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Old 17th January 2011, 05:52 AM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default Sword Found at Wreck Site of Queen Annes Revenge

I just learned that there have been news releases heralding the discovery of 'Blackbeards sword' !!! Naturally this would normally be sensational news, but it would seem there is a great deal of optimism involved

I have been intriqued by the discovery of the wreck which was found off Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina Nov. 21,1996 since that time, and over the years often enjoyed communicating with one of the divers then working the wrecksite. For years the excavations continued, and there have been many thousands of artifacts discovered, the most notable being numbers of cannon. For years I hounded my friend and always teased him as I would see news releases and documentaries televised with them bringing up cannon, and kept asking, where are the swords?
Through all these years, none were found.

A little history on the Q.A.R. (Queen Annes Revenge), Blackbeards flagship.
In November of 1717, the French slaver 'LaConcorde' was captured by the band of pirates led by Blackbeard off the coast of Martinique. The ship was outfitted with numerous cannon, up to about 40, of varying size and origin.
As Blackbeard continued his depradations , by May 1718, he and a small flotilla of other pirate vessels blockaded Charleston harbor in a bold and notable predatory arrangement. As he was moving northward along the coast, he ordered the QAR to be careened at Topsail Inlet (now Beaufort) North Carolina. Apparantly the ship ran aground on a sandbar and was severely damaged. There are suggestions that this was deliberate as he had been contemplating surrender for pardon, and wanted to break up his pirate contingent. Whatever the case, the QAR was abandoned, and many of the pirates were dispersed, with Blackbeard and a smaller group moving on in the smaller 'Adventure'.
On November 22,1718, Blackbeard was killed in battle in the much storied event near Ocracoke, N.C.

It is known that pirates were of many nationalities, ethnic groups and walks of life, with little consistancy in thier manner of dress or of course thier arms. Naturally, the weapons used would have been of any type that could be obtained, regardless of means, and of an array that would probably correspond to those available in various ports of call or from whatever prizes that were taken. The weapons would have been selected for practical use, and heavy bladed weapons preferred, shorter for close quarters combat, as well as substantial hand protection...hence the images of shell and bowl type guards typically seen in illustrations, many actually rather fanciful.

I would like to observe the sword that has been found, and consider the possibilities of whether this would be contemporary with the wreck itself or possibly if it might be collateral to the wreck site and of later date. I do not know the details of exactly the circumstances of the discovery or its location in the site grids, but wanted to extend some observations for discussion.

We can be reasonably certain this is not 'Blackbeards sword' specifically, as it was found at a location where he and his men were abandoning the ship and dispersing. It was not a battle site, nor was the departure a hastily occuring event. It would seem the many cannon left behind were of much heavier bore (24 pounders) and likely the only ones taken were smaller to the smaller ship Adventure. There were however it seems a number of firearms components found, and that seems unusual, though perhaps these may have been some unservicable weapons, it is hard to say.

With regard to the type of sword Blackbeard would have used: It would have had to be a very stout bladed weapon, indeed of 'cutlass' type, but these were often heavy bladed hangers of the 17th century. During the battle in which Blackbeard was killed, it is noted that in a blow he broke the blade of Lt. Maynards sword, again suggesting the heavier nature of the type swords favored by pirates.

The sword we are seeing from the shipwreck is indeed a 'hunting sword' or cuttoe (couteau du chasse), and the alternating quillons are of a form seen on many sword forms from earlier times as well as these. However, in my opinion, the shape of the hilt with what appears to be spirally grooved horn seems more consistant with post 1718 swords of this type. On the lower angled quillon, there is an aperture which would have been for a decorative chain connected to the pommel cap. This also is an affectation which I would associate with slightly later hunting swords, and suggestive of a weapon far too delicate for use by pirates.

The sword itself was apparantly found in pieces and reassembled for the photos, which appeared in various news releases, and I have added for benefit of discussion. Whatever the case may be, it is exciting to see a sword of any kind brought up from the deep, and it is compelling to see it found in this context.

What do you guys think? Mark where are ya ?!!!

