Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Danish Halberds (Horn, 2017)

This is a study specific to Denmark, and it looks at the functional use and maintenance history of halberds. The results of these personal halberd 'histories' reveals that these items were regularly and powerfully used against creatures, not the decorations of strutting roosters. Christian Horn looks at each weapon to reveal its maintenance history and the result is this: for the Cimbrian Peninsula and the Danish Isles, Halberds were used, repeatedly repaired, but very powerfully used by their wielders.
Now there is a viewpoint by Skak-Neilsen 2009, mentioned here, that halberds were basically used for pithingor essentially that or something, and a case could be made that Medieval slaughter techniques generally pithed with poleaxes, at least in the far West. But viewing the Bronze Age weapon within that functional sphere is problematic for a host of reasons, one being the decline of the halberd in relation to the ascendancy of the sword as a 'beyond-arm's-length weapon' is fairly correlated.

You'll notice on this weapon below and the other halberds in this series that repairs aren't just impact damage to the tip.  There are damages of different sorts along the weapon, suggesting a wide range of movements, hooking and defenses.  Clearly, the weapon below was involved in combat.

There's actually a long and varied list of reasons to view the halberd as a human-only weapon, and if pithing is excluded, quite possibly the very first weapon created by humans with the expressed and exclusive purpose of killing, often and efficiently, humans very specifically. Take all other weapons, remove its hunting value, and see what remains.  Basically nothing.

For the moment, I'll stop here and return later to Horn's thorough research on a continental scale. It's very extensive, and very damning. There is another paper penned by him and Kristensen concerning Early Bronze Age warfare forthcoming.

"Combat and ritual — Wear analysis on metal halberds from the Danish Isles and the Cimbrian Peninsula"
Christian Horn.  Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Leibnizstr. 3, 24118 Kiel, Germany


Use wear analysis was carried out on fourteen halberds from the Danish Isles and the Cimbrian Peninsula. Rather than presenting a summary of the results, each analysis will be described in detail to give a sense of the complexity of the use wear present on each halberd. This way a sense of the scale of combat they were involved in can be conveyed. This challenges older ideas that see in halberds only ritual implements or signifiers of status. The analysis of the wear traces indicates their use in both, combat and ritual.

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