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Old 9th October 2018, 02:50 AM   #1
HansMustermann
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Bronze Age Swords

Figured I'd stop hijacking the other sword thread

So here's a question I have about their construction. And specifically THIS type of construction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronze..._Schwerter.jpg

(As a side note, in case anyone didn't already know: those aren't big swords, it's just that the grips are tiny. With a typical 21st century hand, your index finger would already be over the semicircular "cross" and your pinkie would be over the pommel.)

The sword blade and the handle are separate pieces, and are rivetted to the hilt. There is some thin-ish sheet metal cupping the base of the blade on both sides, and literally rivets were hammered through it and the blade.

Thing is, that's not a very robust joining. You can stab with it very well, since the force goes along the axis of the blade and handle, and basically is transferred 100% into pushing the hilt. But if you try to hack too hard with it, chances are the rivets will shear right through that thin sheet metal, and the blade breaks off. We actually have archaeological finds showing that mode of failure.

So here's my question, for you folks with more historical or metallurgical knowledge: WHY fix them like that? I'm guessing it wouldn't have been much harder to just weld the bronze blade to the bronze hilt. I mean, it's not like you even need too high temperatures for that.

Or was there some reason to WANT to discourage slashing with those?
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Old 9th October 2018, 03:29 AM   #2
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It may be that welding bronze would be hard. Here is how to do it
https://www.wikihow.com/Weld-Bronze
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Old 9th October 2018, 03:38 AM   #3
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I wasn't really thinking of filler rods. More like just heat it all and hammer it together.
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Old 9th October 2018, 05:17 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Figured I'd stop hijacking the other sword thread

So here's a question I have about their construction. And specifically THIS type of construction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronze..._Schwerter.jpg

(As a side note, in case anyone didn't already know: those aren't big swords, it's just that the grips are tiny. With a typical 21st century hand, your index finger would already be over the semicircular "cross" and your pinkie would be over the pommel.)

The sword blade and the handle are separate pieces, and are rivetted to the hilt. There is some thin-ish sheet metal cupping the base of the blade on both sides, and literally rivets were hammered through it and the blade.

Thing is, that's not a very robust joining. You can stab with it very well, since the force goes along the axis of the blade and handle, and basically is transferred 100% into pushing the hilt. But if you try to hack too hard with it, chances are the rivets will shear right through that thin sheet metal, and the blade breaks off. We actually have archaeological finds showing that mode of failure.

So here's my question, for you folks with more historical or metallurgical knowledge: WHY fix them like that? I'm guessing it wouldn't have been much harder to just weld the bronze blade to the bronze hilt. I mean, it's not like you even need too high temperatures for that.

Or was there some reason to WANT to discourage slashing with those?
It looks like that sword was not designed for slashing, and that may be why the handle was poorly fixed into place.

In fact, Roman soldiers were normally told to use their swords for thrusting as opposed to slashing since thrust wounds were normally more fatal than slash wounds. And the Romans had statistics from their arena fights to support this idea.

Please note, Roman military ideas stuck around for literally centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire.
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Old 9th October 2018, 05:30 AM   #5
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Well, indeed, those swords were clearly designed to be primarily stabby things, and in fact some were even more so. There's a reason we call about half the bronze swords ever made "rapiers".

Thing is, ALL European bronze swords for more than a millenium are built like that. If it were just one class of sword, sure, I can dig that some are designed for stabbing and some for slashing, and each had its own design to that end. E.g., the later kopis vs makhaira vs xiphos of the greeks. But when EVERY SINGLE ONE we find from a whole era is like that... I have to wonder, you know?

Didn't ANYONE want to slash, ever? I mean, presumably the owners of those broken swords I mentioned must have wanted to slash, broke their sword, and probably were very unhappy. Some for a very short time Didn't anyone come home and tell their smith, "you know, for my next sword, just as a suggestion, I'd pay good money for a sword that doesn't shear off the handle when I slash."
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Old 9th October 2018, 05:42 AM   #6
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Before bronze hilts came bone and ivory hilts, necessarily joined to the blades by riveting. Examples have been found in which the rivets had torn through the thinnish metal of the blades, either having been ritually "killed" or, concievably, broken in battle. When one-piece cast swords came along, some were still modelled to look like the archaic rivited construction.

Then too, bronze was expensive, esp. at first, and even His Lordship might opt for a stingy design.
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Old 9th October 2018, 05:55 AM   #7
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Was slashing markedly less effective against bronze age armor than stabbing?
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Old 9th October 2018, 06:19 AM   #8
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I could be wrong, but my impression is that actually there wasn't a heck of a lot of armour at the time. It tended to be more of a case of favouring big shields and a helmet, but other than that your average soldier wouldn't be protected by more then the shirt on his back.
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Old 9th October 2018, 06:31 AM   #9
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Is bronze going to be more susceptible to bending when used to slash than stab?

