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M Hermes




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 25 Aug 2011

Posts: 71

PostPosted: Mon 25 Jan, 2021 1:38 pm    Post subject: pair of pike heads         Reply with quote

I've posted this pair of pike heads also on a other forum. Not quite sure what they are. Someone suggested there that they might be 1500s armor piercing pike heads. Can anyone clarify this? Thanks


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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 470

PostPosted: Mon 25 Jan, 2021 3:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear M. Hermes,

These are pike-heads with bodkin points, rather than leaf-shaped points. The bodkin style is less common than points with leaf-shaped blades, but not by any means rare. I'm not aware that there's any evidence to suggest that bodkin points were considered especially well suited to piercing armor. Perhaps they were more durable, but mostly I think they were simply a different style than leaf-shaped blades. They may have been easier to make, but the ornamental work on the points that you show suggests that any potentially greater ease of manufacture is unlikely to have been a significant factor in choosing one style or the other. The spheres between the blades and the sockets suggest, as your other informant indicated, that these are sixteenth-century examples. There's some evidence that this ornamented style may have been most popular early in the century, before 1530, at least in England, but it appears to have persisted throughout the century, particularly in Italy.

You can see bodkin-point pike-heads and pike-heads with beads and decorated sockets like those you show, on the British Royal Armouries' Web site. If you prefer, you can also go to their collections search page and look for other examples. My search was for "pike" in the 16th century (the first entered in the dialogue box, and the second chosen in the date filter).

I found two photos with other examples like yours, combining bodkin points with the spherical ornaments in the Royal Armouries' collection:

Object Number: VII.767
Object Number: VII.137

(I'm not sure that the object numbers in these cases refer to the points showing both bodkin blades and beads. In fact, in the first case I'm sure that the object number is for the other pike.)

Edited to add: Here's an ornamented bodkin point from the seventeenth century:
Object Number: VII.2952

This is just a quick answer without extensive research. You may well be able to find more.

I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman
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M Hermes




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 25 Aug 2011

Posts: 71

PostPosted: Mon 25 Jan, 2021 11:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Millman wrote:
Dear M. Hermes,

These are pike-heads with bodkin points, rather than leaf-shaped points. The bodkin style is less common than points with leaf-shaped blades, but not by any means rare. I'm not aware that there's any evidence to suggest that bodkin points were considered especially well suited to piercing armor. Perhaps they were more durable, but mostly I think they were simply a different style than leaf-shaped blades. They may have been easier to make, but the ornamental work on the points that you show suggests that any potentially greater ease of manufacture is unlikely to have been a significant factor in choosing one style or the other. The spheres between the blades and the sockets suggest, as your other informant indicated, that these are sixteenth-century examples. There's some evidence that this ornamented style may have been most popular early in the century, before 1530, at least in England, but it appears to have persisted throughout the century, particularly in Italy.

You can see bodkin-point pike-heads and pike-heads with beads and decorated sockets like those you show, on the British Royal Armouries' Web site. If you prefer, you can also go to their collections search page and look for other examples. My search was for "pike" in the 16th century (the first entered in the dialogue box, and the second chosen in the date filter).

I found two photos with other examples like yours, combining bodkin points with the spherical ornaments in the Royal Armouries' collection:

Object Number: VII.767
Object Number: VII.137

(I'm not sure that the object numbers in these cases refer to the points showing both bodkin blades and beads. In fact, in the first case I'm sure that the object number is for the other pike.)

Edited to add: Here's an ornamented bodkin point from the seventeenth century:
Object Number: VII.2952

This is just a quick answer without extensive research. You may well be able to find more.

I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman


Hello Mark, thanks for your comprehensive answer! I couldn't find it myself. Glad that there are people like you who know how and where to look.
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Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
Joined: 27 Jul 2009

Posts: 174

PostPosted: Tue 26 Jan, 2021 4:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nothing to add to Mark Millman's identification but the langets on your examples are very short and oddly squared off. Be worth a look to see if they have been cut down when the object has been removed from the pike shaft to make them more convenient as stand alone pieces.
Anthony Clipsom
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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 470

PostPosted: Tue 26 Jan, 2021 4:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear M. Hermes,

You're very welcome. I'm glad I could help.

Do please note that, despite your flattering reply, my answer is far from comprehensive. I looked for examples in only one place, because I already knew that the Royal Armouries have pike-points ornamented like your pair in their collections. You may well be able to find closer matches in other museums' on-line collections if you want to make a more precise identification.

As Anthony Clipsom says, if you have physical access to the points rather than just photos, you may want to try to determine whether the languets have been cut short. That could be another clue to identification.

