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-   -   A very rare German Gothic War Hammer 'Dolchstreithammer' (http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=15532)

Swordfish 6th May 2012 11:47 AM

A very rare German Gothic War Hammer 'Dolchstreithammer'
 
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It was sold many years ago at auction and is now in a private collection.

It is formed of a cast bronze hand which holds an iron dagger-blade of uncommon shape. The inserted blade is fixed with a rare pommel-type, a cube with beveled corners, and a globular tang button. The wooden haft, very probably the original, is fixed with two rivets with iron washers in the form of a rosette. A washer of similar form is below the ring for the aiguillette.

The German name, often used for such weapons is 'Dolchstreitkolben'. Who has established this term is unknown to me, anyway it is the wrong term. The right description is 'Dolchstreithammer'. Once there has been a discussion if this was a weapon or a sign of dignity, but depending on depictions in art, there can be no doubt that it is a weapon.

Nearly as rare as existing examples are depictions in art. After weekends of search through thousands of pictures, I have found good depictions, interestingly the majority of them in the context of polearms.

The earliest depiction in art in the context of polearms is an illuminated manuscript dating c.1460 with two depictions.This manuscript is a copy of an earlier and now lost manuscript dating c. 1420, and we can assume that this manuscript included accordant examples and these weapons were in use before 1420. The second is an altar painting dated c.1465. The next is a painting dated c.1470, and the last are two woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer, dated 1504 and 1510. That Dürer has drawn these arms not necessarily means that they were still in use at this time, artists sometimes used depictions of old arms to show ancient scenes.
Here we have the situation that we have six depictions of this weapon as a long hafted weapon, but no known real existing example, while of the short hafted type a few real existing examples are known, but I have discovered only three depictions in art. Two are from a fencing book by hans Thalhofer, dating 1459. Depicted are two man fighting on foot, one is armed with a sword, the other with a 'Dolchstreithammer'. The third is an altar painting dated c.1475. Although all sources (except Dürer's) date to the second half of the 15th century, it is likely that this weapons already existed decades before. The shape of this weapon resembles closely to the later horseman's hammer, but interestingly both depicted 'Dolchstreithaemmer' are carried by foot soldiers, and not, as I would have expected, by knights on horses. But on the basis of only two sources this may be a mere chance.

Real existing examples are very rare. One was once in the collection of Robert Forrer, the well known arms-historian. It was an excavated find from Alsatia, similar in shape to the examples in the Swiss National Museum Zurich, but dated by Forrer to the late 14th century. It's present whereabouts is unknown to me. Another similar example was at the auction sale of the Karl Gimbel collection in 1904. It is ucertain whether this was excavated or not, again it's whwereabouts is unknown to me.

In museum collections only two in the Swiss National Museum Zurich are known. One has only a short stump, which was once the blade. The second is very similar, but with a somewhat longer blade, very probably also shortened. Both look like excavated and restored. Both are dated by the museum to the second half of the 15th century. The second example is nearly identical with the Forrer example and is probably the one from Forrer with a replaced blade and another wooden haft, or may originate from the same workshop.

Another example in excavated condition, the blade broken off and lost, was at an auction sale some days ago. It was dated by the auction house c.1450.

The hands with the dagger intended for use as a polearm are surely very similar in shape to the ones used for short hafted examples, but must be heavier and larger in size. The example from the Forrer collection has a weight of 300 grams and measures 11.5 cm in length, while the one sold at auction has a length of 14.3 cm and weighs 544 grams. If we add the approximate weight of the missing blade, we have suerly a weight of more than 600 grams, which is twice the weight of the Forrer example. The section of the socket of the auction example is rectangular with chamfered edges, according to the shape of most poles for long hafted weapons, while the socket of the known 'Dolchstreithaemmer' is always round in section. Another remarkable fact is that the socket for fixing the haft is is longer and pierced for five nails. The other examples are fixed with no more than two nails or rivets. Therefore I'm absolutely sure that the one sold at auction was no war-hammer, but a polearm, and is then the only known example of this type.

If I compare the example from the private collection with the five other examples, clear differences are visible, which brings me to the conclusion that it is the earliest. The cast hand is not very detailed, but more stylized in shape, which points to an earlier date. The socket for the haft is yet not reinforced and the pommel is of a rare type which can be found on swords of the 14th century. See the sword once in the Malacrida collection and the effigy of an English knight at Halton Holegate, dated c.1320. The globular tang-button can also be found on swords of the 14th century. Therefore I date this 'Dolchstreithammer' c. 1400, or possibly a little earlier.

