Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Spear Design: War Versus The Hunt Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Colt Reeves





Joined: 09 Mar 2009

Posts: 466

PostPosted: Thu 01 Sep, 2011 9:39 pm    Post subject: Spear Design: War Versus The Hunt         Reply with quote

MRL had a couple of sales on spearheads recently, of which I partook.

The first was their "European Spear Head."
http://www.kultofathena.com/product.asp?item=...Spear+Head

The second was their "Hewing Spearhead."
http://www.kultofathena.com/product.asp?item=...Spear+Head (KOA calls it "Large Leaf Blade Spearhead", but it seems to be the same thing.)



The following was of interest to me before, but now with several of each soon to be in my collection, I thought I'd bring it up here and see what others think.

To start, I had some reservations about the "Hewing Spearhead." If you look at the first picture on KOA's website you'll see that the spearhead consists of a thin flattened blade attached to the much thicker shaft, as opposed to the "European Spear Head," which has a slow tapering over the entire piece and a thick central ridge. At a glance I would say that the "European" one is the better spearhead, thicker and stronger, whereas the "Hewing Spearhead" looks like there're be a weak spot where blade and socket meet.

However, to switch gears from MRL to actual history, it appears we have plenty of examples of both historically. If my Google searching is any indication of how it went historically, it would seem that early and later on in Western history you would see more of these flattened spearheads, whereas the ones with the central ridge predominate throughout the middle parts of European history. (I am aware that Google and my gut feelings are hardly conclusive of anything, but lacking any other source of info...)

While there is a not unsurprising lack of information on early spearheads, if you take a look at late 15th century through to early 17th century spears you can see both kinds of spearheads. Generally speaking it seems that the ones with the prominent central ridge are labeled as for war, while many of the flattened ones are said to be hunting weapons.

It further seems to me, based still on my Googling, that the central ridge spears are far more common in history than the flattened ones, but that this is reversed in today's reproduction market. The cheaper spearheads are more likely to be of the flattened form than the ridged, perhaps because it is easier to make or simply because nobody did any research before churning out things to sell.



I shall now get to the point. Pun not intended, but left there once typed anyway. Wink

Generally speaking:
1. Is it true that the flattened designs were favored for hunting and the ridged for war?

2. If so, why? Hunting spears need not be as strong as those for war? Does the sloping shoulder of the flattened ones help to prevent an animal from sliding up the spear shaft?

3. Heck, am I overstating the apparent weakness of the flattened spearhead's joinings? Perhaps it is just a style thing?

4. How about the percentages of the different types? Were the ridged spears more common in history or just more common online/in museums?









Disclaimer: Firstly, this is all just my conjecture/guessing/musing. I'm mostly just trying to see how far off base my overall impressions are.

Secondly, I ignored non-European spearheads for this, which are even more varied and all over the place as far as design goes.

Lastly, I used KOA as reference for anyone who wanted an example of what I was talking about, simply because I've had enough of Googling for historical examples and I knew I could find what I wanted there.

"Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown.
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.
As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small.
For Iron, Cold Iron, must be master of men all..."
-Cold Iron, Rudyard Kipling
View user's profile Send private message
T. Arndt




Location: La Crosse, WI
Joined: 07 Jul 2011
Likes: 14 pages
Reading list: 5 books

Posts: 226

PostPosted: Thu 01 Sep, 2011 10:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great questions!

Both of these spear heads look very different from the Arms & Armor spears such as the Arms & Armor Friedrich IV Spear. The A&A spears appear to be much more inclined to doughty work- if I was choosing. But since they are cast and not forged I imagine they might be stouter that typical.

If anyone has pictures of Spears from 1200-1550 I would be very interested in seeing them, and hearing thoughts as to how they compare to the reproductions on the market.

