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Khalil Olsen Holmen




Location: Oslo, Norway
Joined: 19 Aug 2020

Posts: 3

PostPosted: Thu 20 Aug, 2020 12:17 am    Post subject: Chain mail and bollock daggers         Reply with quote

Hello everyone!

I'm an archaeologist from Norway working for NIKU (we cover the norwegian Medieval period, spanning roughly from 1000-1536).

Last winter we finished an excavation in the old medieval harbor of Oslo which yielded very interesting results. Two of these were

* a small cluster of what seems to be chain mail. There seems to be some kind of verdigris on the rings, which strikes me as odd because you'd expect the rings to made up pure iron? I might be totally wrong here as I'm no expert in armour, nor weapons.

*two shafts of a bollock dagger. One in what is thought to be made of walrus tooth and one of wood. I'm interested in any information you might have on these types daggers. Stylistically they seem to be early, as the later bollock daggers tend to be more flamboyant?

Both finds were found in a stratigraphical context that would imply a dating to the 14th century.

Any comment which could potentially shed more light over these objects will be very appreciated.

PS: Pictures should be attached

Cheers

K



 Attachment: 837.25 KB
The chains haven't been properly cleansed of mud since they are going in for conservation. [ Download ]

 Attachment: 346.84 KB
Walrus tooth shaft [ Download ]

 Attachment: 305.47 KB
Wooden shaft [ Download ]
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 587

PostPosted: Thu 20 Aug, 2020 3:29 am    Post subject: Re: Chain mail and bollock daggers         Reply with quote

Khalil Olsen Holmen wrote:
Hello everyone!

I'm an archaeologist from Norway working for NIKU (we cover the norwegian Medieval period, spanning roughly from 1000-1536).

Last winter we finished an excavation in the old medieval harbor of Oslo which yielded very interesting results. Two of these were

* a small cluster of what seems to be chain mail. There seems to be some kind of verdigris on the rings, which strikes me as odd because you'd expect the rings to made up pure iron? I might be totally wrong here as I'm no expert in armour, nor weapons.

*two shafts of a bollock dagger. One in what is thought to be made of walrus tooth and one of wood. I'm interested in any information you might have on these types daggers. Stylistically they seem to be early, as the later bollock daggers tend to be more flamboyant?

Both finds were found in a stratigraphical context that would imply a dating to the 14th century.

Any comment which could potentially shed more light over these objects will be very appreciated.

PS: Pictures should be attached

Cheers

K

European mail was occasionally tinned, and occasionally of copper alloys, which were sometimes tinned or gilt. The copper-alloy rings were often near the edge for decoration: I think Thom Richardson's PhD thesis and book point to examples.

I think it is a bit unusual for the 'balls' and the handle of a bollock dagger to be in two separate pieces.

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Khalil Olsen Holmen




Location: Oslo, Norway
Joined: 19 Aug 2020

Posts: 3

PostPosted: Thu 20 Aug, 2020 7:40 am    Post subject: Re: Chain mail and bollock daggers         Reply with quote

Quote:
European mail was occasionally tinned, and occasionally of copper alloys, which were sometimes tinned or gilt. The copper-alloy rings were often near the edge for decoration: I think Thom Richardson's PhD thesis and book point to examples.

I think it is a bit unusual for the 'balls' and the handle of a bollock dagger to be in two separate pieces.


Thank you for your response! I will look into Richardson's thesis right away. It could maybe explain why this part was preserved, while those rings that were not would be would have rusted away in the salty conditions which marine clay certainly provides.

K
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Paul Hansen




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

Posts: 777

PostPosted: Thu 20 Aug, 2020 11:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I could very well be wrong, but at 9mm outer diameter and 7mm inner diameter, these rings seem on the very large size for mail.

I don't know enough about bollock daggers to comment on that, other that the state of preservation seems really excellent!

For those interested, there are some more photo's of (edit:) another excavation in Oslo here:
https://www.niku.no/en/prosjekter/follobaneprosjektet/

Very cool, photo's include a medieval "log cabin" as well as a wooden road. Preservation conditions for wood must be really, really good there!


Last edited by Paul Hansen on Fri 21 Aug, 2020 12:01 am; edited 1 time in total
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Khalil Olsen Holmen




Location: Oslo, Norway
Joined: 19 Aug 2020

Posts: 3

PostPosted: Thu 20 Aug, 2020 11:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul Hansen wrote:
I could very well be wrong, but at 9mm outer diameter and 7mm inner diameter, these rings seem on the very large size for mail.

I don't know enough about bollock daggers to comment on that, other that the state of preservation seems really excellent!
For those interested, there are some more photo's of (I think) this excavation here:
https://www.niku.no/en/prosjekter/follobaneprosjektet/

Very cool, photo's include a medieval "log cabin" as well as a wooden road. Preservation conditions for wood must be really, really good there!


Hey Paul!

I can't think of anything else the rings could be used as other than mail?

Yes, the material was enclosed in marine clay which provides excellent preservation conditions for organic material.

Follobanen is another project, although quite near the harbor which we were excavating, You can find videos and pictures from the Bispevika project on NIKU's FB site and on the excellent Instagram account.

K
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Graham Shearlaw





Joined: 24 Oct 2011
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Posts: 109

PostPosted: Sat 22 Aug, 2020 10:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul Hansen wrote:
I could very well be wrong, but at 9mm outer diameter and 7mm inner diameter, these rings seem on the very large size for mail.


That's not far from some existent mail.
While there is an idea that most mail was made of small fine rings like some Roman mail, that's often not the case.

Useing larger an thicker rings has a few advantages, first is the massively lower the amount of labour needed to draw the wire, make the rings, flatten them, piece them, weave them an rivet them.
Lower quality metal can be used as well.

Second as the rings are thicker, the rivets can bigger and the whole structure stronger, sure some points might just pass clean thru but there no way that rings can be cut or torn out.

Here's some examples.
Here's a 9 mm to 7mm diameter shirt.
Here's a 10mm shirt at the Royal armourys.
One with 12.6mm outer diameter .
The biggest rings i have found, at 17mm! outer diameter to 11mm.
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Leo Todeschini
Industry Professional



Location: Oxford, UK
Joined: 12 Nov 2006
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Posts: 1,642

PostPosted: Sat 22 Aug, 2020 11:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Khalil,

The daggers are fantastically preserved and I suspect you are right in that that are very plain and 'workaday' pieces. So yes I suspect that you are right on them being earlier pieces. They probably had metal 'impact plates' at the base of the guard and I think I can see this on the wooden one, though less clear in the ivory one, but probably there.

The shaft and balls being split into two parts makes sense for the ivory one because of material size and this is something you sometimes see in bollock daggers for a few reasons, but for the plain wooden one (box wood?) this is far more unusual though curiously it is a better structural way of making this dagger type.

What is interesting is that these are very plain and I we would imagine the ivory one to be high status, but there is nothing about this piece that suggests anything other than 'workman' so was the ivory common enough to not be worth much up in Scandinavia?

Tod

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