Also, what sorts of formations used these swords?
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Old 9th October 2018, 07:00 AM   #10
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Ancient weapons-quality bronze was high in tin, up to 25% (along with other elements), and could be quite resilient -- better than pure iron. Later designs were good for cut and thrust both.

Armor was used, at least by the rich, and could include bronze, leather, bone, and even, in Egypt, laminated linen.

Formations? Well, maybe semi-disciplined crowds of swells competing to see who could pull off something heroic. Those swords in the illustration date to ~1600 BC, correct? In the Aegean world that long ago, no real picture emerges.

But there's still lotsa stuff in the ground. If I was a young feller just starting out, I'd by god go into archaeology!
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Old 9th October 2018, 08:30 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Well, indeed, those swords were clearly designed to be primarily stabby things, and in fact some were even more so. There's a reason we call about half the bronze swords ever made "rapiers".

Thing is, ALL European bronze swords for more than a millenium are built like that. If it were just one class of sword, sure, I can dig that some are designed for stabbing and some for slashing, and each had its own design to that end. E.g., the later kopis vs makhaira vs xiphos of the greeks. But when EVERY SINGLE ONE we find from a whole era is like that... I have to wonder, you know?

Didn't ANYONE want to slash, ever? I mean, presumably the owners of those broken swords I mentioned must have wanted to slash, broke their sword, and probably were very unhappy. Some for a very short time Didn't anyone come home and tell their smith, "you know, for my next sword, just as a suggestion, I'd pay good money for a sword that doesn't shear off the handle when I slash."
There are a number of records which speak about weapons breaking during combat, therefore it looks like that just about all period combats expected some at least amount of weapon breakage during combat.

While it would be possible back in the day to make the weapons more durable, however doing so would also make the weapons heavier.

Accordingly, I expect that most period combatants would rather risk using a lighter weapon which could wield quickly and possibly break, as opposed to using a heavier weapon which would be slower to wield but would be less likely to break.
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Old 9th October 2018, 09:32 AM   #12
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If the alternative was a heavier weapon, I would indeed grant that. But I'm not asking to make the weapon any heavier. I'm just asking why not weld the blade to the hilt, given that specific hilt construction and the low melting point of bronze, instead of riveting it. The former would be far sturdier than the latter, given that for the latter we have plenty of finds where the rivet sheared right through the cross or the thin blade.

And I don't think you need to make it any heavier. If anything, you save a few grams worth of rivet heads.

I mean, sure, it can still break. Nobody ever made an indestructible weapon. But some methods of construction are sturdier than others. It seems to me like if it breaks, dunno, half as often at the same weight, I'd go with the sturdier construction.
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Old 9th October 2018, 09:41 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
If the alternative was a heavier weapon, I would indeed grant that. But I'm not asking to make the weapon any heavier. I'm just asking why not weld the blade to the hilt, given that specific hilt construction and the low melting point of bronze, instead of riveting it. The former would be far sturdier than the latter, given that for the latter we have plenty of finds where the rivet sheared right through the cross or the thin blade.

And I don't think you need to make it any heavier. If anything, you save a few grams worth of rivet heads.

I mean, sure, it can still break. Nobody ever made an indestructible weapon. But some methods of construction are sturdier than others. It seems to me like if it breaks, dunno, half as often at the same weight, I'd go with the sturdier construction.
Or forge it in one piece. It's not that big.
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Old 9th October 2018, 09:52 AM   #14
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Actually it is true that most Bronze Age swords were indeed designed for stabbing rather than hacking etc. This was because Bronze was expensive and hacking swords would be heavier and cost a good deal more. (The expense of Bronze was because of the sheer expense of tin which at the time was very expensive. Copper was actually fairly abundant.)

Further Bronze armour because of the expense could only be worn by a very few men in each army. The result of all this was that if you designed a sword for hacking, while you were hacking you would be exposing yourself to a stabbing strike by a typical Bronze Age sword designed for stabbing. This is because if you had any bronze weaponry it would overwhelmingly be a sword not armour. Further if you did wear bronze armour it was likely to only cover parts of the body leaving other areas exposed too a stabbing strike has you hacked away.

The Bronze armour that has been discovered in Mycenaean tombs (I believe 2 or three suits.) that covered the entire body from neck to knee seems to have been both spectacularly expensive and very rare and mainly designed to ward off arrows not sword blows.

Also the quality of Bronze swords varied considerably, Some Bronze swords were indeed very hard, but such swords were very, very expensive even for Bronze swords. A lot of the swords were not that hard and thus unsuitable to begin with has hacking weapons to begin with. The metal being too soft. Finally bronze is heavy. And a heavy Bronze weapon was not a great choice to wield in battle.

