ks



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Two swords
Lit in Eden’s flame
One of iron and one of ink
To place within a bloody hand
One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
Two eternities
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John McNamara





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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2010 10:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Kirk,

I also posted this question in the Sword Forum and saw that photo of the piece in the Met Museum. I too, saw the resemblence. The one I submit seems to be a more dramatic version of the khopesh in the photo you show.

John
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 15 May, 2010 1:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If it is a weapon then the angle of the tang suggests that the edge would be along the outer curve just like the "proto khopesh". It would not be classed as a sickle sword but somewhere between a sword and an axe.
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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Sat 15 May, 2010 4:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I made some detail sketches of the one in the BM, estimating some dimensions.
It is not sharp, but is without much doubt a finished weapon. I think some kopesh swords also have a blunt edge.
This would categorize these somewhere between axe-sword-mace. The BM one is well made and has beautiful proportions and lines.

Interesting seeing another example that is even more extreme in shape than the BM one. There is a ancient Iranian relief of the hero Gilgamesh holding a weapon that must belong to this same group. It is less extreme in shape, but has the forward curve of the blade and is in size as a large knife or short sword.
Perfect for dealing stunning blows, breaking bones, heads and pulping muscle I would guess.

This one above and the BM one shares the thrusting point. Gilgamesh´s one was blunt ended. I´ll see if I can locate the pic.

EDIT: after a quick googling, here are some ancient images of the Hero Gilgamesh.
Both show him using a weapon that is shaped somewhat like a question mark. One is short, the other is much longer.



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John McNamara





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PostPosted: Sat 15 May, 2010 7:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree. I don't think you need a sharpened edge on this and in examination, I don't see one. This would be a stabbing weapon on par with the concept of an atlatl. Like the atlatl, you can build up speed to pierce an enemy by swinging with greater force, the stabbing point versus just a straight thrust. Think of what the atlatl does in concept of thrusting a spear versus basic throwing and this seems to utilize the same concept.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sat 15 May, 2010 1:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Johnsson wrote:

EDIT: after a quick googling, here are some ancient images of the Hero Gilgamesh.
Both show him using a weapon that is shaped somewhat like a question mark. One is short, the other is much longer.


On the other hand, both weapons are about as long as a lion's body. The long one is definitely long. The lion in the "short" picture isn't small; this is a 4 metre tall Gilgamesh. What else would one expect from somebody who is 2/3 god and 1/3 human?

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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John McNamara





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PostPosted: Sat 15 May, 2010 1:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Much of the ancient art featuring gods shows stylized depictures. A man holding a globe, Zeus holding a club nearly as half as big as him, etc.

I am tending to think this was from a parallel culture that existed and had interaction with the peoples of Iran to the west of where it was found between northern Pakistan and Afghanistan border. Often, we see cultures copying other contemporary cultures. Look at the Nubians who mimicked (but not in the same great accomplishments!) the technology and styles of inventions of their northern Egyptian neighbors. Perhaps this piece is a reduced and stylzed version of a weapon that had seen coming from Bronze Age Iran??? I have not seen a piece like this before being found in the area where it comes from but I occasionally see what I call cross-over technology in the artifacts when comparing to their neighbors.
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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Sat 15 May, 2010 2:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:

On the other hand, both weapons are about as long as a lion's body. The long one is definitely long. The lion in the "short" picture isn't small; this is a 4 metre tall Gilgamesh. What else would one expect from somebody who is 2/3 god and 1/3 human?


Even if Gilgamesh is 4 meters tall, his sword would be made in proportion to him, don´t you think? The great Gilgamesh would not be using a puny normal sword of a mere mortal would he? His weapon would be in proportion or overlarge, if anything.

This scale and size of the hero aside, the point I wanted to make is that these types of weapons do occur in period art. Or at least something that very much remind of them.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sat 15 May, 2010 3:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Johnsson wrote:
Timo Nieminen wrote:

On the other hand, both weapons are about as long as a lion's body. The long one is definitely long. The lion in the "short" picture isn't small; this is a 4 metre tall Gilgamesh. What else would one expect from somebody who is 2/3 god and 1/3 human?


Even if Gilgamesh is 4 meters tall, his sword would be made in proportion to him, don´t you think? The great Gilgamesh would not be using a puny normal sword of a mere mortal would he? His weapon would be in proportion or overlarge, if anything.


I expect it is in proportion. The one in the OP is hardly large (what about the BM one, is it similar?), so the long one might well be overlarge. But unless one has a good handle on artistic conventions (and I don't have one of mythical Babylonian art), archaeology is more trustworthy than art.

Peter Johnsson wrote:
This scale and size of the hero aside, the point I wanted to make is that these types of weapons do occur in period art. Or at least something that very much remind of them.