All the best,
Jim

P.S. Please note these illustrations are from online releases from various news sources and National Geographic and are shown for purpose of scholarly discussion only with exception of Blackbeard illustration, from Wikipedia.
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Old 17th January 2011, 05:03 PM   #2
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Default Boarders away!!

Hello Jim,
Thank you so much for posting the article and pics of this amazing find. Istumbled upon the find a week ago and was happy to see the the wreck is still turning up more and more evidence that this is in fact the Queen Anne's Revenge.
I personally think this sword does fit nicely into the time period, but very close to the first decase of the 18th century, as many of the stag-hilted examples of hangers can be placed. Hangers of this type seem to exist from the 1660's-1740's time period, with very similar types expanding out to the early 19th century, but lacking the form of earlier models. The hilt is exactly what I expected to see based on naval accounts and records of what constituted a 'naval sword' of the time period. I doubt this was Blackbeard's side-arm, but for one of his crew, it could have. What we do know is that one of the most popular models of sea swords of the time was this form of hanger, typical hunting type piece carried by both foot soldiers and naval men of the era. Stag-hilts were the popular fashion prior to the solid brass-hilted affairs (the grotesque dragon-hilted English "Houndslow"- types were also popping up in this time period, ca 1680-1710). Short, plain hangers were perfect for the tight quarters and boarding on constricted decks. It's interesting to note that the crossguard was found several years ago and just now the hilt (experts agree they are to the same sword, however).
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Old 17th January 2011, 05:41 PM   #3
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Oh boy, i can't say you guys have made my day
In my dreams i always expected that swords belonging to mythic pirate captains, 'venerable' Blackbeard included, were a lot more exuberant ... sturdy guards, short but sturdy blades, you know
A 'fragile' hanger like the one shown here by 'Captain Jim' would belong to a humble cabin-boy .
Pay no notice fellows, i am just just teasing you ... although partly i mean what i said .
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Old 17th January 2011, 05:59 PM   #4
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Yay! Captain Mark!!! I was anxiously awaiting you coming in on this, as this is just your thing!!! You have long established your expertise in all things maritime, and your perspective is just what was needed here.

I agree it is really a sort of fine line in establishing the development line of these hunting swords, and the alternating quillons were a fashion that has existed on many swords forms in various cultures for years prior. I think most of my attention was on the apparant presence of decorative chain from quillon to pommel cap in lieu of knuckleguard. Obviously this suggests a much lighter type sword than the stout bladed hangers of the Hounslow and later Shotley Bridge type of the latter 17th century. Also favored were the short heavy sabres of northern Europe, often colloquially termed 'Sinclair sabres'.

It does of course seem that this type of sword would certainly have been taken up as a prize, and would serve in some degree in close quarters action on board. With that, I must admit that this weapon being found (at last! in the grid or contiguous area of this fantastic wreck site does seem to suggest that it is indeed contemporary with it.

Naturally then, this begs the question, why would this sword have been left behind? When the QAR was being careened, accounts claim she was severely damaged in both timbers and cracking the mainmast. There does seem to have been some stress among Blackbeards contingent of pirates as there were offers of pardon on the table with provisions. This has led to the suggestions that the unfortunate disabling of the QAR may have been deliberate, and that it was set to prompt the dismantling of the pirate group.

Clearly if surrender was to be the case, this might have set the tone for a kind of 'laying down arms' to enhance the reception of the governor to more lenient terms. If the demeanor of the governor proved to be deceptive, then Blackbeard would have been better set for escape in the smaller and much faster ship.

Again, considerable materials were abandoned on the QAR, which primarily were the much larger cannon (many 24 pounders) which were completely too large and too many for the smaller ship. Many of these found were actually loaded I understand. There were among many sundry personal items which would seem to parallel the kinds of debris found in settlements occupied over time, perhaps simply lost or misplaced or just scattered about. If during the unfolding of this event abandoning the larger ship, there was dissent among the crew and participants, there may have been more attention involved in the activities and possible altercations between them.

