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Teodor Vacev

Joined: 04 Aug 2004

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Thu 12 Dec, 2019 9:08 am    Post subject: Bohemian Sword - Pictures of the Original         Reply with quote

I collect mostly 19th century swords from North Africa and the Middle East, but I was fortunate to acquire a takouba with an early European blade that was probably originally a XIIIa. Iain Norman, the previous owner has shown it here, and you can see pictures in his site dedicated to takoubas:

The feature on XIIIa swords shows an example from Bohemia from the late 15th century, which inspired the Arms & Armor Bohemian sword reproduction. The part that really interests me is the markings, as they are described as almost identical to those on the takouba: "The blade has a Cross Fourché of inlaid latten and a stamped "twig"—a common mark on blades from the late 13th-16th centuries". Unfortunately, these cannot be seen in the small black and white photo. Does anyone have better pictures of the original sword, showing the markings?

Thank you,
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Craig Peters

PostPosted: Fri 13 Dec, 2019 12:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote


I sincerely doubt this sword has a genuine, Type XIII.b blade. Several things make me think so. First of all, it's very rare for a medieval sword to have a fuller that begins part way down the blade. That in itself is highly unusual- and therefore makes an early date unlikely. Secondly, the shape of a tang is unlike any medieval sword I have seen. The overwhelming majority of genuine medieval swords have rectangular tangs of varying thickness. The fact this sword is octagonal as far as I can see is extraordinarily unusual. Third, the taper of the blade is very odd. All of the genuine medieval swords I have seen have a much more regular, gradual profile taper. This one is abrupt and irregular in ways just not seen on medieval swords. The point is also odd; it's too rounded and rectangular to look like most medieval swords.

If this blade is in fact antique, I suspect it is from later than the Middle Ages. If I were to guess, it could be from the 17th century, where certain blade forms bear superficial similarities to medieval forms, yet with a number of obvious differences. Assuming all of the sword is antique, I think a later date is far, far more likely.
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Radovan Geist

Location: Slovakia
Joined: 19 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Fri 13 Dec, 2019 5:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Craig,

I would not contradict your doubts about the age / origin of the sword, but some of the points you are mentioning could be explained by info from the description of the weapon, namely fuller starting too low, unusual tang, and the taper.

The description says: "This sword is comprised of an early European blade in a heavy duty forte mount. Where the blade, having been shortened, is pinned into a new piece of steel, creating a forte about 1/4 of the length of the sword."

I havent noticed "pins" on the detailed pictures, but one of them nicely shows a "sandwich" construction - an older blade cramped between two pieces of the new "forte".

However, I do not make any conclusions on the age and provenience of that blade.
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Craig Peters

PostPosted: Fri 13 Dec, 2019 6:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote


I personally do not find the explanation given on the Takouba Research Society site compelling. Even if the sword was an XIII.a blade with a forte, the forte looks much longer than the ones on known medieval swords belonging to the Type XIII family, like Records' XIII.a 14 "Morgarten Sword" or XIII.b 3. Further, even if the sword was reshaped substantially, that does not explain the fuller's very odd and abrupt taper beyond the second inlay. The shape of the fuller is not consistent with any medieval sword I am aware of. Therefore, the explanation seems like a strained effort to justify the blade as being a Type XIII, whether subtype "a" or "b".
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Blaz Berlec

Location: Podgorje, Kamnik, Slovenia, Europe
Joined: 26 Aug 2003
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PostPosted: Fri 13 Dec, 2019 7:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Even if I cover the grip and the "forte" part, the blade shape, profile, and fuller don't seem medieval European - but I have seen such blade shapes on Northern Africa blades - which sometimes look even more European than this one:

Extant 15th Century German Gothic Armour
Extant 15th century Milanese armour
Arming doublet of the 15th century
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Teodor Vacev

Joined: 04 Aug 2004

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Fri 13 Dec, 2019 9:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote


I appreciate your comments, and have no doubts about your familiarity with original Type XIII blades. Obviously, what you are looking at is far from the original blade, but its remains mounted in the context of the Sahel from centuries later. The blade is shortened from both ends, and the tip reprofiled consistent with other takouba blades. Your concerns about the fuller are duly noted, but you have to keep in mind that the original tang has been lost and what remains is a section of the original blade, inserted into a sandwich construction, which is then peened to the pommel. The hilt is all African, probably from the 18th century.

