The Sword, chapter I: Birth of the Swordsman

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3300 B.C., southern part of modern Iraq: marvellous new developments have taken place between Euphrates and Tigris, what we often speak of as the Dawn of Civilization. The Sumerian Civilization flourished with cities, temples, writing, calendars and organized trade, and was now expanding rapidly northwards into Syria and southern Anatolia. Surely this medal had a violent and destructive backside, as the Sumerian city-states were constantly in war with each other, and since the expansion at least in part was accomplished through war. Thus the Sumerians had their soldiers, their armies and their weaponry. Yet it is not here that we find the first swords. In fact, the long straight sword was never characteristic to Near Eastern warfare in the Bronze Age. Shorter and curved blades were more popular. The Sumerian or Uruk expansion can be traced northwards through stamp seals and pottery. About 3300 B.C. such Uruk ware appeared in smaller quantities at the city of Arslantepe in Southern Anatolia. Evidently, the Sumerian organized trading network now reached as far as this. The question is whether it in fact stretched much further northwards? To the far north, beyond the great Caucasian Mountain range, lies the territory of the Maikop culture. Before 3500 B.C. the elites of the Maikop culture were buried in tombs lavishly equipped with bronze, silver and gold, underneath immense kurgans (earthen burial mounds). These are the earliest known burial mounds. Archaeologist found from the very beginning what they thought to be links to southern civilizations in these tombs, but they linked them to later horizons c. 2500 B.C. Now, armed with series of radiocarbon dates from several laboratories, archaeologists have moved all four phases of the Maikop culture into the 4th millennium.

At Arslantepe in Southern Anatolia, Uruk ware first appeared c 3300 B.C. and then it disappeared again c. 3100 B.C. This is seen all over Southern Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia – and indicates the collapse of the Uruk network c. 3100 B.C. Explanations for this collapse varies, but many focuses on "internal issues" in the Uruk heartland in Southern Mesopotamia. This may be right, but it is important still, and in particularly to this chase for the origin of the sword and the warrior, that the networks in their full extension are studied.

Among the elaborate metalwork of bronze, copper, silver and gold in the Maikop tombs, weapons such as daggers and axes dominate. In Kurgan 31, tomb nr 5 at the burial site Klady (attributed to the Maikop culture), there was what seems to be the first true long sword. This burial has not been radiocarbon dated, but it belongs in local phase 3 at Klady, corresponding to the last phase 4 of the Maikop culture. Kurgan 30 burial nr. 1 at Klady belongs to the same local phase 3, and has been radiocarbon dated to 3500-3342 (68% probability), and 3500-3128 (95% probability). At Arslantepe archaeologists discovered in the 1980's an assembly of 22 arsenical bronze objects: 9 long daggers or short swords, 12 spearheads and what seems to be a buckle. These belong to local phase VIA at Arslantepe, dated to 3350-3000 B.C. These short swords figurate as the earliest swords in most recent accounts. But they are much shorter, and probably younger, than the blade from Klady. And in light of what happened next at Arslantepe, these ought to be seen as influenced by novel northern weapons. Phase VI A at Arslantepe ended in destruction - the city was burned. In this burned city a tomb was later dug - containing a man known to us as Signori Arslantepe (Italian excavation team). The burial is dated through radiocarbon to 3081-2897 (95% probabiity). Signori Arslantepe was about 40 years old, buried in a stone cist with his sword, 4 daggers, several spearheads, as well as a wealth of other artefacts in gold, silver, cornelian and rock-crystal. On top of the lid of the tomb lay four adolescents sacrificed. The people occupying the ruins of the palace are thought to have been mobile pastoralists with cultural links to Transcaucasia and the southern neighbour of the Maikop culture, the Kura-Arax culture. One possible scenario is that it was among the mobile pastoralists to the north that a new kind of warriorhood took shape. The elite war-lords of the Maikop adapted their mobile life style to raiding concentrations of wealth at such places as Arslantepe. Thus, the long blade was a novelty not of the elite in the palaces of the Uruk network, but of their mobile neighbours to the north. The swordsman was one more by-product of civilization - a stylish raider of caravans, store houses and palaces.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bronze Age Sword Series includes two items from this early stage: The Klady sword and one of the nine older swords from Arslantepe.

No. 1 KLADY

(Klady, Russia, c. 3300 B.C.)

Tanged blade,ridged cross-section, copper, polished walnut for hilt. Total lenght c. 65cm (the image is a preliminary model-image, the actual sword might differ in finish and minor details). Replica of original. Introductory offer: 476 EUR.

No. 2 ARSLANTEPE

(Arslantepe, Turkey, c. 3200 B.C.)

Blade and hilt in one piece, bronze with silver inlay. Total length c. 49,5cm (the image is a preliminary model-image, the actual sword might differ in finish and minordetails). Replica of original. Introductory offer: 595 EUR.

 

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Litterature:

 

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