Jacob Tkalec

Forged Ancient Weapons (PIC HEAVY)

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I'm currently studying to be an archaeologist in college. My professor has an extensive collection of artifacts and I decided that today would be a good day to take photographs of any ancient and forged items he had available. I took quite a number of photographs, and I've inserted some below to show what exactly is available. I'll attach two zip files at the end with all of the photos.

The purpose of this is to give people a high-definition look at some ancient forgework, and hopefully get some insight into how things were done.

The topic is intended to discuss the different forging techniques used in the items (hopefully) and provide others with the information needed to reproduce similar items.

My job is taking the photos and sharing them with you. I can give origins and general dates, although I need to ask around and do some research on most of these for more specific dates.

First up we have a Roman spear point from approximately 4th century. (I'll update dates for accuracy when I find definite numbers)

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Next we have an older spear point that is Roman as well.

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Following the Roman trend we have a camp axe head.

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Another axe head (unsure of use. I didn't think to ask around with people more knowledgeable of Mediterranean/European artifacts, my specialty is Colonial America.

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Two Roman arrow points of different designs, both forged. I had several others available that were much smaller and designed for the Visigoth chainmail, I can get pictures of those if anyone would want them.

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Three arrow points from Kiev, Ukraine. Medieval period (most accurate I could get) and possibly Viking.

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A Celtic axe from Gaul, contemporary with the Roman camp axe. Bronze.

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All photos copywrite of my lovely girlfriend Ms. Shepherd. :) Credit where credit is due please.

Permission has been provided by the copyright holder to use the photographs. Photo credit to Alison Shepherd.

Artifacts 1.zip

Artifacts 2.zip

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When I was in Europe I purchased a renaissance german bodkin point crossbow bolt head. The seller was amazed that I wanted the more corroded example. As it showed by the grain in the wrought iron *how* the piece had been forged from the original stock *I* thought it was the best one of the lot!

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Well. Take a look at the photos. We did the best we could in the 15-30 minutes we had in the room with all the artifacts. Lighting was poor but we got quite a number of photos of each piece from different angles. I'm hoping to get some insight on how they were forged, in particular. I'm completely new to blacksmithing really and I want to get some insight from those more experienced in the field. Maybe looking at it with the eye of a blacksmith will afford more information on an archaeological level as well.

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Jacob,

Thank you so much for posting the great pics. Very well done. I appreciate your efforts to share.

Mark<><

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I assume the poster wants a discussion of the forging technique so I will give it a try. The camp axe seems the easiest to describe. A bar was split about an inch from the end ( end on the right in the picture)and a drift was used to form the hole for the handle. The sides of the hole were spread with a cross pein while the drift was in the hole for back up.The ears formed this way made for a better handle to head connection.
The bar was spread on the bit end with the cross pein. I cant tell but a high carbon bit was probably welded to the bit area. It was either welded in a split at the bit end or on one side of the cutting edge. This is pretty much the way it is still done today.
I hope this is what the poster wanted. Feel free to add any clarifications or corrections.
Are the spear heads in the early pictures bronze which was poured in a mold?
Bob

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All artifacts shown were hand forged. Everything would've been forged from iron with the exception of the bronze celtic axe head. Thank you ChiChi for your contribution. That was exactly what I was hoping toget.

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on the spear heads can you look for seams in the socket ?if they are there can you get a picture of the seam ? the usual method of makeing a socket is to form and wrap and forge welded (sometimes) or leave a seam .

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Ahh, forge welding of real wrought iron was a more common technique than slitting in drifting in the artifacts I have seen. Any evidence of such in the "camp axe".

Note too that lighter axes were often weapons and heavier ones were often wood working. I've know people to almost swallow their chaw when they find out how *small* horsmen's hammers actually were. Kinetic energy goes up proportionally to the square of the velocity so smaller and faster was often a better choice than larger and slower---also allows you to wield it longer and be able to block and change direction faster too.

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No sir. It's an odd piece in that they fitted a dowel or an L shaped piece of wood in the end and used it that way. Not sure why that is so, but I'm very confident that is how it was used. Otherwise having the 2 inch (approx) deep circular mount on the end is pointless and detrimental to being used as a wedge.

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Interesting pictures. Our interests are similar(I am an archaeologist)so you may find my article on nail manufacture and chronology useful. It was first published as "Nail Chronology: The use of Technologically Derived Features," in Historical Archaeology (1998, 32(2):78-99). The article was reprinted in APPROACHES TO MATERIAL CULTURE, Research for Historical Archaeologists, 2nd edition, Compiled by David R. Brauner, published in 2000.

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No sir. It's an odd piece in that they fitted a dowel or an L shaped piece of wood in the end and used it that way. Not sure why that is so, but I'm very confident that is how it was used. Otherwise having the 2 inch (approx) deep circular mount on the end is pointless and detrimental to being used as a wedge.


possibly used with a handle like this?

