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Roman Knives


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#1 peter johnsson

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 04:58 AM

The knives used as everyday tools in roman times are interesting as they connect to some very ancient blade forms. In museums where finds from the period is displayed you can often find a couple of small simple knives. At times they are pretty well preserved, giving us an insight into every day reality as well as the work of ancient knife makers/cutlers. Below I post some snapshots from various museums. Hope you find these knife forms as inspirational as I do. Enjoy :)

A sacrificial knife used in the ritual slaying and butchering of animals to appease the gods. I think the blade is of bronze on this one. It is made in a time when iron was widely used for blades, so there might be some ritual significance it is made of bronze. A very thick back!
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Another knife that may be sacrificial, or perhaps the weapon of a Venator or Bestiari (a type of gladiator who fought wild animals on the arena with a short spear, or sometimes a sword or knife )
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A very common type of utility knife as a form that may seem to us a bit curious: the edge is recurved in an S-shape. This form has very ancient traditions, going back to the bronze age. Some of the very first utility knives made by man had this edge shape. I have experimented a little with this form and found it to be very practical. You get a good purchase with the concave part of the edge, and the forward curve of the point provides access for precise cutting. This may be the form of curved knife the romans called "sica". Its use as the favorite weapon of back alley cut-throats gave it a sinister reputation. The weapon used by killers may have been slightly larger in size, but more or less of same form and construction.
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Knives of somewhat similar form but more robust and a different design for the grip:
Top one, note also the grip for the folding knife (a dog hunting a rabbit)
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And anther one, grip scales reconstructed.
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The recurved edge design is ancient. Here are some bronze age knives from Siberia:
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In ancient China, this type of knife was the chosen form for early currency, cast in bronze:
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A collection of various roman knives found in London:
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A knife of parazonium type. It is believed these daggers were rewarded as signs of authority on the battle field (if I am not mistaken). The signifying aspect is the eagle shaped pommel:
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And finally a type of knife that is an integral design, with a fine straight blade (sometimes hollow ground to a razor edge) that looks like the perfect pen knife (perhaps for reed pens?):
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#2 richard sexstone

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 05:22 AM

Cool,
Thanks Peter, Interesting how most any blade shapes for most any purpose you can think of have already been thought of somewhere long ago...Posted Image
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#3 Jesus Hernandez

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 08:08 AM

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Interesting to see how forms were shared by different blades in the past. Looking at the handle in this blade that you posted reminds me of the falcata's grip.

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And the utility knife's shape, I believe has been documented in other findings of the same age as the falcata and were thought to be mounted together in different pockets of the same sheath, if I am correct.

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Edited by Jesus Hernandez, 18 August 2010 - 08:11 AM.

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#4 peter johnsson

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 08:36 AM

The forms you find in these knives are shared across many different cultures over very long periods of time. It is fascinating to see these forms occur across the whole eurasian continent and over more than a millennium (well actually into our time for some "diluted" versions of these shapes).

Below a bronze age knife from northern Spain:

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...and two falcatas, the upper one has a by knife rusted in place, I think (from the archaeological museum in Barcelona):
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A type of crooked sword from ancient Dacia (today Romania) dating to the 3rd C BC:
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In the cold north we had our own version of the Falcata. This sword dates to the decades around year 1 AD and is found not far away in my part of Sweden:
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Some elements of the of set hilt shape is found in some type of sax swords (even though the blade is now straight). Also a Swedish find:
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And finally the "original" Sica, or at least the weapon that was originally called by this name. A fighting dagger carried by Dacian warriors in the last couple of centuries BC.
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#5 Alan Longmire

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 10:01 AM

In the cold north we had our own version of the Falcata. This sword dates to the decades around year 1 AD and is found not far away in my part of Sweden:
P1000554.jpg


I love this forum... :lol:

Peter, is that glødeskal or a type of bog patina on that blade? I can guess it was a bog find by the way it's wrapped up on itself, but was it also cremated first?