Wisconsin Historical Fencing Association (WHFA) - La Crosse
A HEMA Alliance Affiliate

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” -Juvenal
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Matthew Amt




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

Posts: 1,302

PostPosted: Fri 02 Sep, 2011 6:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Most of what I know is Roman and other ancient cultures, but the vast majority of Roman spearheads, excavated from military sites, have no ridge. Mostly they were cranked out from a flat triangular piece of iron plate, with the bottom of the triangle wrapped around a mandrel to form the socket. Then the blade would have edges hammered into it, giving a roughly lenticular section. Stick it on a pole and go to war. I have seen a number of illustrations of medieval spearheads that aren't a lot more complex than that, and never any suggestion that those were for hunting rather than war.

Come to think of it, how common were ridged spearheads in the earlier middle ages? I honestly don't know!

I agree that non-ridged ones are more likely to be available nowadays, and it should also be pointed out that MOST modern repros are much larger than the average medieval spearhead! Roman ones ran 6 to 8 inches on average, including the socket, whereas it's really hard to find an affordable repro under a foot long...

Of course, in the eras I tend to study, spears were still the most common weapon on any battlefield. Once you get into the 16th century and beyond, the spears are usually pikes, often with their own distinctive characteristics, so it makes sense that actual spears were more likely for hunting. You see officers with boar spears as a badge of rank, for instance.

Good questions!

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Gregg Sobocinski




Location: Michigan
Joined: 21 Sep 2007
Likes: 4 pages
Reading list: 12 books

Posts: 128

PostPosted: Sun 04 Sep, 2011 8:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I feel this topic could use more discussion. Can we elaborate a bit more about spears/lances? Spears were a common weapon for thousands of years, and charts I've seen show many styles and specialized heads, just like most weapons. But for all the discussion I've read about every little sword characteristic, spear discussions are uncommon at best.

How about hearing from smiths or members who own multiple styles? Do you think one style would be more durable for certain situations? Use less metal? Easier to make? More effective against mail versus armor? Is a triangular head with straight edges better or worse for cutting versus piercing?

For example: I see vendors labeling just about every style of spear head as "Viking". Did the Vikings really have such a wide variety of spears (triangle head, appleseed and rounded, with and without wings or lugs), or is this just a marketing tactic? How did those styles evolve? Is there really evidence for winged spears being used to pull on shields and ankles, or did spear heads themselves do the trick? Were languets only used on later-period spears? How often were spears made entirely with steel instead of welded edges on soft iron?

I also see very few spear heads with a scale or perspective of their proportions. Where swords usually have handles to orient the viewer, spear head pictures are often very basic. Perhaps this is why I had no interest in them until I saw a few custom spears presented on this website.

After reading my post, perhaps I'm looking for a book reference or Spotlight Topic. Any spear nuts out there? Feel free to address any of the questions I've posed.
View user's profile Send private message
Colt Reeves





Joined: 09 Mar 2009

Posts: 466

PostPosted: Mon 05 Sep, 2011 12:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here are some examples I found via Google Images, using terms like “German”, “Hunting”, “15th century”, and of course “spear”:

I seem to have lost whatever combination of search terms that gave me the spears listed as for the hunt and those listed for war. Most of the below are not described as either, or if they are, they are described as for war.

http://www.antiquescentreyorkeshop.co.uk/acat...N2568.html
Kind of flattened to my eyes, about 9.8” long, found in Germany and dated to 14th-15th century. Not listed as either war or hunt.

http://www.antiquescentreyorkeshop.co.uk/acat...N2748.html
More of a ridged version. About 10.4” long and dated 12th-14th century. Not listed as either war or hunt.

http://www.google.com/imgres?q=15th+century+s...&ty=56
This one is listed as a German infantry of 15th-16th century. Still not said to be war or hunt.

http://www.google.com/imgres?q=%2215th+centur...mp;bih=540
Another German spear. 15th century again and not listed as hunt or war.

http://www.antiques.com/classified/17147/Medi...Boar-Spear
Oooo… Got one. Not quite as flattened as I’m thinking of, but this one is listed as a boar spear, 15th century. Germany again. Big one, almost 18” long.