If that kind of atmosphere was the case, perhaps the crew being left were either taken away from the site, or left in anger or any manner of those kinds of upset that might deter from organized collecting of belongings. It does seem that there are a significant number of firearm components found, and that servicable firearms would not have ordinarily been left.

Again, no edged weapons of any kind have been found until now. It has been suggested also that this item might have been 'inaccessible', perhaps either stashed away and forgotten, or perhaps even fallen into the recesses of the ship deep in a hold.

What type of motif is that seen here, thankfully preserved in brass and gilt, and what is needed is comparable example on other known swords. It this an English or French sword, as both favored this type cuttoe, in a style that was well known through the 18th century, but here establishing an even provenance than I had suspected.

Ah, the mysteries of the sea!!! We love them so!!!!!

All the best,
Jim
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Old 17th January 2011, 07:52 PM   #5
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Hello, Fernando. Good to hear from you on this one...

I think Jim is absolutely correct in pointing out that a heavy 'Sinclaire' cutlass or brass-hilted affair would have been to Cap'n Teach's liking. All I am suggesting is that I think this hanger could be contemporary with the wreck and was the type favored by seamen of the period along with other styles.

Jim, I do agree that the decorative chain and pierced quillons are typically toward the later 1740's period, but I'm not exactly sure when this type of design came into favor, so certainly 1710-1715 is within reason. This absolutely could have been an article picked up as booty vs a weapon worn by said pirates on the ship. As far as opinions go as to whether the ship was deserted on purpose by Teach, my personal opinion is that absolutely, it was. One only has to read the story of Bartholomew Roberts, said to be the quintessential 'king of pirates', to see this. When the pirate hordes had become too much for any one captain to tame, it was every man for himself and take what booty one could. Certainly, we see this with Blackbeard's behavior in other events in his life (A must-read is Kevin Duffus 'The Last Days of Blackbeard the Pirate', Looking Glass Press).

My personal opinion is that this sword was probably just one of the sundry weapons left aboard that didn't hold much value to those trying to be rid of the ship. Pirates were known to carry an assortment of armaments, such as bandoliers of pistols, several swords, a dirk, etc, so a sword of this type could easily have been lost in the shuffle. The fact that few swords have been retrieved is also pretty typical of shipwrecks in salt water. I have been searching many shipwreck sites these last few years online looking for information on barshot/chainshot. The one thing that struck me about most was the absence of swords, save for an occasional pommel here, guard there or an occasional encrusted example. For that matter, most of the guns just consist of their scattered parts.

For those interested in source material I list some examples. These have the typical extended side guard.

P.G.T. Annis 'Naval Swords', pg 24, #5. A hunting sword, c.1700. Note the portait of Sir John Benbow (1701) holding said sword.

Harvey Wither's ' World Encyclopedia of Swords and Sabers', pg 139 English hanger, c, 1680, pg 140, English/German hanger, c.1690.

The one that is a near exact match to our shipwreck find is in Leslie Southwick's 'Price Guide to Antique Edged Weapons' (a rare book these days) pg 156, ex. 432-English silver-hilted hanger with up/down quillon, flat pommel cap, stag grip and no knuckle or side guard. Silver hallmarks on this sword show about 1690 (our time period). It does not, however, have decorative chain or pierced quillon.Similar examples of stag hilts in Southwick's book, all of the period 1690-1710, include plates 431, 433, 436.

Ahhh, its good to talk 'pirate' again, mates.
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Old 18th January 2011, 01:07 PM   #6
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Guys, i feel like a midget between you two monsters of knowledge
I just dare to come in to provide some quorum to the thread, hoping not to pee much out of the pot with my adventurous approaches.
Let me attach here some engravings from my GREAT BOOK OF PIRACY AND CORSO, as a support to my fantasy of a Pirate sword form.
Worthy of note, although not necessarily a factual evidence is that, some of these engravings were made in the period, namely those of Bartolomeu Portugues, Rock Brasiliano and Francisco Lolonois, as illustrations depicted in the work written by Exquemelin, a XVII century pirate surgeon.