Finally because of the rarity and expense of tin Bronze was basically only used sparingly in warfare. This made people try to design weaponry, that except for extravagant flourishes by the extremely wealthy, that got the maximum killer, military utility out of the metal. All this changed with the spread of iron working.

You see iron, although the technical hurdles in processing it were large is vastly more abundant than tin or copper and so metal armour, metal weapons etc., became both much more affordable and it was possibly to fully "metal" an army unlike before. For example armour became vastly more widespread among troops and metal tools vastly more available to civilians.

I should not that early iron tools / weapons were not necessarily harder, or more durable than Bronze or even copper tools and weapons but they were indeed vastly cheaper and thus much, much more abundant.

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Old 9th October 2018, 09:53 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Tolls View Post
Is bronze going to be more susceptible to bending when used to slash than stab?

Also, what sorts of formations used these swords?
I don't think anyone knows what formations were used in northern Europe, if any at all.

In the middle east, basically the bronze age starts with blocks of archers or spearmen. And the shields are BIG. We have depictions from circa 2500 BC showing Sumerian guys covered from neck to toes by big rectangular shields.

Plus the occasional king or other such dude in a heavy ox-drawn chariot, that nobody today can figure out a military use for those. Especially when they show up in siege depictions, literally nobody can explain today WTH was the plan there. Maybe it was some kind of mobile command post, so he can stand higher and see what's going on? I have NO idea. Your guess is as good as mine, really. (Or better if you're sober )

Things would change when light, fast, horse-drawn enter the scene. Then these become the equivalent of medieval knights, or doctrine-wise kinda reminding me of WW2 tank warfare.

And I don't mean equivalent just as in "well, they were mobile". These guys were high status elites, and shock troops too. They were supposed to harass the enemy with arrows, scared them with charging around, break the enemy, then leave it to the accompanying enemy to mop up the mess. So, you know, kinda combined arms warfare. Well, except not as combined as it could be, which would come back to bite them in the ass circa 1200 BC.

But basically this combination of high status charioteers and auxiliary infantry would continue until the bronze age literally comes crashing down.

And that's about the summary about combat in the bronze age. Below is just a tangent leading to another consideration.


What happens circa 1200 BC is that the Sea People appear. Far as we can tell, these guys didn't use any kind of cavalry, but had figured out how to break the charioteers. Essentially this is the ancient tank destroyer arm. They'd actually counter-charge the enemy charioteers and mow them down with missile weapons.

And in fact so good are these guys, that almost nobody can defeat them once they landed.

LUCKILY, the Egyptians figure out one thing, though. Well, for some guys called the SEA People, these guys suck ass on sea. They're deadly on land, but on the sea a powerful navy could stop them.

So what the Egyptian navy does is really force those guys into the choice of doing an OPPOSED landing, or die on the sea. Opposed landings were really almost non-existent until the modern days: in older days you'd just land somewhere else if one place is packed with troops. But here we actually have the story and painting of an opposed landing. Because they had no other choice. Either get wiped out on the sea by the Egyptian navy or land RIGHT NAO, opposition be damned.

And that was the end of that.


Why did I do this detour? Well, the point I'm trying to make is to never just extrapolate from iron age back to bronze age, when it comes to military tactics. The collapse at the end of the Bronze age was a military matter, and it simply made the old troops and formations obsolete right there. What came afterwards was born out of this experience, and differed quite a bit from the old tactics that had just stopped working.

The later heavy infantry blocks of the Iron Age Greeks or Persians or Romans only appear because essentially the old bronze-age "knights" had been obsoleted.
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Old 9th October 2018, 10:21 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
If the alternative was a heavier weapon, I would indeed grant that. But I'm not asking to make the weapon any heavier. I'm just asking why not weld the blade to the hilt, given that specific hilt construction and the low melting point of bronze, instead of riveting it. The former would be far sturdier than the latter, given that for the latter we have plenty of finds where the rivet sheared right through the cross or the thin blade.

And I don't think you need to make it any heavier. If anything, you save a few grams worth of rivet heads.

I mean, sure, it can still break. Nobody ever made an indestructible weapon. But some methods of construction are sturdier than others. It seems to me like if it breaks, dunno, half as often at the same weight, I'd go with the sturdier construction.
I expect that it is much easier to rivet the hilt to the sword blade instead of forge welding the hilt to the sword blade.

While such welding is quite easy now, hundreds of years ago it was far more difficult. Not impossible, just more difficult.

Furthermore, if one wants to produce many weapons quickly, then one often has to diminish quality in order to produce quantity.

ETA:

I just thought of something else ...

