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Boris Bedrosov
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Location: Bourgas, Bulgaria
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Nov, 2005 1:17 pm    Post subject: Maces         Reply with quote

Hello everyone!
I hope you don’t mind if I join myArmoury.com forums.

First of all, I want to apologize for my not quite good English, but as a non-native speaker, I am allowed I think, to make mistakes sometimes.

So, my question is:
Is it possible mace’s head (I mean a head of a combat mace, not ceremonial one) to be made from soft metal – bronze or brass, instead of iron or steel? I know that this happened during the Bronze Age once, but my point is about Medieval European weapons. The question might seem stupid (I hope not), but some time ago, while I was visiting one Bulgarian museum, I saw several maces which heads had that specific greenish colour of the brass, which I can’t ever mistake.
All of them are of this typical for Eastern Europe type, which we (I mean in EE) call “shestoper”. I know that myArmoury.com members from EE, especially from Russia and Ukraine understood what I mean. For the rest of you, my friends, let me explain a little. The name “shestoper” literally means “six feathers” and it is connected with the form of the mace’s head, which consists of six feathers (or leaves) with semi-spheric (or similar) shape, connected with central cylindric section. The haft usually is made from hard wood – oak or similar (unfortunately I have no digital photos to show you). All of the maces are dated to the first half of XVth century.
The battle, to which the museum is dedicated, was fought near the city of Varna in Bulgaria on 10 November 1444, between the army of Ottoman Empire and combined Christian army (Polish, Hungarians, Czechs, Bulgarians, Serbs, Bosnians, Croatians, others Slavic nations) led by King Wladislaus III of Poland and Janos Hunyadi.
That short historical background gives no idea for the maces’ origin, because as I already mentioned, this type was quite well used in Eastern Europe.

So, this problem with brass head of a combat weapon in XVth century Europe bodders me for some time.
What do you think about it?
I am waiting for your replies
Boris
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Nov, 2005 1:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Boris, I have seen more than a few examples of bronze mace heads meant to be mounted on a wood shaft. They were predominantly Eastern European and a few Middle Eastern . They were dated earlier for the most part by at least a century than the battle you referenced (1444) but my knowledge on these bronze mace heads is pretty small. As for thier being used in Central/Western Europe I really don't have any idea. Maybe some one here knows a bit more about it.
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Alexander Hinman




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PostPosted: Mon 14 Nov, 2005 2:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Haha! I can finally contribute something. About Eastern Euro maces, I have seen a quite lovely example of bronze maces, but an example of a ball flail (or 'suspended club' as they call it in the book) that I saw in a documented archaeological excavation of Novgorod really interested me. They were composed of a lead weight with a hole in the middle, through which an iron pin was rivetted, and last the whole head was covered with a layer of bronze.

It could be that this is what they did to the 'bronze' shestopori if they have knobbed heads. I haven't seen any examples of 'winged' or flanged bronze maces. I assume the layer of bronze is to keep the weapon from warping, but they don't give an explanation, so I merely speculate. I also assume that in those cases it wasn't brass but bronze, but I certainly could be wrong (and quite probably am).

In any case, I'll have a picture from the book up soon as I can.
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Nov, 2005 3:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

All the examples i've seen have very "geometric" heads. The heads are very compact and have 4,6 or 8 pyramidal points(they are of definite pyramid shape rather than being spikes or spikey ) and I would assume are cast. The popularity of these lighter(these are definitely lighter weapons compared to the plate breakers of the 15th and 16th centuries) in the East was based on the "lighter" nature of alot of the armour used , maille and maille and plate(Russian version often called jazzerante(sp)) being a fairly common defense according to the little bit i've read.
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M. Taylor




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PostPosted: Mon 14 Nov, 2005 3:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Boris,

A very warm welcome to you! Your English is just fine. I found this link, which you may find interesting. It doesn't look like what you're describing though.

