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Bronze Age Swordsmanship: New Insights from Experiments and Wear Analysis

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Andrea Dolfini, Rachel Crellin



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The article presents a new picture of sword fighting in Middle and Late Bronze Age Europe developed through the Bronze Age Combat Project. The project investigated the uses of Bronze Age swords, shields, and spears by combining integrated experimental archaeology and metalwork wear analysis. The research is grounded in an explicit and replicable methodology providing a blueprint for future experimentation with, and wear analysis of, prehistoric copper-alloy weapons. We present a four-step experimental methodology including both controlled and actualistic experiments. The experimental results informed the wear analysis of 110 Middle and Late Bronze Age swords from Britain and Italy. The research has generated new understandings of prehistoric combat, including diagnostic and undiagnostic combat marks and how to interpret them; how to hold and use a Bronze Age sword; the degree of skill and training required for proficient combat; the realities of Bronze Age swordplay including the frequency of blade-on-blade contact; the body parts and areas targeted by prehistoric sword fencers; and the evolution of fighting styles in Britain and Italy from the late 2nd to the early 1st millennia BC.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hermann R, Dolfini A, Crellin RJ, Wang Q, Uckelmann M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

Year: 2020

Volume: 27

Pages: 1040-1083

Print publication date: 01/12/2020

Online publication date: 17/04/2020

Acceptance date: 17/04/2020

Date deposited: 28/04/2020

ISSN (print): 1072-5369

ISSN (electronic): 1573-7764

Publisher: Springer Nature


DOI: 10.1007/s10816-020-09451-0


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