Do you know if this has a name?

The only candidate I know of in the Epic would be his axe ("Mighty of Heroes"); he only has axe, dagger/sword, and bow. He consistently uses the axe and dagger together, one in each hand (e.g., in the fight against Humbaba, and elsewhere), and usually strikes his opponent with the dagger/sword.

But he also cuts down trees with his axe, so it isn't just a mace/club/parrying device. (And the Epic emphasises that it is of suitable heroic weight, 9 score pounds iirc, so not just a puny normal axe.)

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 15 May, 2010 3:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:

The only candidate I know of in the Epic would be his axe ("Mighty of Heroes"); he only has axe, dagger/sword, and bow. He consistently uses the axe and dagger together, one in each hand (e.g., in the fight against Humbaba, and elsewhere), and usually strikes his opponent with the dagger/sword.

But he also cuts down trees with his axe, so it isn't just a mace/club/parrying device. (And the Epic emphasises that it is of suitable heroic weight, 9 score pounds iirc, so not just a puny normal axe.)


We can't know that without consulting the original text. Does the text use the same word for his weapon and the object he uses to cut trees?
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sat 15 May, 2010 6:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Timo Nieminen wrote:

The only candidate I know of in the Epic would be his axe ("Mighty of Heroes"); he only has axe, dagger/sword, and bow. He consistently uses the axe and dagger together, one in each hand (e.g., in the fight against Humbaba, and elsewhere), and usually strikes his opponent with the dagger/sword.

But he also cuts down trees with his axe, so it isn't just a mace/club/parrying device. (And the Epic emphasises that it is of suitable heroic weight, 9 score pounds iirc, so not just a puny normal axe.)


We can't know that without consulting the original text. Does the text use the same word for his weapon and the object he uses to cut trees?


"Ha-si-in-nu" is definitely a battle-axe; except in one possible case, this is the axe used in combat. In Tablet X (line 164), Gilgamesh uses this to cut punting-poles.

There is another axe term, "pa-a-su", which I can find twice. Once, in Tablet V (line 56), occuring immediately after a mention of "ha-si-in-nu"; the two lines are translated as "The axes were smeared ..., hatchet [and] dirk in ...". This is the last mention of such things before the actual fight, and the text of the fight is incomplete due to damage. Gilgamesh might have hade "hatchet (pa-a-su) and dirk" in hand for the fight.

Occurs again when Gilgamesh talks to the door in Tablet VII, as an axe used/usable for wood-cutting/wood-working.

From the Andrew George translation which is the only one I have a matching transliteration for. The fight with Humbaba is incomplete, and George gives translations of the other versions usually used to flesh out this part, but I don't have a transliteration.

So "ha-si-in-nu" is used for fighting, with one use in the Epic for wood-cutting. "Pa-a-su" is usable for wood-cutting/wood-working, and might be the axe used in the fight with Humbaba. It's possible that these are the same, but also possible they're different. A transliteration of the alternative versions might help, but the standard version (fragmentary here) is in Akkadian, and the other versions are Old Babylonian, so perhaps it won't help as much as one might wish.

Since Humbaba is a forest-guardian, perhaps one would use a wood-axe on him anyway?

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Sat 15 May, 2010 11:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo: thanks!
This is great to know.
Makes the implement/weapon in the hand of the Louvre sculpture even more interesting.

I was not aware that Gilgamesh is never associated with a sword. So what we today name sickle-sword, may have been known as an axe in ancient times.
Unless of course the ancient sculptor took liberties and equipped the hero with a suitable sword/kopesh (or whatever it should be called) regardless of what the text has to say.
On the other hand, it is usually rather significant what kind of weapon the hero is told to have and what he does not have in the legends. His weapons reflect or illuminate his character.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sun 16 May, 2010 1:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The weapon that George translates as "dagger" or "dirk" is often "sword" in translations. From art, it's short and double-edged, I'd guess 20-30cm of blade. I like George's translation.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu have their axes and daggers for the quest to Humbaba's forest cast for them in their presence. The suitably heroic sizes are 3 talents for the axes, and 2 talents for the dagger blades, and another talent for the dagger fittings. Gilgamesh and Enkidu carry 10 talents each (I don't know what makes up the rest of the 10). 1 talent = 30kg? There's no mention of anything other than bronze (or copper?) going into the axe - what is a sickle-sword but a bronze-handled axe?

Gilgamesh was tall, with a 6 cubit stride according to the story. So the 4m sculpture, while maybe not life-size, is at least close to story-size.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu appear to wear their axe and dagger in/on/from their belts. The stock phrase is "he took up his axe in his hand, he drew forth his dirk from his belt".

Lots of info and pics of sickle-swords etc in this thread: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=9497

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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