Bronze Age Combat

The project explores Bronze Age combat through an innovative experimental approach. Analysis of prehistoric copper-alloy weapons from Britain and Europe has revealed an array of ancient combat marks, but we do not know how exactly these marks were generated, in what kind of combat encounters, and with what kind of weapon strikes and body motions. The project seeks to investigate these problems through a series of controlled combat experiments using replicas of prehistoric copper-alloy weapons including swords, spears, and axes. A rigorous experimental protocol has been devised for testing replica Middle and Late Bronze Age weapons including swords, spears, and axes on several targets such as shields and other weapons.

The project team are currently performing wear analysis on the experimental weapons, classifying them, and comparing them with the marks found on swords and spear-heads from the British Bronze Age. We are also planning further tests involving a replica wooden shield as well as ‘fluid’ combat tests in which Bronze Age replica swords and shields will be used according to the fighting styles described in Walpurgis Fechtbuch (MS I.33), the earliest extant treatise on Medieval martial arts.

Project Leader: Andrea Dolfini, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Newcastle University

Other Staff: Rachel Crellin, University of Leicester, Marion Uckelmann, Durham University, Raphael Hermann, Newcastle University

Contact: Andrea Dolfini

Sponsors: Ignite, Newcastle University; School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Newcastle University; The British Museum

Partners: The British MuseumBede’s World MuseumGreat North Museum : Hancock, Neil Burridge, Bronze Age Craft

Project dates: 2013-2017

Project website: BAC - bronzeagecombat