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Matchlock 13th April 2009 04:11 PM

Scottish Late Medieval 'Claidheamh - mor' Swords
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So here's to you, Jim,

And of course to lesser mortals - I like Brian's expression! :) ;)

This I photographed at the British Museum London in 1997. The blade is struck on the forte with an unidentified maker's mark similiar to those used by medieval stonemasons, and two crowned Pi marks.

Please note the pierced Gothic quatrefoil (Vierpass) decoration at the ends of the quillons which also accounts for the dating "early 16th century".


Matchlock 13th April 2009 04:47 PM

The Warwick Castle Claymore
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Sold to benefit the Great Hall Armory display at Warwick Castle, Tom Del Mar, Dec 12, 2007, lot 279, GBP 240,000 - despite the fact that it was not preserved in original condition.

So check your savings before bidding.:rolleyes:


Jim McDougall 13th April 2009 06:24 PM

GASP!!! What a beauty!
Thank you so much Michael,
I think there are only about ten actual claymore's in existence so the price is not at all surprising.
One of my favorite paintings is of one of the MacDougall clansmen holding an identical one of these, and if I recall the same quatrefoil quillon terminals.

Outstanding note on the marking reflecting the practice of placing such marks associated to those of stone masons. I have always been puzzled by the term 'pi' for those curious little marks. Have you seen any additional examples with that reference?

On Brians note, I'm waaay puzzled....I thought I was a mere mortal too....have I missed a memo somewhere?:)

All the best,

Matchlock 15th April 2009 04:31 PM

15th Century Stone Masons' Signs
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I hope that these make the relationship to the maker's mark on the British Museum Claymore evident.


Jim McDougall 15th April 2009 04:56 PM

I see what you mean Michael, it really is interesting how closely related these types of identifying symbols were to those used by armourers and blade makers. Are these characters runes ? or a grouping of actual symbols? Perhaps the alphabetic character was initially the individuals initial, then personalized by adding lines or added deviation as others shared the same initial.

All the best,

ward 17th April 2009 01:40 AM

Out of my area here but those marks look like Tatar tamga brands too.
I know the Poles adopted them, not sure how far west they got but
probably a realtionship there somewhere.

Matchlock 17th April 2009 04:00 PM

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Hi Jim,

Although it is hard to prove I think that these signs are, as you put it, a grouping of actual symbols rather than runes.
At times when craftsmen like stone masons could mostly neither read nor write they had to rely on simple symbols to mark their daily work and thus prove how far they got. After all, we know from documents that they got their daily pay based on their individual signs left on the stones in the building.

Starting from this surmise I should put forward as a thesis that these signs generally were a sort of a mixture of simple symbolized cyphers and initials primarily used by illiterate persons as I tried to point out in my former thread on my big bronze haquebut wall gun, Nuremberg, ca. 1515-20. I repost both the sign on the hook of that gun and a woodcut by Erhard Schön, Nuremberg, ca. 1530 depicting a tavern scene with such simple markings on the black board, representing the respective bills of the guests.


Matchlock 17th April 2009 04:04 PM

I forgot to add that of course the symbols in the makers' mark and on the stones seem to be much more personal identifications than the stylized numberings on my wall gun and the tavern board.


Jim McDougall 17th April 2009 07:06 PM

Well placed observation Ward, there are distinct similarities in many of the tamgas, which rather than alphabetic characters are more of a 'brand' type concept. These were Turkic based symbols used throughout the steppes tribes and became well established in many cultural groups of Eastern Europe.
The Polish people take a great deal of pride in thier ancestries from many of these groups, including the Sarmatians, whose tamgas are often seen in the devices in Polish heraldry.

I believe however, that the runic type symbols are more in vertically situated geometric linears, and many of these medieval symbols that developed into the type marking used in the Masonic and other guild and individual marks may have some degree of similarity. These marks were customized to other family members and associates often by the addition of simple marks in strategic location on subsequent marks. I think was much in the way coats of arms developed in compexity as more charges and devices were added.