Edited to add: On a second look at the photos, I'd bet that the languets have indeed been shortened. If they had originally been their current length, I'd expect their nail-holes to be right at the ends of the languets (in that case I imagine the complete pikes would have had additional, much longer iron straps, the tops of which would have fit under the languets).

Best,

Mark Millman
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M Hermes




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 25 Aug 2011

Posts: 71

PostPosted: Tue 26 Jan, 2021 4:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello, I bought them at an auction last week and have them at home. Unfortunately the langets are indeed shortened as you thought you saw.

Marcel Hermes
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Jeff Cierniak




Location: NE United States
Joined: 17 Sep 2020

Posts: 56

PostPosted: Tue 26 Jan, 2021 7:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have a much less in depth question: what is the cross section? Square, I assume?
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M Hermes




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 25 Aug 2011

Posts: 71

PostPosted: Tue 26 Jan, 2021 9:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeff Cierniak wrote:
I have a much less in depth question: what is the cross section? Square, I assume?


Yes they are more or less square. It differs slightly between the two and also on wich side you measure. About 9mm.
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Gregg Sobocinski




Location: Michigan
Joined: 21 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Tue 26 Jan, 2021 7:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would like to comment that square profile spikes (like bodkin points on projectiles) are indeed designed for bursting mail and are the most effective point type for penetrating metal plate. The edges of the spike cut the metal during penetration, while round points encounter more friction. This does not mean you can stab through armor under any normal circumstances, but it will most easily make holes, and if you find a mailed gap, that person is in trouble.

The best examples of this are seen in crossbow and arrow head tests. Needle points will stab through mail, while bodkins cut right through. Both will make for a bad day.

As you pointed out the square profile is also very strong, and easier to make.

My favorite sources for comparing different points are the Todís Workshop arrow and crossbow bolt tests on YouTube. Sorry I do not have a specific one to link which covers this topic.
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M Hermes




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 25 Aug 2011

Posts: 71

PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2021 4:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gregg Sobocinski wrote:
I would like to comment that square profile spikes (like bodkin points on projectiles) are indeed designed for bursting mail and are the most effective point type for penetrating metal plate. The edges of the spike cut the metal during penetration, while round points encounter more friction. This does not mean you can stab through armor under any normal circumstances, but it will most easily make holes, and if you find a mailed gap, that person is in trouble.

The best examples of this are seen in crossbow and arrow head tests. Needle points will stab through mail, while bodkins cut right through. Both will make for a bad day.

As you pointed out the square profile is also very strong, and easier to make.

My favorite sources for comparing different points are the Todís Workshop arrow and crossbow bolt tests on YouTube. Sorry I do not have a specific one to link which covers this topic.


Thanks for your comment! Very interesting!
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T. Kew




Location: London, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

Posts: 221

PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2021 8:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A square profile is good for thrusting, but long pikes tend to have some natural flex to them which is probably going to be unhelpful for trying to drive it through mail - and of course the use of mail components in armour is getting less frequent anyway. A much more likely explanation for square pike point is simply that it's a good shape for a lightweight thrust-only weapon point.
HEMA fencer and coach, New Cross Historical Fencing
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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 470

PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2021 12:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Folks,

And of course arrows and crossbow bolts have much greater impact energy than pikes, which can only hit harder than the thrust of a pair of human arms if something is thrown against them (as, for example, a cavalryman might be if thrown from his horse straight onto a rank of pikes).

But the armor-piercing ability, or lack thereof, of pikes is rather beside the point: Like bayonets, the main use of pikes is to present a threat that neutralizes enemy action, without necessarily--and indeed, in the vast majority of cases without actually--coming into direct contact and thereby causing casualties.

Also, as T. Kew points out, when pikes are important on the battlefield most armor is being reduced or discarded by combatants. Even fabric armors are less common than in previous eras.

Incidentally, please note that in English-language usage there are two types of bodkin points on arrows: needle bodkins, which indeed seem to be designed to penetrate mail; and short bodkins, which tend to be a later style and are, um, less ineffective against plate armor. Terminology does not distinguish between "needle points" and "bodkin points" but between "needle-bodkin points" and "short-bodkin points". For direct comparisons of needle-bodkin and short-bodkin penetration against various targets, Tod's Workshop's Arrows and bolts playlist is useful; and the Lockdown Longbow series and ARROWS vs ARMOUR - Medieval Myth Busting video are excellent.

I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
Joined: 27 Jul 2009

Posts: 174

PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2021 2:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

T. Kew wrote:
A square profile is good for thrusting, but long pikes tend to have some natural flex to them which is probably going to be unhelpful for trying to drive it through mail - and of course the use of mail components in armour is getting less frequent anyway. A much more likely explanation for square pike point is simply that it's a good shape for a lightweight thrust-only weapon point.


