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Jennifer S




Location: Alaska
Joined: 16 Feb 2010

Posts: 12

PostPosted: Sat 24 Jan, 2015 7:03 am    Post subject: Question for folks that know bronze weapons...         Reply with quote

First, let me plead ignorance here. This isn't my field at all, so I could be totally off base.

That said -

Doing laundry this morning, I came across a holey sock, and tore the sock open as I pitched it into the trash - it's an old habit based on removing the temptation to keep failing things in use where they can become a problem later.

... and then I remembered all those bronze swords folded back on themselves uncovered in archaeological contexts, and how I'd always read it was a ritual thing.

I know lots of the firearms people I know will smash flat ammunition magazines if they misbehave, so no one gets himself in trouble accidentally relying on a piece of equipment that could let him down.

Do we know then that bending those swords was a purely ritual purpose? Or do bronze blades wear in such a fashion (perhaps bending and being re-straightened a few times?) that - like with a busted magazine - at some point it becomes wiser to remove the temptation to bring a too-prone-to-failure blade back into service?

It seems material costs would encourage recycling rather than mangle-and-pitch.. but I could imagine either custom or the requirements of campaign limiting that option.

Again, pardon if it's a stupid question. And thanks for the enlightenment. Happy
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

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PostPosted: Sat 24 Jan, 2015 2:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The way in which the swords have been bent is very unlikely to occur with regular use. I have no doubt that it is deliberate but nobody can say for sure why it was done. Some of them seem to have been specifically made for the purpose because they are not "combat ready" (no grip, unsharpened, etc.)
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Matthew Amt




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

Posts: 1,302

PostPosted: Sat 24 Jan, 2015 6:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, it takes a surprising amount of work to fold a bronze sword in half, or roll it up in a circle. It was certainly done for a purpose beyond just making it unusable because of some failure. (Though I don't think your question was stupid!)

Simplest answer, the weapon had to be "killed" to pass along to the next world, either with the deceased owner (whoever was getting buried), or as a dedication to the gods/spirit world/whatever.

As a point of interest, sacrificing of weapons did not end with the Bronze Age, by any means. Classical Greek temples were *filled* with armor and weapons, many of them broken or mutilated in some way. Helmets typically had their cheekpieces and nasals bent back 180 degrees. Most Greek swords are found with their hilts broken, either at the pommel or across the grip, with such frequency and regularity that I'm wondering if there was some kind of notch or groove in a temple wall designed for just that purpose! Stick the pommel in, wrench the sword back and forth until the tang cracks through. One of my books has a drawing of a Greek sword with the tang rolled up like a stick of chewing gum. THAT freaked me out. (Told me I'd made tangs too thick on my own Greek swords, too!)

Oddly, I don't know what the Greeks ever wrote about these practices. They *did* have meticulous temple inventories, regularly updated, so it's clear that stuff left in a temple was meant to stay. Though we also see that the clutter at Olympia got so bad that the inventory was cleared out by dumping helmets down wells and pits, while old shields were apparently used to shore up a side of the new stadium.

The Romans generally followed Greek sacrificial practices. But out in the provinces, native habits were the rule. So we find tons and tons of weaponry dumped in bogs and lakes. Some of the pieces seem undamaged, though it's often impossible to tell what might have been done to the wooden parts of a shield or spear if we only find the metal. Other things like helmets or even belt parts might be chopped or crushed with an axe or other heavy blow.

It should be noted that water sacrifices of weapons are recorded into the 14th century AD! It's not something that went away entirely with Christianity. But ritualistic it certainly was.

Matthew
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J. Nicolaysen




Location: Wyoming
Joined: 03 Feb 2014
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PostPosted: Sat 24 Jan, 2015 7:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

HI Jennifer, I thought it was a good and interesting question.


When in doubt as to an archaeological find, call it "ritual practice", right?

Dan, it was interesting to hear that some weapons may have been made just for this purpose, thanks.

Matthew, it was interesting to hear that water sacrifices lasted so long, unto the 14th century. Where were these at?
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Aaron Hoard




Location: Seattle, WA
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PostPosted: Sat 24 Jan, 2015 7:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Unlike a gun magazine that would be difficult to recycle (or, we just don't do it because we have an abundance of resources), I would guess that a bronze sword could be melted down and turned into something else if it got damaged beyond use.
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Matthew Amt




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

Posts: 1,302

PostPosted: Sat 24 Jan, 2015 8:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J. Nicolaysen wrote:
When in doubt as to an archaeological find, call it "ritual practice", right?


Weeeelllllll, it's true that that can be over-used, at times, or misapplied. But while it might have been trendy to over-use it for a long time, we have to be careful about swinging to the opposite extreme, and trying to *avoid* a ritual interpretation at all costs. It makes for some pretty ridiculous ideas about what very clear ARE ritual deposits. And the truth is that we DON'T understand much about prehistoric religion, even if we can draw some broad conclusions.

Quote:
Matthew, it was interesting to hear that water sacrifices lasted so long, unto the 14th century. Where were these at?


Ack, sorry, it was something I read on this board a few years ago, probably about swords found in rivers. I *think* the references are about something that happened in Britain. But it had to be a literary reference, not just an archeological find of a sword in a river, because it was clear that the sword was being thrown in as part of a ritual, possibly Christianized but clearly very ancient and pagan in origin.

Matthew
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

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PostPosted: Tue 27 Jan, 2015 11:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
The way in which the swords have been bent is very unlikely to occur with regular use. I have no doubt that it is deliberate but nobody can say for sure why it was done. Some of them seem to have been specifically made for the purpose because they are not "combat ready" (no grip, unsharpened, etc.)


