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Old 25th December 2020, 11:12 AM   #1
AHorsa
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Default Huge southeast european battle axe

Merry Christmas to you all!!

this axe was described as southeast european 10th-14th century (as well as similar examples with half moon shaped blade). It is a pretty huge piece, measuring 33 x 25,5 cm. I like its archaic shape. The perforated cross could have been important for the people in that region at a time where the area was (and still is) the borderregion between Christian and Muslim world.
Sadly I can find only little information on that part of the world in the medieval time.
Does anyone of you have more information on this sort of weapons? Are there contemporary images / paintings showing soldiers/warriors wearing such a weapon?

Would be great if someone can give more information!

Best regards
Andreas
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Old 25th December 2020, 11:27 AM   #2
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Impressive piece, Andreas.
Hope you get some substantial info on this axe.
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Old 25th December 2020, 12:19 PM   #3
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That axe head looks fearsome!

Merry Christmas to you, and hope this is something Santa gave you.

I saw a sword with a perforated cross on the crossguard and polearms with trefoil perforations in the history museum in Ljubljana, Slovenia on a visit. Slovenia used to be known as Carniola, a Duchy of the Austrian part of Austro-Hungary. I think this axe may have come from the region of South Eastern Europe or possibly Poland that formed the line of defence against Ottoman expansion into Europe. The stakes were very high so arms and armour took very functional proportions in what was an existential struggle to people in the region. Not only were there regular invasion threats, but there were also constant slave raids by Ottoman irregular forces who abducted thousands of farmers and dwellers in the region and sold their captives for profit in the slave markets in Sarajevo and elsewhere.
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Old 25th December 2020, 12:28 PM   #4
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SE Europe? -Byzantine Emperor's Varangian Guard favoured large two handed axes. They lasted till the end of the eastern Roman Empire in Constantinople in 1453.
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Old 26th December 2020, 10:54 AM   #5
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Thanks a lot for your replies gentlemen!

Thanks for the image from the museum in Ljubljana, Victrix. Can you tell how the sword with the crosses on the crossguard is dated on the information-plate?

The link to the Byzantine empire is very interesting. If ound this image of the Varangian Guard, showing indeed a similar shape of the axes blade.

Is it possible that those half-moon shaped axe heads stem originally from the Indo-persian and Ottoman region (like the Tabar), then was adopted in the border regions (like Byzanz) and later in central europe (like you can see on this image: https://www.pinterest.de/pin/345580971384969527/ )?

Best regards
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Old 26th December 2020, 10:44 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AHorsa
Thanks a lot for your replies gentlemen!

Thanks for the image from the museum in Ljubljana, Victrix. Can you tell how the sword with the crosses on the crossguard is dated on the information-plate?

The link to the Byzantine empire is very interesting. If ound this image of the Varangian Guard, showing indeed a similar shape of the axes blade.

Is it possible that those half-moon shaped axe heads stem originally from the Indo-persian and Ottoman region (like the Tabar), then was adopted in the border regions (like Byzanz) and later in central europe (like you can see on this image: https://www.pinterest.de/pin/345580971384969527/ )?

Best regards
Andreas


The National History Museum of Slovenia sword in Ljubljana is 15thC Gothic. I also found a picture of halberds with perforated crosses in the Armoury in Graz, Austria. I would argue that the axe looks Central/East European. The perforated Latin cross and trefoil perforations look Gothic, and the beak looks Indo-Persian which you can sometimes find on Hungarian/Polish war hammers (Ottoman influence).

I’m not sure what arms the Varangian guards used, but they were Vikings (from my part of the world) and presumably used viking axes. At the later stages many Anglo-Saxons were recruited to the Varangian guard. The cross on the axe looks Latin to me, but perhaps there were used in Byzance also.
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Old 26th December 2020, 11:36 PM   #7
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Many Húskarls from the British Saxons relocated post 1066 to the Varangian Guard, they paid well. And took their large Dane axes with them. The bayaux tapestry shows them decapitating horses with them. The drawing above shows a variety of axes, including what i think may be Swedish style Viking axes, the ones with the heads on a sharp bend at the business end of the haft. The others look like a mix of styles. I found another Varagian guard illustrated with s crescent bladed axe and rear spike, but no crosses cut in it... Might have picked it up in his travels from Hastings. Maybe a son or grandson had the cross cut in or ordered a new axe...also showing is a double bladed Byzantine axe wit two crosses... And a single bladed one with a sq. hammer poll...