We are all correct to be skeptical when it comes to medieval attribution of takouba blades, as the vast majority of European blades were Solingen blanks made in the 19th century in an earlier style intended for the African trade. The locals also had a tendency to apply imitation marking to the blades, such as running wolves, eyelashes, flies, etc. However, these markings with their inlay are very different from any local marks, and after having discussed this piece extensively on an Ethnographic arms forum with the input of Dr. Lee Jones, the medieval dating of the blade does indeed seem justified.

I do not mind further examination and discussion on the dating, but my main interest is in the markings. There is a blade in the Serbian Military History Museum in Belgrade, pictured in the book by Aleksic, which shows a Type XIIIa blade marked with a cross fourche. The way the Bohemian sword blade is described, it is a very close match in terms of markings style and configuration, as it features both a cross fourche and a twig cross, so I am hopeful that the great community here can help locate a better image of this sword.

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Craig Peters

PostPosted: Sun 15 Dec, 2019 8:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote


I'm afraid that the problems of this blade are more serious than you may realize. With antique swords, the more irregular or odd elements one finds, the more doubtful that it is that the sword is genuine. In the case of this sword, the length of the forte is completely unalike any on Type XIII swords I'm aware of. In other words, it's highly odd and out of place and simply doesn't match with the Type XIII family— barring evidence of confirmed, genuine XIIIs that do have such a forte. So that's one serious strike against it being a Type XIII.

Also, the shape of the fuller is completely off, and this too casts grave doubts on this piece being of the Type XIII family. If you look at all the examples of antique swords shown in myArmoury's guide to the Oakeshott Typology, none of them have fullers that narrow so abruptly and awkwardly as this sword. Further, if you look at other examples of confirmed antique medieval swords in museums, none that I am aware of taper like this. Have a look at the swords here as evidence:

Put plainly, the fuller itself is so odd that the entire blade seems very likely to be something other than a Type XIII of any sort—on the basis of the fuller alone.

As stated previously, I would not be surprised if the blade is an antique blade of some sort. However, it really looks nothing like other Type XIII swords I have seen. Even if it's argued that the blade was ground down and re-shaped, that does not change the fact that two structural elements, the forte and the fuller, are pretty much completely unalike any Type XIII family blade I know of. Neither the length of the forte nor the awkward taper of the fuller are things that would be modified by the reshaping. Given this, it seems very unlikely this sword belongs to the Type XIII family.

To use an analogy, imagine someone was going to sell you a Chevrolet sports car from 1970s—and the car was bullet shaped. Unless there was compelling evidence to suggest that Chevy cars from this time were made in this shape, you would draw the conclusion that the car cannot possibly be a Chevy, even on the basis of few details. The same applies to this sword, barring other evidence.
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Teodor Vacev

Joined: 04 Aug 2004

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Mon 16 Dec, 2019 10:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig, I appreciate the effort you are putting in this thread. It is important to examine this sword for what it is. It is NOT a European medieval sword in more or less its original condition, and therefore should not be looked at as such. For example, the forte is not the original forte, but a sandwich construction made in the Sahel in the 18th century for the purpose of attaching what was left of the blade at the time to the hilt. To evaluate the sword based on the forte would be like evaluating it based on the hilt - both were made in Africa centuries later. As for the fuller, I probably owe you better pictures of that area from both sides of the blade.
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Teodor Vacev

Joined: 04 Aug 2004

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Mon 23 Dec, 2019 12:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here are some pictures of the fuller, as well as acouple of pictures showing how the blade was inserted into the forte and riveted.

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Michael P. Smith

Location: Muncie, Indiana
Joined: 11 Jul 2018
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Posts: 124

PostPosted: Mon 30 Dec, 2019 4:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fascinating piece. Reminds me of some of some Kaskaras made from European blades. Given the context, the origin story seems plausible to me.
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