.
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Old 18th January 2011, 05:40 PM   #7
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Avast there Nando! Thank you for adding those wonderful illustrations of our colorful subjects, and I have seen and admired those very pictures so many times over more years than I can say. Also, thank you for the kind words, but as I'm sure Capt. Mark will agree, we are all students on these subjects learning together.

I am presently amidst literally sea of notes, books and articles as I have been working since this thread began to find any evidence whatsoever to corroborate the period of this sword hilt found in the QAR wreck site. I entirely agree that that very stipulation is compelling indeed to suggest that it is contemporary with the wreck, but to me the most telling and equally perplexing feature, is that pierced quillon terminal for a decorative sword chain in lieu of knuckleguard.

I have gone through AVB Norman, Blair, Peterson, Gilkerson, Annis, Blackmore, Nuemann and sheaves of notes that date back into the 90s, even correspondence with the curator of the museum where the QAR wreck project began back in 1996-97. Thus far the earliest evidence I can find for this affectation is in the 1740s, and even then, not popularized until about the 1770s.

In "Edged Weapons" (Frederick Wilkinson, 1970, p.94) he notes, "...during the latter part of the 18th century another style of grip became popular. This was often of stained ivory, usually spirally fluted and swelling gradually from the quillons to the pommel, which was often capped with a cast silver head.
Quillons were usually small terminating in a globose swelling and often slightly curved. Some were fitted with a light chain from the pommel cap down to the quillon".

Howard Blackmore describes 'hunting swords' and thier use in his 1971, "Hunting Weapons" where he notes on p.28 that English hangers (of the 17th century) now labelled as hunting swords may have been made originally as military sidearms for military defense. In orders of 1682, hangers for gunners are 'scimitars with hartshorne handles, brass shells and guards'.
In those times the terms hanger; cutlass and hunting sword seems to have been semantically interpolated....with even 'scimitar' added to confuse the mix.
He describes further the denigration of the hunt toward the end of the 17th century, where it evolved into gala events where animals were literally herded into huge estate arenas for the conquering gentry to dispatch.
These events brought more attention to fashion than practicality, and in one note he states the stag or buckhorn grips which were so appropriate and sensible in the 16th and 17th century were now discarded. Into the 18th century the swords were more the work of jewellers and artisans than swordsmiths, and of the gentry, "..thier swords and other accessories seemed litle more than tinsel trappings" (p.30).
On p.31 he notes the comments of Bashford Dean (1929) who describes these as degenerate court swords, ineffective for defense and clearly not intended for action, merely dress adornments of the 18th century, far from the functional weapons of the 16th and 17th century.

It is important to note that while is seems agreed, this sword certainly is not of 'combat' grade and most likely if it was indeed on the QAR it would have been a prize or loot, the weapons used by pirate crews were of the type of functional weapons noted. There have been other examples of the hangers actually used found on other wrecks.

A hanger with staghorn grip and shellguard with knucklebow was found on the wreck of the Henrietta Marie (sank 18 May 1700 off Jamaica). This was an English slaver, and the blade as well as most of the sword survived in heavy concretion. According to David Moore (pers. comm. apr. 1997) this was recovered in 1972 or 73, and sketches show a 'running wolf' on the blade.

I should note here that contrary to popular belief, the running wolf mark had virtually ceased in Germany by the latter part of the 17th century, and was being used by German swordsmiths in England where these hangers were produced. This would date the sword c. 1680s-90s.

In P.G.W. Annis ("Naval Swords", 1970 pp.24-25) the 'hunting sword' shown (and compared to the portrait of Capt. John Benbow in 1701) is of the same type shown from the wreck of the Henrietta Marie. It is with brass hilt and staghorn grip, and as with nost of these kinds of hangers, with knuckleguard.
In "Weapons of the Pirates and Buccaneers 1665-1725" (Peter Copeland, Man at Arms Vol. 4 #1, Feb 1982) in discussing the sailors 'cutlass', he notes that "...the knucklebow began to be seen more often mounted on hunting swords as the 17th century drew to a close". The article is focused mostly on the artistic license and often fanciful depictions of pirate weaponry.

