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J. Hargis




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PostPosted: Tue 10 Apr, 2012 11:26 am    Post subject: Viking pommels: two parts, one part, significance         Reply with quote

Good day.

It's my understanding that a Viking sword pommel is generally considered to have consisted of two separate parts, an upper guard and pommel that were riveted together. Yet there were instances of single part pommels.

Reproduction examples:




A single part pommel reproduction:


Of course, as a cost saving measure for contemporary makers we frequently see obvious two-part pommels cast as one part. That is not my concern here.

I'm concerned with the frequency of use for both types.
How often did the Vikings use the two part pommel vs. the one part pommel?

Is there a historical period where one or the other dominated?

Was there perhaps a status or class factor?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Jon

A poorly maintained weapon is likely to belong to an unsafe and careless fighter.
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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Tue 10 Apr, 2012 12:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To paint a simplified picture: two part pommels is a heritage from late roman iron age and migration period swords.

The single piece pommel tends to belong to the very late viking age (as the example of the Albion Knut above).
*But*, already pretty early on some styles of pommels were made a single piece constructions, but made as if to look like two part pommels. I do not have Petersenīs work t hand, or Iīd point out what types of hilts that are examples of this.

In general though, the two part pommel spans the almost whole viking period, while single piece pommels occurs towards the very end.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Tue 10 Apr, 2012 12:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Would it be correct if one said that two piece pommels are usually two piece because their shape is a bit too complicated to make out of one piece and it's easier to make two pieces and rivet them together?
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Tue 10 Apr, 2012 1:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
Would it be correct if one said that two piece pommels are usually two piece because their shape is a bit too complicated to make out of one piece and it's easier to make two pieces and rivet them together?


I don't think so. Type H and type U are a great examples. There couldn't be much easier shapes but they are mostly 2 parts. Type H was, according to Petersen, the most common of viking hilt styles and was a very long lived type.

Both 1 and 2 part pommels have some very distinctively "viking" styles. If you start getting into some of the 1 part pommel styles though you have some styles that lasted a very long time and could even be considered more of a medieval style than a viking style. Type Y is a great example of this. There are many 1 and 2 part type Y viking pommels but the style was most popular as a 1 part pommel in 13th century Germany. The later type X pommel is another example. Are brazil nuts more viking or early medieval? So, if you want a really characteristic "viking" style a 2 part pommel is probably your best bet since many of the 1 part styles lasted well into the medieval period.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Tue 10 Apr, 2012 2:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

True, H and U are quite simple two piece pommels. Maybe they didn't like the peens on the top of their pommels and rather had rivets hidden under the pommel/upper guard. Wink
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Wed 11 Apr, 2012 4:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Note that a lot of what we normally refer to as "viking" style swords were in use all over europe at the time. Not just by Vikings.
"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Wed 11 Apr, 2012 4:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Of course. And it seems that swords made in Slavic countries which looked almost exactly like "real" viking ones were often made with one piece pommels unlike the swords they copied. I'm researching viking type swords found in Croatia lately and i found some interesting stuff about viking type swords distribution and places of manufacture.
But I still have no good answer for "why 2 piece and not 1 piece" question. It seems that two piece construction survives too long to be just a remnant from migration era hilts, it isn't, at least not in all cases, for easier manufacture... Why then?
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Thu 12 Apr, 2012 6:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
Of course. And it seems that swords made in Slavic countries which looked almost exactly like "real" viking ones were often made with one piece pommels unlike the swords they copied. I'm researching viking type swords found in Croatia lately and i found some interesting stuff about viking type swords distribution and places of manufacture.
But I still have no good answer for "why 2 piece and not 1 piece" question. It seems that two piece construction survives too long to be just a remnant from migration era hilts, it isn't, at least not in all cases, for easier manufacture... Why then?


This suggests one has to think past manufacture and function., to human factors like fashion.

Then, as now, sales are determined by the consumer. So you have to ask, why did people prefer to buy swords with two-piece pommels until 900-1000? Tradition? Or some other cultural factor we are not aware of?

One can also look at it from the viewpoint of the people trying to sell the product. I doubt people were any dumber about this then than they are today. Intermediate forms made of one piece but that still immitate two pieces provide pretty strong evidence of a transition of the fashion of manufacture (maybe at more central manufacturing centres) while still holding on to old traditions in appearance (perhaps for the sake of people with traditional tastes).

