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Developments in iron smithing and decorative welding techniques found in Anglo-Saxon swords and related edged weapons

Gilmour, BJJ; (1989) Developments in iron smithing and decorative welding techniques found in Anglo-Saxon swords and related edged weapons. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The subject of this study is the manufacture of edged weapons of the Anglo Saxon period in England, c.AD 400-1100. The central part of the study consists of The technological examination of a reasonably large sample of the surviving weapons mainly by X-ray and metallography. The main aim was to gather sufficient evidence from such analysis to allow conclusions to be drawn about (a) the methods of manufacture in use at particular times; (b) the development of these methods during the period; and (c) why these developments took place. The study deals mainly with swords, both double-edged longswords and scramasaxes (single-edged swords or daggers) but includes a few spearheads. To supplement the evidence from , technological examination, the study is introduced by summaries of the typology and archaeology of these weapons (Chapter 1) and of the documentary evidence (Chapter 2). Such eviderice tells much, not only about their formal history, but also about their use and significance, especially how far they were ceremonial and how far working weapons. This is important when assessing the aims and effectiveness of the smithing. Chapter 3 describes the techniques of examination employed in this study, although the study is primarily concerned with the smithing of the weapons it was also necessary to consider, at least in outline, the sources and types of ores, and the smelting processes used to produce the metal for them. This information is summarised in Chapter 4 with a discussion of the more relevant aspects such as the possible direct product of bloomery steel. To understand what information the metallurgical structures frozen in the surviving weapons yield about their smithing, Chapter 5 sets out the relevant aspects of the metallurgy of iron. This chapter includes a description of the methods of physical examination used here. The bulk of the study (Chapter 6) consists of detailed analytical reports of the main sample of weapons examined both by X-ray and metallography. These reports have been grouped chronologically by period; a provisional grouping is suggested when few distinguishing characteristics survived with the blades. In Chapter 7 the principal results of the analyses are set out and conclusions are drawn and discussed in the light of the preceeding chapters (and the Appendices I and II). Comparisons are made with analyses of some earlier and later weapons to help put these results in perspective. During the study many other weapons were X-rayed only and these results are given in Appendix I. Appendix II provides a parallel for the decorative use of iron and steel in edged weapon manufacture, that of the near eastern so-called Vainaccenet technique for making watered steel blades.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Developments in iron smithing and decorative welding techniques found in Anglo-Saxon swords and related edged weapons
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10116498
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