I do not know if welding the hilt to the blade would actually produce a stronger connection than riveting the hilt to the blade.

After all, welding quality back in the day could be rather inexact due to the lack of metal working technology. Therefore, even with the problems of rivets, then it may be the case that using rivets produced a stronger connection than welding.
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Old 9th October 2018, 10:41 AM   #17
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I disagree that Iron Age heavy infantry blocks only appear because the Bronze Age chariot forces disappeared.

I believe that they appeared because they were able to make effective use of the terrain. And due to the increased training available to those troops due to increases in social order and economic strength resulting from the recovery from the Bronze Age collapse. We saw the same thing at the end of the Middle Ages/beginning of the Renaissance where increased social control of centralized states allowed for economic resources to be directed towards the training of infantry formations capable of resisting the then dominant arm (heavy cavalry for the Middle Ages, chariots for the Bronze Age).

Massed chariots weren't really practical after the Bronze Age as the economics required to train and equip them were better used training infantry, who could be better employed in rough terrain, and could resist chariots due to their training.
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Old 9th October 2018, 11:33 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
I expect that it is much easier to rivet the hilt to the sword blade instead of forge welding the hilt to the sword blade.

...I do not know if welding the hilt to the blade would actually produce a stronger connection than riveting the hilt to the blade.
The pieces, being bronze, would have been cast, so the simplest solution would have been to have cast a single thing in the intended final shape, not cast two separate pieces and then try to combine them into one.

I've imagined that some kind of limit on the size & shape of the moulds that could be made back then would limit the size & shape of bronze that could be cast, but, even if there was such a restriction, that would only solve the mystery of the biggest bronze weapons, not the smaller ones that would have still be under that limit.
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Old 9th October 2018, 11:57 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
It looks like that sword was not designed for slashing, and that may be why the handle was poorly fixed into place.

In fact, Roman soldiers were normally told to use their swords for thrusting as opposed to slashing since thrust wounds were normally more fatal than slash wounds. And the Romans had statistics from their arena fights to support this idea.

Please note, Roman military ideas stuck around for literally centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire.
Roman Legionaries were taught to thrust because that was the most effective way to fight from behind a shield wall.
The shield (scutum) was also an offensive weapon. It was held by a horizontal handle behind the centre boss and was punched forward in to the enemy and then followed with a thrust of the sword.
Their swords were short enough to draw with their right hand from a scabbard on their right hip, there was no room to do a 'cross draw' in a close formation.

Don't forget the typical Roman Gladius we are familiar with only existed from after the Marian Reforms until around the third century when a longer blade Spatha similar to the cavalry sword came in to sue as tactics changed.

Republic 'Hispaniensis' used by Infantry until replaced by short Gladius in late Republic


Examples of various Spatha blades and a 'classic' short Gladius (what we think of as a Roman infantry sword.)
From left to right 3rd century Spatha used by both cav and inf, 2nd century 'ring pommel' Spatha used by cav and inf, Late Republic to 2nd century Gladius used by Infantry, late Republic to 2nd Century Spatha used by cavalry


As for the little bronze sword. Are we sure it was a real combat weapon and not just some kind of votive offering or 'trophy' blade given as a mark of honour etc?

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Old 9th October 2018, 12:03 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
The pieces, being bronze, would have been cast, so the simplest solution would have been to have cast a single thing in the intended final shape, not cast two separate pieces and then try to combine them into one.

I've imagined that some kind of limit on the size & shape of the moulds that could be made back then would limit the size & shape of bronze that could be cast, but, even if there was such a restriction, that would only solve the mystery of the biggest bronze weapons, not the smaller ones that would have still be under that limit.
I doubt that is it really that simple.

After all, while one could use cast metal to make a sword, however cast metal tends to be much more brittle than forged metal, and one does not want a brittle sword.

Of course, one can cast thick metal in order to get around the brittleness problem, but when that is done, then the weight becomes substantially greater. Also, it is difficult enough to cast thin metal pieces of metal using period techniques, so casting thick metal metal pieces is much more difficult.
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Old 9th October 2018, 12:23 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Border Reiver View Post
I disagree that Iron Age heavy infantry blocks only appear because the Bronze Age chariot forces disappeared.

I believe that they appeared because they were able to make effective use of the terrain. And due to the increased training available to those troops due to increases in social order and economic strength resulting from the recovery from the Bronze Age collapse. We saw the same thing at the end of the Middle Ages/beginning of the Renaissance where increased social control of centralized states allowed for economic resources to be directed towards the training of infantry formations capable of resisting the then dominant arm (heavy cavalry for the Middle Ages, chariots for the Bronze Age).