It seems that throughout these references, the hunting type swords used in these times and in the period for years prior to the QAR wreck invariably were with knuckleguards, shellguards or both.

Returning to Wilkinson (op.cit. p.94) he notes that the swords with light chains "..seem to have been particularly popular in the North American colonies" however, it seems the American versions were typically with lionhead, doghead or eagle head and these all seem silver mounted.All of the examples I checked (H. Peterson, "The American Sword"), were of c. 1770s period.

I returned to Nuemann ("Swords and Blades of the American Revolution") which though a reference to that period, shows weapons of many countries dating back as far the the 17th centuries used in that conflict. I found that two examples of c.1700, both English, both with staghorn grips and both had knucklegaurds, with the note that these were favored by English naval officers, one had a brass hilt, one silver.
There was an open hilt hunting sword with very similar shaped quillons to our example in discussion in brass and shown as European c. 1750-60, the hilt was dark material but not horn and no chain nor piercing.

The examples I found with chain guards were 6 English, 1 American, all ranging in date from the earliest c.1740 to as late as 1780. All appear to have been silver mounted, variation in quillons etc considerable, but all using the decorative chain guard.

In Aylward ("Smallsword in England", 1945) there was one example c.1780 with chainguard on a smallsword.

Again, it must be considered that this sword hilt is situated in an area which has been subject to considerable maritime traffic and activity in subsequent times as it would have been later in the 18th century. I would like to make clear that in no way do I question the professionalism of those who have presented these sword remains when they were found, and I am certain that they are evaluating the same kinds of considerations I am presenting here.
There are many possibilities for how this sword might have entered the field of the wreck site, and they are better versed at those factors. I am simply viewing the sword hilt we are discussing in comparison to comparable examples of similar weapons in assessing the possible period of the piece.

I hope this information might be found interesting and lead to more thoughts and ideas regarding this fascinating find. I am offering these research results which I have compiled to serve as a benchmark for further discussion, and as always, welcome any and all comments, criticism and rebuttal.

All best regards,
Jim

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Old 18th January 2011, 05:58 PM   #8
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Nice pics, Fernando. These from Exquemelin are some of my favorites. Without any question, the clamshell guarded cutlass of this period is one of the quentessential types used by pirates, but another way of looking at it is that the pirate, just like any other 'warrior tribe', carried a variety of weapons on their person at any given time. When one thinks of a samurai, they could be carrying a huge tachi, mid-size katana, plus a tanto or two. Or perhaps that day, they might have been armed with a naginata or iron fan. The point is, a pirate in particular often armed himself (or herself) with whatever they had access to. Undoubtedly, in a crew of hundreds that these floating armies encompassed, there were a variety of swords. Likewise, sometimes one type of arm was more preferable to another based on the environment. For example, you have a pic of O'Lolonais the mad-man. He was one of the true buccaneers of the 17th century. The buccaneers were unique in that they sailed the coasts of Central and South America attacking mostly land fortifications and cities of colonial Spain. Their attacks often consisted of long marches through treacherous swamps and jungles to reach their objective. One could question whether a large Sinclair saber would be practical in the thick foliage. Artists of the time period used what they knew were the most popular types of arms of the era, but not necessarily the exact ones worn by the famous. This was common even with naval officers who sat for portaits. We see British naval admirals wearing cuirass breast-plates in many of these, which was strictly for impressive effect. Finally, perhaps the lead figures such as Teach did carry the huge blades of old, but the many minions often carried what was practical.
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Old 18th January 2011, 08:45 PM   #9
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Well put Mark, it really is interesting to try to fathom what types of swords the 'pirates' really did use. As noted there is a genuine semantics problem when describing these weapons, and excited, dramatized accounts of contemporaries certainly helped embellish the perceptions that became the romaticized figures known today. The terms hanger, cutlass and hunting sword might have all been used to describe the same weapon, and even the ficticious term scimitar came into use.

The accounts describing Blackbeards sword as a falchion, suggest it might have had some type of clipped point or exaggerated tip blade, but again, the use of these terms led to the larger than life imagined swashbuckling cutlass of pirate lore.

