Despite being ostensibly about differing perceptions of utility and the importance of ritual ceremony between the ancients and ourselves, my last post was basically about swords.
That said, we barely touched upon them as archaeological and cultural artifacts. I thought I’d remedy that with an addendum about swords, or rather by providing a condense bibliography for anyone interested in reading a bit more about them.
The starting point for looking into bronze age swords is surely Sandar’s two articles (1961, 1963), whence the eponymous typology. Readers ought to be warned that the typology, though functional, is suspect in terms of both sense and utility and far from the kind of quality one medievalists benefit from in Oakeshott (2009).
Barry Molloy is perhaps the single most promising scholar on the topic. His work includes a re-negotiation of the typology above (2010) as well as some attempts to treat swords as, well, swords by using them (2008). Experimental archaeology and reconstruction is always a bit suspect – Wardle (1988) is probably the pinnacle of what not to do – but Molloy takes a measured and sensible approach. Now, I’ve mentioned my love of combat sports before and also that I’ve fenced since I was a small child, so the use of these swords is something I’d like to do a future blog post on. Much of it would form a dialogue with Molloy’s article.
Once again, Medievalists are ahead of us and the excellent Knight and the Blast Furnace is perhaps the single best academic treatment of arms, armour, and metallurgy from any period.
What about ideology and the warrior? As mentioned in the previous post, we lack narrative texts and so any ideology is by necessity inferred by us. Though seemingly unpromising, do bear in mind that this is done via sensitive reading of art and artefact on one hand, and careful comparison with other cultures on the other. The best introduction would be any generic book on Minoan and Mycenaean art. I’ve loved Higgins (1967) since I was a child but it’s hardly industry standard. Substitute your book of choice.
Molloy (2012) again, is worth reading in his presentation of the warrior ethos amongst the Minoans. Now Minoans =! Mycenaeans and are somewhat earlier but it helps add context on the Aegean background is a further demonstration of solid methodology. The article itself got quite some press at the time for its shattering of the putative Pax Minoica that Evans first implanted in our cultural imagination. In this vein see Haysom (2010) on the double axe.
Kristiansen (2002) is a short and enjoyable introduction to bronze age sword fighters generally. Kramer-Hajos’ essay, “The ideology of the sword” has been one of my major influences in thinking about this topic again: long but informative, it represents the magic that happens when material culture meets informed theorising and supposition. Suffused with excellent pictures, the article covers feasting, fighting, hunting, artwork and a myriad of other related topics. Kramer-Hajos decisively demonstrates the importance of warrior ideology to the formation of Mycenaean states.
Last and certainly not least are the collected essays in Aegaeum 19, POLEMOS, which discuss several areas of BAA warfare. Occasionally, some of the essays are prone to romantic, euhemeristic, readings of later iron age texts which must be taken with mountains of salt. Surely then an excellent time to pick up Ian Morris’ (1986) oft-cited article on the (ab)use of Homer or, if you’re really in a Mycenaean mood, the penultimate chapter of Chadwick’s (1976) seminal study of the period. The articles contained therein in generally well argued and comprehensive.
Needless to say, all these articles come with their own bibliographies for those inclined to dig deeper. As I said, this is quite condensed and not meant to be exhaustive. Feel free to add anything interesting or share the list as you see fit. If this post format is useful, we can draw up lists for other classical topics too.
Chadwick, J. (1976). The Mycenaean world. Cambridge
Haysom, M (2010) The double-axe: A contextual approach to the understanding of a Cretan symbol of the Neopalatial period, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 29.1, 35–55.
Higgins, R. (1967). Minoan and Mycenaean art. London.
Kramer-Hajos, M. (n.d.). THE ETHOS OF THE SWORD: THE CREATION OF EARLY MYCENAEAN ELITE CULTURE. Mycenaean Greece and the Aegean World, 33-55.
Kristiansen, K (2002) The tale of the sword – swords and swordfighters in Bronze Age Europe Oxford Journal of Archaeology 21.4, 319–32.
Laffineur, R (1999) (ed.) POLEMOS: Le contexte guerrier en Égée á l’âge du Bronze. Belgium
Molloy, B (2008). Martial Arts and Materiality: A Combat Archaeology Perspective on Aegean Swords of the Fifteenth and Fourteenth Centuries BC World Archaeology, Vol. 40, No. 1, Experimental Archaeology pp. 116-134
Molloy, B. (2010). Swords and Swordsmanship in the Aegean Bronze Age. American Journal of Archaeology, 114(3),
Molloy, B P C (2012) MARTIAL MINOANS? WAR AS SOCIAL PROCESS, PRACTICE AND EVENT IN BRONZE AGE CRETE The Annual of the British School at Athens, Vol. 107 pp. 87-142
Morris, I. (1986). The Use and Abuse of Homer. Classical Antiquity, 5(1), 81-138.
Oakeshott, E. (2009). Records of the medieval sword. Woodbridge: Boydell Press.
Sandars, N. K. (1961). The First Aegean Swords and Their Ancestry. American Journal of Archaeology, 65(1), 17.
Sandars, N. K. (1963). Later Aegean Bronze Swords. American Journal of Archaeology, 67(2), 117.
Wardle, Diana E.H. (1988) Does Reconstruction Help? A Mycenaean Dress and the Dendra Suit of Armour in French, E.B. and K.A. Wardle, eds. Problems in Greek Prehistory. pp. 469-476.
Williams, A. (2003). The knight and the blast furnace: A history of the metallurgy of armour in the Middle Ages & the early modern period. Leiden: Brill.