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Anthony Clipsom

Joined: 27 Jul 2009

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PostPosted: Thu 23 Apr, 2020 1:35 am    Post subject: Bronze Age Swordsmanship         Reply with quote

This recently published research article on Bronze Age swordsmanship may be of interest. It essentially attempts to explain damage patterns on Bronze Age swords through experimentation with replicas to gain insights into sword usage.
Anthony Clipsom
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Jean Thibodeau

Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Thu 23 Apr, 2020 7:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I just read the linked article and it's worth a read, they used bronze swords of various types made by Neal Burridge as test weapons and used HEMA practitioners in realistic sword simulated combat to cause what would be typical damage to blades using good fighting techniques.

Obviously there are no documents or training manuals from the Bronze Age so they used early sword and shield techniques based on historical late Medieval/Early Renaissance techniques.

They then compared in great detail damage and wear marks on the modern reproductions and compared them to damage and wear marks on archeological Bronze swords.

There is a lot more technically in the research article including different testing with more controlled static blocks and parries.

The conclusions are worth reading, but without too many spoilers they conclude from comparing the types of damage to the modern reproductions to the period swords damage and could see identical damage, so knowing what fencing actions caused one type of damage they could infer that the damage on the historical bronze swords where caused by similar contact of sword on sword, or sword on spear sockets or swords on shields etc .....

Their conclusion was that Bronze age period swordsmanship was as sophisticated as Medieval swordsmanship,.

My opinion is that even if there might have been style differences in detail, the basic techniques of binding where similar, but also affected by the more gripping nature of Bronze on Bronze making binds useful in controlling an opponents weapons and using one tempo attacks/defense.

The whole article is very extensive and detailed and I'm only giving a much simplified summary of it.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Ian Hutchison

Location: Louisiana / Nordrhein-Westholland
Joined: 27 Nov 2007

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PostPosted: Thu 23 Apr, 2020 8:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you very much for sharing this!
'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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Michael Beeching

Joined: 22 Jan 2014
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PostPosted: Thu 23 Apr, 2020 1:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I read this a bit hastily, and then hastily re-read it again! Needless to say, I downloaded the paper for more detailed reading when the time comes - thank you very much for posting this!

I think it is very interesting to note the damage on weapons as a result of experimental archaeology vs. historical damage. The former is obviously the result of exaggerated blows, yet demonstrated very well what the likely historical equivalent was - brilliant! If anything, lack of exaggerated damage on the historical weapons suggest to me that a shield was undoubtedly the principal defensive weapon. Lack of hand protection on a typical bronze sword would also suggest it was held under the cover of a shield most of the time as well.

Regarding the hold of the sword, all I can say is that I'd love to get a shot at handling one of Neil's swords and make my own conclusion. The way you hold a sword depends on the "gestalt" of the weapon, if you will, but much of how it's supposed to be held is defined by the hilt (obviously). Note that having a well-designed hilt and handle is critical in all of this, but that is also obvious. One thing I can state with certainty is that the hold on a Medieval sword needs to be "dynamic" in order to use it properly, and as such there is [generally] no single correct hold for using the weapon. A forceful draw cut at short range, or simply holding a sword at ready can demand a so-called "hammer grip." When making a cut (and extending properly when doing so) demands loosening the grip from the hammer to the "hand shake," however. For a cut-and-thrust sword, be it a Medieval weapon or one from the Bronze Age, being able to extend the weapon well is very important. Being restricted in a tight hammer grip is not necessarily conducive to this, especially when you have a flared pommel...

...What I would propose again is that there is another possibility for holding a short-gripped sword with appropriate dimensions: this grip resembles the handshake grip, but it can also be thought of as the "pinch grip." The grip is oriented in the same manner as one would hold a Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Dagger or smallsword, though the thumb does not extend forward. The blade is thus made to be roughly parallel with the back of the hand. In this manner, the sword is oriented in the same manner as in the "thumb grip," though it is in fact 90 degrees the opposite! With such a grip, both edges of the sword are easily accessible (unlike the so-called hammer grip in many cases) and the pommel furthermore does not interfere significantly with the wrist. I realize lack of pictures is inconvenient here, but I think I've provided a respectable description of what this grip is. Note that the primary caveat for this grip is that the handle cannot be especially wide, but also needs to be a bit thick. If you have a Windlass Qama, this is a perfect example of a sword with such a grip.
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