Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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fernando 4th April 2008 04:13 PM

Please help on bronze axes
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I have made an offer on these two items so long ago, that i thaught i wouldn't get them any more.
I don't know if they could be considered weapons, although weapons in the old days were the daily utensiles, such as these :o .
Ethnographic they are, for sure ... if not knockoffs :eek:
The price i have paid for them ( among other stuff in a lot ) would be a bargain assuming they are the real thing, or a disaster if they are a forgery.
Anyone in this forum familiar with these things ?
The larger one measures 25 cms ( 10" ) and the other, 22 cms ( 8 1/2" ).
Thanks a lot for your coments.

katana 4th April 2008 05:41 PM

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Hi Fernando :) ,
interesting axe heads ....these particular heads are called Palstave axes, the first one seems to have a 'hammer head' at one end.... on which I can find no info. These could be older than you think....many bronze age axe heads were never used but placed as 'grave goods' for the deceased use in the after life

See this ....

Kind Regards David

Battara 4th April 2008 06:00 PM

Katana your picture is so helpful....... :)

kronckew 5th April 2008 07:50 AM

the top one seems to have the sprue still attached from the original pouring of the mold. it would have to be cut off to enable the bent stave to be attached.

katana 5th April 2008 12:17 PM

Hi Kronckew :) ,
I did wonder about the top one ...I did consider the hammerhead to be the sprue, but... I have not found another example with two cast fixing loops. It suggests to me that this would have been fixed to a shaft in a more complex way and the only reason I could see was that the 'hammerhead' prevented 'normal' attachment to a haft. :shrug:

Kind Regards David

kronckew 5th April 2008 01:40 PM

the other possibility is that it is to be used as a chisel rather than a palstave axe.

this one (right) is so described at LibraryIreland

looks kinda big for that tho.

my favourite bronze axe was this style luristan axe (pic from internet)

the axe haft i've drawn in to show how it was mounted with the point in the direction of swing and the edge trailing, must have been good for penetrating any intervening armour. almost bought a replica a few yrs. back. kick myself for not having done so.

ariel 5th April 2008 03:45 PM

Several times I looked at yet another "Luristani" bronze dagger/sword and every time walked away.
I just do not know how to distinguish the real thing from forgery.
Based on the stuff coming from China, the technologies of casting and aging must be pretty simple and well worked-out and it must be a cheap mass-production enterprise.
Are there any criteria whereby one can reliably identify forgery, other than the Chinese seller, of course ?

kronckew 5th April 2008 06:02 PM

i seem to recall someone here saying the chinese have been making forgeries for centuries. i've seen bronze spearheads made over here in the UK from castings of original finds and artificially patenated and aged, i do not think i'd buy one without some serious documentation and provenance. (the luristan replica i coveted was a brand shiny new functional one, not made from a cast but made as if it were a new weapon for a re-enactor). i also hear that the roman rings found in profusion on ebay are also mostly made recently in the balkans. bronze is a tough corrosion resistant metal well suited to lasting millenia, it would take an analysis of the alloy to prove it was likely to be real as opposed to a modern phosphor bronze from a scrapped ship's prop.

fernando 5th April 2008 07:55 PM

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Thank you all for your input, Gentlemen.
David, that link is very interesting; i wouldn't mind to be in the place of that cab driver ... suddenly getting some pocket money :cool:
Kronckew, right on the target. I have just located a similar example at the Portuguese Archeology Museum ( picture attached ), with the remarks that it still kept is casting cone ( sprue ), as also some burr on the sides, denoting that this example was never used. So as David reminds, some of these things were just destined to grave goods. This ( only ) example in the museum was found in Portugal; i will then infer that my couple pieces are also Portuguese ... they were bought by the local seller at an auction in Oporto.
It seems as this pattern with loops dates from 1000 BC, as i have read here:
Coincidently, the other day i kept staring at some Luristani daggers in a couple sites, and i wouldn't dare to pick on one of them, fearing they were fakes. With these axes, circumstances were quite distinct; i bought them at sight, from a guy that bought them only because they were part of a lot of padlocks he was interested in. He hadn't the slightest idea what these two "brass" things were. As he narrated the auction event, which took over a couple months to take place, he told me how much he paid for the lot; so i offered a price for the axes that would cover what he spent for the whole lot ... he couldn't resist. And i came home pleased with the two pieces for 250 Euros. So if they are a fake, it's not the end of the world. But i would say that the existance of the sprue gives it an indication of authenticity.

