On Thursday, I got to do one of the things I’ve been most excited to do – I got to stick haft my barbed spearheads. These spearheads are based on the destroyed Bloody Pool hoard making them an incredibly suitable case study to replicate and experiment with. I have a special place in my heart for spearheads – more so than swords and axes! They’re such awesome implements that have a fascinating history. These particular spearheads have never actually been reproduced before – a challenge Neil Burridge was keen to undertake! – and so, for the first time in nearly 3000 years, Neil and I have been able to haft and hold these fantastic objects in our hands in all their bronze-y glory.
The function of these objects has been much debated, with suggestions ranging from your standard “ritual/ceremonial” explanation, to hunting large game, to the slightly more obscure “fishing spear” interpretation for larger fish, such as sturgeon. This post won’t be engaging in that debate, except to say that at nearly 30cm long, these are mighty impressive spears, and even for large sturgeon, these might be overkill.
Complete Bronze Age spear shafts have only been found in very rare circumstances, with at least six complete examples currently known from across Europe. These range from 1 1/2 metres to over 2 1/2 metres long. None of these have been found hafted to barbed spearheads, however, so we had to make a rough guesstimate and settled on producing two metre long shafts (this was also partly determined by what I could fit into my modest Ford Fiesta!). The wood used is seasoned ash, which has been shown to be quite commonly used in the Bronze Age.
The clay cores of the spearheads were left in situ, as they were found still embedded in the broken Bloody Pool examples – no doubt in part because of the difficulty with removing the core – and the spears were riveted with a large bronze peg through the socket, nearly abutting the projecting barbs.
I have to say these things look pretty incredible. The shafts still need sanding, and the spearheads polishing, but they are without a doubt quite striking objects. Once polished, I imagine they will catch the sun pretty spectacularly and you can imagine these almost as battle standards from which you might hang other ornamentation.
Next month I’m hoping to test just how deadly they can be in some combat tests, before I smash them to pieces. Until then, I just have to try not to become too attached to them…
I must of course thank and praise Neil Burridge at www.bronzeageswords.com for undertaking the challenge of producing these spears and the shafts.
I’m Matt, 25 years old, a glutton for academic punishment, a lover of all things Bronze Age, always willing to continue talking even when my friends have lost interest, and never happy unless overwhelming busy. Find out more here and be sure to follow me on Twitter @mgknight24.