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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 10 Oct, 2007 5:14 pm    Post subject: 11th Century Daggers         Reply with quote

In another post, I asked about information on the manuscript Hrabanus Maurus: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=11242. I went back to the same book store today and I found the book on the first crusade which had the pictures from the MS in question. The text that accompanied the photos identified the MS as being the Hrabanus Maurus Monte Cassino, which was produced during the time of Abbot Theobold (1022-35).

The reason that I was asking about this manuscript in the first place was because a photo of one of its illustrations in Sir Steven Runciman’s book provides proof that daggers like the ones illustrated in the Maciejowski Bible existed as far back as the early 11th century. This is an exciting discovery, because as many of you undoubtedly know, the evidence for medieval daggers prior to the 13th century is nearly non-existent. But we can be certain that they did exist, and based upon the manuscript evidence, we can safely assert that daggers were considered the sort of weapons used by knights (with the understanding that the term “knight” is problematic when applied to fighting men from the early 11th century).

Of course, one might ask how I can be certain that the weapons depicted are indeed daggers? After all, just because the side text said that there are daggers in the image doesn’t mean that they actually are daggers; anyone who’s seen a reasonable quantity of high medieval artwork knows that swords are sometimes so stylized that they look like little more than daggers. Obviously, this could undo my assertion from the beginning.

Fortunately, there are several pieces of evidence which point to the fact that the items in question are daggers. Most importantly, there are two swords depicted alongside the daggers, which provide some sense of scale of the weapons. One of the swords has a shorter blade than the other, which helps further establish a sense of scale. This shorter sword appears that if it was realized in life-size proportions, it would have a blade no longer than one of the short type XIVs, and yet the daggers are even shorter yet. The daggers also have the distinctive pommels seen on the daggers in the Maciejowski Bible, with the characteristic “u” shape. Finally, unlike the swords, which have broad, spatulate points, the daggers come to an acute point, like the sort you’d expect to find on a type XV sword. The combination of the size of the weapons relative to the swords depicted, along with their distinctive pommels and acute points means that we can be certain they are daggers.

Obviously, this discovery still leaves us with a lot of questions. How common were daggers in the 11th and 12th centuries? The fact that they are shown along with swords means that we can fairly safely conclude that they would have been used by knights, but were they part of the typical knightly kit or not? Where they found in all parts of Europe, or only some? And why is there a dearth of surviving medieval daggers prior to the 13th century? While we may never be able to answer some of these questions, the illustration of the Hrabanus Maurus manuscript at least confirms that medieval daggers, and not just knives and saxes, existed at least as far back as the 11th century.


Last edited by Craig Peters on Wed 10 Oct, 2007 8:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Wed 10 Oct, 2007 5:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have been wondering what a "12th century Crusader's dagger/ knife" would have looked like. Would they have been called "dirks" or knives by most of the knightly class at this point? Since you have been researching it, perhaps you would help me out with some theories, historical examples etc.? I am hoping you have access to a scanner or digital camera!
Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Wed 10 Oct, 2007 5:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig, this is great! I have been looking for a suitable dagger for my Norman portrayal. At the moment I have made due with a simple belt knife, but it is distinctly a utility knife, and would help little in a fight. Is there anything pointing to these being specific to any one nationality?
A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 10 Oct, 2007 8:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
I have been wondering what a "12th century Crusader's dagger/ knife" would have looked like. Would they have been called "dirks" or knives by most of the knightly class at this point? Since you have been researching it, perhaps you would help me out with some theories, historical examples etc.? I am hoping you have access to a scanner or digital camera!


Jared,

I think we can confidently say that they were not termed as "dirks" since that's a term from the early modern era. I really cannot say what they would have been called in the vernacular languages, though my guess is that terms like "messer", or its Old High German equivalent, and "cnif" were probably used. According to Dictionary.com. the word dagger has an origin of circa 1350–1400; ME, prob. alter. of OF dague, of obscure orig.; cf. DAG1 ]

In truth though, I'm not really researching older daggers; I simply stopped at a picture in the book which caught my attention. Realizing that it depicted daggers and was clearly an older manuscript (by medieval standards), I wanted to know if we had proof of daggers existing prior to the 11th century. But I really don't know about the term used for daggers; the book itself says nothing, and I cannot read Latin (and I'd have a difficult time deciphering the manuscript hand anyways) to see if the text in the photo of the manuscript itself says anything.

