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Old 3rd May 2014, 02:41 AM   #1
Kerja
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Default XVI century matchlock and barrel, help with more precise dating

Dear Sirs,

I need help with dating of a couple of firearms related items found during Wenden (Cesis) castle excavations in Latvia. Both items were probably lost during or before the siege of the castle in 1577. During excavation a lot of armour parts dating 1500-1540 were found in the cellar parts of the castle.

The first item is a matchlock mechanism with a plate. It was unearthed in 1927 and sadly it did not survived till our time. The only thing is left of it is a quite blurry and unclear picture. It was not cleaned prior making photo so the details are unclear. I presume it is a snap tinderlock of about 1510-40's with side button trigger.

The second object is an arquebuse barrel, it was unearthed recently and cleaned and now is in the possession of Cesis museum, so, there is a possibility to get more photos and measurements if needed. It has a build in pan with it's cover missing and no tang. The caliber is about 14-15 millimeters and the length of the barrel about 62 centimeters. The profile is octogonal changing lines at about 1/3 from the rear. So, I would date the barrel of about the same period. On the rear side of the barrel are the outlines of the gunsmith mark and please also take a look at the muzzle part of the barrel, I have outlines the details of an ornament.

I would greatly appreciate any additional information and opinions about these items and the look of the whole arquebuses.
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Old 3rd May 2014, 11:17 AM   #2
Matchlock
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Hi Kerja,


You already know a whole lot on these objects, and your dating is quite correct!

This wrought-iron barrel and lock both can be safely dated to ca. 1530-50 - which means 'ca. 1540' - and doubtlessly originally belonged to snap-tinderlock Landsknecht (mercenary's) arquebuses. The tubular shape of the head of the tinderholder/serpentine is clearly identifiable.

The barrel is three-staged but without notable accentuation at the two transitions between the change of stages. The breech and long muzzle sections are octagonal, with a notable swamping at both ends. This form accounts for the date assigned by me, as in earlier times, which is ca. 1520-30, most barrels were visibly divided into two or three stages, including round and/or octagonal sections. The bore of your barrel should be ca. 14-16 mm, so the bore measure by you is absolutely typical. Above the breech is a deeply struck, unidentified quatrefoil maker's mark, possibly representing a cross; similar marks in the Late Gothic tradition are known from haquebut barrels. And there is another mark, a bit forward towards the muzzle: three deeply struck 'dots' forming a characteristic Late Gothic/Early Renaissance stylized trefoil (German: Dreipass), most probably struck as a scarce decorative element.

Somewhat unusual is the rectangular shape of the igniting pan - which almost certainly was dovetailed in a horizontal slot chiseled at the right-hand side of the barrel, in the touch hole area; the originally swiveling pan cover is missing but a rest of the riveted pivot should be visible.
During the first half to the middle of the 16th century, pans on tinderlock/matchlock arquebuses mostly were rounded, with a round and deep trough for the igniting powder. It is possible however that your barrel saw some re-use in later times, which is the Thirty Years War (1610-1648) when every older gun was re-used as long as it would still fire. In this case, the pan could be a 17th c. modernization.

Another important point is that the barrel certainly was sighted; the rear sight, now missing, may have been dovetailed right at the end of the top flat of the barrel, and there seems to be a remainder of the small blade foresight right at the forward end of the top barrel flat.

The shape of the lock plate, with its raised forward section, seems somewhat unusual at first glance; but in the reserve collection of the Historisches Museum Basel, Switzerland, is another snap-tinderlock arquebus, ca. 1540-50, with a very similar shaped lock plate (3 attachments).

Attached on top please find photos of such arquebuses. The photo of four depicts Landsknecht arquebuses from ca. 1520 (bottom), ca. 1525-30 (top), ca. 1540 (second from top) and dated 1539 (third from top).
Two of them, from ca. 1540
, are illustrated by close-ups to convey an impression of what the stock and the whole gun looked like. The wood used for these guns was mostly either pear wood or limewood. The stocks of the two arquebuses attached is limewood.
The one on top was made in Nuremberg/Bavaria and is dated 1539 on the barrel; the overall length of this gun is 112 cm, the bore is 16 mm.
The second was probably made in Suhl/Thuringia and the limewood full stock is branded with a plow, the arsenal mark of the town of Straubing/Lower Bavaria. Its barrel, octagonal throughout, with swamped rear and forward sections, is very similar to the one posted by you. This short arquebus is 94 cm long overall, the bore is 14 mm.
(First four attachments).