"Only people not able to grow tall from their own efforts and achievements seek to subdue their fellow man."
"Only people not being able to find comfort in their own mind seek to silence others. " - Per Bylund
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Steve Grisetti




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PostPosted: Mon 14 Nov, 2005 4:16 pm    Post subject: Re: Maces         Reply with quote

Boris Petrov Bedrosov wrote:
Hello everyone!
I hope you don’t mind if I join myArmoury.com forums.

First of all, I want to apologize for my not quite good English, but as a non-native speaker, I am allowed I think, to make mistakes sometimes....

Welcome, Boris! I regret that I cannot comment on your technical question. I feel compelled to say that it seems very funny when people with very good English, like you, feel they must apologize. With this in mind, I have a brief joke to offer:

Question: what do you call a person who speaks 2 languages?
Answer: bilingual

Question: what do you call a person who speaks many languages?
Answer: multilingual

Question: what do you call a person who speaks only one language?
Answer: American.

(apologies to all for this very off-topic response)

"...dismount thy tuck, be yare in thy preparation, for thy assailant is quick, skilful, and deadly."
- Sir Toby Belch
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Mon 14 Nov, 2005 4:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Welcome to myArmoury Boris. Enjoy!
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Nov, 2005 5:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mr. Taylor's link has pics of the maces i've been thinking of.
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Hank Reinhardt
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PostPosted: Tue 15 Nov, 2005 4:42 pm    Post subject: Maces         Reply with quote

These geometeric maces pop up all over the world and all ages since the discovery of bronze. They show up in Ireland, and also China. There are late maces i China as late as the 18th century. There is no one particular style for any group. One day I hope to have one cast from a Mongol mace that I have in a photo. As I get older, I like the idea of sitting on my horse and killing my enemies with arrow at a distance. However I reject the term "Lazy". I prefer to think of myself and "energy Retentive."
Hank Reinhardt
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John Cooksey




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PostPosted: Tue 15 Nov, 2005 6:54 pm    Post subject: Re: Maces         Reply with quote

Hank Reinhardt wrote:
These geometeric maces pop up all over the world and all ages since the discovery of bronze. They show up in Ireland, and also China. There are late maces i China as late as the 18th century. There is no one particular style for any group. One day I hope to have one cast from a Mongol mace that I have in a photo. As I get older, I like the idea of sitting on my horse and killing my enemies with arrow at a distance. However I reject the term "Lazy". I prefer to think of myself and "energy Retentive."


Hah!
I like that . . . "energy-retentive" . . . . . :-)
I think I must be energy retentive also . . . . .
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Boris Bedrosov
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PostPosted: Sat 19 Nov, 2005 3:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello everyone!
I'm sorry for my silence, guys! Thank you for all your replies!
To be honest, several new questions arose:

1. If this type is dated earlier at least a century before the Battle of Varna, why they were so wide used in this particular battle? I mean it's a quite long time for it to be in use, without any significant change. We are talking about a weapon, created in XIIth - XIIIth century, for use against relatively light-armoured warriors in wide use in the middle of the XVth against more heavily armoured troops. If we open Mr. Taylor's link (thanks for it), we can read "These maces are heavy and deadly and would be effective not only against unarmoured or lightly armoured foes but against any armour of the time (c. 1100-1300). The Turkic peoples [Ottomans] of this time usually wore lamellar armour of leather, horn, bronze or iron." It's OK, but we are talking about the middle of XVth century!!!

2. On the other hand, at this period we can see a significant change in the Ottoman armours. The elite Ottoman troops - jannissaries (I hope, I wrote it correct), became more and more heavily armoured. We can consider that at that time their armour had been just only one or two steps behind the armour of the Polish and Hungarian knights. The same could be said about the Ottoman cavalry. From this point of view should we consider that this relatively light, soft metal mace wasn't quite effective against them?

3. And at the end, again, why from bronze? At that time the Ottoman maces had been already made from iron. Lack of technology, lack of resources or lack of well-armoured enemy (the last I can't consider to be true)!

