My current task is a new experience for me. I have finally got round to start the finishing of a copy of a later Bronze Age sword, cast by Neil Burridge for a Young Archaeologists’ Club meeting a good while back.
The sword still had its pouring cup attached, as well as flash and casting marks. The sword was cast vertically, through the hilt. Not being a proficient Bronze Age metal-worker, I used a hacksaw to remove the pouring cup and a file to remove the flash, followed by some simple polishing to start to bring out the shine of the blade. There’s a great deal more to do, to do the job properly.
On his website, Neil gives some indication of the unknowns in Bronze Age sword production. Despite the very large volume of bronze circulating in objects such as swords, daggers, axe-heads and so on during the Middle to Late Bronze Age, and the archaeological literature that categorises all these finds and their copper alloys, it is true to say that relatively little is understood about the detail of the casters’ techniques.
Neil shows how a practitioner’s experience, built up over the years, is an essential component in understanding past practices. It is hard enough to hacksaw, file and polish the sword blade in my workshop. What were the Bronze Age tools used to complete these tasks? This is but one of many questions. I shall explore some of them in future blog posts about this sword.