In the 17th century, the short and stout bladed heavy sabres known variously as 'dusagge' in Europe often had huge shell guards, many which led to the very nautical themed scallop shell type. The term often used for these due to another popularized tale is the 'Sinclair Sabre', actually a misnomer but well known just the same.

In England, the hangers about mid 17th century were those which later evolved into hunting type sabres, and often termed Hounslow swords, for the location in England where expatriate Solingen swordsmiths made them. These were the heavier bladed swords often with varying types of shellguards and the pommels with a cap and snouted effect, and knuckleguard. By later in the century, many of these type swords were being made in another German associated enterprise at Shotley Bridge, also near London. Many of these are known with the familiar running wolf mark, and often they are seen which sawtooth backs on the blade. As hunting hangers, these were believed to be used in the drsssing of game.

By the later part of the 17th century, the heavy shellguard 'cutlasses' or hangers or Sinclair sabres, or whatever they were called....had given way in large part to the lighter staghorn grip hangers we are discussing in England and America at least. The variety of weapons used with vessels of other countries of course would be inclusive of whatever edged weapons were available, and serve the purposes required.

Heavy bladed, short sabres were of course well placed in the jungle or thick brush environment described, and this is how the espada ancha evolved in New Spain in the 18th century, becoming the machete by the 19th and to present times.

The pirates were all about psychological effect, and Im sure that a sword with a formidable looking blade would have presented a threatening image, so that might have come in to degree. But for the most part, these guys seem to have tried to avoid actual combat. It really is interesting to imagine just how theatrical these figures really were, not much different than today with all of the bizarre appearance and festooning with tattoos we see in everyday culture.

Many of the 'pirates' were actually at one time likely actually sailors whether aboard royal ships, or aboard merchant vessels. In many cases piracy was practiced under the umbrella of the 'letter of marque' where they were authorized to prey upon enemy shipping by thier sovereign. This rather unorthodox license to outlaw behavior often became misinterpreted, and with unfortunate results, as in the case of the 'notorious' Captain Kidd.

While many of the pirates may have been 'rabble' and unfamiliar with any kind of swordplay, many of these seasoned veterans must have had some degree of experience and were probably valuable in sharing thier practical knowledge among crews.

You're right Mark, it is fun to talk pirates again !!

attached are a 'dusagge' or Sinclair sabre and Captain Kidd

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 19th January 2011, 01:53 PM   #10
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Hello gents, sorry I was away for awhile.

Jim, you bring up an excellent point concerning the evolution of the espada, from its ealy broad-bladed beginning to the classic forms of the later 19th century. It brings back the argument for me concerning the Brazilian espada cutlass we've discussed as far as practicality of it being a true horseman's saber vs a possible naval sword. I don't wish to digress from the present discussion, so I'll save that one for another time-

I am in agreement that after carefully perusing through Neumann, Gilkerson, Moore, Wilkinson-Latham, etc, you are spot-on that the style of this sword is probably too late for our time period. The ONLY example I did find, as mentioned, was in Soutwick with hall-marks around 1690. The hilt on it matched ours, but no drilled quillon hole. Likewise, as you point out, this style of sword had not really caught on yet.

The one quesion I'm not so sure of is whether this example might have had a shell-guard at one time? Looking back over the records, the QAR divers found the guard quite a bit earlier and this hilt in September, 2010. There is no absolute conclusion that they are from the same sword, per say. Anyway, just thinking aloud.

The Outer Banks are truly the Graveyard of the Atlantic and this hilt could easily have been from another wreck. It would be interesting to see the evolution of these hangers, though, from examples presented from earliest to latest period. Many of the previously mentioned books show examples, but not in descending order, nor encompassing the periods from hangers via 1650 to 1850. The earliest indeed had shell-guards and side plates, with very rough bumpy stag grips. Later examples had smooth, sanded stag, and in the 1770s on, were see the stained green and sometimes other garish stained colored grips. The 19th century forms of true hunting swords/hirshfangers still had shell guards and stag grips, emulating all those earlier forms, but the fittings were very straight/linier, with much decoration to the hilts/blades. Annis indicates that with the 18th c. hangers, it seemed that the plainer, unmarked versions were more popular with naval-men, with perhaps only an etched anchor on the blade.

