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Thread: Charts: Seax

  1. #1
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    Charts: Seax

    Merry Christmas to all...

    I have seen several threads dealing with seax classification with lots of good information. So over the last year I have been trying to make a chart dealing with some of the basics related to the seax. I have taken Wheeler's four types and expanded it to include some common transitional forms. I have given type designations, in a way I have seen in plate captions... by simply combining the wheeler types on either side of the transition separated by a slash.

    To help define these types I have made a chart to help show the characteristics that define each type. The second chart shows this modified Wheeler typology in a way to situate the types in a vertical chronological sequence and a horizontal geographic distribution. I have also added some possible ancestral forms at the bottom.

    Take a look and let me know if there is any thing confusing and especially if there is a part of the charts that should be corrected. I also welcome any suggestions on how they could be improved, especially on the chronology bars… most of these are just guesses. And if anyone has a picture or drawing of a Hunnic knife I would love to see it.

    take care

    ks
    Attached Images Attached Images   
    Two swords
    Lit in Eden’s flame
    One of iron and one of ink
    To place within a bloody hand
    One of God or one of man
    Our souls to one of
    Two eternities

  2. #2
    Merry Christmas to you...
    Very interesting, and nice work. I think you nailed the types, and their relations to one another. I have to agree that the 'broke back' form does appear to have evolved from earlier forms common during the Roman era, the primary difference apparent to myself being the widening of the blade from tang to clip, which seems to be a defining feature of the Honeylane type not found on earlier forms.

    I had originally doubted any connection between the 'war knives' from Vimose and later saxes, but I have recently seen what appears to me to be transitional knife that shares many traits with both, although unfortunately the find is not dated. I too would like to see examples of the Hunnic knives that many say saxes evolved from.

    There have been some very interesting threads recently at Don Fogg's forum concerning saxes with good information.
    141. Not allowed to use a broadsword to disprove ‘The Pen is Mightier than the sword’.
    Some of my blades

  3. #3
    Hello Kirk,

    I've been considering a sax chronology as well. I would not use the Wheeler typology, as it's too crude. For German saxes, I use the typology by George Schmit from "Die Alamannen im Zollernalbkreis" (see attachment below). That I've found to cover the evolution pretty well. Most surrounding countries follow a similar line of developement, but there are local differences. Here's what I posted on Wikipedia regarding this typology (from roughly 450 to 800 AD, in chronological order), with a few additions:

    - Schmaler Langsax (small long seax): Possibly a separate, early long knife developement, which may have died out. I know only a few examples.
    - Kurzsax (short seax)
    - Schmalsax (narrow seax) - Often have braided bands or snakes engraved in the blade, and frequently include metal bolsters and pommels. Both the edge and the back are curved towards the tip, which is generally located above the centerline of the blade.
    - Leichter Breitsax (light broad seax) - Similar to narrow seax, but frequently lack metal hilt parts, and have simpler decorations on the blade, such as parallel lines. Both the edge and the back curve towards the tip, which is generally located at the centerline of the blade.
    - Schwerer Breitsax (heavy broad seax) - Have simple decorations on the blade if any, and long single-part organic hilts (>20cm). Both the edge and the back curve towards the tip, which is generally located at the centerline of the blade.
    - Atypischer Breitsax (atypical broad seax) - Same as heavy broad seax
    - Langsax (long seax) - Blades are 50cm or longer, often with multiple fullers and grooves, patternwelded blades, and long hilts similar to broad seaxes. The edge is generally straight, or curved slightly towards the tip. The back either curves gently, or with a sharp angle towards the tip, which is located below the centerline of the blade.

    Regarding the kurzsax, I'm not sure if they are really earlier then the narrow sax. I'd have to check the datings to be sure, but IIRC they are of the same date. The beginning of the sax development in the 6th century is still a bit unclear to me. The narrow sax is also divided in type I and II (forgot the reference, I'll have to check), where type I refers to the examples with metal bolsters and pommels, and usually decorated blades, and type II to the simple blades without any features or metal hilt components.

