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Aaron White





Joined: 12 Aug 2020

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Thu 13 Aug, 2020 3:03 pm    Post subject: Pre-Viking Gaelic sword research         Reply with quote

Hello, everyone. I'm brand new and must admit to being amazed and quite overwhelmed by the volume of knowledge here.

I've been combing forum posts on this site (like this one and this one) and websites everywhere and haven't yet found exactly what I'm looking for, so I'm risking a new thread.

I'm hoping someone can help me with a question about pre-Viking Irish (Gaelic) swords dating to about 5th-9th century AD. I'm digging into the original Irish lyrics of the hymn "Be Thou My Vision," which dates to that time. In the text, the poet references a sword ("chlaideb") and I want to get a sense of what kind of sword the author might have had in mind--and specifically what it looked like, especially the hilt.

I understand from my research so far that it's a "sub-Roman" piece, likely similar to a gladius or possibly a spatha. It likely had a wide, straight blade (I've seen the Rynne drawings of blade styles). I'm mostly still uncertain about hilt style.

This is the closest I've found, but still a few centuries too early: http://myArmoury.com/nateb_dagg_ia_ironss.html

Any help anyone can offer, especially with artist renderings or images of modern replicas, would be greatly appreciated!
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Tyler C.




Location: Canada
Joined: 20 Aug 2019
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 135

PostPosted: Thu 13 Aug, 2020 5:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Welcome to the forum Aaron!

There are plenty others on here who are more knowledgeable that I am who will hopefully come along and correct my inaccuracies, but I will take a stab at an answer.

Firstly, 5-9th century is a very long time period and there will be some major blade and hilt development during that period. If you really want to nail the type down you will want to narrow that range. The other general point to be made is that while there were regional styles, generally, I believe, swords types spread across Europe and were adopted by many different groups of people including those on the British isles. In other words, swords of other groups of people at that time will be similar to those that were used by the Gaels.

If we are looking at the early end of that range then we want to look for swords that are migration period swords. These will be a development on the spatha which you already have noticed. Very generally, at the beginning of this period swords looked more like spatha, and by the end they look more like viking period swords. Have a look at the Migration Type D Sword by Albion Armorers for an example, or take a look at the link below which has some great info and examples of archaeological finds from the period. https://www.tf.uni-kiel.de/matwis/amat/iss/kap_b/illustr/ib_3_5.html

Looking at the later end of your range you are into the viking period and swords will likely be similar to those found throughout Europe that date to the viking era. Have a look at the link below which lists viking era swords found in Britain by their find location and type. There are a good number that were found in Scotland and Ireland.
http://www.vikingage.org/wiki/wiki/Swords_found_in_Britain

Hope that gets you off on the right foot.
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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 470

PostPosted: Thu 13 Aug, 2020 7:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Aaron,

Did you find the thread Irish swords from the 5th Century on this site?

Unluckily, although Tyler's comments reflect the situation elsewhere in Europe during the late Iron Age and early Middle Ages, and in Ireland before the Iron Age and after the start of the Viking age, during the late Iron Age and early Middle Ages Ireland was on its own track compared to the rest of Europe. While there certainly were common elements with Continental and British swords during this period, the Irish used (by outside standards) almost exclusively extremely short swords. The blades' shortness naturally influenced other aspects of sword design, making the Irish weapons distinctive.

The classic treatment of late-Iron-Age and early-medieval Irish swords is the 1982 article "A Classification of Pre-Viking Irish Iron Swords" by Etienne Rynne. As far as I can tell, it's the first of only two important articles on the subject. It appears in an otherwise obscure Festschrift titled Studies on Early Ireland: Essays in Honour of M.V. Duignan, edited by B.G. Scott (Association of Young Irish Archaeologists: n.p. (perhaps Dublin or Queen's University, Belfast), n.d. (probably 1982). Pp. 93-97). Because the article is still protected by copyright, I'd ordinarily suggest that you try to get a copy through interlibrary loan, particularly if you have access to a university library or the research department of a large public library; but at the moment that may not be possible. So instead, if you'll PM me, I can help you find one.

The second important article cites Rynne and responds to him and is available on Academia.edu:
Hughes, S. "'In my Sword I trust'. A Reassessment of Irish Iron Age Swords With a Focus on Their Potential Use in Battle". 2016.
It was originally published in International Journal of Student Research in Archaeology (IJSRA), Vol. 1, No. 1 March 2016, pp. 159177. You should be able to read the article on Academia.edu, or download a PDF.

I hope this proves at least somewhat helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Tyler C.




Location: Canada
Joined: 20 Aug 2019
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 135

PostPosted: Fri 14 Aug, 2020 4:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark,
Thanks for the correction. Always good to learn something new. I'm looking forward to doing some more reading on the subject now.

The crannog blades that widen at the tip are particularly interesting. It's not a shape that you see anywhere else nearby as far as I know. Very cool.
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Aaron White





Joined: 12 Aug 2020

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Fri 14 Aug, 2020 5:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, Tyler! Those are some incredibly helpful images. It at least gives me a good sense of where to start.

Thank you as well, Mark. I did run across that thread and found some helpful info, but have just been looking to round out my ideas a bit more. For the Rynne article, I do have access to some good libraries, so I may try there. I'll have to dig into the Hughes some more as well.

These are all very helpful starting points. It is surprising to me that, compared to other periods, there's relatively little information readily available, or representation in modern recreations. Still would be great to see something like that! I understand, though, that it's a pretty niche focus.
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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 17 Mar 2005
Likes: 5 pages

Posts: 831

PostPosted: Sat 15 Aug, 2020 12:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's not really my area of expertise but I did find this image on my computer, it's from Osrey's Arthur and the Anglo-Saxon Wars.


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