Swords, Daggers, and More

now playing on my iPod: Coward by Hayden Calnin

I recently skipped happily through the vast wonders of the British Museum and the Tower of London. It was a breathtaking day and I’d love to share some of the goodies I saw.  First comes the photo, then the description. Onward!

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Here are a lovely set of swords showing an early version of the leaf-shaped type of weapon. Swords of this time period in Hungary and beyond were usually decorated with geometric patterns. These are specifically from 1200-1050 BC, late Bronze Age, in Hungary.

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This shield was made from a single sheet of bronze and served only as parade armor. It was no good for actual fighting, but made its owner look seriously fantastic when gallivanting about town pre-ceremony. Often things such as this were left in wet places, such as rivers and bogs, as offerings to the spirit world. This one was found in Wales and dates somewhere between 1200 and 900 BC.

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I love this dagger. It had a very special metal hilt—odd for that period. This beautiful weapon, found in the River Thames, is most likely from 1700-1500 BC.

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Ah. The Battersea Shield. I longed to see this baby in person for years. And it is just as lovely as I knew it would be. This was also a ceremonial piece and is a great example of La Tène, or Celtic, art found in France and Britain. The shield formerly had a wooden base behind it to offer further support, but that rotted away, leaving only the metals and the fine red glass. A lucky fellow found this in the Thames and it dates from 350-50 BC.

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The Hallstatt C Swords are among the first iron swords made in Europe. They are delightful scary, don’t you think?

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Here are some more examples of La Tène work. These swords were found in France and also (of course) the River Thames. These swords with their double sharp edges and specific length are made for slashing rather than thrusting.

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This is an unusually small sword (who else has GoT’s needle on the brain here??) with a Viking-period hilt. The blade is decorated with crosses, vertical lines, circles, and a maker’s mark that indicates its quality.

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The Kirkburn Sword is probably the finest Iron Age sword still around. Animal horn, red glass, iron, and bronze decorate its hilt and sheath. From x-rays, experts can tell us the sword’s owners repaired the weapon several times and added many high-value details.

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This Highland targe is a little beaten up, but I think it only makes it more frighteningly wonderful. What battles did it see before Londoners displayed it in the Tower?

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The East India Company gifted this Indian Katar (dagger) to the Crown. It’s set up so you wiggle your hand between the supports and can thrust and slash as desired. Hindu religious scenes beautify the blade. If you squint hard enough, you can see Krishna playing a flute.

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Experts aren’t positive from where this fantastic mace hails. It is either Chinese or Mongolian. Maces like this were as important for indicating rank as they were as weapons. They worked nicely against armor. Better than swords, really. This one boasts a silver overlay and is most likely from the 14th century. 

I hope you enjoyed our trip into the violent past! Next up—helmets. See you then!

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