    In the UK, the development is more or less similar (though there are a lot more size variants, particularly later on), but continues after the 8th century with the broken back style saxes. Rather then using the Wheeler III and IV types on those, I stick to using the Honeylane type for the shorter saxes, the Hurbuck type for the long sax variants and just calling everything in between intermediate. The problem with the Wheeler III and IV types is that III contains very similar saxes as IV, yet the III saxes by themselves as the IV saxes contain too many differences to make them valid groups IMO (f.e. both Wheeler III and IV contain Honeylane style saxes, and both contain long saxes). So I'd rather stick to early Honeylane for the more slender and stretched broken back saxes of shorter then long sax size (such as the hunting knife of Charlemagne), and late Honeylane for the bit more stocky and more straighter sided Honeylane saxes (such as the actual Honeylane sax itself).

    For Scandinavian saxes, until very recently I did not have any view on the evolution of these saxes. I didn't even know if the single edged swords were developed out of shorter saxes, or if they appeared on their own. Jeff Pringle was kind enough to post the Jørgensen’s Nordic sax typology, which you can find here:

    http://forums.dfoggknives.com/index....ic=15373&st=60

    That makes things for Scandinavia a lot more clear.

    I hope that adds some more clearity. I'm still learning more as I keep coming accross more examples. F.e. I know now that eastern Europe also had sax-like blades but with their own differences (like f.e. machete-like blades, straight backs and expanding blades towards the tip). The development of Dutch saxes is practically identical to the German ones, and so is the French (unique to the French saxes is that some narrow and broadsaxes have latin inscriptions on the blades). The Langobardian (Northern Italy), saxes have a similar development as well, though there f.e. metal pommels and bolsters were still used on at least some broad saxes. The most information I have however is on German saxes, of which I have an overview of probably over a thousand examples. Of most other countries I generally know only several tens up to perhaps 50 examples, so I still have a lot of research to do there.
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  4. #4
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    These terms, lansax, breitsax, are these inventions of Jørgensen's or someone else?
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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Douglas S View Post
    These terms, lansax, breitsax, are these inventions of Jørgensen's or someone else?
    George Schmit is the primary source I know for the typology, but I don't know who invented the names. They were probably already introduced a long time ago in archeology.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by G H Ezell View Post
    ...the primary difference apparent to myself being the widening of the blade from tang to clip, which seems to be a defining feature of the Honeylane type not found on earlier forms.

    I had originally doubted any connection between the 'war knives' from Vimose and later saxes, but I have recently seen what appears to me to be transitional knife that shares many traits with both, although unfortunately the find is not dated. I too would like to see examples of the Hunnic knives that many say saxes evolved from.

    There have been some very interesting threads recently at Don Fogg's forum concerning saxes with good information.
    Hi GH...

    Thanks.

    Your right about the widening of the blade from base to tip on the Type IV Honeylane. I have been trying to find a way of incorporating this into the description. I am redoing the chart and I think I will change the III/IV to include something like a curved back. This will emphasis this trend toward the Honeylane and the widening of th blade. I am not sure about the warknife connection. I like the warknives because they seem to be a design connection between the single edge seax and the single edged Falcata forms. However getting through the two centuries between the warknives and seax is difficult also the development of the hidden tang rather than rivets. I was thinking it may be a mixing of the hidden tang of Roman knives through the Illerup Adal connection and the war knives of Vimose. Thus a war knife with a hidden tang. I tried to show these two trends on the chart. I did not want to imply that this is the origin, just that it is one possibility. In the end it might just be simple utilitarian knives getting bigger and had nothing to do with any outside influence.

    If you have a picture of that transitional knife or even a crude drawing I would like to get look at it.

    take care

    ks
    Two swords
    Lit in Eden’s flame
    One of iron and one of ink
    To place within a bloody hand
    One of God or one of man
    Our souls to one of
    Two eternities

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Spencer View Post
    If you have a picture of that transitional knife or even a crude drawing I would like to get look at it.
    Peter Johnsson posted a few images of the knife in question on the second page of Jeroen's link, here's a direct link to the post: http://forums.dfoggknives.com/index....dpost&p=142638
    To my eyes, it appears to be a transitional type, very sax-like except for the rather thin blade like the 'war knives' of Vimose.... but I may be suffering from wishful thinking (it would not be the first time).