Massed chariots weren't really practical after the Bronze Age as the economics required to train and equip them were better used training infantry, who could be better employed in rough terrain, and could resist chariots due to their training.
The emphasized part above was really the point I was trying to make. Before the end of the 12th century BCE, chariots kicked infantry's ass. After that, you could train infantry that stopped chariots.

And yes, the situation isn't unlike what happened at the end of the middle ages.

At any rate, I think we can agree that (regardless of the exact reason) army composition and tactics were very different in the Iron Age from those employed in the Bronze Age. So one can't look at an iron age army and think, hmm, they probably did the same in the bronze age. Sometimes it's better to say "I have no clue" (e.g., about how war worked in Northern Europe) than make that extrapolation backwards. Which really was the more important point I was trying to make.
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Old 9th October 2018, 12:26 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
I doubt that is it really that simple.

After all, while one could use cast metal to make a sword, however cast metal tends to be much more brittle than forged metal, and one does not want a brittle sword.

Of course, one can cast thick metal in order to get around the brittleness problem, but when that is done, then the weight becomes substantially greater. Also, it is difficult enough to cast thin metal pieces of metal using period techniques, so casting thick metal metal pieces is much more difficult.
Actually bronze swords WERE cast and then work-hardened. Unlike iron, you could and in fact HAD to melt the copper and tin, in order to get the alloy called bronze. At which point you could just cast it.

Bronze also doesn't become brittle when you cast it. If anything, it anneals.

They then hammered the hell out of it, because it work-hardens very nicely.
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Which part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?
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Old 9th October 2018, 12:29 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
The pieces, being bronze, would have been cast, so the simplest solution would have been to have cast a single thing in the intended final shape, not cast two separate pieces and then try to combine them into one.

I've imagined that some kind of limit on the size & shape of the moulds that could be made back then would limit the size & shape of bronze that could be cast, but, even if there was such a restriction, that would only solve the mystery of the biggest bronze weapons, not the smaller ones that would have still be under that limit.
To be honest, personally I kinda suspect economics. But of course, I can't prove it.

You'd probably want the blade made of the toughest bronze you can possibly make, which was EXTREMELY expensive. Not only it used more imported tin, but you tended to want the ores with arsenic, so you ended up importing the most expensive copper too. You get the idea.

But I suspect that you could make a hilt out of much cheaper bronze. That one didn't have to be weapons-grade metal.
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Old 9th October 2018, 12:33 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Actually bronze swords WERE cast and then work-hardened. Unlike iron, you could and in fact HAD to melt the copper and tin, in order to get the alloy called bronze. At which point you could just cast it.

Bronze also doesn't become brittle when you cast it. If anything, it anneals.

They then hammered the hell out of it, because it work-hardens very nicely.
You are quite correct and I do believe that what you say does support my argument.

One simply does not cast a sword, then use the sword as is. Instead, a good deal of post-casting work is needed in order to produce a useful weapon.
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Old 9th October 2018, 12:36 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Captain_Swoop View Post
As for the little bronze sword. Are we sure it was a real combat weapon and not just some kind of votive offering or 'trophy' blade given as a mark of honour etc?
Well... ALL the bronze swords we discovered from a period spanning more than a millenium are of the same basic construction. The blade shape evolves over time, but it'll be a long time before they get a tang instead of that riveted construction. I suspect that some of the ones that were ritually broken might be made specifically as an offering, but I'd expect that at least some would actually be used in battle.

If nothing else, there's not much symbolic significance either in sacrificing a weapon, if nobody uses that item as a weapon.
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Which part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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Old 9th October 2018, 02:35 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Well... ALL the bronze swords we discovered from a period spanning more than a millenium are of the same basic construction. The blade shape evolves over time, but it'll be a long time before they get a tang instead of that riveted construction. I suspect that some of the ones that were ritually broken might be made specifically as an offering, but I'd expect that at least some would actually be used in battle.

If nothing else, there's not much symbolic significance either in sacrificing a weapon, if nobody uses that item as a weapon.
Is it just that a tang is another conceptual leap that hadn't occurred to people?

After all - the first bronze blades will have been around when flint blades were state of the art.

If you are used to making flint knives, then it's *obvious* that you attach the blade to the handle. If it is flint, you have to bind and/or glue it in place, but with bronze, you can use rivets.

If that is what people do - and it would use less material too, then it probably would take another leap to think - "hey, why don't I make a tang?"
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Old 9th October 2018, 02:36 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Figured I'd stop hijacking the other sword thread

So here's a question I have about their construction. And specifically THIS type of construction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronze..._Schwerter.jpg

(As a side note, in case anyone didn't already know: those aren't big swords, it's just that the grips are tiny. With a typical 21st century hand, your index finger would already be over the semicircular "cross" and your pinkie would be over the pommel.)