Best

Swordfish 6th May 2012 11:50 AM

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Two examples in the Swiss National Museum Zurich

Swordfish 6th May 2012 12:00 PM

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Iconographic sources Polearms

Swordfish 6th May 2012 12:03 PM

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Iconographic sources 'Dolchstreithammer'

Swordfish 6th May 2012 12:05 PM

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Swords with cube-pommel with bevelled corners

kronckew 6th May 2012 01:24 PM

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i've always liked that style since seeing one in a certain movie a few years back :)

Dmitry 7th May 2012 05:07 PM

The tradition was picked up by the late 18th - mid-19th c. sailors, who made many-many scrimshaw handles for walking sticks and umbrellas, pipe tampers, bodkins, etc., in the shape of a clenched fist. Why...I have no idea.






kronckew 7th May 2012 06:23 PM

i had a cane much like those, except made out of one piece of ivory. sadly disappeared during one of my moves. i think customs probably nicked it.saw it in a shop when i was in my 20's, loved it & bought it for my old age. now that i almost need one, i don't have it. ah, well. se la vie.

cornelistromp 8th May 2012 05:05 PM

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it's not a fist but very beautiful.

Swordfish 8th May 2012 05:35 PM

I believe I have seen this hammer-head in an auction catalogue years ago. If I remember right, it remained unsold because of the very high estimate. Because it has a very short spike it is possibly a splendor-hammer, not used for fighting.

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cornelistromp 8th May 2012 07:03 PM

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it is in the higgins armory museum

Accession Number: 2000.02
Region: Netherlands or northern Germany
Artifact Type: War-hammer head
Date: 1450-1500
Materials: Brass; iron
Weight: 1 lb. 7 oz.
Length:
While swords were effective against unarmored or lightly protected troops, soldiers in full plate armor were well protected against swords. This war hammer, mounted on a wooden shaft, could deliver powerful blows with the hammer-head to crush armor, and a well-aimed strike with the stout beak on the back could penetrate plate steel. Comprised of a long, brass alloy conical socket cast in one piece with two stout, grimacing monster heads surmounted by a carved lion "couchant" above. The socket is fitted with a long, iron belt hook, and the base of the socket has a narrow, file roped molded band. The body has an engraved spiralled banderolle inscribed in "Gothic" characters, the legend reading from the base upwards, "Ave Maria Gracia Plena Helf Maria." The terminals of the ultimate characters are finished in oak leaves. The monster heads are fitted with a crenellated hammer head and a short quadrangular spike, both of iron. The recurving tail of the lion is circularly pierced for a cord. Centered on the front and rear faces below is a heraldic shield charged with a lion "rampant" in carved relief

Swordfish 8th May 2012 08:26 PM

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I knew that my remembrance has not abandoned me!

It was for sale at Christie's February 1991 lot 43 with an estimate of GBP 12.000, but is not listed in the result-list.

The height is 165mm, the spike has only a length of c. 23mm till the monsters mouth. This would be enough to penetrate plate, but not to cause serious injuries. Therefore I believe it is a splendor-hammer, not used for fighting.

You know that there are hundreds, if not thousands of two handed processional swords of the 16/17th century, not used for fighting. Surely some processional items from medieval times have also survived. The high quality also indicates that this was a splendor-item.

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cornelistromp 9th May 2012 06:17 AM

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hi swordfish,

I do not agree with you, maces from the same period have no beak at all, and are also real combat weapons!
I also know numerous warhammers with short beak. I think the beak of the first copy zurich is original so short and not broken and reshaped.

further, there is only 2 cm needed to cause fatal injury. see skull from grave battle by Visby;skull damage caused by crossbow points and hammer blows



best,

fernando 9th May 2012 12:30 PM

A splendor-item, when carried, should be held in hands and not hanging from the belt ? :o
Meaning that, the belt hook detail, suggests this is an actual weapon ? :o
It is a splendid piece, in any case; but the price :confused: :rolleyes:

cornelistromp 9th May 2012 12:36 PM

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@ Fernando, I agree it is a weapon.

Herewith a example from the klingbeil collection lot 228 (€1600) attributed to the 19thC. this one looks almost similar to the Baegert Altar piece.

Dmitry 9th May 2012 01:47 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by cornelistromp
further, there is only 2 cm needed to cause fatal injury. see skull from grave battle by Visby;skull damage caused by crossbow points and hammer blows



best,


Wow.

That is what I call an overkill.

Swordfish 9th May 2012 03:22 PM

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Quote:
Originally Posted by cornelistromp
hi swordfish,

I do not agree with you, maces from the same period have no beak at all, and are also real combat weapons!
I also know numerous warhammers with short beak. I think the beak of the first copy zurich is original so short and not broken and reshaped.

further, there is only 2 cm needed to cause fatal injury. see skull from grave battle by Visby;skull damage caused by crossbow points and hammer blows



best,


Sorry, but you are completely on the wrong path.