    I cannot help but feel that there is some connection between saxes and the earlier Roman and Roman era single-edged knives, if not direct descent.
    141. Not allowed to use a broadsword to disprove ‘The Pen is Mightier than the sword’.
    Some of my blades

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeroen Zuiderwijk View Post
    Hello Kirk,

    I've been considering a sax chronology as well. I would not use the Wheeler typology, as it's too crude. For German saxes, I use the typology by George Schmit from "Die Alamannen im Zollernalbkreis" (see attachment below). That I've found to cover the evolution pretty well. Most surrounding countries follow a similar line of developement, but there are local differences. Here's what I posted on Wikipedia regarding this typology (from roughly 450 to 800 AD, in chronological order), with a few additions:

    - Schmaler Langsax (small long seax): Possibly a separate, early long knife developement, which may have died out. I know only a few examples.
    - Kurzsax (short seax)
    - Schmalsax (narrow seax) - Often have braided bands or snakes engraved in the blade, and frequently include metal bolsters and pommels. Both the edge and the back are curved towards the tip, which is generally located above the centerline of the blade.
    - Leichter Breitsax (light broad seax) - Similar to narrow seax, but frequently lack metal hilt parts, and have simpler decorations on the blade, such as parallel lines. Both the edge and the back curve towards the tip, which is generally located at the centerline of the blade.
    - Schwerer Breitsax (heavy broad seax) - Have simple decorations on the blade if any, and long single-part organic hilts (>20cm). Both the edge and the back curve towards the tip, which is generally located at the centerline of the blade.
    - Atypischer Breitsax (atypical broad seax) - Same as heavy broad seax
    - Langsax (long seax) - Blades are 50cm or longer, often with multiple fullers and grooves, patternwelded blades, and long hilts similar to broad seaxes. The edge is generally straight, or curved slightly towards the tip. The back either curves gently, or with a sharp angle towards the tip, which is located below the centerline of the blade.

    Regarding the kurzsax, I'm not sure if they are really earlier then the narrow sax. I'd have to check the datings to be sure, but IIRC they are of the same date. The beginning of the sax development in the 6th century is still a bit unclear to me. The narrow sax is also divided in type I and II (forgot the reference, I'll have to check), where type I refers to the examples with metal bolsters and pommels, and usually decorated blades, and type II to the simple blades without any features or metal hilt components.

    In the UK, the development is more or less similar (though there are a lot more size variants, particularly later on), but continues after the 8th century with the broken back style saxes. Rather then using the Wheeler III and IV types on those, I stick to using the Honeylane type for the shorter saxes, the Hurbuck type for the long sax variants and just calling everything in between intermediate. The problem with the Wheeler III and IV types is that III contains very similar saxes as IV, yet the III saxes by themselves as the IV saxes contain too many differences to make them valid groups IMO (f.e. both Wheeler III and IV contain Honeylane style saxes, and both contain long saxes). So I'd rather stick to early Honeylane for the more slender and stretched broken back saxes of shorter then long sax size (such as the hunting knife of Charlemagne), and late Honeylane for the bit more stocky and more straighter sided Honeylane saxes (such as the actual Honeylane sax itself).

    For Scandinavian saxes, until very recently I did not have any view on the evolution of these saxes. I didn't even know if the single edged swords were developed out of shorter saxes, or if they appeared on their own. Jeff Pringle was kind enough to post the Jørgensen’s Nordic sax typology, which you can find here:

    http://forums.dfoggknives.com/index....ic=15373&st=60

    That makes things for Scandinavia a lot more clear.

    I hope that adds some more clearity. I'm still learning more as I keep coming accross more examples. F.e. I know now that eastern Europe also had sax-like blades but with their own differences (like f.e. machete-like blades, straight backs and expanding blades towards the tip). The development of Dutch saxes is practically identical to the German ones, and so is the French (unique to the French saxes is that some narrow and broadsaxes have latin inscriptions on the blades). The Langobardian (Northern Italy), saxes have a similar development as well, though there f.e. metal pommels and bolsters were still used on at least some broad saxes. The most information I have however is on German saxes, of which I have an overview of probably over a thousand examples. Of most other countries I generally know only several tens up to perhaps 50 examples, so I still have a lot of research to do there.