You have bend swords from the Danish Bronze Age - (Kolsbæk Baunehøj) where it seems that the bronze sword was bend to fit inside the urn where it was placed. It doesn't seem to be that normal in the Bronze Age in Denmark with bend bronze swords; but I haven't yet been able to find a precise figure. Bend swords can be the result of plowing as well and not original.

Anyways of the ~1245 bronze sword finds in 2007 in Denmark, then the sword position in the grave was indicated for 219 swords (many swords found in olden days, or by amateurs or in disturbed graves will not have that information); which could give some ideas of how the swords were carried in real life.
45% was carried in the left.
19% was carried in the right.
36% was carried either mid-torso or in the back.
Source: [Danish, with German Abstract] http://www.academia.edu/6154231/Sv%C3%A6rdets...ronzealder

About swords made for the grave: What is certain is that you have miniature bronze swords in some graves. [Status indicator ? or replica if real sword lost on the battlefield?]
Picture: This from an unknown grave in Denmark, beside the mini-sword, also with bronze razor (many have ship images as researched by Flemming Kaul “Ships on Bronzes“) and tweezer.
Source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/e5/59/82/e559822cf60e242bdd983a6cc6977f12.jpg

Picture: From a late bronze age burial (“burn-grave“) at Borum Eshøj (not from the three famous older bronze age mounds with oak coffins, that are from 1351 BC, according to dendrochronology).
http://natmus.dk/historisk-viden/danmark/oldt...um-eshoej/

Picture: Miniature sword from Kjeldbymagle [Late Bronze Age]
Source: http://natmus.dk/fileadmin/_processed_/csm_Mi...a23558.jpg

In the Iron Age and Viking Age it certainly seem more ritualistic - with the bending as probably “killing the weapon“ or just more practical of avoiding reuse. The sword was deemed a personal item and thus part of the owners soul, whereas mail apparently was mostly inherited (for instance in Beowulf) as it was not regarded as “souled“.
In the Iron Age we can see it done on enemy weapons at the big bog sacrifices with army one place and the bodies in another place, but in the Viking Age we can observe bending done at the end(?) of the funeral ceremony, where sword(s) were pushed into the mound and then bend ? (the reverse would be more tricky?)
Maybe a way of “fetting“ the corpse to the mound, to avoid the corpse roaming around as a Icelandic Draugr; also called Aptrgangr (= Danish Genganger = “Rewalker“).
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Jennifer S




Location: Alaska
Joined: 16 Feb 2010

Posts: 12

PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2015 2:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow - thank you all!

Lots of information I'd not heard before - I sincerely appreciate your time, and the pointers to more to learn!
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Shahril Dzulkifli




Location: Malaysia
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PostPosted: Thu 07 May, 2015 5:19 am    Post subject: Question for folks that know bronze weapons...         Reply with quote

The only known weakness of most bronze swords is that their blades had to be straightened after use. Very tiring.
“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength”

- Marcus Aurelius
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Matthew Amt




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

Posts: 1,302

PostPosted: Thu 07 May, 2015 6:37 am    Post subject: Re: Question for folks that know bronze weapons...         Reply with quote

Shahril Dzulkifli wrote:
The only known weakness of most bronze swords is that their blades had to be straightened after use. Very tiring.


It wouldn't have been any worse than for early wrought iron or low-carbon steel blades. And really, how often would a sword be used enough (and *heavily* enough) to require straightening? It's generally a secondary weapon, and even when drawn might only be used for a couple thrusts or slashes, not several hours of hacking at a pig carcass. But even if every sword needs straightening after every battle, well, that's just what using that weapon requires! Gotta be easier than cleaning a musket. And still less common than tying your shoes. "Boy! Clean this up and straighten it!" Job done.

Matthew
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Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
Joined: 16 Nov 2004
Reading list: 13 books

Posts: 960

PostPosted: Thu 07 May, 2015 7:05 am    Post subject: Re: Question for folks that know bronze weapons...         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Shahril Dzulkifli wrote:
The only known weakness of most bronze swords is that their blades had to be straightened after use. Very tiring.


It wouldn't have been any worse than for early wrought iron or low-carbon steel blades. And really, how often would a sword be used enough (and *heavily* enough) to require straightening? It's generally a secondary weapon, and even when drawn might only be used for a couple thrusts or slashes, not several hours of hacking at a pig carcass. But even if every sword needs straightening after every battle, well, that's just what using that weapon requires! Gotta be easier than cleaning a musket. And still less common than tying your shoes. "Boy! Clean this up and straighten it!" Job done.

Matthew

In fact, there's an interesting video on YouTube where Skallagrim tests a Neil Burridge bronze sword to destruction. It shows a tendency to bend with repeated hard impact - "This is not what you would do at all!" as he puts it - and also a tendency to bend back if simply flipped over. Happy

The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
-- R. E. Howard, The Road of Kings
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Alexis Bataille




Location: montpellier
Joined: 31 Aug 2014

Posts: 95

PostPosted: Thu 07 May, 2015 7:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

https://www.academia.edu/1289907/Use-wear_analysis_and_use-patterns_of_Bronze_Age_swords
here is how you use greek bronze sword
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William M




Location: Buckinghamshire , England
Joined: 01 Dec 2004
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 257

PostPosted: Fri 08 May, 2015 12:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fantastic, thank you for that PDF . Downloaded for future reference. Happy
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Shahril Dzulkifli




Location: Malaysia
Joined: 13 Dec 2007
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Posts: 1,265

PostPosted: Sat 16 May, 2015 5:14 am    Post subject: Question for folks that know bronze weapons...         Reply with quote

I watched that Neil Burridge bronze sword video. The sword's blade straightened itself after Skallagrim tested it.
“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength”

- Marcus Aurelius
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