http://finds.org.uk/database/search/results/o...d/MEDIEVAL
Here is a page with several different spears on it, most appearing to be of the flattened variety. The first one is rather interesting, seeming to be a flattened blade with socket built in, no midsection at all.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/RARE-MEDIEVAL-GERMAN-...0460384659
Some eBay stuff about spears, flat and ridged.

http://www.google.com/imgres?q=German+Spear&a...&ty=60
Another German one, a boar spear.

http://www.antiques-atlas.com/bayhallantiques...=as208a146
17th century boar spear, flattened.

http://www.antiques-atlas.com/bayhallantiques...=as208a147
18th century pike, flattened…



Well shoot, I can’t find the same ones I found before that had me so convinced, but what I see here leads me to believe my pet theory is all wet. Still, not a loss, this gives me some ideas as to what to do with the spearheads I bought. The reproduction market seems to be limited to only a few types and with a hack saw and a lot of filing one could make an example rarely reproduced today.


Matthew, I’d appreciate some more info on why you say most medieval spearheads were so short. Not calling you a liar, but most of the ones I looked at that had a length listed were fairly large.


And Gregg, the “Vikings” did in fact have a variety of different styles and types throughout their heyday. Of course, as you point out, dealers love to label things as Viking that have nothing in common with actual examples. Here’s http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manu..._spear.htm where William Short gives an excellent overview of Norse spears. The rest of the site is much the same on many aspects of Norse weapons and daily life. I’ll also put in a plug for his book “Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques” here. It’s basically his website in book form, but still quite nice.

While we’re on the topic of Norse spears and vendors making them, this one looks to be a pretty good representation of a Norse spear in my price range, AKA dirt cheap: http://www.kultofathena.com/product.asp?item=...Spear+Head

It resembles one of the smaller spearheads shown on Short’s website scaled up with the addition of “wings.”



Yessire, I’m starting to get a little spear crazy. It’ll add a little spice to my collection of mostly swords. Big Grin



Editted because I noticed my link to Short's site was no good.

"Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown.
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.
As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small.
For Iron, Cold Iron, must be master of men all..."
-Cold Iron, Rudyard Kipling
View user's profile Send private message
Romulus Stoica




Location: Hunedoara, Transylvania, Romania
Joined: 26 Oct 2006

Posts: 124

PostPosted: Mon 05 Sep, 2011 4:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:

http://www.antiques.com/classified/17147/Medi...Boar-Spear
Oooo… Got one. Not quite as flattened as I’m thinking of, but this one is listed as a boar spear, 15th century. Germany again. Big one, almost 18” long.


This one looks more like a combination between a warscythe and a spear. I have a few pictures with similar weapons from Transylvania, XV century.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Gregg Sobocinski




Location: Michigan
Joined: 21 Sep 2007
Likes: 4 pages
Reading list: 12 books

Posts: 128

PostPosted: Mon 05 Sep, 2011 9:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Colt. I wasn't sure if your question had been answered, but it looks like you've accumulated quite a bit of research on your own. It's a good start, and I appreciate seeing it.

Hopefully, you don't see my inquiries as hijacking your topic, but it seemed like a good place for me to post.
View user's profile Send private message
Colt Reeves





Joined: 09 Mar 2009

Posts: 466

PostPosted: Mon 05 Sep, 2011 5:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you Romulus, I'm not sure how that changes things, but it's an interesting factoid nonetheless.

As for your inquires Gregg, I wouldn't worry about it. myArmoury.com is supposed to be something of a respository of knowledge and in a topic about spears you asked about spears. I've gone off on worse tangents myself.

"Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown.
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.
As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small.
For Iron, Cold Iron, must be master of men all..."
-Cold Iron, Rudyard Kipling
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




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

Posts: 1,302

PostPosted: Mon 05 Sep, 2011 5:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Colt Reeves wrote:
Here are some examples I found via Google Images, using terms like “German”, “Hunting”, “15th century”, and of course “spear”:

I seem to have lost whatever combination of search terms that gave me the spears listed as for the hunt and those listed for war. Most of the below are not described as either, or if they are, they are described as for war.