I will try to get a photo of the page to post here at myArmoury. I don't really want to buy the book itself (since, despite the fact that it's written by Sir Steven, it's one of those history books that has a lot of nice photos at the expense of text). However, the people at the bookstore are pretty accommodating, and I don't think they'll mind. It's a used bookstore, so they'll be more likely to let me take photos than a major retail chain.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 10 Oct, 2007 8:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robin Smith wrote:
Craig, this is great! I have been looking for a suitable dagger for my Norman portrayal. At the moment I have made due with a simple belt knife, but it is distinctly a utility knife, and would help little in a fight. Is there anything pointing to these being specific to any one nationality?


Robin,

Unfortunately, I cannot say for certain which nationalities would have used these sort of daggers. However, the swords can help some with making an identification. They are clearly western European weapons, so it would not be unreasonable to suggest that the Normans might have used such daggers. One of the swords has a lobed pommel of a Viking sword. This little detail happily provides a good confirmation that the manuscript is indeed from the 11th century.

By the way, I realized from looking at the cover of Jay Vail’s Medieval and Renaissance Dagger Combat, (which features a scene from the Maciejowski Bible), that the pommel on the daggers in the Hrabanus Maurus manuscript are not identical. The manuscript’s daggers have pommels which are properly an Oakeshott Type O: http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_oakeshott3.html. One could argue that all of the “u” shaped dagger pommels in the Maciejowski Bible are of the type O, but to me some of them look different than that.
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Oct, 2007 8:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Craig and everyone,

This is indeed a difficult issue. My search for a dagger/knife thing (1050-1150) has led me to commission a seax (10-12 inch blade) with iron blade and steel edge with copper and silver inlay frm Tod of tods stuff. Communicating with him and each of us doing research has answered most of my questions about how this seax should be constructed and look. I am very excited about the project.

The problem with my seax is that Tod feels that an individual would have carried EITHER a sword or a seax but not both. The seax would be carried perhaps by an individual who could not afford or aquire a sword.

I think seaxes are the most authentic way to go as we have at least a few (and I mean FEW) historical examples of later period seaxes. Regarding the qullion dagger/ miniture sword thing all we have are illustrations.

Jeremy
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 11 Oct, 2007 9:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeremy V. Krause wrote:
Hello Craig and everyone,

This is indeed a difficult issue. My search for a dagger/knife thing (1050-1150) has led me to commission a seax (10-12 inch blade) with iron blade and steel edge with copper and silver inlay frm Tod of tods stuff. Communicating with him and each of us doing research has answered most of my questions about how this seax should be constructed and look. I am very excited about the project.

The problem with my seax is that Tod feels that an individual would have carried EITHER a sword or a seax but not both. The seax would be carried perhaps by an individual who could not afford or aquire a sword.

I think seaxes are the most authentic way to go as we have at least a few (and I mean FEW) historical examples of later period seaxes. Regarding the qullion dagger/ miniture sword thing all we have are illustrations.

Jeremy


Tod probably knows more about the subject than I do, but nevertheless I would disagree with him that one either carries a seax or a sword. There are plenty of seaxs that were far too small to be used as a principle or even secondary form of sidearm, and instead would have consisted of a last defence, rather like daggers. I can see a seax as fulfilling the role of a dagger.

I disagree that a seax is the most authentic way to go however. Even if we only have illustrations of daggers, we at least know that they existed in this period, and the illustration has enough detail that we could reasonably reconstruct such a dagger, based upon knowledge of other early extant daggers and upon details like the type of pommel shown in the image.
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Oct, 2007 10:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To further what Craig has said though we have seaxes found in the 11th C, they are not appropriate for all portrayals. They work well for a Anglo-Saxon or Dane portrayal, but seem out of place in a Norman, Frankish, or Crusader portrayal. Though I do know more than one Norman who uses the "Souvenir du Senlac" rational, to me it seems contrived to explain the anachronisms as the result of battlefield looting. The broken-back form of the 11th C were certainly common amongst the conquered Anglo-Saxons, but I've never seen any evidence for them being common amongst the mostly Frankish and Norman Crusaders...
I carry a belt knife that is seax-like in shape, but certainly not for fighting.