The sword blade and the handle are separate pieces, and are rivetted to the hilt. There is some thin-ish sheet metal cupping the base of the blade on both sides, and literally rivets were hammered through it and the blade.

Thing is, that's not a very robust joining. You can stab with it very well, since the force goes along the axis of the blade and handle, and basically is transferred 100% into pushing the hilt. But if you try to hack too hard with it, chances are the rivets will shear right through that thin sheet metal, and the blade breaks off. We actually have archaeological finds showing that mode of failure.

So here's my question, for you folks with more historical or metallurgical knowledge: WHY fix them like that? I'm guessing it wouldn't have been much harder to just weld the bronze blade to the bronze hilt. I mean, it's not like you even need too high temperatures for that.

Or was there some reason to WANT to discourage slashing with those?

Part of the allure of armoury and swords was a show of wealth; the more intricate and showy this was, the more intimidating you were (do look up King Erik XIV armour, which has a Medusa's head engraved in gilt enamel on the breastplate and the head of Heracles on the back). The fact cheap versions of the bronze sword with fake rivets appeared, indicates the ones fashioned with separate hilt from blade and rivetted on were perceived as being - rightly or wrongly - of superior quality.
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Old 9th October 2018, 03:24 PM   #28
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If swords were designed to be used for stabbing why not use a spear, which can be made longer for the same weight? They can also be made from mostly wood and only the tip made from metal.
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Old 9th October 2018, 03:27 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
If swords were designed to be used for stabbing why not use a spear, which can be made longer for the same weight? They can also be made from mostly wood and only the tip made from metal.
It's called a lance.

There were also pitched lances.
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Old 9th October 2018, 03:38 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
If swords were designed to be used for stabbing why not use a spear, which can be made longer for the same weight? They can also be made from mostly wood and only the tip made from metal.
Because when you get inside the4 spear the sword has the advantage. Spears were important weapons but they have disadvantages.
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Old 9th October 2018, 07:08 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
I don't think anyone knows what formations were used in northern Europe, if any at all.

In the middle east, basically the bronze age starts with blocks of archers or spearmen. And the shields are BIG. We have depictions from circa 2500 BC showing Sumerian guys covered from neck to toes by big rectangular shields.

Plus the occasional king or other such dude in a heavy ox-drawn chariot, that nobody today can figure out a military use for those. Especially when they show up in siege depictions, literally nobody can explain today WTH was the plan there. Maybe it was some kind of mobile command post, so he can stand higher and see what's going on? I have NO idea. Your guess is as good as mine, really. (Or better if you're sober )

Things would change when light, fast, horse-drawn enter the scene. Then these become the equivalent of medieval knights, or doctrine-wise kinda reminding me of WW2 tank warfare.

And I don't mean equivalent just as in "well, they were mobile". These guys were high status elites, and shock troops too. They were supposed to harass the enemy with arrows, scared them with charging around, break the enemy, then leave it to the accompanying enemy to mop up the mess. So, you know, kinda combined arms warfare. Well, except not as combined as it could be, which would come back to bite them in the ass circa 1200 BC.

But basically this combination of high status charioteers and auxiliary infantry would continue until the bronze age literally comes crashing down.

And that's about the summary about combat in the bronze age. Below is just a tangent leading to another consideration.
Actually just how armies fought in the Bronze Age in the Middle East is highly debated. Although the generally accepted idea is that Charioteers, using powerful compound bows bombarded enemy units with arrows. Thus battles of this type had to take place on flat plains with room for chariots to move about. This seems reasonable. Although bluntly we only have decent accounts of two Bronze age battles, Kadesh and Meggido both fought by the Egyptians. Also it appears that cavalry, in the sense of men riding horses into battle did not exist at this time. Possibly being because horses were still not strong enough to bear a man's weight especially if the man was armoured with accoutrements of war.

Quote:
What happens circa 1200 BC is that the Sea People appear. Far as we can tell, these guys didn't use any kind of cavalry, but had figured out how to break the charioteers. Essentially this is the ancient tank destroyer arm. They'd actually counter-charge the enemy charioteers and mow them down with missile weapons.

And in fact so good are these guys, that almost nobody can defeat them once they landed.
The "Sea people" may be a myth that depends far to much on reading Egyptian hieroglyphs all to literally. It appears that the late Bronze Age collapse was due to multitude of factors and the "Sea Peoples" were not the destroyers of these societies but the flotsam and jetsum of refuges etc., generated by the collapse. For example it appears that the Hittite Empire was not destroyed by invasion. That in fact the Hittite Capital Hattusas was in fact, it appears, abandoned and destroyed by the Hittites themselves. Invaders seemed to have shown up more than a generation later at the site.

