Stanwick Fortifications

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Silverclaws
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Stanwick Fortifications

Postby Silverclaws » Wed Apr 02, 2008 1:37 am

I am here, asking advice about the sword found at the Stanwick Fortifications by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1951.

I am engaged in making a replica for battling purposes. I had the survey report of the finds and there scaled the dimension of the weapon, later checked with the British Museum who actually measured the find, my dimensions correct, I had the blade made by Titch in Anglesy out of EN45 steel, viking spec.

I made the wooden scabbard out of American ash, English ash being unavailable, as per the original find. I made the bronze castings but now am stuck.

The hilt and handle arrangement being missing on the original, the completion is down to interpretation. My interpretation it being a native British sword, but with Roman influences, so, my thought was perhaps the arrangement should be similar to that found at Hod Hill, Roman style handle, but with native influences.

Can anyone help in this matter, as I long to finish the sword, as it has been twelve years in the making, that, as I have been away from the scene till now.


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Postby Medicus Matt » Wed Apr 02, 2008 9:14 am

The Hod Hill would certainly fit in terms of age, as would any 1st C AD hilt.
The only thing that occurs to me is that the Hod Hill hilt is absolutely gorgeous, lovely piece of work whereas the Stanwick sword (or at least it's scabbard of plain wood with bronze banding and a simple mouth and chape) is unusually plain.

Would the two really go together?


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Postby Silverclaws » Wed Apr 02, 2008 6:10 pm

I would suppose the Stanwick sword was as things today and the past, different levels of embellishment for different prices.Perhaps the Stanwick find may prove swords were not the only preserve of the rich elite, maybe there were poorer warriors.

There I feel is Roman influence in the design, the chapes showing that, and so with that deduced the piece was a Romano British sword and feel from the simple mouth arrangement and decoration, there is a link to the Goddess Minerva.

My early historic knowledge is hazy, but was Minerva attributed to a certain province of the UK, I thought this, may put the sword origin to a certain area in Britain ?

The scabbard is wooden, English ash to be precise, it made up of three eights inch strips stuck together, something I have copied, but in American ash. Is it likely the scabbard would be left with bare wood or likely covered with some material ? (mine is oiled, to preserve)

The bronze rings that hold the scabbard together, no hint of their attachment in the original find, is it possible the rings would have been bound in place, even cross tied ?

The hilt arrangement, not many examples have I found, myself knowing more of the design of earlier weapons, a design type this sword nearly got, but as with me, if I had done so, it would only irritate as I knew it to be wrong.

I have tried this sword with the purse/ hide shaped shield, it sized from one of the votive offerings, scaled up to fit my proportions, the sword, it being both slashing and stabbing in design finds a steady rest on this shield type. I made it from planks as an irish bog find, the irish being limewood I chose ash and covered in leather, with oak spine and bronze edging. Painted with earth paints I had made. A very fine shield, but way too heavy for the weakness of modern man.

Forgive me my questions, as with me everything I make is thoroughly researched and tested, how else would I know what the ancients had in mind.


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Postby Medicus Matt » Thu Apr 03, 2008 9:20 am

Silverclaws wrote: the Stanwick find may prove swords were not the only preserve of the rich elite, maybe there were poorer warriors.


Exactly my point. That's why I feel that something as complex and decorative as the Hod Hill hilt furniture would look out of place. I think that 'poorer' is a relative term though. :wink:

Silverclaws wrote: feel from the simple mouth arrangement and decoration, there is a link to the Goddess Minerva.


Why? Because you think that the decoration looks like an owls face? Possible I suppose. Minerva was associated with war, but that association was unusual outside of Rome itself. Not something you'd expect to find in mid-1st century Britain. In Britain, Minerva was linked with a number of localised native deities (if religious iconography can be used as evidence) including Brigantia who was the titular godess of the Brigantes who built Stanwick so there may be a tenuous link there, but I doubt it (no association of Brigantia with owls that I know of).

Minerva was probably conjoined with any local deity associated with sacred springs or rivers (Sulis at Bath, possibly Senua in Hertfordshire).

Silverclaws wrote:Is it likely the scabbard would be left with bare wood or likely covered with some material ? (mine is oiled, to preserve)


Can't remember whether there was any evidence of a hide/leather covering (I'll check the site report tonight) but, looking at the photo's I took of it last year I can't see that there's any room under the bronze rings. Anyway, as the main purpose of the rings would be to keep the scabbard together, wouldn't a covering be superfluous?

Silverclaws wrote:The bronze rings that hold the scabbard together, no hint of their attachment in the original find, is it possible the rings would have been bound in place, even cross tied ?


I doubt if any attachment was neccesary. The scabbard itself is tapered and ash, although hard, will still compress. I suspect that it's an interference fit with no other fixing required.

Silverclaws wrote:. A very fine shield, but way too heavy for the weakness of modern man.


I'm not surprised! Dried Ash is at least 20% denser than lime. That's presumably why nobody made shields from it. Imagine it being nearly three/quarters of that weight? Does it become more usable then?

Some photos for you.
Attachments
stan1.jpg
stan2.jpg
stan3.jpg


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Postby m300572 » Thu Apr 03, 2008 10:00 am

Silverclaws wrote:
. A very fine shield, but way too heavy for the weakness of modern man.


