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Old 16th April 2017, 09:26 PM   #1
Lee
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Question Another Medieval Mystery Sword?

Here is what has been another mystery sword to me defying confident classification; I am beginning to suspect that it might also be Couronian.

Overall length is 26.6 inches in the present state with the blade remains being 21.25 inches of that and the weight being 531 grams.

The upper guard and five-lobed pommel are separate hollow bronze castings, now loose. The end of the tang does come through the top of the pommel where the tang has been peened to retain it and there is a dominant central lobe. A 'mismatched' iron lower guard curves towards the blade. If the corrosion is hiding a fuller, then it must be quite shallow and the blade seems to be somewhat lenticular in cross section.

Again, your observations are welcomed!
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Old 18th April 2017, 02:36 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lee
Here is what has been another mystery sword to me defying confident classification; I am beginning to suspect that it might also be Couronian.
Thanks again for sharing, it is a interesting puzzle to ponder... I have more doubts about this one however. I cannot find any examples of Curonian swords with opposingly curved upper and lower guards, whereas this is quite typical of some late Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Scandinavian swords (most classifiable under Wheeler's type VI). The lobes on Curonian pommels are generally horizontal or nearly so at the base - this seems to be consistent across every photographed and illustrated example in the articles at our disposal.

Below are links to a few stray pommel caps found in England that show the five-lobed form, curved at the base to fit the curved guards. These are the most similar in overall appearance that I could find, there is a great variety of other lobed shapes in the database.

https://finds.org.uk/database/artef...ecord/id/159321
https://finds.org.uk/database/artef...ecord/id/631548
https://finds.org.uk/database/artef...ecord/id/560059
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Old 18th April 2017, 09:18 PM   #3
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Thumbs up Reventlov, I think you have made some very good points

Reventlov, I think you have made some very good points. These bronze pommel variants of Wheeler VI do indeed resemble the sword presently under consideration.

They vary a bit from my expectations for Petersen type L hilts, as those that I have knowingly encountered have relied on rivets from the upper guard to attach the (often lost) pommel.

As the British Museum kindly allows distribution of the images in their Portable Antiquities Scheme under a Creative Commons BY licence, I have attached reduced size versions of them below for convenience.
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Old 6th November 2018, 04:06 PM   #4
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Thumbs up Possibly representative of a regionally localized type

Reventlov's recognition above of pommel features in common with documented English isolated finds may very well have initiated recognition of a new localized British variant of Viking Age sword.

This type appears to be characterized by:
  • A hollow pommel of cast copper alloy...
  • with five lobes, the central being dominant...
  • that is secured by an exposed peened tang at the top of the central lobe.
  • An upper guard (pommel bar) curving away from the grip...
  • and an oppositely but similarly curved cross guard.

On the basis of the curved guards, this type most closely resembles Peterson's type L or Z while the dominant central lobe recalls type S.

Tomáš Vlasatý has prepared an excellent detailed analysis of this sword comparing it with similar examples and also reviewing where it stands within several classification systems.
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Last edited by Lee : 6th November 2018 at 04:27 PM.
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Old 8th November 2018, 06:57 AM   #5
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This is a fascinating analysis of this sword as pointed out, and while I am totally a novice at this field of study in swords of this antiquity, my interest was piqued in some of the elements of this one.

I was wondering about the character of the lobed pommel, in this case the five lobes, and why that design was chosen or what it might represent. Although the complex classification systems developed by Petersen, Wheeler et al are used for typology study and are useful in estimating period and probable origin, I hoped to find more historically.

According to Hilda Ellis-Davidson in "The Sword in Anglo Saxon England" (162. p.54) she offers an interesting suggestion apparently posed by Guy Laking in 1920 . In this, claimed by him to come from an 'eminent' authority, the lobes signified an amulet tied to a sword pommel, as was sometimes described in literary sources. However she suggested that such practice would have been 'clumsy' so unlikely.....further being inclined to think the lobed pommel evolved from animal head decoration on pommels.

On p.55 (op. cit.) the author notes that Wheeler (1927) describes the curved pommel base with lobes enclosed in the curve with ends turning upward, the guard also curved downward with acute or gentle curve. Wheeler uses the term 'Wallingford type' for location of find of one with acute curve (though tri lobed) but later found it was from Abingdon.

Another of these was found at Wensely churchyard with five lobes, and Wheeler suggested that this class of hilt 'originated in England' due to the Anglo Saxon work on the Abigdon find.


Further description goes to lobes within a less acute curve to Baltic regions and possibly a Danish fashion?


While what I have added here is admittedly rendered from the eyes of an intrigued novice in this field, I enjoyed using this great example to search through some references I have to learn more.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful example.
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Old 8th November 2018, 03:30 PM   #6
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Hi Lee,
Very interesting, thanks for sharing this! I think Tomáš addresses the nuances of the various typologies very well. It has been clear to me for a while that the definition of Petersen's type L has been interpreted over-broadly to include quite a disparate variety of swords, and classification into more specific sub-types is definitely appropriate. I can only wish I had written this analysis myself... if my earlier observations were of any inspiration at all, that would still be very gratifying!
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Old 8th November 2018, 08:30 PM   #7
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Reventlov,
.As I noted, I was very grateful for Lee sharing his sword here, and the analysis by Tomas was fascinating and thorough, however the points you made last year were extremely pertinent and offered excellent insight.