The Turks ended them in 1453 when they finally made it thru the formidable walls - by treachery I hear - and the last eastern Roman Emperor put on his armour and at the head of his guard charged the incoming Turks slaughtering many before disappearing from history. They never found his body.
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Old 27th December 2020, 10:37 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
Many Húskarls from the British Saxons relocated post 1066 to the Varangian Guard, they paid well. And took their large Dane axes with them. The bayaux tapestry shows them decapitating horses with them. The drawing above shows a variety of axes, including what i think may be Swedish style Viking axes, the ones with the heads on a sharp bend at the business end of the haft. The others look like a mix of styles. I found another Varagian guard illustrated with s crescent bladed axe and rear spike, but no crosses cut in it... Might have picked it up in his travels from Hastings. Maybe a son or grandson had the cross cut in or ordered a new axe...also showing is a double bladed Byzantine axe wit two crosses... And a single bladed one with a sq. hammer poll...

The Turks ended them in 1453 when they finally made it thru the formidable walls - by treachery I hear - and the last eastern Roman Emperor put on his armour and at the head of his guard charged the incoming Turks slaughtering many before disappearing from history. They never found his body.


I’m not too familiar with Byzantine arms and armour. Archaelogical finds suggest that vikings serving Constantinople often used their personal arms (swords and axes), but I can’t rule out that they were also issued Byzantine arms and seems logical that this was the case especially for palace guard and parade duties. Care should be taken in considering provenance of historical items.
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Old 27th December 2020, 11:19 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Victrix
... Care should be taken in considering provenance of historical items.


Especially with Vendor/Auctioneer descriptions that can be wildly wrong. Caveat Emptor
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Old 27th December 2020, 06:53 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Victrix
I’m not too familiar with Byzantine arms and armour. Archaelogical finds suggest that vikings serving Constantinople often used their personal arms (swords and axes), but I can’t rule out that they were also issued Byzantine arms and seems logical that this was the case especially for palace guard and parade duties. Care should be taken in considering provenance of historical items.


I think the regular army might have used local arms and armour.

In 2009 the axe on discussion and a couple of similar pieces wearing a cross were sold at Hermann Historica: http://www.hermann-historica-archiv.de/ Maybe it was a hoard?
I will write them a mail asking what made them locate it in southeast europe and if they have more information. Maybe they can remember.

Interesting to see a nearly identical axe on the foto from ebay / picclick. The seller is from Serbia. So it would fit the attributed region. The double bladed axe looks somehow odd. I don´t think it is a real piece.
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Old 27th December 2020, 09:48 PM   #11
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Red face

Quote:
Originally Posted by AHorsa
I think the regular army might have used local arms and armour.

In 2009 the axe on discussion and a couple of similar pieces wearing a cross were sold at Hermann Historica: http://www.hermann-historica-archiv.de/ Maybe it was a hoard?
I will write them a mail asking what made them locate it in southeast europe and if they have more information. Maybe they can remember.

Interesting to see a nearly identical axe on the foto from ebay / picclick. The seller is from Serbia. So it would fit the attributed region. The double bladed axe looks somehow odd. I don´t think it is a real piece.


Yes those ebay items look more dubious. I don’t think I would consider buying something “excavated” on ebay, especially not from Bulgaria and E.Europe. The item under discussion looks more interesting but probably wise to let an expert handle it in real life to verify it.

I attach another photo from Ljubljana of Schiavonesca swords which are massive in size. I think armed conflict in that region had very high stakes as mentioned previously, and that this is reflected in the scale and brutal functionality of the arms.
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Old 30th December 2020, 10:25 AM   #12
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Thanks for sharing your impressions from Slovenia!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Victrix
The item under discussion looks more interesting but probably wise to let an expert handle it in real life to verify it.


I am afraid that will be difficult as I don´t know an expert for axes, especially not in my area. I add more detailed images to this post. The traces of age look authentic to me, but most of you might have seen more than I did so it would be great to get your opinion. The weight is 945 gram.

Best regards
Andreas
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Old 30th December 2020, 05:00 PM   #13
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Looks like a good light (for it's size) thin battle blade, the thickening near the edge looks like an inserted harder high carbon steel edge in the lower carbon main body, or a harder blade section hammer welded to the rest..