For more on these two arquebuses please see my threads:

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...necht+harquebus

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...necht+harquebus


Further information on tinderlock arquebuses and matchlocks is provided in my following threads:


http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ght=tinder+lock

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ght=tinder+lock

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ght=tinder+lock

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ght=tinder+lock

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ght=tinder+lock

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ght=tinder+lock

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...arrel+harquebus


At the bottom, and for comparison, I attached some views of a fine Italian (Tusco-Emilian) Landsknecht snap tinder- or matchlock arquebus of ca. 1525-35, in my collection. It features a three-staged, finely wrought barrel, the stages notably divided by filed Renaissance balusters.
More on it:
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...knecht+arquebus

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...t=barrel+prague




All author's photos.

Now have fun reading and studying, and I can hardly wait to see the photos of the other guns found! Please do post all of them!
I am really looking forward to learn more - both about and from! - , a person who is so good at dating these plain and early 'military' firearms as obviously you are! Most of the time it seems I am doing quite a lonesome 'job' here ...
Please tell us more soon - and do post tons of photos!


Best,
Michael
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Last edited by Matchlock : 3rd May 2014 at 09:44 PM.
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Old 3rd May 2014, 11:49 AM   #3
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More photos:

- the Straubing arquebus (3 attachments)

- the Basel arquebus (3 att.)
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Old 3rd May 2014, 09:07 PM   #4
Matchlock
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Now here I proudly present my finely wrought Italian, Tusco-Emilian snap-tinder-/matchlock Landsknecht arquebus of ca. 1525-35.
It is shown at the top on the photo of my four matchlock arquebuses.

For more on it, and on a similar but seven-bareled arquebus !!! in the Army Museum in Prague, please see my threads:

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...necht+harquebus

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...atchlock+prague


Best,
Michael
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Old 6th May 2014, 11:11 PM   #5
Kerja
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Hello Michael,

Thank you for your very kind words! And thank you very much for such a detailed answer! I will try to examine all the links on Sunday, when I will have a day free and might be I will have more questions and ideas.

I will also ask about the circumstances finding the barrel, where exactly it was found in the castle and what items were found near it. Because thetheory was that it was lost during the siege of the castle by Ivan the Terrible army, what was in 1577 what contradicts with the version of the 17th century modernisation of the pan.

Unfortunately, during the excavations there were almost no artifacts found which would be connected with early firearms. Most of the military related findings were the parts of body armour from about the same period as the barrel and lock. So we can speculate that during this period the armament of the castle was modernised.

I know of finding of two wheellock pistols, bullet mould and some bullets. If you have an interest, I can try to get some photos and descriprion.

Best regards and thank you once again for the information provided!

Kirill
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Old 7th May 2014, 10:22 AM   #6
Matchlock
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Hi Kirill,


Thank you for replying so comprehensively.

Yes, I would love to see all the material you can get on those wheellock pistols, the ball mold and the balls!

Could you please send me a PM (private message) on the forum? Just click on my user name 'Matchlock', and you will see the option 'Send Matchlock a private message'. That's it.
I would then reply the same way and provide you with my email, so you could send me all the photos in high resolution - which sadly is not possible on the forum.
Of course, I would ask you to post them here as well, in a thread of their own. I would comment then in detail, posting similar objects and giving a date for the items excavated.

Earliest European firearms and all kinds of related accouterments, ca. 1330-1700, are my field of special expertise.

If you are interested, just read my threads and have fun:
click on 'Matchlock', and you will see the option 'Find all threads started by Matchlock'. There are so many that I cannot remember ...


Best regards and wishes from Bavaria,
Michael

Last edited by Matchlock : 7th May 2014 at 03:04 PM.
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Old 10th November 2014, 05:53 PM   #7
Kerja
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Some additional information has poped up about the dating of the barrel. In excavation protocols is mentioned that in the same are, about 10 centimeters from the barrel the following coin was found. It is dated 1568 - 1592, so it is very likely that the barrel was lost during or right after the siege of 1577. No lated dated objects were found in the ground nearby those artifacts.
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