Maces are used to crush armour or bones, but are not made to penetrate armour.
War-hammers are made to penetrate armour!

A skull with sticking arrow-heads only says that the head of this warrior was not protected when he was hit by the arrows. If this warrior would have worn an iron-hat, nothing would have happened. Also a blow with a war-hammer with a beak of 2 cm length would have caused not the lightest scratches on the skull!

The short stump beak of the Zurich example is definitely shortened and reshaped. See the article of Eduard Gessler, former Curator of the Swiss National Museum in ZHWK 1926-1928 page 287.
Equally you ignore all the other depictions of real examples or in art, which all show an acutely pointed longer blade.
If an armourer makes a war-hammer, he can decide to use a short beak of 2cm length or a longer blade of 9cm length. The only reason I can imagine to use a 2 cm beak is , that he knows that the hammer will never be used for fighting.
For the pole-axes with similar heads mentioned in the Christies catalogue, the question was ' A Royal Axe ?' This is a further indication that these were splendor-axes as well as the high quality of the hammer- head.
Many splendor-swords of high quality from the 15th century are known, all were made as gifts and/or for splendor-use, surely not for fighting.

And Fernando, if you carry a splendor-hammer with you, you will surely not hold in in your hands all the day. Sometimes you must put it in your belt!

I have not seen the Dolchstreitkolben at the Klingbeil sale, but from the pictures it looked not good to me. The very low price is also an indication that there were not many bidders who believed that it is genuine.

Attached is a photo of an usual war-hammer of the second half of the 15th century. The short but acutely pointed beak has a length of c. 8cm.

Best

cornelistromp 9th May 2012 05:10 PM

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it is good occasionally to disagree, but I think you ascribe too much real stuff to ceremonial dress parties and gifts. eg the fine chain mail shirt.
attached a number of examples with a small beak similar to the Higgins hammer.

fernando 9th May 2012 05:30 PM

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Swordfish
... And Fernando, if you carry a splendor-hammer with you, you will surely not hold in in your hands all the day. Sometimes you must put it in your belt! ...

One thing i know for sure is that my extremely limited knowledge would not stand opposing your points of view ... neither could i afford to go into an academic discussion but, if you allow me:
If i have the correct conception of of splendor-item, the belt hook seems somehow inappropriate. If the Lord is tired to hold it, will pass it to his page ... a bit like with great swords and other symbolic devices. Its eventual retirement to the belt would take its splendor, defying protocol. In my perspective the belt hook means permanent endurance, going to the field for action.
I dare to say that the war-hammer you now post is something rather distinct. I would hardly compare it to the item under discussion, for what matters. I take this opportunity to post the only "crow-beak" existing in Portugal, of the type often seen in engravings being held by the Aljubarrota hero Dom Nuno Alvares Pereira (end XIV century). This is a weapon intended to be used by infantry against cavalry, in a period when pawns (footmen) started to chalenge kinghts charisma.
(Collection Rainer Daehnhardt).

.

Matchlock 9th May 2012 05:42 PM

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I just wish to state that this horseman's hammer, on the grounds of the style of its etching, cannot be dated any earlier than the 1530'-40's.

m

cornelistromp 9th May 2012 05:54 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matchlock
I just wish to state that this horseman's hammer, on the grounds of the style or its etching, cannot be dated any earlier than the 1530'-40's.

m


yes Michael 100% true and probably Augsburg.

Matchlock 9th May 2012 06:14 PM

Or Nuremberg, Jasper,

I can't tell apart their styles of etching, only hardly their respective gun mechanisms ...

Best,
Michael

Swordfish 9th May 2012 07:06 PM

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Quote:
Originally Posted by cornelistromp
it is good occasionally to disagree, but I think you ascribe too much real stuff to ceremonial dress parties and gifts. eg the fine chain mail shirt.
attached a number of examples with a small beak similar to the Higgins hammer.


There is no problem that you disagree, but none of my arguments has been disproved. I know the most examples from Armi Bianche Italiane, but the beak of these is not as short as it looks at first sight, because they are stouter in section and not very acutely pointed. The pole-axe( from Fernando) has surely a beak of more than 7 cm. The hammer with the etched haft has a beak of c.7 cm, the hammer with the dragon (#33-34 in Armi) c.6.5 cm and the hammer with the wooden haft (#266in Armi) c.7cm. These lengths are sufficient to penetrate armour and a skull, but not the 2 cm of the hammer in discussion.