I'm not surprised! Dried Ash is at least 20% denser than lime. That's presumably why nobody made shields from it. Imagine it being nearly three/quarters of that weight? Does it become more usable then?



The "original" La Tene shields are oak - so even heavier but possibly made for deposition in the lake rather than as combat items. I have used a big oval plywood shield with a pine spine - I managed it fine (I was working as a digger at the time) but some of my colleagues in the group found it far too heavy and cumbersome to use, due to the said weakness of modern man.


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Postby Silverclaws » Thu Apr 03, 2008 10:57 am

Thankyou Matt for your help, it is much appreciated, far better to ask others than continuously trundle around the net seeking things that often are'nt there. Books, yes, I had books, and some old ones at that, but now they are gone, so the net I must use. The fortifications archaeological report too, that is gone, but I remember most of it.

I feel the sword is of a similar design to that found at Hod hill, but I agree, not so lavishly decorated, the vesica design at the scabbard mouth, also evident on the chapes, yes to me it looks like eyes, but feel the craftsman may have had a design in mind, and maybe the design continued simply on the hilt. Maybe an owl, or even a cat, the ears obvious if you note the Hod Hill find.

The find was unearthed in one of the ditches of the fortifications, but it is possible it did not originate in the Briganti area, and may have come from the south. If memory serves me well, a skull was found nearby. Given that a sword was an expensive item, it seems odd it was discarded for want of a simple repair.

I see your point regarding an interference fit of the binding rings, mine are kind of tight, once on, I think they will stay there and yes an external cover would be superfluous, seeing as there was no traces of an organic material other than wood with the find.

Yes, the shield would still be way too heavy, the oak spine did'nt help, but then I had to try, for now I know what to avoid with the next one.

Hey, thanks for posting the photos, they are very useful.

Silverclaws


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Postby Medicus Matt » Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:10 am

m300572 wrote:
The "original" La Tene shields are oak - so even heavier but possibly made for deposition in the lake rather than as combat items. I have used a big oval plywood shield with a pine spine - I managed it fine (I was working as a digger at the time) but some of my colleagues in the group found it far too heavy and cumbersome to use, due to the said weakness of modern man.


Oak density varies widely between species but English oak (Quercus robur) and European Sessile oak (Q. Petraea) are both about the same density as ash (673-689kg/cu.m compared to ash's 670kg/cu.m). Like most shield finds, the La Tene boards were considerably thinned from the centre to the edges, something that most shield reconstructions don't take into account but something that considerably reduces not just the overall weight of the shield but also how it handles and how how heavy it feels in use.

I'm not denying that our ancestors were probably fitter than the average re-enactor but not to any superhuman degree and don't forget that most of them would be accustomed to everyday labours, not prolonged combat. If it feels too heavy and unwieldy now then, chances are, it would have felt the same to them.


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Postby Medicus Matt » Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:18 am

Silverclaws, I've got the site report at home, found in an Oxfam bookshop in Hull and aquired for the grand sum of £5. If you want a scan of any of it, just let me know.

The sword (and skull and other finds) are all on display in the Yorkshire Museum in York if you want to go and look at it for yourself.

Maybe a simpler hilt like this one, also from Brigantian territory, might be more appropriate? Earlier I know, but not by much.
Attachments
hilt.jpg
skull.jpg
The Stanwick skull.


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Postby Silverclaws » Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:42 am

Five pounds you paid, wow and to think I bought mine for seventeen pounds in an antiquarian book seller in Oxford.

Would you scan some pages? that would be most kind of you, as I do plan to do a report on the finds reconstruction for part of my degree.

Yes, the skull, hmm, I can only speculate at what went on there, mind not bad teeth on it, only three that I can see that are missing.

Thanks for the hilt photo, but would that suit a blade 27.25 inches long with a width of just under two inches wide?

Its blade heavy now, I would like something substantial to control the thing.

Weight wise, maybe the weights are similar, the original being a quarter in thick with a shape edge, mine is three sixteenths inch thick with the eighth inch edge, diamond shaped as near can be, I lost a half inch in length due to the half inch radius at the end.


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Postby Medicus Matt » Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:55 am

Silverclaws wrote:
Would you scan some pages? that would be most kind of you, as I do plan to do a report on the finds reconstruction for part of my degree.

.


Of course. Let me know what you need and I'll put on a disc for you.


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Postby madoc » Wed Apr 09, 2008 6:41 pm

Iron Age Cemeteries in East Yorkshire - Dr Ian Stead, British Museum Press
British Iron Age Swords and Scabbards I M Stead (British Museum Press 2006) ISBN 0714123234
Polden Hill Hoard, Brailsford, Proceedings of the Prehistoric society vol 41 1975
Stanwick Hoard, MacGregor, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society Vol 28, 1962
Folly lane Britannia monogram, Glimour and Niblett, Britannia 14, 1999


The only book to have for iron age weapons is the British Iron Age Swords and Scabbards one by Ian stead. It contains descriptions of every weapon found this country and drawings of most plus other related articles. Oxbow books are still showing it:

http://www.oxbowbooks.com/bookinfo.cfm/ID/42484

pricey but worth every penny.

Shield thickness varies an awful lot. In a previous thread, we were talking about the grave custom of plunging spears through the earth into the body. In some cases they penetrated the shield and left traces.

Our contact info is on the Vicus website, if you want to call/email us and we could maybe do a share over the web of the book ?




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