I suspect some at least are mislabeled or at least misdated. I've seen things incorrectly identified in museums and by antiquities dealers, so I'm always a tad skeptical! It would be nice to know if any of the medieval ones were stratified archeological finds, but I suspect they are mostly stray finds so only loosely dated. Once you start seeing identifiable makers marks and such, of course it gets a lot easier.

Quote:
http://www.antiquescentreyorkeshop.co.uk/acatalog/info_1_SN2568.html
Kind of flattened to my eyes, about 9.8” long, found in Germany and dated to 14th-15th century. Not listed as either war or hunt.

http://www.antiquescentreyorkeshop.co.uk/acat...N2748.html
More of a ridged version. About 10.4” long and dated 12th-14th century. Not listed as either war or hunt.


Kinda curious how these were dated. Unless they were stratified or have very distinctive features, they could be anything.


Quote:
http://www.google.com/imgres ... =540
Another German spear. 15th century again and not listed as hunt or war.


Looks like a boar spear to me!

Quote:
http://www.antiques.com/classified/17147/Medieval-Decorated-Iron-Boar-Spear
Oooo… Got one. Not quite as flattened as I’m thinking of, but this one is listed as a boar spear, 15th century. Germany again. Big one, almost 18” long.


With langets and no crossbar, I'd call this either a pike head or an officer's spontoon. Was it actually made curved, or is it just bent?

Quote:
http://finds.org.uk/database/search/results/objecttype/spear/broadperiod/MEDIEVAL
Here is a page with several different spears on it, most appearing to be of the flattened variety. The first one is rather interesting, seeming to be a flattened blade with socket built in, no midsection at all.


That first one is a tobacco spike or spear--tobacco leaves are skewered on pointy poles for drying. You can find these in American flea markets. The 4th one down could be another one. Could easily be 20th century. Some of the others are nice, though! Hmm, but they claim one of them is "cast iron"...

Quote:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/RARE-MEDIEVAL-GERMAN-SPEAR-HEAD-GS-/350460384659
Some eBay stuff about spears, flat and ridged.


Definitely some neat-looking items, there, but I wouldn't trust ANYthing on ebay to be accurate! Most likely either looted or fake, as well, unfortunately.

Quote:
http://www.antiques-atlas.com/bayhallantiques/browse.php?code=as208a147
18th century pike, flattened…


Definitely an officer's spontoon! I've had a few of them waved threateningly at me over the years...

Quote:
Matthew, I’d appreciate some more info on why you say most medieval spearheads were so short. Not calling you a liar, but most of the ones I looked at that had a length listed were fairly large.


Hoo, put me on the spot! Been too long since I studied the medieval stuff. And I never ran into any book on medieval militaria that had pages of drawings of properly dated original medieval spearheads, such as those I own for Roman stuff. Dig up a Roman military site, and you'll turn up a couple dozen spearheads easily, all nicely stratified. Modern authorities have tried to come up with typologies based on size and shape, trying to claim that certain types must have been cavalry while others were infantry, but it's all pure guesswork, and their assumptions are always pretty shaky. But that aside, it is easy to get a feel for the overall size range, and 8 or 9 inches is very typical for a Roman spearhead. Sure, there were larger ones, easily twice that length or more, but those are uncommon, one in several dozen, and plenty are much smaller. In fact it's nearly impossible to tell where "spears" transition to "javelins", and "javelins" to "arrows"! Now, it should be pointed out that the typical Roman auxilaryman apparently carried a pair of laceae or throwing spears--we frequently see throwing loops on the shafts in gravestone portraits. So an emphasis on smaller spearheads makes sense. Medieval spears made primarily for thrusting could certainly tend towards larger sizes. And yeah, measuring my own repros and mulling what I've seen, I would have to modify my statement at least a little. Ten or 12 inches is not oversized.

All that said, the first spearheads that Museum Replicas came out with many years ago were BIG--the *small* one was over 15 inches, and the large one 19 inches! Again, those are not impossible lengths (though the 1-1/4" sockets are massive), but a 15-inch spearhead is not "small" by any reasonable definition! And I feel that too many reproductions have followed that lead. It leads to all kinds of misconceptions about spears.