A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Oct, 2007 10:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Craig,

When I refer to the seax only or sword only question I am referring to the longer seaxes that tended to be worn suspended from the belt at 2 points. The smaller seaxes 4-6 I see as a different animal and an individual would likely, if he could, be equipped with a sword.

I believe that utilizing the seax is superior than reproducing a dagger because we can see much of the subtleties in blade shape and proportion that we must guess on a dagger. Were they relatively light or hefty? What kind of distal taper would be appropriate?

Don't get me wrong though I would still like to see someone reproduce an early dagger. Admitedly I am probably streching my dates a bit with my idea that a seax like the one I am commissioning would be appropriate for the period 1050-1150. I guess this could be seen as a seax that was well cared for over the years and is still being used.

The middle to late 11th c. is a tough period- frustrating as it is my favorite era.

Jeremy
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Oct, 2007 2:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Technically there several terms for different forms of seaxs, "langoseax" or "langseax" for sword length ones, etc. A single edged knife might be suitable (like a bowie style knife) for combat plus utility use, and consistent with known objects that were simply called a seax at some time period (not sure of the appropriate range of dates...or exactly who did and did not use that word.) I am guessing some Germanic crusaders could have still used "celtic" terminology for the word for knife. I am just hoping someone actually knows for fact.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 11 Oct, 2007 8:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Okay, here’s a photo of the page in question. It nicely demonstrates the fallibility of memory too, because you’ll note that the pommels on the daggers are neither truly a Type O, nor are they precisely identical to the “u” shaped pommels of the Maciejowski Bible. You’ll also notice that there’s three, not two, swords, one of which has a rather unusual pommel, despite otherwise being Western European in appearance.

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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 11 Oct, 2007 8:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've got a question, based upon a point that Jeremy made above: how do we interpret the shape of the dagger blades? Do we interpret it as having the same sort of blade as the A&A Crusader dagger: http://www.arms-n-armor.com/view.html?dagg130b.jpg (which I'm not certain is inspired by a specific historical example)? Do we intepret it without the diamond shaped cross section? And, questioning one of the points I made above, should we use surviving 13th century daggers as a guide?
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Oct, 2007 9:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would be leary of assuming a diamond profile, or assuming a similarity with later dagger blades simply because the pommels share a similar design. I would guess that dagger blades would have undergone as much change as sword blades from the period, as well as being influenced by those changes. Although a nice proof of existence, a line drawing like this isn't enough IMO to start making guesses for a reproduction. Darn it! I was hoping for alittle more detail Cry
A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 11 Oct, 2007 10:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robin Smith wrote:
Darn it! I was hoping for alittle more detail Cry


What did you expect from an 11th century illustration? Wink The fact that we even have enough detail that we can assert with certainty that these are daggers is significant enough in my opinion. Yeah, the blade profile is vague, but it's a starting point. And given that there really isn't that huge of a difference between the Oakeshott Type X through XII swords (truly, if you look at it, they're all relatively spatulate shaped blades suited to cutting, with the Type XII being a bit better designed for thrusting), it stands to reason that there isn't an enormous difference between daggers from the 11th through 13th centuries.
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S. Mighton





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PostPosted: Fri 12 Oct, 2007 1:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Since these are stabbing weapons, and since they were used by the knightly class (I guess armoured horseman class is more appropriate for this period...) and must contend with mail armour, I think it's fair to say that the dagger blades are probably stiffer than contemporary swords.