Also there is considerable evidence that the so-called "Sea Peoples" were not invincible by any stretch of the imagination. in the reign of Pharaoh Merneptah a land invasion of Egypt by the Libyans was crushed, (They were allied to the "Sea Peoples"), a land invasion by the "Sea Peoples" was also crushed by Merneptah. A generation later Rameses III had to defeat the Libyans again and crushed both a land invasion by the "Sea Peoples" and Naval invasion. If the Egyptian accounts are anything to go on this was not that incredible. Also the Assyrians had little trouble repeatedly defeating invasions from Asia Minor after the collapse of the Hittite Empire. Your explanation seems to follow Robert Drews' military explanation of the collapse in his book The End of the Bronze Age 1993. Well Drews' idea has been harshly and justifiably criticized. After Rameses III victory he appears to have allowed the so-called Philistines ("Sea Peoples") to settle parts of Palestine. (Just like he and Merneptah allowed some of the defeated Libyans to settle in the Nile delta.

In fact it appears that the so called "Sea Peoples" were more the result of the collapse than its cause. For whatever series of reasons one after the other of the various Bronze Age states in the Middle East fell apart and the chaos created generated refuges and mass population movements. Since this crisis continued for centuries eventually affecting Assyria and Babylonia and producing a divided Egypt the actual causes seemed to have been deep seated and population movements were an effect and not a cause.

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MetLUCKILY, the Egyptians figure out one thing, though. Well, for some guys called the SEA People, these guys suck ass on sea. They're deadly on land, but on the sea a powerful navy could stop them.
Nope it appears that the Egyptians defeated this lumpy stew of different peoples, refugees etc., on land repeatedly and so did the Assyrians.

Quote:
So what the Egyptian navy does is really force those guys into the choice of doing an OPPOSED landing, or die on the sea. Opposed landings were really almost non-existent until the modern days: in older days you'd just land somewhere else if one place is packed with troops. But here we actually have the story and painting of an opposed landing. Because they had no other choice. Either get wiped out on the sea by the Egyptian navy or land RIGHT NAO, opposition be damned.
Yes there are Egyptian reliefs, depicting battles at sea against the "Sea Peoples" but they are battles at sea not opposed landings. This is especially true of the reliefs of Rameses III which include a description of a land battle in Lebanon which was a crushing Egyptian victory.

Quote:
And that was the end of that.


Why did I do this detour? Well, the point I'm trying to make is to never just extrapolate from iron age back to bronze age, when it comes to military tactics. The collapse at the end of the Bronze age was a military matter, and it simply made the old troops and formations obsolete right there. What came afterwards was born out of this experience, and differed quite a bit from the old tactics that had just stopped working.

The later heavy infantry blocks of the Iron Age Greeks or Persians or Romans only appear because essentially the old bronze-age "knights" had been obsoleted.
Actually the collapse definitely had military features but it was not it appears largely a military matter instead it appears that the military collapse was triggered by a serious crisis within the Bronze Age system of states. For example climate played a role and so did serious internal disfunctions.
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Old 10th October 2018, 01:27 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
If swords were designed to be used for stabbing why not use a spear, which can be made longer for the same weight? They can also be made from mostly wood and only the tip made from metal.
Well, at a wild guess about the material properties and force vectors involved, that thing wasn't really pierce-only. It's clearly designed with piercing as the main function, but you can cut with it too, to some extent.

For a start, push-cuts should work decently, since the force vector can fall within that 'cross'. Basically the force would be transferred to pushing the hilt instead of just being on the rivets.

Pull-cuts, well, to some extent. The leaf blade shape would probably help with this, but basically you really have to hold it in a perfect hammer grip and drag. The small hilt would probably force you into that kind of grip though.

The problem is that you don't want too much lateral pressure on the blade, or you might get it off the hilt. (And you REALLY don't want to even try twisting the blade in the wound, unless you want to leave your blade in that guy.)

So both kinds of cuts would probably be shallow wounds. If you tried to do a mighty swing at a tatami mat or water bottle, you might well return home with the sword in two pieces. So basically you can do some nasty cuts, but you're not gonna lop limbs off or anything. And you're definitely not gonna do a mighty hack while charging with your royal chariot, unless you want to have to turn around and start looking for your blade.

I suppose that would make it somewhat similar to the Renaissance rapier. Well, much shorter, but the same kind of still being able to cut, just not too well. And just like the rapier, it works best when the opponent isn't wearing any metal armour.


So to actually answer your question, my personal non-professional take is that, well, as a backup weapon, it's still more versatile than just a sharpened stick. Whether the insane price is worth that little bit of extra versatility -- and by insane price, I mean it's not unlike having a sword of solid gold these days -- well, that's a whole other question. But I guess the more kinds of attacks you can do, or feint credibly, the higher the chance that the other guy will guess wrong when trying to defend.
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Old 10th October 2018, 03:50 AM   #33
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Are they actual working swords*? Or ceremonial (and therefore wouldn't need to be practical)?