#6 peter johnsson

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 10:06 AM

Hi Alan,
It is black oxide from being put on a fire. The folding must have been done after/while being glowing hot. THe black patina is uniform and has helped preserve the sword. It is a burial find. I think it was a fire burial, but I shall check this.

Glad you like it!
:)

#7 J.Arthur Loose

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 10:59 AM

Thanks. Peter!

I need to attend to that falcata blade I made years ago...

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#8 Michael Kemp

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 11:35 AM

Peter & Jesus - I really appreciate this thread! A favorite cousin asked if I'd make him a "Gurkha knife" - and in researching Kukris I found the shape echoed from Spain, Europe, N. Africa, Thrace,through India to SE Asia...

Your photos of the Dacian Sicas even bear the same fuller lines that are traditional to the Kukri.

Thanks so much for the photos and comments!

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#9 EdgarFigaro

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 08:06 PM

Posted Image

That one immediately pulls to mind the swords used in the movie 300. The hilt looks very similar.



after looking the 300 one up, it is similar, but doesn't look as much like that one as I thought. Must have been another I saw. I remember there being a thread discussing that hilt style and I think Sam had tried making one integrally by forging too.

Edited by EdgarFigaro, 18 August 2010 - 08:09 PM.

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#10 Howie

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 06:20 AM

Alan, that makes two of us :) So many different types of knives to try and make, so little time! October isn't coming soon enough that's for sure. :wacko:

#11 MDF

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 09:22 AM

Absolute stunning!
Thanks Peter for sharing this with us.
I'm really interested in this sort of thing, knives Romans are very charming and very modern in their forms and solutions!

First two are very interesting, I knew one of them.
In the second image of the common type knives I see in the lower right, a bronze knife handle, you have pictures of this? I remember a very similar model of Vindonissa! Or this is found in Newstead? I attach an image.
The knife folder is very familiar to me :D but why clean this?!?

The Parazonium was a particularly knife. Generally worn on the left side of roman Tribuni. I have seen many reproductions on statues ... I have a project in my desk for a few months ago ... will be my future project.

You have more information, length and thickness of the set of knives found in London?
Very interesting and ispiring post, many thanks!!!

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#12 peter johnsson

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 09:56 AM

Below is a fuzzy pic of the bronze hilted knife. It is a small tool for precision work. Bronze part may be some 6-8 cm long. You grasp it with four fingers of your hand with thumb and index finger grasping the forward cut out decorated part.
Most of these knives are pretty small. The bone handled ones often have a blade length of some 8 - 10 cm. Some are even smaller, a few are a bit bigger. I do not have exact measurements, sorry.

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Many of the knives in above posts and the bronze gripped one are from Museum of London.

#13 peter johnsson

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 09:58 AM

Thanks. Peter!

I need to attend to that falcata blade I made years ago...



I want to see that Falcata! Please show it when you have begun work on it again.
:)

#14 J.Arthur Loose

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 06:51 PM

I want to see that Falcata! Please show it when you have begun work on it again.
:)


Will do! ;)

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#15 richard sexstone

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 05:36 AM

Jol,
I was not aware that you could shave off a flaming beard... Posted Image Have you perfected a finger snap to bring it back when you desire?Posted Image
this is a really cool thread ...I don't mean to derail it... Thanks Peter....
Dick

#16 J.Arthur Loose

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 08:56 AM

Jol,
I was not aware that you could shave off a flaming beard... Posted Image Have you perfected a finger snap to bring it back when you desire?Posted Image
this is a really cool thread ...I don't mean to derail it... Thanks Peter....
Dick


I figure the regular beard is fiery enough. ;)

~

The thing I like about Roman knives is that there's so many kinds and types... it's as if they were just as modern as we like to think we are. ;)

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#17 MDF

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Posted 26 August 2010 - 02:03 AM

Ok, thanks for the info.
Peter you have received my PM? The shooting of the folder knife is Perhaps the Roman museum in Cologne?

I add another interesting picture of Roman common knives...shot of my friend.

The second one is wonderful, certainly I replicate it in the future B)

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