Best regards!
Boris
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Hank Reinhardt
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PostPosted: Sun 20 Nov, 2005 2:29 pm    Post subject: maces         Reply with quote

Let me add a few comments here. First the metal used was relatively unimportant. Many maces made for field troops in Europe were made out of lead. It is not the metal but the mass that does the damage. Brass is cheaper, easier to cast that iron, and for that matter, rather attractive. The other thing that strikes me is that appears that many are not ware of how often maces were used in battle. In the midst of a brutal, vicious, nasty hand to hand combat, maces are to pre preferred over swords. particularly when armor is being worn. Maces are the oldest of Man's weapon, and a very effective one,The last time that I know of when maces were routinely used in combat was World War One. Trench maces were very popular. Trench knives didn't work real well, particularly in the winter against heavy clothing. These maces were not issue items, but were made by the men on both sides. Really brutal and ugly.
Maces were quite popular in the Mid East. If you check out any of the Persian works from that time, you will maces very prominent. Many are large ball shaped maces, most are hollow, but some of the slightly smaller ones are solid. Weights of maces vary all over the wolrd, from from 2 pounds to 5 pounds. For inventive beauty, check out the maces (clubs) developed along the Pacific rim. Beautiful, and quite deadly.Personally, I eally like them. I have a few and I have found that they never need sharpening, they never break, and even if a flange cracks or breaks, its still quite efficient. Best, Hank

Hank Reinhardt
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 20 Nov, 2005 3:59 pm    Post subject: Re: maces         Reply with quote

Hank Reinhardt wrote:
Let me add a few comments here. First the metal used was relatively unimportant. Many maces made for field troops in Europe were made out of lead. It is not the metal but the mass that does the damage. Brass is cheaper, easier to cast that iron, and for that matter, rather attractive.


What evidence do you have to suggest that copper alloys were cheaper than iron? I agree that they are easier to cast than iron and would suggest that this is the primary reason for making mace heads from copper alloys. However, everything I've read suggests that copper alloys were significantly more expensive than iron.
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Hank Reinhardt
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PostPosted: Sun 20 Nov, 2005 4:37 pm    Post subject: Maces         Reply with quote

Actually I should have said bronze rather than brass. First bronze had been around for quite some time. There was a large factory found in Jordan dating from around 2500. Bronze is not cheaper now, but it was back then. Remember that it was hard to produce good iron. The very fact that it cast easier than Iron makes it cheaper. However let me make sure you don't misunderstand. Early maces were made of stone and bronze. Cast geometric maces were made of bronze. But flanged and round maces were made of iron Bronze being heavier than iron, the geometric maces are not very large. Iron is easy to forge, bronze is not. Flanged maces were attached to the shaft usually by brazing, as this is easier than forge welding, and is easily strong enough for bashing in heads or armor. Most all funtioning maces were made of iron once the ability to foprge had been improved. But bronze maces are were quite easy to case using a lost wax process. There are bronze maces that have been dated to as late as 1400 in Europe. Rare, but still effective and cheaper to cast than having a armorer make a full mace.
Hank Reinhardt
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Mon 21 Nov, 2005 6:57 am    Post subject: Economics and Metal         Reply with quote

I would just like to add a note to Hanks excellent comment above.

Two factors are important to the discussion. One is that the economics of a particular material used for an item at any given point and time period would be independent of general trends, i.e. a bronze mace may be far cheaper than any other material when an excess of bronze is available. Some recent tests on early hand guns in the area of modern day Hungary shows some were made from melted bells as opposed to bronze mixed specifically for guns, (different mix of alloys were used.)

Two that well cast bronze is equivalent to wrought iron in many respects as far as strength and hardness. Bronze being cast will of course have a tendency to break when stressed beyond a certain point, iron would bend, but they viewed these items as tools and did not see them as impervious items taking all punishment and showing no effects. This being a more modern concept than a period one.

Best
Craig
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Boris Bedrosov
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PostPosted: Mon 21 Nov, 2005 10:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello everyone!

I really hadn't thought about the price of the bronze and those technological issues, metioned by Hank Worried . I thought almost only for the military aspects of the problem, not for the economical Sad .

Can we say that their low price (in modern terms) and relatively easy technology are the reasons for their long use?

