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The spear in Anglo-Saxon times

Swanton, M. J. (1966) The spear in Anglo-Saxon times. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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A survey was undertaken to determine the nature and place of the spear during the Anglo-Saxon period, based both on material remains and literary evidence. From their origins to the period of the migrations iron spear-head forms had remained conservative, typically leaf- shaped and often midribbed. Subsequent to the migrations traditional forms survive virtually unmodified throughout Merovingian times on the continent; but in England a divergent series of distinctly insular forms emerge, which are predominantly angular in profile. Separate groups are recognisable, defined by form and significant in chronological and geographical distribution. Smaller numbers of "later” groups are similarly distinguishable by reason of form, but dating is latterly more dependent on the less reliable evidence of comparison with manuscript illustrations .No formal break seems to occur at the Conquest, the later series extending uninterrupted into the earlier medieval period, with the effective break appearing instead during the twelfth century. Simply-made as well as complex, spears are the products of both humble and quality forges so that the critical examination of their composition forms a particularly useful index of the techniques of the Dark Age smith. The wide variety of spear-names are examined, showing something of the nature of different types of the weapon. And in the light of this, and with the aid of manuscript illustrations, it is possible to reconstruct the manner of use of the various kinds of darts and hand-spears mentioned in contemporary texts. Simultaneously the literature indicates a wider symbolic significance for the spear generally in Anglo-Saxon society. An attribute of the god Woden, it has recognisable poetic overtones of war and death. At the same time it is seen as the concrete symbol of the free man's status, and one of the insignia of Germanic kingship.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1966
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 17:00

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