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No sir. It's an odd piece in that they fitted a dowel or an L shaped piece of wood in the end and used it that way. Not sure why that is so, but I'm very confident that is how it was used. Otherwise having the 2 inch (approx) deep circular mount on the end is pointless and detrimental to being used as a wedge.



Jacob,

I have a question about the bronze "axe" being contemporary with the roman camp axe. Hadn't the Celtic people moved into the iron age by the time the Romans arrived?

That aside, If you look at modern coopering tools you will find some iron hoop drivers with a wooden insert that is hit instead of the iron bit. It saves on weight and is replaceable where the iron bit will show signs of wear and tear. It is not implausible the bronze head would have be done the same to save on wear and tear. I have seen the l-shaped handle on early bronze axes as you have discussed also. Didn't those axes have ears so the head could be tied onto the handle? I will have to hunt and see if I have a picture from the British museum with the bronze axes there.

Thanks for bringing the pictures along.


Brian Pierson

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Jacob,

I have a question about the bronze "axe" being contemporary with the roman camp axe. Hadn't the Celtic people moved into the iron age by the time the Romans arrived?

That aside, If you look at modern coopering tools you will find some iron hoop drivers with a wooden insert that is hit instead of the iron bit. It saves on weight and is replaceable where the iron bit will show signs of wear and tear. It is not implausible the bronze head would have be done the same to save on wear and tear. I have seen the l-shaped handle on early bronze axes as you have discussed also. Didn't those axes have ears so the head could be tied onto the handle? I will have to hunt and see if I have a picture from the British museum with the bronze axes there.

Thanks for bringing the pictures along.


Brian Pierson


It doesn't matter where they've moved along to in the technological progression, you still find them using metals that are softer for various reasons. We've had steel for quite a long time but you still find them alongside iron and even bronze items.

All I can say is that it ix bronze. It's classified as a celtic socketed axe.

As for the exact date, I have no earthly idea. I don't know where it was found. All I know is what I'm told by the archaeologist who let me photograph it.

Here is a website that offers more detailed information on how a socketed axe was used (this one is iron, but it offers several pictures as well).
http://www.adventurehistory.com/selectedfinds/catalogue/0500iron/

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Bronze was still a popular metal in much of the world along with stone, as iron was still the "new" expensive technology at this time. I can assure you that it is an axe and not just a camp axe, this was made for one of two purposes, either it was intended to penetrated deeply into the body of an enemy or it was use as a hafted chisel. I have poured bronze for an archaeologist who had made some stone molds to see how had it was to make the various implements of the Bronze Age. He was gifted at making stone molds but was terrified of molten metal. We made hammers, axes and chisels of silicon bronze, it pours like water, unlike traditional tin based bronze that has problems with gas. These hammers and axes were all hafted with branches that were taken from mulberry trees where the angle was around 60 degrees, a good angle for hammer or chopping. If this were a war axe it would need to have a small cutting area to maximize the force of penetration whereas an axe for cutting wood will have a broader edge. A chisel will have a narrow blade and a straight haft that is struck by a hammer. So when did the Bronze Age end? It hasn't as long as it is still being worked, however it is no longer the dominate metal, just one of many. :blink:
http://www.archaeometallurgie.de/rekonstruktion/blechbearbeitung.en.html

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Bronze was still a popular metal in much of the world along with stone, as iron was still the "new" expensive technology at this time. I can assure you that it is an axe and not just a camp axe, this was made for one of two purposes, either it was intended to penetrated deeply into the body of an enemy or it was use as a hafted chisel. I have poured bronze for an archaeologist who had made some stone molds to see how had it was to make the various implements of the Bronze Age. He was gifted at making stone molds but was terrified of molten metal. We made hammers, axes and chisels of silicon bronze, it pours like water, unlike traditional tin based bronze that has problems with gas. These hammers and axes were all hafted with branches that were taken from mulberry trees where the angle was around 60 degrees, a good angle for hammer or chopping. If this were a war axe it would need to have a small cutting area to maximize the force of penetration whereas an axe for cutting wood will have a broader edge. A chisel will have a narrow blade and a straight haft that is struck by a hammer. So when did the Bronze Age end? It hasn't as long as it is still being worked, however it is no longer the dominate metal, just one of many. :blink:
http://www.archaeometallurgie.de/rekonstruktion/blechbearbeitung.en.html


Great post. :) From what I've learned about these axes they were used as common tools and weapons of war. I guess you could say similar to a bow or spear.

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Celtic and other early axe and adze heads were often socket-style mounted with handy tree limb forks, easily replaced. They are still done that way in the third world. Here is a modern repro from someone who posts on Don Fogg's forum.

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