As for cross-section... mostly guesswork at this point. If daggers like these evoled from knives into a 'long stabbing knife' then maybe they'd be single-edged and flat-triangular in cross-section. If they evolved more along the lines of a 'small stabbing sword' then maybe double-edged. If got a repro done now, I probably have it made with a flat-triangular cross-secion, but that's only preference.
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James Barker




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Oct, 2007 6:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would dig more information up on the manuscript before I would take it at face value that it is an 121th century illustration. It could be the book is wrong; seen plenty of mis-dated information in books. Could be that the book was started in one era and finished in another. Could be there are added pieces of art; the Romance of Alexander for instance has early 15th century pages in it along side the 1340s images. The Maciejowski Bible has notes and added passages in it that run into the 17th century if I recall correctly (went to an exhibit on it a few years ago in Baltimore).

Food for thought.

James Barker
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Fri 12 Oct, 2007 9:17 am    Post subject: 11th C Daggers         Reply with quote

Hi Guys

This is an interesting topic. The elusiveness of the objects is something I have looked at before and my personal opinion is they are there we have just not found enough in context to fulfill a reasonable catalog of what may have been used. The styles are slipped forward in time when they are dated out of context as it is difficult to place the varieties in time due to the large scope of styles used over most periods of history and as humans we have a tendency to reinvent the wheel over and over.

Attached a pic of two 12th C Daggers from the RA. Here also is one of my favorite examples of a knife out of place to most modern minds; this Nordic knife comes from approximately 1000.

The cross sections of the pieces would vary to intended use and would not be uniform at all. The range would encompass most of the cross sectional styles we are familiar with.

A note on our Crusader Dagger, it is based on a very corroded example. The choices we made in interpretation that dagger were done many years ago now and we may have made a few different decisions on detail but over all the piece does have a basis in the example we based it on and can be placed in that period with a diamond section blade.

I have a question on your image Craig, great find by the way, why do we assume the two larger images in out line are swords? Could they not be large daggers? The sword represented on the right is colored and in more detail than the others and unless the text ids them as swords I think they may well be viewed as daggers.

Best
Craig



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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 12 Oct, 2007 9:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James Barker wrote:
I would dig more information up on the manuscript before I would take it at face value that it is an 121th century illustration. It could be the book is wrong; seen plenty of mis-dated information in books. Could be that the book was started in one era and finished in another. Could be there are added pieces of art; the Romance of Alexander for instance has early 15th century pages in it along side the 1340s images. The Maciejowski Bible has notes and added passages in it that run into the 17th century if I recall correctly (went to an exhibit on it a few years ago in Baltimore).

Food for thought.


James,

According to this page, which is where I got the information, it was produced in the 11th century. That to me suggests that it was finished at that time. Besides, as I noted in another post, the presence of the Viking sword (it's hard to see in the photo on the right hand side) strongly suggests it is indeed from that century. As you know, contemporary books almost always depict contemporary arms and armour in the Middle Ages.
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PostPosted: Fri 12 Oct, 2007 9:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In a battlefield context, a 10 inch seax would in no way be a replacement for a sword or axe.
In fact, it was my impression that seaxes where found in warrior graves, in addition to the "Warrior package" spear, sword/axe and shield.

"Sax" is a old germanic word for cutting tool; In modern scandinavian languages, scissors are called "saks". Thus, it might imply a larger single edge weapon, in the same way the german word "messer" might signify anything from a 5 cm twidling knife to a 110cm twohander. The longest single edge viking sword found in norway has a 90cm (3 ft) blade.
Thus, the literary sources tell us little about the exact size of the weapons used.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 12 Oct, 2007 9:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig,

My assumption, as mentioned above, is based upon the relative size of the “swords”, (which can be misleading in a manuscript), and upon the fact that they have spatulate, rather than acute, blades. You do have a point though: for all we know, they could be daggers. But, if this is the case, then I’d have to ask if there are any surviving examples that exhibit similar blade characteristics? To my knowledge, all of the surviving period daggers come to a relatively acute point, which would seem to rule out the possibility that the other weapons are daggers, rather than swords.

I have a question too: do you have any idea how the Royal Armoury decided that those daggers are from the 12th century? The pommels look like the sort more commonly found on 13th century swords, which would lead me to believe that they are probably 13th century daggers. Personally, I’d like them to be 12th century daggers, but without some idea of how the Royal Armoury dated them, I’d be hesitant to accept the date at face value.
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