The Bronze Age Rapier

17 Sep

Blog Post #1

Perhaps a testament to my fascination of medieval warfare, an object that caught my attention as I toured the National Museum of Ireland was a rapier. Estimated to be from the mid-late Bronze Age, it had been found in 1867 in a bog near Lissan, County Derry, while peat was being hand cut.

The weapon was very long, rusty, and, not surprising considering the time period it was from, made out of bronze. It had a narrow handle that was partially broken, a trapezoidal butt, and a thin and stretched blade. It is reckoned that the rapier was not in fact used as a functional weapon, but rather was part of a display case, since the length of the sword would have caused the handle (made out of wood or bone) to break quite easily. It is also possible that the rapier was used in a sort of mock fencing battle, using display weapons instead of usual fencing equipment. The rapier was found in a bog because most swords that were broken or not functional were thrown away.

The artifact represents this period of Irish history in some ways, because it shows the craftsmanship that was paramount in this era. Tin and copper were alloyed to make bronze, and the Irish created many different types of bladed weapons. However, flat axes were much more commonly used than rapiers, and they seemed to be what Ireland was most known for making in this time period. This object was located right next to a spearhead, which was found in Maghera, County Derry. The spearhead, from the Iron Age, was younger than the rapier, and was considerably shorter than the rapier. It had a thicker handle, and a blade shaped like an isosceles triangle. Finally, this object was most likely used as a weapon in warfare.

In conclusion, it was very interesting to be able to go to the museum and see all it had to offer. It amazed me that a bog could preserve an object so well, considering it was from 1500 BC and made out of a metal that can rust. It makes you wonder what other treasures could lie in the various bogs throughout Ireland, just waiting to be discovered.

-Ben Galassi

Citations

“Lissan Rapier.” N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2013.

“Spearhead.” National Museum of Ireland. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2013.

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