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By David. 

Photos by tommy-fake

11th January 09


An analysis of a bronze sword.



The blade and hilt did not start life together; but it's even  worse than that. 



First, it would be very helpful to understand how this type of sword was made.  Then the anomalies will jump out at you. 


Although the daggers and a few of the swords of this style were made in one piece, the vast majority were made in two pieces.  The blade was cast (not wrought) first.  It may or may not have a rivet hole in the tang and/or two rivet holes at the base of the blade near the tang.  The hilt was then cast ONTO the blade.  This was accomplished by inserting the tang end into the mould, or more probably, building the mould around the base of the blade, and then pouring in the molten bronze through the pommel end.  The molten metal not only formed the hilt, but it also fused the tang securely in place within the hilt.  When finished, the sword seemed to be just one piece.  It made little difference whether the tang was short (the blade was still solidly fused to the hilt) or longer - it could even be so long as to protrude out the bottom of the pummel, in which case a third step would be to hide the end of the tang with a boss of some kind on the pummel.  Yes, in 1000 BC and earlier, the bronze smiths of the Luristan area had outstanding abilities.  They were well known for their quality of weapons.




Armed with the above, you can now look at the hilt. The blade was not even with the hilt.  That can't happen.  The two were aligned perfectly when fused together and there would be no slippage.  Immediately one is alerted to the fact that this is a "marriage".  Also ask yourself if the blade style and hilt style are of the types  one would expect to see together. Here,  the blade would have at least one strong midrib (if not three), and should not be a flat blade. 


The bronzesmith FUSED the two together.  Someone today who has a blade without a hilt and hilt without a blade, and wants to make a sword out of them, will most probably not have a forge at his disposal.  He will use an epoxy, liquid weld, or whatever to stick them together.  The file marks here are probably the result of filing away the excess glue (of whatever kind) that got squeezed out from under the penannular part  where the blade meets the hilt and carelessly allowed to harden rather than being cleaned off when wet. 




What are the slits were through thesides of the penannular portion?  When this type of sword was made, there would be no slits since the molten metal would fill in that part of the mould.  However, if one has a blade and a hilt and wants to put them together, how would he get the blade into the hilt?  The bronze smith cast the hilt onto the blade.  Today's fiddler would have to make a horizontal slit through both sides of the penannular in order to fit the blade into the hilt.  No, those slits should not be there.     


The fact that the hilt is hollow in the centre is no problem.  Many were tubular.  The larger the circumference  of the hilt, the more likely it was to made hollow.  Remember, the average person at this time was less than 5 feet tall.  To make the hilt heavier than necessary would mean that the wielders arm would tire more quickly.


The pummel is a modern fantasy.  The real pommels were cast as part of the hilt (or if the pommel was a very thin disc, it would cast separately and attached later).  This pummel was "turned" and has circular ridges on it.



 Look at this bright colour where someone has flecked off some of the incrustation......oops.  When copper based alloys (bronze and brass) are left for a time out in the open with no protection, they will tarnish.  What is happening is that the very top layer of molecules is combining with the oxygen in the air to form cupric oxide (and/or other oxides).  This is a fairly hard layer and it protects the rest of the metal below from any further deterioration.  If the object receives some incrustation, this very thin dark layer still protects the metal beneath.  Of course, if there is a very strong acid or base in the air or on something that comes to rest on the object, then that layer could be broken or eaten through and the good metal below attacked.  Normally that does not happen much.  You might easily fleck off some of the incrustation  for small areas of real incrustation, but probably not the large area shown here.  Mother Nature has spent a long time cementing that incrustation to the object.  It will take a little elbow grease to clean it off.  AND, when you clean it off, you will have that dark layer of cupric oxide looking up at you...NOT as shiny surface.  What one  sees here is fake incrustation put on a modern bronze pummel before the bronze even had a chance to tarnish.


The glassy areas are no doubt where our faker applied too much heat (perhaps from his blow torch) and ended up fusing some of the silica in the sand he was using for his incrustation. 

I think it is important to try to fully understand WHY a certain aspect is not right, and what that aspect SHOULD look like.  We are talking about a sword here, but much of the above applies to other ancient bronze pieces. 



Have a look here too, in the section Migration Period and Viking swords.