    Hey Jeroen...

    Thanks for the long reply... I was hoping you would give me your opinion.

    This is all good stuff! I will definitely use it to improve the charts.

    I had seen Schmits typology. I wanted to use it... however, I did not know how he was quantifying the boundaries between his forms...what are the ranges in lengths and widths of each of the forms. Do you know what the boundary lengths are, or the ranges? Are these in the text of Schmit's article?

    Also Schmit's Schmaler Langsax or narrow longseax is confusing to me. It does not seem to have a hidden tang because the tang attaches to the blade back. So I am not sure it is a seax and it is out of the overall flow of smaller-to-larger which would also suggest it is a precursor. Also it does not look long enough to be a longseax. It would make more sense to me to call it a long narrowseax rather than a narrow longseax. This is even more confusing considering that when the longseax appears there are narrow versions which I would call a narrow longseax.

    As for Wheeler... I'm not sure if I am ready to do away with it yet. I think Wheelers simple divisions are still usefull in providing information on the geometry of the blade tip. What I would like to do is try to find a way of combining Wheeler to define differences in blade tip geometry and thus provide ways of distinguishing geographic trends--combining this with Schmit to define differences in legth/width trends.

    Let me process all this good information and see about taking another shot at the charts...

    Again thanks for your input!

    take care

    ks
    Two swords
    Lit in Eden’s flame
    One of iron and one of ink
    To place within a bloody hand
    One of God or one of man
    Our souls to one of
    Two eternities

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by G H Ezell View Post
    Peter Johnsson posted a few images of the knife in question on the second page of Jeroen's link, here's a direct link to the post: http://forums.dfoggknives.com/index....dpost&p=142638
    To my eyes, it appears to be a transitional type, very sax-like except for the rather thin blade like the 'war knives' of Vimose.... but I may be suffering from wishful thinking (it would not be the first time).

    I cannot help but feel that there is some connection between saxes and the earlier Roman and Roman era single-edged knives, if not direct descent.
    Yeah...

    It looks like the Illerup Adal knives in the seax length range. Like you say it has the qualities of a seax, just not quite as sturdy as most seax are. And it definitely has a Roman look to it. I have Vol. 11 & 12 on the swords from Illerup Adal (and many other bogs). I have heard there is a volume on the knives... If so I will have to get that one too. It would be interesting to see if there are any knives similar to the more Germanic War Knives in Illerup Adal. All the elements seem to be there they are just in different blades. Spear point tips on the German War Knives and hidden tangs on the Illerup Adal Roman looking knives.

    take care

    ks
    Two swords
    Lit in Eden’s flame
    One of iron and one of ink
    To place within a bloody hand
    One of God or one of man
    Our souls to one of
    Two eternities

  10. #10
    Thanks Kirk.

    Hats off to you and your work.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Spencer View Post
    Hey Jeroen...

    Thanks for the long reply... I was hoping you would give me your opinion.

    This is all good stuff! I will definitely use it to improve the charts.

    I had seen Schmits typology. I wanted to use it... however, I did not know how he was quantifying the boundaries between his forms...what are the ranges in lengths and widths of each of the forms. Do you know what the boundary lengths are, or the ranges? Are these in the text of Schmit's article?
    Not AFAIK. But a usual blade length for narrow saxes f.e. is 30cm, and width usually around 3cm. For broad saxes, Jaap Ypey gives for broad saxes ranges of 3.3-4.9mm width for blade lengths of 27-42cm and 5-5.8mm width for 29-52cm bladelength. These he takes from Bohner (various references). I'm assuming that these distinguish light and heavy broad saxes, although these names are not given there. But as you can see, blade lengths on broad saxes are allover the place. The width however shows a trend in increasing from narrow sax to light broad sax to heavy broad sax. After that, from the end of the 8th century they evolve into langsaxes, which reduce in width a bit, and gradually increase in length during the 8th century.

