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Zach Gordon




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Feb, 2016 10:51 am    Post subject: What happened to the Seax/Scramasax?         Reply with quote

Hello all,

Im interested in what people think happened to the Scramasax/Seax, particularly in relation to Anglo-Saxon England. Did it just vanish, evolve? Did it slowly transition into the bauernwehr/messer which seems a highly related weapon?

I am quite intrigued, as it seems we stop hearing about them after hastings.

Thanks,
Z
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Jeffrey Faulk




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Feb, 2016 2:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Simple (and slightly cheeky) answer: Time.

Longer answer: Odds are that the dagger simply became more of a popular form with time. Why? Who knows? Arguably, Islamic and Levantine influences during the Crusades played a part. And yes, they may have morphed into the messer/baunwehr/rugger type knives. I'm not sure what all the historic connections are going on there...
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Tue 23 Feb, 2016 3:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Seax seemed to be used longer than we commonly thought. There is a nice thread somewhere here about 12thC daggers I think, which shows nice images of men at arms in around 1200 or 1250 still using what very much look like broken back seaxs.

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Zach Gordon




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Feb, 2016 8:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Leo,

That would be really interesting.. do you have any idea where those images might be? I basically think it looks like the seax developed in sort of three distinct ways.

Group 1 transformed into just an everyday knife --seax/belt knife/whatever

Group 2 transformed into a hunting carving knife 12th-14th century's we still see knives very similar to broken-back seaxes, on the continent I think they call it Bauernwehr/hauswehr... but in British isles it just becomes a hunting knife/ carving knife seen in table.

Group 3 become distinct weapons.. could the falchion have developed from the seax/single edged 'viking' sword? And on the continent become a messer?

I'm thinking I am kinda on to something, in the evolution of blade shapes... but am not certain. Anyone with more knowledge/book ideas would really help!

Z
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Feb, 2016 9:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I suppose it was not very fashionable to wear anything associated with Saxons after the Norman invasion - is that the normal explanation?
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Jeffrey Faulk




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Feb, 2016 9:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J.D. Crawford wrote:
I suppose it was not very fashionable to wear anything associated with Saxons after the Norman invasion - is that the normal explanation?


Nah, the seax was a very common knife throughout Europe in general. The Normans probably wore them as much as the Saxons did.
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Tue 23 Feb, 2016 11:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Zach have a look at this thread - this is the one I was thinking of.

http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=301...ight=12thc

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Andrew W




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Feb, 2016 3:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Zach Gordon wrote:
Leo,
Group 2 transformed into a hunting carving knife 12th-14th century's we still see knives very similar to broken-back seaxes, on the continent I think they call it Bauernwehr/hauswehr... but in British isles it just becomes a hunting knife/ carving knife seen in table.


Naomi Sykes makes an interesting argument about the middle saxon seax (7th century-ish), proposing that some of them are principly hunting / carving knives rather than strictly weapons. She argues its inclusion in burial begining (mostly) in the seventh century (in England) can be connected with the increased role of hunting as a way for elites to cut up and share out wild game with their people. As hunting and carving became a central activity by which elites connected with everyone else in their communities, displaying a hunting / carving knife in the grave became a new way to express this leadership role in the grave.

I'm not entirely sure if she's right, but the argument is worth consideration: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayA...1510000132

Interestingly, seaxes show up in a fair number of female graves in 7th century Anglo-Saxon England; and we know that women played an important role in serving out the goods at feasts. So I suspect Sykes may be on to something.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 24 Feb, 2016 12:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It’s just my hypothesis, but I think a major factor that lead to the decline of the seax as weapon is the development of the dagger. Shortly after the time that full suits of mail armour have become common for the upper nobility, circa 1200 AD, we begin to have references to early daggers. In the 12th century daggers thread, I alluded to the weapons mentioned by William the Breton during the Battle of Bouvines in 1214 AD: “In this battle the King’s enemies made use of a type of weapon which had never been seen before. They had long and slender knives with three sharp edges from the point to the guard and they were using these in the battle as swords and glaives.” The part of the quote following “and” seems to be specifying that the “knives” were being used as military weapon, as a sword [point] or glaive might be. While we don’t know exactly what these “knives” looked like, the description of them being slender, and the fact Stephen of Longchamp was struck through the eye hole of his helmet all the way to the brain with one of them suggests they are narrow, tapering blades. One of the earliest manuscripts to visually represent what are unambiguously daggers, rather than seaxes or seax relatives, is the Maciejowski Bible. Here too, the daggers have triangular profiles that are far more acute than the rounded, tapering sword points.

