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Old 20th July 2014, 12:38 AM   #1
machinist
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Default Mexican/Spanish colonial spear points

There is a very distinct sort of spear point that I see offered for sale fairly commonly that is usually described as a presidio lancepoint.
These are usually rather small, about six inches (15.24 CM) at the minimum and at most about twice that. Some quite crude with sockets barely closed but others much more finely forged, often with decoration filed into the blade, the smaller here portrayed being the typical style.
I am curious if anyone has any factual information on them and how they were used, outwardly they most resemble a pike point but they could be from a lance or even a javelin. I was of the opinion for a while that they may be butt spikes from the other end of the spear but they seem to be much more common than other spear points so that seems less likely.

I know that when U.S troops first moved into California and faced the local militias the lance seemed to be a primary Californio weapon so that seems the most likely but I have not seen any of the square bladed points in any of the few books I have seen on the subject.
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Old 20th July 2014, 02:10 AM   #2
Jim McDougall
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From what I have understood the Presidial soldados de cuero and most Spanish forces in 18th century preferred the lance , often as stabbing weapons, rather than use as a javelin . Apparantly on the Spanish Southwestern frontier it was difficult to keep firearms serviceable not to mentions shortages of gunpowder. As noted the Caifornios in the 19th century had become formidable adversaries with the lance, as became powerfully apparent at the Battle of San Pasqual.

It is noted in Pierce and Chamberlain ("Spanish Military Weapons in Colonial American 1700-1821", p.108) that "...most of the extant lance blades which have been found throughout the Southwest and Northern Mexico appear to be products of local smiths. There is an almost endless variety in the shapes and sizes used ."
It is noted that despite the lack of uniformity the lance was considered a regulation arm for the frontier troopers, and some effort was made to regulate these, though few ever conformed.

Of the few examples I have seen, the socketed type as seen here usually had a widening blade rather than the narrow pike type blade These do look rather like boarding pike heads (c.1816) as these type heads seem more aligned with these shapes.

In "American Polearms 1526-1865" R. Brown, 1967, p 81, the lances used at San Pasqual (1846) were well described, "..the writer has not seen or heard of any surviving Californio lances, but a number of the long, leaf shaped blades have been found". The blades were described as 9 or 10 " in length and tanged and set into hafts of mountain laurel or ash.

While it is of course tempting to consider these to be within the wide variation of lance heads used on the frontier by Presidial troopers, rancheros and Californios, it would be entirely speculative without provenance. These, while attractive indeed, do not correspond to the few examples I have seen.

As to how they were used, most of them were about 6 ft. and used as a stabbing weapon from horseback, not as thrown javelins. Some of the later lances were up to about 8 ft.

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 20th July 2014 at 02:28 AM.
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Old 20th July 2014, 08:05 PM   #3
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Thanks for the response Jim. I am still hoping to find confirmation one way or the other about the provenance of these things. The presidio in Santa Barbara has a couple on display and I could try and find out whether they were donated or excavated. If I search for "Spanish colonial spear points" and similar search terms on the web I see a lot of very diverse points some of which obviously originated in China, the Philippines, or other Asian locals and it is tempting to dismiss those as just a seller trying for that extra dollar that a "colonial Americas" tag gives a weapon but there were more than two centuries of Manila galleons trading across the Pacific and some of those must have brought back weapons as part of the haul, even if not part of the profitable load at least as souvenirs as sharp and pointy things rate high on the list of things men like to take home.

In the case of these small points I do not see any ties to other old cultures and I do not see an obvious "pipeline" of modern fakery as may be seen from sources in India, China, or other places.
All it would take to make me happy on this is one found in a legitimate archaeological setting but until that happens it will just be undecided.
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Old 20th July 2014, 08:21 PM   #4
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Nice pieces! Definitely period and not fakes. Question is, what are they? While it is possible that they might be boarding pike heads, they don't fit the standard patterns seen on regulated British and European types. Colonial American/WAr 1812 are possible, being that blacksmith-made pieces of that time had no specific conformity just yet. They are too well put together to be simple trench spears/pikes. Jim is correct that they don't match the pics in Brown's 'American Polearms' book, but I still think they could be Span colonial(?). The odd construction on the one point with the almost trapahezon shape got me to thinking about Chinese or Tibetan, but the general form of the whole piece looks more New World. A mystery, but I do like these very much!
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Old 21st July 2014, 12:05 AM   #5
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Eureka!!! I think I found it!!
In "Southwestern Colonial Ironwork: The Spanish Blacksmithing Tradition from Texas to California" by Marc Simmons and Frank Turley, New Mexico, 1980....on p.87, are shown several of these and they are ox goads ('puntas de buey'), which were actually an old world implement used to prod oxen with wooden rod with steel tip, in Spain it was called a 'garrocha' and in the New World, as noted.

They are a socketed iron point, most examples have at the base of the point a decorative motif formed by edge filing. These were attached to a wooden pole or handle They were formed from a single piece of stock and one end was tapered to a square sectioned point. The other was hammered thin flared, then rolled to form a socket. The seam was often left open, but the smith if he chose could weld it solid over a mandrel.

The examples seen have much the same decorative motif, and are remarkably similar.

While this seems to place this as more of an implement, it must be remembered that on the frontier most everything had utilitarian uses and could easily serve as a weapon as required . The well known espada ancha, while obviously a sword, became what is commonly known as the machete as they were used most often in clearing chapparal by the soldados and horsemen.

** please pardon faux pas in the book title "Spanish Military Weapons" I meant Brinckerhoff & Chamberlain.....I always think Pierce, oops and forget about Brinckerhoff.
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Old 21st July 2014, 12:33 AM   #6
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Wow, Jim! Incredible work! You are by far the most frequent enlightener when it comes to mystery things! I've often seen pole head types with the open seam and questioned how they could have effectively served as a weapon, being that they might wobble. Of course I had forgotten about a utilitarian usage for such. Many of these are listed as 'Mexican lance heads' and such throughout the net. Glad to have a difinitive answer, anyway.
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