This is a good point (no pun intended). The square point is a good bet for rigidity and damage resistance with a small amount of metal. A renaissance pike has to taper to avoid it being point heavy. The weight of metal in the head has to allow for the reinforcement of the fore end of the shaft with langets (because it is thinner because of the taper, it risks damage from enemy attack or simply impact). The head needs to be economical with weight yet not flimsy. While not the only option, the bodkin point is a good choice.

Anthony Clipsom
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Matthew Amt




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

Posts: 1,413

PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2021 4:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm often curious about such "armor-piercing" pike heads, since the vast majority of pikes that I've seen are simple spear blades. Is anyone seriously suggesting that a pikeman chose his weapon according to his opponents that day? Or that someone with a spear-headed pike would say, "Oh, heck, that guy's got ARMOR!", and wriggle his way back in the formation so someone with a spikey-pike could take his place?

I suspect we may be over-thinking this...

Matthew
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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 470

PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2021 7:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Matthew,

I, for one, certainly am not suggesting that.

I'd add that if somebody other than the manufacturer cared what kind of point a pike had, it would have been a regiment's colonel or whomever the colonel employed to outfit the regiment, and he would have specified it in the original purchase order, which I suspect would have been for a lot of at least 80 (which is the nominal size of a company of foot armed with pikes--eight files of ten soldiers each (or, if you prefer, ten ranks of eight soldiers each); there were also nominal ten-by-ten companies), or larger lots depending on how many companies in the regiment needed new pikes. The survival patterns of extant pikes indicate that they were not purchased as individual items, although I suppose a soldier or trained-bandsman (i.e., militiaman) could have purchased one from a lot if that had seemed desirable. It seems unlikely that more than a very few would have been purchased as single, individually produced items by private soldiers (or militiamen) in the way that, for example, swords could be.

I know that you in particular have often noticed the modern tendency to ascribe historical design choices to some supposed functional benefit when in fact the choices were made to comply with fashion or, as Anthony Clipsom points out, factors largely unrelated to an imagined superiority over some other design. But all modern folk are to some extent technophiles and contemporary culture encourages the tendency, which can be awkward for hobbyist historians.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Matthew Amt




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

Posts: 1,413

PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2021 8:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Millman wrote:
Dear Matthew,

I, for one, certainly am not suggesting that.

I'd add that if somebody other than the manufacturer cared what kind of point a pike had, it would have been a regiment's colonel or whomever the colonel employed to outfit the regiment, and he would have specified it in the original purchase order, which I suspect would have been for a lot of at least 80 (which is the nominal size of a company of foot armed with pikes--eight files of ten soldiers each (or, if you prefer, ten ranks of eight soldiers each); there were also nominal ten-by-ten companies), or larger lots depending on how many companies in the regiment needed new pikes. The survival patterns of extant pikes indicate that they were not purchased as individual items, although I suppose a soldier or trained-bandsman (i.e., militiaman) could have purchased one from a lot if that had seemed desirable. It seems unlikely that more than a very few would have been purchased as single, individually produced items by private soldiers (or militiamen) in the way that, for example, swords could be.

I know that you in particular have often noticed the modern tendency to ascribe historical design choices to some supposed functional benefit when in fact the choices were made to comply with fashion or, as Anthony Clipsom points out, factors largely unrelated to an imagined superiority over some other design. But all modern folk are to some extent technophiles and contemporary culture encourages the tendency, which can be awkward for hobbyist historians.

Best,

Mark Millman


Great stuff, as always, Mark, thanks!

Matthew
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M Hermes




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 25 Aug 2011

Posts: 71

PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2021 10:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting dicussion! On the other forum someone suggested that they might not be pike heads at all. He keeps open the possibility that it is the butt end of pole weapon like a halberd or another pole weapon.I don't think that a butt end would have had langets.
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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 470

PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2021 12:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear M. Hermes,

I can't say definitively that no staff weapon would have had languets on its buttspike, but I'm confident that he is wrong. Even a cursory inspection of the pike points in the Royal Armouries' collection will show that your examples are so similar in general and in specifics to other pike points that they really can't be anything else. A key distinction is that a polearm sophisticated enough to have a steel buttspike would not have had a haft with a circular cross-section, because hafts circular (or for that matter any other regular polygonal shape--square, hexagonal, or octagonal) in cross-section make aligning the weapon by feel much more difficult than hafts with more-or-less rectangular cross-sections.

Best,

Mark Millman
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M Hermes




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 25 Aug 2011

Posts: 71

PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2021 12:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Mark,

thanks again for your answer!
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