As I mentioned, this field is FAR outside my 'pay grade' but the observations you offered as well as the analysis by Tomas gave me great benchmarks with which I could better approach understanding these aspects of the sword.

I very much enjoy learning as much as I can on weapons, and this was a great exercise for me. I hope others might see this opportunity as well, as these kinds of ancient swords are seldom seen in the collecting community.

Again, I thank you both.
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Old 10th November 2018, 03:06 AM   #8
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Cool Wheeler VIa (Reventlov) type

Reventlov, I must agree with your opinion that related but different types with opposing curved guards have perhaps unfortunately come to be included into Petersen's type L. Mr. Peirce and I were not the first offenders, but we did perpetuate the practice.

Looking at the illustrations in Petersen, it is obvious that his type L corresponds to what Wheeler would refer to as type V (5) or the Wallingford [sic, see Jim's note above] type. Petersen's distinctive type 7 (fig 77) seems the closest that his Norwegian material comes to Wheeler's type VI (6) that Wheeler surmised was of 'Danish' origin, but well represented in England.

This present group with similar, but clearly some distinctively different features, such as cast copper alloy five lobed pommels secured by an exposed peened tang at the top of the pommel, appears at this point to be yet another localized English variation. Perhaps we may call it 'Wheeler type VIa' until the academics properly define and definitively name it?

British sword blades of the Viking Age were probably frequently of local manufacture, based on recognizable differences from those made elsewhere in Europe (see Lang & Ager, 1989). Obviously the blade of this sword is in very poor condition, but even so it has a lenticular cross section (actually not unknown in the literature, even if initially confusing to me) without evidence of a fuller and, on the surface, it is also without evidence of pattern-welding or iron inlays. I wonder if this suggests a later date within or just after the Viking Age (as indicated by the dating given for many of the pommels)? Hopefully more examples of this type with blades will surface in due course. Tomáš' article on Petersen's type M swords notes that pattern-welded and inlaid blades were uncommonly mounted with that simple hilt type, and that this may have been a less expensive fully functional but still 'budget' style - perhaps that will prove to be the case with these.

Jim, thank you for your comments above. I'll share some thoughts on the 'evolution' of lobed pommels - once I find the supporting photographs.
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Old 10th November 2018, 08:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lee
Reventlov's recognition above of pommel features in common with documented English isolated finds may very well have initiated recognition of a new localized British variant of Viking Age sword.

This type appears to be characterized by:
  • A hollow pommel of cast copper alloy...
  • with five lobes, the central being dominant...
  • that is secured by an exposed peened tang at the top of the central lobe.
  • An upper guard (pommel bar) curving away from the grip...
  • and an oppositely but similarly curved cross guard.

On the basis of the curved guards, this type most closely resembles Peterson's type L or Z while the dominant central lobe recalls type S.

Tomáš Vlasatý has prepared an excellent detailed analysis of this sword comparing it with similar examples and also reviewing where it stands within several classification systems.


A minor point of correction through clarification. It would not be a "copper alloy" but a "high-copper alloy". I know it's barely relevant and doesn't seem all that important but there is a difference. Which is useful to recognize.

Copper alloys are those which contain any amount of copper but for which copper is not necessarily the primary material (such as pewter or monel). These are often also called by their principle component. Such as monel being a nickle alloy. But not always. As in with the case of pewter being categorized as a copper alloy even though a true pewter is primarily tin (true pewters are basically a reverse bronze).

High-copper alloys (such as brass or bronze) contain mostly copper with some secondary and often tertiary material (especially in older specimens the tertiary material is often an undesirable impurity that is tolerated for lack of knowledge on how to eliminate it, such as arsenic, phosphorous, or sulfur).

It's a cladistic thing in the classification of alloyed metal products (i.e. All high-copper alloys are copper alloys; Not all copper alloys are high-copper alloys).

Additionally I would say that the over all red-sh patina with gray to white oxidization in the low points, that are somewhat green or green sheen in certain spots and from different angles, makes it fairly safe to call this a true bronze (if we're interested in being more specific than asserting it as a copper/high-copper alloy). While both zinc and tin may oxidize as white. Only tin also phases more into gray and sulfates as a blueish-green. Which can produce the white from some angles and slightly greenish tinge from others. As can be seen in the OP's set of images.

This indicates the alloy being majorly comprised of copper with a low percentage by weight of tin. I would also say that the second images provided of a very similar pommel have corrosion characteristics of arsenic-copper. It may still be a true bronze. But the source for the copper or in that case may have had a fair amount of arsenic contamination. Back then they wouldn't have been all that good at working such impurities out.

To be clear that doesn't mean that these can't be the same typo-logically. Just that there was a bad luck of the draw with one in smelting. But these are somewhat different alloys. Though likely made via the same process. Back then one just couldn't control as tightly as we can today even following the exact same prescription.

I mention this bit because people seem to have a tendency to think that the differences in patina between presumed same materials are down to preservation conditions. But unless we're contrasting say an ocean wreck recovery vs. a shallow dirt-dug recovery, this really is rarely the case. At least in coloration, same materials tend to corrode the same. It takes fairly drastically different conditions to get fairly drastically different patinas.

Last edited by Helleri : 10th November 2018 at 08:56 PM.
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Old 10th November 2018, 09:40 PM   #10
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Helleri, I plan on renting a portable XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence) unit in the near future to go through the entire collection. I will follow up with the elemental composition in this thread when I have that data. I expect you will be proven correct - it looks and feels like bronze.
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