Tim Simmons 5th April 2008 08:21 PM

I should hold back but I think Fernando knows these are not the real thing. Just think of that bronze age man they found in the 1990s? with a bronze axe in the Austrian/Italian alps. It was a sensation. TV documentaries and even political arguements as to which country should have him. I do not think there would be flashing on the originals even if they had made a stone matrix?

Tim Simmons 5th April 2008 08:38 PM

This is the fellow I mentioned.
I rather fancy even in there time they were not common.

spiral 5th April 2008 10:55 PM

I have to agree, Much Like flint or stone age axes, arrowheads, blades etc. one needs much expierience to "see" or 100% provinance if you dont have that.


katana 6th April 2008 02:25 PM

Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
Just think of that bronze age man they found in the 1990s? with a bronze axe in the Austrian/Italian alps. ?

Hi Tim,
Otzi or Oetzi ( the name given to the 'iceman') had a copper axe, there was no added tin. I think the copper content was around 98% , the rest impurities. I'm not being pedantic, but this could be for a number of reasons one being that the axe was possibly pre-bronze age and would have not been a 'common' implement.

Originally Posted by Tim Simmons

I do not think there would be flashing on the originals even if they had made a stone matrix?

Tim, please, what is "flashing"

Regards David

katana 6th April 2008 03:26 PM

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Reading through various sites/forums there are tests, radiology, CT scans etc. that COULD verify authenticity. But it seems the 'fakers' adapt to the newer tests :( . Patina, as many of us know can be easily faked and many 'fakers' have got this down to a fine art. Metallurgy testing is not always conclusive either, genuinely old bronze is added to the 'molten mix' to fool a number of tests. :shrug:

Kronckew, good call on the 'chisel' .....but I cannot see the function of the two 'cast loops' :shrug: Obviously the chisel would be hand-held not requiring the loops. I am beginning to wonder whether some of these so-called chisels are in fact ...chisels.

I was thinking on the lines of this ... :shrug: ......


kronckew 6th April 2008 03:49 PM

flashing is the thin 'feathers' of metal that ooze from the body of the item into the thin joint where the two mold halves meet, it's usually cut or ground back, either resulting in the distinctive mold lines around the join, or if properly finished, you'll not see it at all... if you've ever done plastic airplane models, you'll remember the thin plastic you trimmed off the parts to get them to fit. flashing. there may be some in the inside of the rings where it hasn't been cleaned out fully.

katana 6th April 2008 05:45 PM

Originally Posted by kronckew
flashing is the thin 'feathers' of metal that ooze from the body of the item into the thin joint where the two mold halves meet, it's usually cut or ground back, either resulting in the distinctive mold lines around the join, or if properly finished, you'll not see it at all... if you've ever done plastic airplane models, you'll remember the thin plastic you trimmed off the parts to get them to fit. flashing. there may be some in the inside of the rings where it hasn't been cleaned out fully.

Thanks Kronckew :) , nothing to do with with raincoats then ... ;)

I found this regarding early moulds for bronze .....interestingly it seems that after casting, 'hammer work' can improve the finished article...

Regards David

katana 6th April 2008 07:11 PM

I have since discovered that the cast axe head is not the end of the process. Obviously it would be 'cleaned up' ....apparently hot 'just cast' bronze is brittle so removing 'flashing' would only require a gentle 'tap' with a hammer (stone or bronze) to remove. Often stones were used to clean the head further. Then to create the hardened edge it would be 'work hardened' by use of a hammer, this was done cold. In effect , as the edge was hammered it would become thinner and harder. The bulk of the axe would remain softer. If problems with this process occured (such as minor cracks in the blade's edge.) The head would be re-heated to anneal it (soften) and then re-worked.

If during use the edge was damaged, it was possible to re-profile it with stone.......but without the 'work hardening' it would blunt easily. Several experts are amazed at the precision that the blade edge was produced by the hammering (to work harden) often requiring little or no 'dressing' with flat stones.
Unlike steel where a sharpening stone would improve the sharpness, the bronze blade would require a hammer, an anvil (rock) and a stone.