    Also Schmit's Schmaler Langsax or narrow longseax is confusing to me. It does not seem to have a hidden tang because the tang attaches to the blade back. So I am not sure it is a seax and it is out of the overall flow of smaller-to-larger which would also suggest it is a precursor. Also it does not look long enough to be a longseax. It would make more sense to me to call it a long narrowseax rather than a narrow longseax. This is even more confusing considering that when the longseax appears there are narrow versions which I would call a narrow longseax.
    It might be a different breed of single edged weapon alltogether. AFAIK there is a time gap between these narrow long saxes (5th century IIRC) and the first small/narrow saxes in the mid/late 6th century, and they are very different in many ways. But it's hard to say, as I only know about 3 narrow long saxes or so (all of which totally different from eachother too).

    As for Wheeler... I'm not sure if I am ready to do away with it yet. I think Wheelers simple divisions are still usefull in providing information on the geometry of the blade tip. What I would like to do is try to find a way of combining Wheeler to define differences in blade tip geometry and thus provide ways of distinguishing geographic trends--combining this with Schmit to define differences in legth/width trends.
    There are a lot more features that defines types though, such as metal pommels, bolsters yes/no, grip length, engraving on the blades, patternwelding, fullering/grooves etc. IMO all of these features define a type. When you look at only one, like the tip shape, you can group together saxes from different periods. F.e. in the IV typology, you seem to have included a narrow sax (third one), which is much older then the others. There are also some broadsaxes with a fairly angled back, though which aren't direct forerunners of the later broken back saxes (just happen to be forged/ground with a sharper angle then normal). They are true broad saxes however. Also, the straight back occurs on continental narrow saxes as well, which may not be related to the Scandinavian ones.

  12. #12
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    You know what? I think that Oakeshott would approve of this thread.
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    Do what thy manhood bids thee do,
    from none but self expect applause;
    He noblest lives and noblest dies
    who makes and keeps his self-made laws.

    -Sir Richard Francis Burton

  13. #13
    Join Date
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    Hi all...

    Off and on, I have been trying to redo the charts incorporating the helpful feedback. I have been working on the classification chart in particular. I kept the Wheeler blade shape/tip classification as earlier, but have broken out a column showing the Schmitt blade length classification. I have not included any of the info on blade decoration... maybe later.

    I believe that it may be possible to combine these two classification elements (blade shape and blade length) to create a matrix of possible blade forms and then select the forms that have actually been documented by finds. After this I would like to take the distribution chart and retool it.

    I have attached the updated classification chart. Let me know what you think. It is stored in Photoshop so it will be easy to make changes.

    take care

    ks
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by Kirk Spencer; 03-12-2010 at 09:23 AM.
    Two swords
    Lit in Eden’s flame
    One of iron and one of ink
    To place within a bloody hand
    One of God or one of man
    Our souls to one of
    Two eternities

  14. #14
    May I take the opportunity to ask if there is any evidence from finds that some 'Viking' seax had a crosspiece, quillons or guard wider than a bolster - perhaps an oval or rectangle wider than the blade as part of the hilt furniture - that could be considered to function as a simple guard? I note their presence on some reproduction seax, and am wondering if this is historically accurate, and so a factor in my future purchases. Many thanks.
    Know ye that in some nightmare region I will always be a professional soldier

  15. Quote Originally Posted by Vaurien Silverwood View Post
    May I take the opportunity to ask if there is any evidence from finds that some 'Viking' seax had a crosspiece, quillons or guard wider than a bolster - perhaps an oval or rectangle wider than the blade as part of the hilt furniture - that could be considered to function as a simple guard? I note their presence on some reproduction seax, and am wondering if this is historically accurate, and so a factor in my future purchases. Many thanks.
    Judging from the artifacts, one sees what could be deemed a guard on some of the earliest types, the narrow long saxes, kurzsax, and schmalsaxes, and on the Scandinavian langsaxes which are basically single-edged swords. They simply do not exist on the later types, though that doesn't stop many modern makers from giving them big honking bowie guards. In my mind it is an abomination... I can forgive a bolster, but a full blown guard? Heresy.

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