Hopefully, more may turn up on this wreck to get a clearer picture of what Blackbeard and his crew might have really carried.
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Old 19th January 2011, 06:10 PM   #11
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Hi Mark,
Thank you so much for responding! It appears we are indeed a limited crew still interested in pirates and things nautical, yo ho ho so its great that you and I can discuss this intriguing topic.

Thanks for the note on the espada, and that would be a great subject to review futher under separate cover.

I want to emphasize again that I am in no way questioning the QAR wreck, nor its identity as Blackbeards ship. I personally believe that it is, and the only element of doubt is present simply because from an empirical standpoint, there can be no conclusive declaration issued without finite proof. At this point even with the staggering volume of artifacts found, there are none that can be unequivocally attributed to the QAR, only circumstantially. David Moore is a brilliant and intrepid nautical archaeology scholar, and I believe that one day he will find the proof he needs. It seems strange saying this as when he and I talked back when the wreck project began in 1996, I wished him well thinking it would be just a short time until proof was found.

Even with this sword hilt, I honestly wanted it to be from QAR. As I mentioned before, I had pestered these guys for years to 'find me some swords!, and teased them because they kept dragging up cannons.
With this hilt, it is amazing how a simple deliberate hole in a quillon can be so monumental in placing estimated date on a hilt, but these kinds of details are often key. I can recall one of the projects related to wreck diving involved the screws in the hilt elements, and establishing some chronology there.

I think probably one of the most confounding things in strategic excavation of a wreck site must be the debris deposited into the field of the site during storms and current deviations. With these kinds of conditions there must be considerable degree of movement of strata carrying with it various materials and items. In this, I really have been playing devils advocate, and hoped that somewhere out there among readers there might be someone who knew of provenanced examples of swords with the chainguard feature in earlier period than I was finding.

As I noted, in the many references I checked, all by recognized authorities on edged weapons, all indications have been that the chainguard was an element that became popular as the hunting sword became a 'degenerate court sword', as derisively described by Bashford Dean in 1929. By the mid 18th century, the hunt had devolved largely into a fashion event in many areas, and elegance in weaponry was de riguer.

Regarding the possible presence of shellguard on this example, I would think it unlikely. There does not appear to be an area of attachment to the quillon block from what I can see, and it would seem if attached otherwise, there would be remnants present . Still the ever present aperture for the chain cries out
Also, in looking at this hilt, it seems that the grip reflects spiral rotation in the material, which looks more like ivory as it seems somewhat opague, perhaps after that many years of immersion. Much of it is covered by the concretion, but it doesnt seem like staghorn. If is is of the ivory, which would seem to correspond as well with the gilt type jewellery effect, then it would further secure later date.

Thank you Mark for keeping the discussion going, and along with you, we'll wait for further developments.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 21st January 2011, 11:21 AM   #12
M ELEY
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Jim, you bring up an excellent point of what Blackbeard's sword probably really looked like in the form of a clipped falchion such as this one-

http://www.thomasdelmar.com/Catalog...0/lot0113-0.jpg

When we look at Fernando's pic of Blackbeard above, created around the same period, note the hilt is of the grotesque animal head type. We've discussed the Houndslow type, which probably mimiced some of the early Dutch pieces, which possibly took their forms from kastanes (the Dutch EIC being in Ceylon during the Anglo-Dutch Wars certainly influenced some of their sword styles). Here are a few of similar type and of the period Blackbeard might have taken a liking to...

http://www.thomasdelmar.com/Catalog...0/lot0120-0.jpg
http://www.thomasdelmar.com/Catalog...0/lot0114-0.jpg

Here is a similar style to the one found, but in silver and last quarter of the 17th century, no quillon hole-

http://www.thomasdelmar.com/Catalog...0/lot0124-0.jpg
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