Actually, what I find the most interesting is exactly that - their long, long life across the battlefields. The man started to use them approx. in the Bronze Age and still used them in WW1 (Hank, thanks again. I have heard that story, but I wasn't very convinsed it was true. Now you confirmed it). I don't know other kind of weapon being in use for so long time, except the spear, maybe.

Best regards!
Boris
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Nov, 2005 1:21 pm    Post subject: Re: Maces         Reply with quote

Hank Reinhardt wrote:
Actually I should have said bronze rather than brass. First bronze had been around for quite some time. There was a large factory found in Jordan dating from around 2500. Bronze is not cheaper now, but it was back then.


What is your evidence for this? Properly cast and work hardened bronze is superior in performance to wrought iron and equal to all but the best medieval steels. The main reason why the switch was made from copper alloys (including bronze) to iron is because iron was plentiful and hence cheaper. The best theory for the cause of the Trojan war is that the Mykenaians wanted access to the alluvial tin deposits in Anatolia. Switching to iron weapons meant that they didn't have to rely as much on external supplies of copper and tin. The cost of manpower was significantly less than today - especially with the extensive use of slave labour. Deposits of copper and especially tin were rare and hence difficult to acquire. Iron became dominant because it was cheaper and the raw materials easier to acquire, not because it was inherently superior to bronze. If bronze was as cheap as iron, it is very likely that we would never have had an "iron age".
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Boris Bedrosov
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PostPosted: Mon 21 Nov, 2005 2:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello, Dan!

Actually, I think that the question about the cost of the iron and the copper alloys (particulary bronze) during the Pre-Medieval (especially) and Medieval time is quite arguable. I am not metallurgy specialist, but I think that producing iron items with good quality at that time had been a hard business. So, if we consider that the cost of copper and tin ore from one hand and the iron ore from the other had been equal, might we make the deduction that at that time the iron is more expensive than the bronze, because of its more complicated metallurgical methods? This is very interesting question. The long use of bronze in weapons proves not only its performance, as you said, but its cost, too.
I personally think that the iron had made its way not due to his cost, but due to his better qualities (which is arguable again because of the overall characteristics and capabilities of the metallurgy of this time).

Regards!
Boris
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Nov, 2005 2:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What "better qualities"? There is very little about wrought iron that is superior to properly cast and work hardened bronze. Worked bronze is just as hard or harder. It can be just as tough depending on the alloy (alloys that were used in the Bronze age). It is infinitely recyclable since it can be constantly recast. It is easier to work in large plates - hence its continued use for plate armour even after iron became dominant. Only the finest medieval and Celtic steels (and some crucible steels like wootz) were superior to bronze. The only downside of copper alloys is the availability of raw materials. As I said, tin is especially rare and anything that reduced a culture's dependency on imported tin would have been welcomed, regardless of the physical effort involved in its manufacture. Slave labour is cheap. Even the cost of native labour is insignificant compared to the cost of acquiring copper and tin to make bronze. There would have been no iron age if copper and tin was plentiful and cheap enough, since there is no other reason to make the switch to wrought iron. Except in very special circumstances, wrought iron is in no way superior to bronze. A good book on the subject is The Metallography of Early Ferrous Edge Tool and Edged Weapons, by R. F. Tylecote and B. Gilmour.

Last edited by Dan Howard on Mon 21 Nov, 2005 2:58 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Nov, 2005 2:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Economics aside bronze should work very well for maces as long as an alloy that isn't brittle is used and any damage to the mace in battle would be minor and superficial. A geometric pattern would have no easily dented edges the way a flanged mace would have.

If we must talk about cost that would be very variable depending on time period and geographical area.

The fact that bronze can be indefinatly recycled and recast would seem to me that the cost of recycled bronze would be less than the cost of the relativaly rare tin.

Why not use old bronze on hand if available ? And as someone else mentionned even lead was used for maces or mauls for maces.

Also bronze is very heavy and that is what you want in a mace ! Oh, and it looks good and won't rust.

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