It seems to me that the 'chisel' (the axehead with the sprue still attached) would have a good work hardened end (repeatedly hit with a hammer as it was used as a chisel) With the two cast hoops it could be attached to a shaft......and have a hardened hammer to cold work harden your axe.....a worthy addition to your blade sharpening tool kit....I wonder :shrug:

Regards David

katana 6th April 2008 09:53 PM

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If anyone is interested there is a free PDF download of a very good, but old late 19th C book on bronze weapons etc of the UK and Ireland ...fair number of illustrations. Go to link ...on left hand side theres a small 'box', locate PDF, right click.. 'save target as' to 'My Docs'. Worth searching on this site for other interesting titles. ;)

In this book are references to chisels, some are socketted, most look like the one's in the picture below....not one shown looks remotely like Fernando's 'first' example.(with sprue) Many of the designs and form for most implements were fairly common all over Europe. One reason being that trade for tin brought many continental traders to places like Cornwall where the exchanging of ideas etc were common. So it is unlikely that this design was unknown in Britain.

Regards David


fernando 6th April 2008 10:10 PM

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I have consulted a few articles on the Iceman Oetzi. It seems as the definition of his age, as well as the composition of the axe he carried, are like the lolypops ... you can have them in various flavours. In any case, i fail to catch the relation between that saga and the probability of the axes i posted being genuine or a fake ... my primary issue.
I have taken more pictures, as i can not help being influenced by some of the questions raised here. There are marks and colour variations that could be considered intriguing. I keep thinking that the money they were sold for, is not worth the "qualified" work of a forgerer, although that is not a definite explanation. I feel i ought to give it the benefit of doubt.

fernando 6th April 2008 10:24 PM

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These are some of the Portuguese variations exhibited in an archeologic museum not far from my place. I had visited it some time ago, but my eyes were not particulary focused in axes, although i remember the scene. I see now that they show their collection in the Net, as also a demonstration of how the two loops were used for fixing the stave to the head. This is the end of a certain riddle :cool:

fernando 6th April 2008 10:40 PM

According to what can be read, axes unfinished from casting were a current situation. This makes it logic that often large quantities of axes are found in the same spot. It appears that they were used as a demonstration of power, to mark the limits of a determined area, as also for ceremonial situations ... plus the ones used in "grave goods", as David quoted.
... Some connection with the later custom of making ( inoperational )weapons in Africa and elsewhere, to be used as currency ?

Marc 7th April 2008 09:20 AM

Nice pieces, Fernando. My congratulations. Do you have any clue about their provenence (place of excavation, etc.)? This could be extremely useful when trying to determine their authenticity. Even if something in the lines of "allegedly taken form somewhere around there".

fernando 7th April 2008 04:59 PM

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Thank you very much for your words, Marc.
No, not a clue on their origin. As i said, they were auctioned together with a series of padlocks, in an indistinct manner. I have just detected a picture of such lot in the auctioner web site, as i have memorized their name since the local seller showed it to me. I would say these examples are Portuguese; i can see similar ones in Portuguese archeologic sites, excavated in various places in the (northern ?) Country. But that is just a hint ... i know nothing of these things and didn't yet read any literature appointing for their typology being necessarily Portuguese ... or Iberian, as often things are referred over here. Also the auctioner being placed in Porto and not in Lisbon could indicate the stuff auctioned is more of the internal type and not brought in by traders or travellers.
But no doubt i will try hard to find out.
I must regconize however that, if eventually these pieces are genuine, the attitude of mixing them with a bunch of padlocks and the price pretended for the lot licitation ( 50 euros ), denotes a complete ignorance and disdain from the auctioner side

katana 7th April 2008 07:05 PM

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Hi Fernando,
I am no expert, but, looking at the 'grinding' marks, I think that these do not seem to be made by a file.

1. File teeth are triangular and equally spaced... ^^^^^^^......the grooves on your picture appear to be 'rounded' and not regulary spaced... n nn n n

2 The grooves seem to follow most of the contours of the surface, a file would only remove 'high spots' and the file teeth would not be in contact with the 'low spots' as the file is, in 'essence', flat.

Perhaps these 'marks' are caused by working the axehead on a 'grainy', soft(sedimentary type) rock :shrug:

It is difficult to be precise with photographs, lighting etc can cause 'mis-leading images. Of cause, even if I am right, this would not guarantee 'authenticity' ... a 'good faker' could imitate this effect. Equally, though, you could say that it would add 'weight' to their authenticity ;)

Perhaps the curator of the museum (you mentioned) could point you in the direction of someone whom could authenticate them properly for you.