Finally, then, as now, one would expect dominant cultures to influence fashion beyond their borders, like the USA in 2nd half of 20th century. Except things moved slower back then before mass media. One expects developments in the Frankish / Holy Roman empires influenced the surrounding countries quite a bit. Just going by memory here, but I recall one-piecers like brazil nuts being shown in Ottonian manuscripts, so presumably that was the height of fashion of the time, displacing the older forms in other areas. But this evidently did not happen overnight.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 12 Apr, 2012 9:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Maybe two piece pommels were popular among hilt cutlers because many pommels were hollow and they thought it's safer to peen the tang over the upper guard and than rivet the hollow pommel on top of that. And since old migration era fashion also was riveted although for other reasons it might have been strong enough to influence even one piece and solid two piece pommels to be riveted or at least have fake division line between "upper guard" and "pommel".
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J. Hargis




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PostPosted: Sun 07 Oct, 2012 6:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From what I can tell, Arms & Armor's Shifford Viking Sword is not a riveted pommel, maybe I'm wrong.
I'm curious if anyone knows if it is a one piece pommel for cost reduction purposes, or, if it's true to the original.

http://www.arms-n-armor.com/sword049.html

Jon


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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Sun 07 Oct, 2012 6:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jon-

The original was two parts. You can see the division between the pommel bar and pommel quite clearly in this photo of the original:



 Attachment: 14.89 KB
sword (3).jpg

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J. Hargis




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PostPosted: Sun 07 Oct, 2012 6:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tim Lison wrote:
Jon-

The original was two parts. You can see the division between the pommel bar and pommel quite clearly in this photo of the original:


Tim, thanks.

Jon

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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 07 Oct, 2012 7:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J. Hargis wrote:
From what I can tell, Arms & Armor's Shifford Viking Sword is not a riveted pommel, maybe I'm wrong.
I'm curious if anyone knows if it is a one piece pommel for cost reduction purposes, or, if it's true to the original.

http://www.arms-n-armor.com/sword049.html

Jon


The A&A appears to be based on a type L. This style of pommel was usually two piece, but some examples were one piece (for example the River Thames INGELRII). However, every example that I can think of has inlay or is covered in a precious metal . None that I know of were naked iron.

It is not really feasible for any production maker to make pommels completely true to the originals due to the lack of inlay, damascening, and other decoration. For whatever reason, the production makers choose to do hilt styles like the H, S, or L but leave off the decoration. Oddly enough, the styles that tended to be naked iron in period (types G, F, M, N, Q, and Y) are not the ones that are reproduced, and the styles they do choose to reproduce (types H, K, L, R, S, etc...) tend to be the ones that would have been decorated in period.

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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Oct, 2012 10:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robin Smith wrote:

It is not really feasible for any production maker to make pommels completely true to the originals due to the lack of inlay, damascening, and other decoration. For whatever reason, the production makers choose to do hilt styles like the H, S, or L but leave off the decoration. Oddly enough, the styles that tended to be naked iron in period (types G, F, M, N, Q, and Y) are not the ones that are reproduced, and the styles they do choose to reproduce (types H, K, L, R, S, etc...) tend to be the ones that would have been decorated in period.


Yes, that's interesting. And there are no type C swords on the market and it was also popular type, very similar to H, but one piece with "fake" division line and no inlay. Easier to replicate accurately, but I know of no replicas on the market.
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Peter Messent




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Oct, 2012 10:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think Luka's point is important, about the hollow pommel. If memory serves me, it's also worth noting that many hollow pommels were not truly riveted to the upper guard, but rather glued over a u-shaped rivet that passed through both holes in the upper guard. I'm not completely sure which method came first, (solid or glue-filled hollow) though it seems to be that the pommel being glued over the U-bolt style rivet may have been a way of enabling hollow pommels that would have otherwise been rather complex to make - perhaps the two-part construction also helps to prevent water ingress which could soften the glue and cause the pommel to come loose. Presumably, even though they must have had faith in whatever held these hollow pommels to their u-bolts (presumably if they didn't, they wouldn't have used it?), the riveted tang was probably still necessary to hold the grip and lower guard tightly together.

If the solid pommels came later, then perhaps they simply tried to retain the aesthetic appeal of two-part pommels. Fashion has played a role in every part of history so I don't see why there wouldn't be sword fashion in the Viking age, particularly if swords were a high-dollar item. If hollow and solid pommels were generally contemporary with each other, with widespread variation rather than specific regional/chronological variation between what was favored, then that just doesn't make sense to me. But if I recall, hollow two-part pommels tend to be earlier viking age while solid two-part are later more common before being overtaken by the more classically medieval one-part pommel.

I also heard it suggested (I think on this forum, though for the life of me I can't remember the thread) that in earlier swords, bundles (perhaps charms wrapped in cloth?) were tied to the upper guard with cord, which would create the distinctive lobate form that was later recreated in steel as two-part lobate pommels. I think there was some archaeological evidence for the bundles being tied to the upper guard, but again, I can't recall. I'll try and find the thread later. Whether there is or not, it's a tentative link at best, I think, but an interesting possibility. Perhaps if it was representative of some kind of pagan charm, as Scandinavia was Christianized, the meaning behind the lobate pommel either became lost or taboo, and simple one-part pommels took over, explaining the shift.

Perhaps, given that many blades were exported, they were just made with tangs too short to allow for the large viking-style pommel Big Grin Er, possibly not...

I don't think we'll ever really know for sure why this was done, but it's an interesting discussion. Hell, perhaps a cutler would leave the pommel off so that the buyer could pick his own, which would be riveted while-u-wait Laughing Out Loud
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