Quote:
While we’re on the topic of Norse spears and vendors making them, this one looks to be a pretty good representation of a Norse spear in my price range, AKA dirt cheap: http://www.kultofathena.com/product.asp?item=...Spear+Head


Sure, that looks like a decent winged spearhead. They were certainly pretty common for a while in more than one area. But they were *not* the only style, by any means, and I get the impression they were larger on average than non-winged ones. (Just an impression! Could be totally wrong!) Arms and Armor in Minnesota makes a lovely big spearhead, but I rather like their "Greek Javelin":

http://www.arms-n-armor.com/pole227.html

You could use that for almost any era (though Saxons prefered a split socket, of course!), and even on a long shaft it would be light and easy to handle.

Don't get me wrong, there are well-dated finds of Bronze Age spearheads that are a good 2 feet long! I've got a pretty accruate repro of an Irish one that is 14 inches long, and it's a beast. So I don't want to imply that the big repros we have are wrong (though they may not always be accurate in every dimension!), just that the larger end of the scale is over-represented. Basically, I agree with you: We need to know more about original spearheads, and we REALLY need to see a wider selection of decent repros on the market!

Vale,

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Colt Reeves





Joined: 09 Mar 2009

Posts: 466

PostPosted: Mon 05 Sep, 2011 6:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew, thank you for the detailed response. I suspected some of what I was looking at might be fake or inaccurate, but clearly you are far better educated than I.

Quote:
That first one is a tobacco spike or spear--tobacco leaves are skewered on pointy poles for drying. You can find these in American flea markets.


Oh, and here I was trying to figure out an easy way to trim down Windlass's Euro spearhead to make one. Guess I won't think about it anymore...

Quote:
All that said, the first spearheads that Museum Replicas came out with many years ago were BIG--the *small* one was over 15 inches, and the large one 19 inches! Again, those are not impossible lengths (though the 1-1/4" sockets are massive), but a 15-inch spearhead is not "small" by any reasonable definition! And I feel that too many reproductions have followed that lead. It leads to all kinds of misconceptions about spears.


Ah, that's something I did some reading on. William Short's book states Norse spears to be about 2-3cm (1-1 1/8") in diameter, and several websites I found stated things like javelins being 3/4" in diameter and spears being 1-1 1/8" in diameter. My thought was that if you trimmed a bit of the end off a modern reproduction's socket you could get it down to a reasonable diameter easily enough. (Especially that winged one I was considering. The Norse examples seem to have short sockets and the wings much lower on the socket, so this'd be more historical all the way around.)


I don't know about anyone else, but this is proving to be educational for me.

"Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown.
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.
As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small.
For Iron, Cold Iron, must be master of men all..."
-Cold Iron, Rudyard Kipling
View user's profile Send private message
Johan Gemvik




Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Joined: 10 Nov 2009

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 793

PostPosted: Tue 06 Sep, 2011 10:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Perhaps OT, but I have this theory that the wide blade stubby boar spears have less risk of impaling the dog crowding the boar while still giving a huge wide wound in the piggie. These spears look funny to us, but were probably more practical than a longer thinner head.

Yes a lot of modern spearheads sold today are oversized. I was looking at some of the Swedish viking age finds at the local museum recently and most are medium to smallish in size, even those some designate as cutting or hewing spears. Colt, I'll see if I can get some photos up, but I need to steal them off the exhibit CD I bought. Some have short sockets, some have long slender ones.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
View user's profile Send private message
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,189

PostPosted: Tue 06 Sep, 2011 2:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Once you get into the 16th century and beyond, the spears are usually pikes, often with their own distinctive characteristics, so it makes sense that actual spears were more likely for hunting. You see officers with boar spears as a badge of rank, for instance.


Boar spears also functioned fine against humans, at least judging from the techniques in Mair. I've even heard of entire troops employing the weapon on the battlefield.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Spear Design: War Versus The Hunt
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum