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Title: Use-wear on Atlantic Middle Bronze Age swords : status indicators or weapons of war?
Author: Bell, David Robert
ISNI:       0000 0004 6423 341X
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2017
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Use-wear analysis is increasingly employed to interpret the function of prehistoric artefacts and so draw inferences about the intentions of those who commissioned them. The aim of the present study was to develop a clearer understanding of the intended function of prehistoric weaponry, particularly those swords and rapiers recovered along Europe’s Atlantic Facade. The main question posed was: can it be determined from the visible traces on Atlantic Middle Bronze Age long-bladed weapons if they were designed primarily as lethal instruments of combat or did they serve some other, perhaps ceremonial purpose and, if so, what socio-political consequences might this suggest? The development of Bronze Age societies was examined, particularly the roles of warfare as a driver of social complexity and that of the iconic sword wielding warrior. There is, however, little or no evidence in the osteological record for the use of this weapon. The condition of a representative sample of Middle Bronze Age swords and rapiers from the British Isles, Atlantic Europe and the Iberian Peninsula was also recorded and this data augmented using numerous archaeological catalogues. An artefact biography approach, an extension of the chaine operatoire, was then employed to study the design, production, use and disposal of these weapons. Experiments were also conducted to establish that a perceived weakness in Middle Bronze Age weapons, the hilt attachment, was not due to any technical constraints. While the quantity of European material was insufficient for any detailed analysis, that from Britain and Ireland showed several marked differences. Both suffered substantial peri-depositional abuse but the latter displayed clear signs of widespread reuse and subsequent damage in modem times. A comparative study of Irish and British Late Bronze Age swords would probably reveal yet greater modem use, with further work also necessary to determine any taphanomic contribution to apparent damage.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available