It could be carbon dated but that's fairly expensive.
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Old 31st December 2020, 03:38 PM   #14
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Thank you Kronckew! Sounds good
The blade just appears thicker on the image because this part is nearer to the camera. But I think it could be another steel anyway as this part is not that affected by the rust pattern as the other half of the axe.
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Old 1st January 2021, 12:27 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
Looks like a good light (for it's size) thin battle blade, the thickening near the edge looks like an inserted harder high carbon steel edge in the lower carbon main body, or a harder blade section hammer welded to the rest..

It could be carbon dated but that's fairly expensive.


Can non-organic material be carbon dated?
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Old 1st January 2021, 06:49 AM   #16
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In spite of the first couple of Googled sources that say no, you can.

Radio Carbon Dating of Iron Objects
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Old 1st January 2021, 12:08 PM   #17
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The Franks used battle axes as well. Charlemagne expanded Christianity in the Pannonian region. Hence the Germanic/Gothic influence in that part of the world. Byzance through Constantinople exerted influence further South in South-Eastern Europe.

It would be interesting to learn more about Byzantic arms and armour, and how this is different (if it is) from Western European items. An obvious differentiating factor would be religious symbols (Greek Orthodox vs Catholic Latin) and linguistic inscriptions (Greek of East Rome vs Latin of West Rome). A complicating factor could be that I understand that Constantinople used foreign mercenaries extensively, and these may have used their own personal arms and armour.
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Old 3rd January 2021, 05:53 PM   #18
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Nice find Victrix!
Do you know more about this statue? Looks somehow romanticizing?

Cheers
Andreas


Quote:
Originally Posted by Victrix
The Franks used battle axes as well. Charlemagne expanded Christianity in the Pannonian region. Hence the Germanic/Gothic influence in that part of the world. Byzance through Constantinople exerted influence further South in South-Eastern Europe.

It would be interesting to learn more about Byzantic arms and armour, and how this is different (if it is) from Western European items. An obvious differentiating factor would be religious symbols (Greek Orthodox vs Catholic Latin) and linguistic inscriptions (Greek of East Rome vs Latin of West Rome). A complicating factor could be that I understand that Constantinople used foreign mercenaries extensively, and these may have used their own personal arms and armour.
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Old 3rd January 2021, 08:53 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AHorsa
Nice find Victrix!
Do you know more about this statue? Looks somehow romanticizing?

Cheers
Andreas


Statue of Charles Martel at château de Versailles in France, 19thC.

Read an article about Charles Martel, saw the illustration, spotted the axe.

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Old 4th January 2021, 05:16 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Victrix
Statue of Charles Martel at château de Versailles in France, 19thC.

Read an article about Charles Martel, saw the illustration, spotted the axe.


Karl der Hammer was essentially 'German'
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Old 28th January 2021, 07:26 PM   #21
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I just found this piece with very similar decoration:

https://www.fricker-historische-waf...-objekt-nr-6042

The description says "foot battle axe, German around 1600" but I guess it is a halberd.

Kind regards
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Old 28th January 2021, 07:44 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AHorsa
I just found this piece with very similar decoration:

https://www.fricker-historische-waf...-objekt-nr-6042

The description says "foot battle axe, German around 1600" but I guess it is a halberd.

Kind regards
Andreas

The Fricker axe looks more like a late knightly spike Poll-axe, with it's longer languettes on all 4 sides and side spikes. which were around 2 metres, halberds were usually a LOT longer. And heavier and thus had shorter languettes on 2 sides...Halberd heads Usually forged in one piece, Poll axes normally had the axe blade, top spike, rear spike or hammer separately welded to a central socket.

Aside from one being longer, they look fairly similar, but the use was much different. pollaxes (or poleaxes) were a knightly weapon used in one-on-one duels, used much like a quarterstaff with sharp bits. Halberds were a less noble arm used in pike formations by large men who guarded the flanks of pike formations, where a cavalry charge or attack by sword/axe weielding infabtry could devastate a pile formation. The Swiss used them to great effect against mounted Austrian knights in their own formations where the extra length and back hook pulled the shocked knight off his horse at which point the axe or spear put him out of his misery.

p.s. My 199cm. Pollaxe: poll in lieu of a back spike, languettes inlayed on all 4 sides of the haft. weighs in a bit under 2 kilos.
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Old 28th January 2021, 08:27 PM   #23
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Thanks for the remarks Kronckew! I think you are totally right, also taking into account the side spikes I didn´t recognise) and that would also fit Fricker´s description. Thanks for showing your nice example!
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