So daggers start to arise as mail becomes common and of good quality, and I think they are meant to serve as a close-quarters means of defeating warriors dressed from head to foot in mail and perhaps also wearing a great helm. A seax blade is not so well suited for this purpose, but a dagger is excellent. Thus, in a context in which mail is reasonably common both among the nobility and also serjeants and lower soldiers, a seax will not be useful as a weapon, but a dagger would be.

It might just be coincidence, but daggers also start to become more popular as knightly weapons right around the time when there is a hardening of attitudes towards rebellions of the nobility against the king, and the subsequent decline of “capture and release” as a standard policy towards enemy knights and men-at-arms on the field. Therefore, daggers might also represent a shift away from the “chivalric” attitudes towards nobles during the High Middle Ages towards the brutality of the Late Middle Ages.
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Matthew Bunker




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Feb, 2016 1:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Andrew W wrote:
[

Interestingly, seaxes show up in a fair number of female graves in 7th century Anglo-Saxon England;.


Do they?
Ordinary knives (the Old English 'cnif') do, certainly, but seaxes?

There's a great deal of difference in the 7th century between asmall 'cnif' in a simple leather sheath and a large seax kept in an a sheath with ornate, decorated metal mounts (see the examples from Ford Laverstock, Southampton, Ipswich Buttermarket, Olivers Battery etc)

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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Feb, 2016 1:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig. Another item which appears in the 12th century is the gambeson. Perhaps this also played a part in the decline of the seax, and the rise of the dagger.
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Wed 24 Feb, 2016 3:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Bunker wrote:
Andrew W wrote:
[

Interestingly, seaxes show up in a fair number of female graves in 7th century Anglo-Saxon England;.


Do they?
Ordinary knives (the Old English 'cnif') do, certainly, but seaxes?

There's a great deal of difference in the 7th century between asmall 'cnif' in a simple leather sheath and a large seax kept in an a sheath with ornate, decorated metal mounts (see the examples from Ford Laverstock, Southampton, Ipswich Buttermarket, Olivers Battery etc)


Exactly. A knife is not a sax. These very clearly diverge in construction, sheathing, decoration elements etc., making a very clear distinction between a sax and a knife.

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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Wed 24 Feb, 2016 3:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeffrey Faulk wrote:
J.D. Crawford wrote:
I suppose it was not very fashionable to wear anything associated with Saxons after the Norman invasion - is that the normal explanation?


Nah, the seax was a very common knife throughout Europe in general. The Normans probably wore them as much as the Saxons did.

The sax went out of fashion on the continent in the early 9th century, with some latest examples stretching into the 10th century. By that time the were only longsaxes in use. There is the problem that weapons are no longer buried in that time, so saxes do become a lot more scarce in the archeological record because of that. The nordic saxes develope into full size swords. Only in the UK and Ireland the shorter broken back style saxes continue to exist alongside longsaxes. The latest example of such a sax I know is found in an early 12th century rubbish pit. The latest dating I have on British longsaxes is 10th century. Beyond the 12th century there are a few small knives that are sax shaped, some even patternwelded, but far to small to be saxes. And beyond everything single edged that I know is utensil knives. My knowledge of later medieval blades is more limited, but so far I've not seen a single blade that shows any continuation from saxes. I'd gladely be proven wrong though.

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Gregory P.





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PostPosted: Fri 26 Feb, 2016 7:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is an interesting topic. My hunch is that - as sidearms - the long seax was replaced by the sword. Especially as quality mono-steels became more available. As utility tools, the seax simply continued to evolve into myriad purpose-driven designs. The wharncliffe, and sheepsfoot blade styles, being prime examples.
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Brian Nelson




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PostPosted: Sun 28 Feb, 2016 8:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My most likely guesses:

1) As mono steel became of high quality, it became cheaper and easier to create full-sized swords and thus the need for decent-ish short swords (such as seaxes) that didn't need great steel due to their size diminished.
2) As the shield wall disappeared from the battlefield and cavalry became more prevalent with the rise of the mounted man-at-arms the usefulness of a mid-length sword like a seax (that would be very effective in the push-and-stab style of shield wall fighting) diminished.
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