If they do turn out to be genuine........ :cool:

All the best


fernando 7th April 2008 07:27 PM

Thanks a lot for your impressions, David.
I am actually thinking of visiting the museum, which is actually not far from here; i just hope to find someone there specializing in this specific sort of things. The museum has diverse kinds of archeologic stuff, specially on the stone area, with a large "collection" of primitive swasticas.
Also at this very moment and as adviced, i am posting the pieces in SFI, on the Ancient Weapons section, where the moderator is an expert on Bronze Age casting.
Let's see what comes up.
Thanks for your (allways) enthusiastic support :)

Tim Simmons 7th April 2008 07:38 PM

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Interesting thread. It does seem odd that Fernando should come by these as he did, if they are indeed actually ancient though not impossible. They do not have to be fakes, they may just be replicas bought from a museum shop? The marks David mentions do look like file marks, files do way back in history but we are talking about the Bronze age. There is no reason bronze prestige items did not continue to have relevance in the early iron age? What does look just a little unconvincing are the marks in this picture. Clearly made by a steel tool of some kind and in rather a modern machine precision format?

Tim Simmons 7th April 2008 07:57 PM

Look here. Fig5 on page 6. X-ray of an iron age file.
Very interesting? Even if these can be found in groups it is where they are found that is important, not saying the axe its self is not important. It would be super if Fernando's axes were ancient. Probably best to go to a museum.

fernando 7th April 2008 08:00 PM

Reason why i posted such emphasized picture.
Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
...What does look just a little unconvincing are the marks in this picture. Clearly made by a steel tool of some kind and in rather a modern machine precision format?

Very pertinent remark, Tim.
... At least untill someone comes up with a logic explanation for that, like the marks having been made at a later (recent) stage, for some kind of reason, like using the thing as a hammer, or whatever.

katana 7th April 2008 08:02 PM

Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
There is no reason bronze prestige items did not continue to have relevance in the early iron age?

Hi Tim,
a while ago ...a documentary on the bronze age, demonstrated a late bronze age sword ( a replica made using the technology of the time, so in a sense... authentic) against an early iron age sword ( again made using early iron age tech.) During the 'sword fight' there was constant comparison to check the damage done to each sword. Both had cuts to the swords edges, the worst was suffered by the iron sword, eventually the iron sword broke :eek: Because the technology of hardening steel was unknown and the smelting process was not refined, the iron blade was relatively soft in some areas/ harder (brittle) in others ,as the quality of smelted iron was not consistant. The bronze sword was actually superior, I was amazed at how well the bronze sword performed.

Obviously as the iron age developed, increasing knowledge gradually improved the quality of the the iron, and later the addition of carbon and heat treatment made steel ....the king of blades.

Found this fine Iron Age sword made of bronze..

Regards David

fernando 8th April 2008 10:11 PM

When reading the following posting, one would be convinced that these two axes are indeed genuine. However three hours later, i have got strong indications on the contrary.
Now i am like the fool on the bridge :shrug:

" From the looks of it, these are the real thing. But they're not just any axes (which by themselves would already be very significant finds), these are unfinished axes, which are extremely rare! I can count the number of unfinished axes I know from Europe on one hand (out of thousands). They are even rarer then moulds, and can tell a lot about the fabrication process. Unfortunately though, without any confirmed provenance these are worthless to archeology. There's a good chance that these belonged to a founders hoard, that's been split up and sold seperately. And they probably were part of a sacrificial deposition, which would tell a lot about the religious significance of the area in which they were found, if it would be known where they were found. So if you can trace back the original finder, and the original find spot, you'd be able to rescue a very significant find, of which the historical significance is otherwise lost. I'd also highly recommend reporting these to the archeologists from the area where these originate, so that they can help tracing back the origins, and record these axes.

Jeroen Zuiderwijk
SFI Ancient Weapons Forum "

i have met the nearby museum superior and here comes the questionable part, concerning my two examples. Although she admits not being specialized in metalurgy, but in restoring, she advances that, regularly such cones, containing the pouring left overs, are composed of a much poorer metal, whereas in my example the material in the cone looks as having the same consistency.
Together with the fact that my two examples are much too nice and too well preserved, besides some local miscoloration and other small details, she is inclined to assume that they might not be genuine. She further said that, other than that, only metal tests would contrary such conviction, but they are far too expensive and out of question. Therefore the necessity to find out where the axes were found, for museologic reasons, did not take place.

I am beginning to think that these are the ideal items to offer for swaping :shrug:

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