*That definitely isn't the right phrase
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Old 10th October 2018, 04:24 AM   #34
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To repeat my previous reasoning, hopefully more clearly, if we found two or three kinds of swords, then I'd have no problem accepting that some are for combat and some are just uber-expensive bling. FSM knows that people have done worse than wear stuff that costs as much as a house.

But when for a long long while

A) that's the only kind of sword construcion that we ever found, AND
B) you can see some evolution in the size and shape of the blade, that seems to follow some kind of functional purpose, AND
C) the blade was made of the hardest alloyes the could possibly get, and insane ammount of work was put into hammering it to work-harden the edge, AND
D) several show signs of edge damage and subsequent repair,

... well, I would at least ASSUME that these were the actual weapons of war. I mean, it seems to be the simplest explanation, innit?

At any rate, I'm not a historian myself, but as far as I know the consensus among those is that yes, these were the actual swords used in battle.
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Old 10th October 2018, 04:27 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
To repeat my previous reasoning, hopefully more clearly, if we found two or three kinds of swords, then I'd have no problem accepting that some are for combat and some are just uber-expensive bling. FSM knows that people have done worse than wear stuff that costs as much as a house.

But when for a long long while

A) that's the only kind of sword construcion that we ever found, AND
B) you can see some evolution in the size and shape of the blade, that seems to follow some kind of functional purpose, AND
C) the blade was made of the hardest alloyes the could possibly get, and insane ammount of work was put into hammering it to work-harden the edge, AND
D) several show signs of edge damage and subsequent repair,

... well, I would at least ASSUME that these were the actual weapons of war. I mean, it seems to be the simplest explanation, innit?

At any rate, I'm not a historian myself, but as far as I know the consensus among those is that yes, these were the actual swords used in battle.


My thanks. I didn't realise the question had been asked and answered. I must learn to pay attention.
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Old 10th October 2018, 05:23 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
The emphasized part above was really the point I was trying to make. Before the end of the 12th century BCE, chariots kicked infantry's ass. After that, you could train infantry that stopped chariots.

And yes, the situation isn't unlike what happened at the end of the middle ages.

At any rate, I think we can agree that (regardless of the exact reason) army composition and tactics were very different in the Iron Age from those employed in the Bronze Age. So one can't look at an iron age army and think, hmm, they probably did the same in the bronze age. Sometimes it's better to say "I have no clue" (e.g., about how war worked in Northern Europe) than make that extrapolation backwards. Which really was the more important point I was trying to make.
That pretty much was the point I figured you were making - different realities result in different force compositions, levels of training for military forces, etc.

Militarily you couldn't expect forces from different areas to be equipped similarly - a primarily seaborne raiding force isn't going to be equipped the same as a force made up from a wealthy city state, nor would a force raised in hilly country be equipped in the same manner as one from a flatter and more open area.

Bronze Age, eastern Mediterranean/Mid-Eastern force is very different from a Bronze Age northern European force, etc. Although the militarily dominant forces do impact how the lesser areas organize themselves - gotta look something like the big boys or they might not take you seriously/it works for them, why not us? Which could explain why chariots ended up being used in Northwestern Europe even though the wooded terrain made them less effective.
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Old 10th October 2018, 05:42 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Didn't ANYONE want to slash, ever? I mean, presumably the owners of those broken swords I mentioned must have wanted to slash, broke their sword, and probably were very unhappy. Some for a very short time Didn't anyone come home and tell their smith, "you know, for my next sword, just as a suggestion, I'd pay good money for a sword that doesn't shear off the handle when I slash."
"Oh, so sorry sir. Yes I see, it's come right apart. Well, to be honest we've had no previous complaints."
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Old 10th October 2018, 06:15 AM   #38
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How sure are we it was actually a bad design?


Maybe the join is not as poor and weak as everyone is assuming.
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Old 10th October 2018, 06:25 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
In fact, Roman soldiers were normally told to use their swords for thrusting as opposed to slashing since thrust wounds were normally more fatal than slash wounds. And the Romans had statistics from their arena fights to support this idea.

Please note, Roman military ideas stuck around for literally centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire.
Quite right, and also it was used due to the idea of advancing with shields and stabbing in between the gaps where there would have been no room to be slashing about!
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Old 10th October 2018, 07:54 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Cheetah View Post
How sure are we it was actually a bad design?


Maybe the join is not as poor and weak as everyone is assuming.
Could be. I spent a long time at a place making large flying things. Which were held together entirely with rivets.

I said something earlier about forging them in one piece, but of course, as has been mentioned, they'd actually have been cast. Was there some forging done after the casting, do you think?
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