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Seax grip wood analyzed samples


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Finally a good source for types of wood used for seax grips, based on finds from (mostly northern) France:

"The species composition of the hilts of spathae is, however, considerably more diverse: Oak (Quercus sp.), ash and maple (Acer sp.) dominated a total of ten species. Hilts of seaxes (43 from 18 sites) as well as knives (17 from 10 sites) show a similar spectrum. For both groups of short-blade weapon, there is no evidence of wooden sheaths. With ~90% the majority of knife hilts was made of bone and more rarely of horn. This material was also sporadically detected on the hilts of spathae and seaxes".

Summary of the analyzed seax wood types used (number of grips between the brackets):

Querques sp. (12) - oak
Fraxinus excelcior (6) - ash
Acer sp. (5) - maple
Fagus silvatica (5) - European beech
Corylus avellana (5) - hazel
Alnus sp. (4) - alder
Salix sp. (2) - white willow
Prunus sp. (1) - cherry
Populus sp. (1) - poplar
Tilia sp. (1) - lime

Source: http://buentgen.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Tegel_etal.2016_JAS.pdf

 

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4 hours ago, Jeroen Zuiderwijk said:

With ~90% the majority of knife hilts was made of bone and more rarely of horn.

When thae say "knife hilts," are they talking about the bolster, or the whole handle being made of horn? Also, is there a type of oak here in North Carolina that would be comparable to the oak in Europe?

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4 minutes ago, Wesley Alberson said:

When thae say "knife hilts," are they talking about the bolster, or the whole handle being made of horn? Also, is there a type of oak here in North Carolina that would be comparable to the oak in Europe?

I wonder that about the as well, but I have not read the article yet...

And good old white oak is very close to the look of English oak I have seen.

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1 hour ago, Wesley Alberson said:

When thae say "knife hilts," are they talking about the bolster, or the whole handle being made of horn?

The article doesn't say. I have however seen documentation on knife hilts from the period which were frequently of stacked construction, including bone, metal, wood and/or horn bits (unlike seaxes).  

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I just found a link in the article to more data: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2015.11.011

Access to that costs $37 though, and so far I've not been able to find somewhere I can order that on paper. I might have to pay it though, as I want that data. 

Edit: I see that the article in the link is just 5 pages, just like the above linked pdf. So I doubt that has any other info.

Edited by Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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A couple of interesting points.

Page 150: In contrast, high density and tough wood species such as ash and maloideae, for instance, were preferentially used for axe handles.......Both the scabbards (n = 4) as well as the axe handles (n = 3) were exclusively produced from split or slabbed raw material. (in contrast to round wood, or interior wood)

Page 152: Five different species of wood were used for axe handles......The most frequently used species in the examined material was ash with 36.4%....... During the Merovingian period however, a clear preference of ash for axe handles is not the case. In the study material, Maloideae and hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) are represented almost in equal number, and less frequently maple and oak.

Page 150: Hilts of seaxes (43 from 18 sites) as well as knives (17 from 10 sites) show a similar spectrum. (to that of Spathae, 10 differing wood species with no clear majority)

Page 152: Hilts of spathae, seaxes and knives show no discernible pattern to favour certain taxa or a particular wood property.

Summary/Closing paragraphs: In addition to purely mechanical-practical advantages that lead to the preference of certain taxa, elements of tradition and popular belief must be considered......The results of wood anatomical research indicate that the selection and processing of wood in Merovingian times was predominantly based on specific knowledge and supra-regional traditions.

What I took away from this article was that when a weapon (or shield) required certain physical properties, the wood species spectrum diminished to favor specific woods and where in the tree the wood was harvested. When the wooden element (hilts and handles) did not require any special characteristics, almost anything would do, and seems to be more be more dependent upon local traditions or aesthetics.

Thanks Jeroen, great reading!

Edited by Joshua States
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