Join Date: Jun 2017
Help to identify a machete-falchion-billhook thing
Since I know are very highly knowledgeable people round here, I would like to ask for your help. A while ago, I stumbled on Facebook by accident on a picture taken in an Italian museum of a thing that, I feel, is the actual "missing link" to explain were early falchions sprouted from. The museum it comes from is apparently the Museo Archeologico Nazionale della Siritide. I've tried sending a mail (in English) to a mail address given on what seems to be a branch of the Italian Ministry of Culture, it was in early december and I didn't get any reply. It could be an outdated mailing address, it could be an issue with English, it could be they lack time, it could be they just don't care, it could be pretty much anything. So I'm posting it here.
Of course, everyone can recognize, line for line, that this is just the exact shape of the Cluny falchion blade. But on the other hand, with its apparently thin and wide blade and full tang construction, technologically it's what we would today call a machete, and the word machete itself quite likely comes from machaera/machaira, which it seems Romans had adopted to a point, at least the word, but so far I have no meaningfull archeological or literary proof that it was falchion/machete like (it could have been pretty much any edged weapon that could have been called that way to sound classy).
But it is still linked with billhooks of the time because the "butt" of it is shaped like the "butt" of Roman billhooks of that era, as can be seen in the pictures (the first one is the famous Pompei billhook, the second one is from an exhibition at the Palazzo Massimo when he went on visit to Rome, knowing I am a die-hard billhook fan). That type of "butt", with both a hook for the little finger and a protrusion extending "backwards" would later evolve to become a common feature still seen on early 20th century Italian billhooks, as can be seen from that catalogue page (they call the hook the "gancio", but it has taken many shapes over time and with local diversity).
Actually, the butt of that machete-falchion-billhook is a transition between these old style Roman billhooks handles, and the more modern "gancio" type of handle. Bot the Roman billhooks seem to have a "half full tang", as was also still seen on many billhooks (my grand-grand-father who lived in the South of France had one with this type of tang, though the shape of the handle is much simpler and not specific)
The thing is that machete-falchion-billhook thing is quite alien to any typology, and it isn't even clear what it was: the shape of the butt, the machete-like construction have me say it is some kind of tool, a sort of machete actually, but it is exactly the shape of the Cluny falchion. It really seems to be transitional (both in the shape of the handle, between the Roman billhook and the more modern billhook, and as a general tool/weapon, bearing the construction of a billhook handle, but not really fit to be called a tool, and with the exact blade shape of a later dedicated weapon), but I have no dating, no provenance, nothing actually usable.
So, have you ever seen anything similar, read any period description it could fit, or have any actual bit of information of what this thing is, and when it was made.
Thanks for your consideration.
P.S.: you can see the Palazzo Massimo billhook and the roncola number 394 in the catalog are pretty much the same, except for the evolution of the tang and gancio. They are two thousand years apart.