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New Gallery: Bronze Weaponry of Western Asia

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Robert L3:
I just received my second Ex-John Piscopo Collection piece. This new acquisition is a small sword, missing its pommel.

AE Sword #03

I've briefly discussed John Piscopo earlier in this thread. He was a passionate and highly respected collector of ancient weaponry and, in the words of a member of the Ancient Artifacts forum, he was “the father of the Internet antiquities community.” Piscopo was 62 years old when he passed away in 2005. The collection of ancient weapons (Iranian, Southeast Asian, and European) that he amassed was one of the most important in the world. As a result, “Ex-Piscopo Collection” is significant provenance. I would say that, other than owning a deaccessioned specimen from a well-known museum collection, “Ex-Piscopo” is the most meaningful provenance one can hope for where ancient weapons are concerned.

Of course, the most distinctive feature of my latest pickup is its penannular (crescent-shaped) guard. Such guards first appeared in western Iran toward the end of the Late Bronze Age. They come in lots of different varieties. They are categorized not just by their shapes, but by their find spots and age (which is sometimes determined by context at the dig sites). According to Babak Rafiei-Alavi in The Biography of a Dagger Type: The Diachronic Transformation of the Daggers with the Crescent-Shaped Guard: “In the Late Bronze Age (1600-1300 BC), the guard has a functional role, it is part of the hilt and holds the blade. In the Iron Age I (1300-1000 BC) the functional guard was in several cases changed to a non-functional and ornamental unit. (During) the Iron Age II (1000-800 BC), this non-functional attribute was mostly transformed back to its functional trait.”

Regarding such weapons, Christian Konrad Piller states (in Notes on the So-Called ‘Daggers with a Crescent Guard’): "...daggers with such a guard do not form a homogenous type. In fact, there are several subtypes and variants which differ in their production technique and their general outline. Furthermore, there are a lot of variations concerning the shape and the cross-section of the blade and the hilt.”

Although the sword I won has some formal similarities to some Iron Age II Iranian swords of comparable size and with similar (though usually skinnier) elliptical penannular guards, it is possibly unique in its details and overall form – particularly in the boxiness of its crescent, and the way the blade’s shoulders project slightly outward from the guard. That guard is definitely functional, holding the blade in place. (It isn't just a decorative feature.) So, this sword, while possibly unique, is more akin to penannular edged weaponry of the Iron Age II than to earlier (Late Bronze Age and Iron Age I) examples. I think I can safely (though still broadly) date my sword to early first millennium BC. It was during this period that the crescent guards were occasionally used in combination with “double disk” (a.k.a. “cotton-reel”) pommels. My example presumably had a pommel in antiquity, and it may have been the double disk type.

Virgil H:
That is incredible, such a beautiful sword. I appreciate your stories of both the provanace and the sword itself. The more I continue in collecting, the more I appreciate provenance as it adds another layer or two to the "where has this object been and who held it" fascination.


Robert L3:
Thanks, Virgil!


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