By way of example: if you are attacked and you have a dagger in your left pocket with a blade of 8 cm, and a penknive in your right pocket. Which would you choose to defend you?

Attached are some photos of swords from Armi Bianche. All have long blades. Are these fighting- swords or splendor- swords?
The answer is simple. The same is the case with the hammer under discussion.

Best

cornelistromp 9th May 2012 07:17 PM

I only indicated that at least 2 cm is needed for a deadly hammer battle wound, I do not know how long the beak of the higginshammer is. but it seems to me more than 2cm.
it seems to me that the lucerne type of warhammers have much shorter beaks as the dagger hammers in the beginning of this thread. The higgins hammer is similar to the type of the lucerne hammer not to the dagger hammer.

The swords you have posted have sharp cutting edges and points and are therefore suitable to fight with, swords of the upper class.

if you could afford it why would you run with a coarse soldiers sword. Swords also gave status from the early middle ages onwards.

In italy nothing is changed, given the many ferrari's in the big cities. where you actually could drive much more comfortable in an air-conditioned Fiat500.

best,

Swordfish 9th May 2012 07:39 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by cornelistromp
I only indicated that at least 2 cm is needed for a deadly hammer battle wound, I do not know how long the beak of the higginshammer is. but it seems to me more than 2cm.


You are right, 2 cm is surely enough against an unarmoured warrior, but no knight or mercenary in the second half of the 15th century was at battle without a sallet or an iron-hat. The height of the Higgins hammer is known 16.5 cm. By the proportions on the photo it is easy to measure the length of the beak. It is not longer than c. 2.3 cm. In the same way I have measured the length of the Armi Bianche examples.

These swords may be suitable for fighting, but were neither intended nor used for such purposes.(one is a Pope's sword)

If you have two cars in you garage, a Ferrari and a Fiat, and you know that you will have a crash(= battle), which would you choose?

Best

cornelistromp 10th May 2012 07:12 AM

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the sword had a much broader meaning than only: merely ceremonial or battlefield.
many weapons had both or more. (eg durendal) in their life.
On the precise purpose of the higgins hammer, intended primarily as a weapon or purely symbolic ceremonial, I do not think we can agree, so I'll leave it at that.
Here are a number pollek type of weapons. (bec de corbin / lucerne hammer)
including (I believe) a picture of the polearm Christies is mentioning.

best,
Jasper

Swordfish 11th May 2012 12:57 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by cornelistromp
@ Fernando, I agree it is a weapon.

Herewith a example from the klingbeil collection lot 228 (€1600) attributed to the 19thC. this one looks almost similar to the Baegert Altar piece.


I was not able to be present at the Klingbeil sale. Therefore I know this Dolchstreithammer only from the catalogue. It looked not good to me because the blade was fixed with neither a pommel nor the rivetted tang. It seemed to be fixed by a rivet through the fist. At this time I have not yet found the picture from the Altar of 1475 with the very similar piece.

Yesterday I visited a collecting friend of mine. He was the one who acquired the piece at the auction for the very low price. After close examination, it was clear for me that it is a genuine piece. This again demonstrates that examination from pictures is not enough, you have to examine the pieces in reality to be sure. Therefore I missed to make a bargain buy. My friend also knew from where this piece came. It was excavated many years ago in Belgium.

Best

cornelistromp 11th May 2012 04:27 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Swordfish
I was not able to be present at the Klingbeil sale. Therefore I know this Dolchstreithammer only from the catalogue. It looked not good to me because the blade was fixed with neither a pommel nor the rivetted tang. It seemed to be fixed by a rivet through the fist. At this time I have not yet found the picture from the Altar of 1475 with the very similar piece.

Yesterday I visited a collecting friend of mine. He was the one who acquired the piece at the auction for the very low price. After close examination, it was clear for me that it is a genuine piece. This again demonstrates that examination from pictures is not enough, you have to examine the pieces in reality to be sure. Therefore I missed to make a bargain buy. My friend also knew from where this piece came. It was excavated many years ago in Belgium.

Best


This does not surprise me I found the hammer very good looking, when in doubt the specialist is often choosing the safest route. often the faulty one.
particularly with medieval short riding swords. these swords are often categorized as shortened or 19th century.

best,

Swordfish 11th May 2012 09:42 PM

I don't remember that there has been a medieval short sword (in not excavated condition) on the market in the last years.
Do you know one?

cornelistromp 12th May 2012 12:58 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Swordfish
I don't remember that there has been a medieval short sword (in not excavated condition) on the market in the last years.
Do you know one?


for instance HH 64 lot 2389


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