The tamgas are really a fascinating subject, just like heraldry and other types of symbolism. I recall some research years ago in which a tamga was in niello on the scabbard mounts of a Chechen shashka, and seeing many of the examples of Sarmatian and other groups including Tatars in trying to match somewhat the one I was focused on.

Excellent example Michael of the marks used by Masons and how these were used as sort of a basis for makers marks. I was surprised to learn that the use of these markings in architectural work was from Byzantine masons who had come into building some European structures, I think it was St. Marks in Venice. I'm sure there are widely diversified views on the accuracy of that...we'll see :)

I really like the tavern 'tab' example!! Actually it seems those are more 'tally' marks, as the use of lines drawn across a base line in keeping count. In the types of marking used by makers, the numeric count of lines in varying postition were consistantly applied and recognized as to a certain maker.
If these marks in the tavern were posted, and a separate tally applied next to that mark, then its different.

I really do love the study of markings and symbolism, and its exciting to share ideas with you and Ward here!!! Thank you so much guys,

All the best,

Matchlock 18th June 2009 03:23 PM

Just sold by Christie's!
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... of fine provenance, the grip 19th century.


Matchlock 22nd July 2009 05:02 PM

Early Scottish Two Hand Swords at Edinburgh Castle
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fearn 22nd July 2009 05:42 PM

Originally Posted by Matchlock
I forgot to add that of course the symbols in the makers' mark and on the stones seem to be much more personal identifications than the stylized numberings on my wall gun and the tavern board.


Hi Michael and all,

I don't know anything about tamgas, but some of those look like Celtic ogham symbols. For instance, the harquebus has an Ogham S on it.

One thing is that the oghams only go up to five cross-hatches, and the Celts certainly didn't have a monopoly on using cross-hatches to convey information, as all of you rightfully noted.



Matchlock 22nd July 2009 06:53 PM

Hi Fearn,

Thanks a lot for bringing the notable Ogham script into the discussion.


Jim McDougall 22nd July 2009 07:57 PM

Fearn, thank you so much for mentioning the Ogham script! I had forgotten what an important thread this was (thank you again Michael!!!) and its great to return to some discussion on weapons originally intended to be looked into here. While we always have fascinating topics, these fantastic swords are of course one of my favorites ....and the subject of markings my obsession!! :)

Thanks again guys,

All the best,

Matchlock 18th October 2011 06:55 PM

Book recommended!

BerberDagger 24th October 2011 04:39 PM

Matchlock , where do you find the page of the marks you posted here ? I ve a eastern european knight sword bought some years ago from a well known english dealer ... it have exactly this type of inscription .

Can you let me known the resource ?
thank you

BerberDagger 24th October 2011 04:39 PM

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this ... thank you

Matchlock 25th October 2011 01:09 AM

Hi Berber Dagger,

I copied those masons' signs from this site:

You should also refer to these links though:

Could we please see and learn more about your sword? ;)


fernando 26th October 2011 08:10 PM

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Sorry if i divert a little, Michl, but i know you don’t dislike these historical things :o .
Do i find some similitary between the marks already posted here and those used by the fishermen of my home town?
… Said to have probably been influenced by the local Viking colonization (IX-X) century, among other less solid theories, these marks represented the "coat of arms" of each family, used to mark all their property and also their presence in places of religious cult, in the interior and along the coast, during their pilgrimages.
It has been established by local ethnologists that this system of house marks was also used in Scandinavia ( bomärken) and correspondence can be found with Nordic runas.


Matchlock 27th October 2011 06:25 PM

Brilliant documentation, 'Nando,

Thank you so much for taking us back to the roots of runes. As this thread was on Sottish late medieval swords, I wanted to concentate on contemporary comparable sources.

Going back to the roots would of course mean starting at the earliest stone scratchings of the Stone Age, the Sumerian cuneiform etc.

In this large historic retrospective however you of course deserve special crediting for pointing out the famous - tough widely neglected - fishermen's runes of your home town! :cool: :eek:


Matchlock 23rd July 2012 03:21 PM

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The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh preserves a 14th c. Claymore sword ( H.LA 2, on top) and another of early-16th c. date (H.LA 105, better images than in post # 11 attached below).
And a cast of a mid-16th c. graveslab in the same museum.


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