The much ballyhooed journey of Fake Hercules Swords 22 and 23 from Italy to Germany to New Jersey to South Carolina is over: they are now safe and sound in my office. You can exhale.
These swords, currently produced and for sale online by the Ferrara Store (Italy), were spotted by alert Swordgate aficionado Hartman Krug (here are the pages for Sword 22 and Sword 23). The store doesn't ship to the U.S., so I imposed upon a relative in Germany to purchase them for us and then ship them overseas. You can thank Stephen Bridges for his willingness to conspire.
This was an expensive endeavor, draining $187 from the Woo War One war chest. It was money well spent.
I've only had time to take a quick glance at these, but I can tell you we are going to learn a lot from them. There are many features on the swords, and differences between them, that I think will move us a way down the road to unraveling the history and chronology of these things.
I'm not going to do any in-depth analysis in this post: I just wanted to throw some preliminary photos and make a couple of baseline observations up so we can start discussing these.
You'll notice right away that the Hercules figure on Sword 22 (the one with the pugio blade) is both larger and more detailed than the hilt figure on Sword 23. Without picking up a pair of calipers or doing a close side-by-side comparison, my initial off-the-cuff guess is that the Hercules on Sword 22 may be both larger and more detailed than the Hercules on the California sword. It certainly includes at least a few things we haven't seen before (such as dimples on the guard rivets). Although the blade is clearly not the same as that of Sword 21, the pugio shapes are a notable point of similarity. I'm wondering if the currently-produced Sword 22 isn't a design from a generation that pre-dates the California sword.
Sword 23 appears to be superficially very similar to the Design Toscano swords. The figures are about the same size and have a comparable lack of detail, and the blades are very similar (but not identical) in size and shape. My first guess is that Sword 23 and the Design Toscano swords (Sword 5 in the database) are closely related.
There will be more to come on these new swords. I've got Sword 22 on my 3D scanner right now and will make the model available as soon as I can get the data processed. In the meantime, here are some photos:
Following the spring break hiatus, the Broad River Field School will be back in session tomorrow. We'll be shifting gears a bit to carefully work our way into what appears to be a buried Late Archaic/Early Woodland component. I'm also anticipating continued work on the deeper deposits at the site. Hopefully it will be an eventful day. It's supposed to be sunny and in the mid 60's. I'll just leave it at that.
Here are a few quick updates on other things for those playing along at home: a new modeling paper about the minimum size of demographically viable hunter-gatherer populations, new Fake Hercules Swords en route, and an identification of last Friday's whatzit.
The owner of Fake Hercules Sword 17 has sent some additional photos of the hilt and the portion of the blade nearest the hilt. Based on the blade length, shape, and apparent amount of detail on the Hercules figure, I speculated previously that Sword 17 might represent a generation that immediately post-dates the "F" swords (best represented by Sword 3 aka the California sword). Here are the new photos as they were sent to me:
At first glance, I see nothing in these photos that tells me I'm wrong about the placement of this sword. The blade clearly has no fullers, and the figure does seem to be fairly detailed relative to swords from the "J" and later generations.
The image below shows the hilts of Swords 17 and 3 side-by-side (I cropped the Sword 17 image and brightened it up a bit to bring out more details). While the hilt of Sword 17 compares fairly well to the hilt of Sword 3 (the California sword), however, I believe I do see a few spots where Sword 17 is less detailed: the lions' paws on the knees, the beard, and the grain of the wood seem less distinct in Sword 17. It would be nice to examine this one firsthand, have a look at the blade,and create a 3D model that could be directly compared to the one of the California sword.
Maybe you thought you'd never live to see the documentation of Fake Hercules Sword Number 24. Congratulations: you made it.
The 24th sword comes to us from Matt Sea, who emailed me about his sword a couple of days ago. He says he acquired the sword in 1998 during a family visit to Pompeii. The sword was purchased from a roadside vendor. Sea's parents "remember the vendor we bought it from had various swords, armor, and things like that. The vendor was also near where our tour bus dropped us off near the entrance of Pompeii." Matt says he sanded the patina from parts of the sword when he was young.
Here are some photos:
In the last image of the front of the blade (immediately above), a vaguely Texas-shaped depression is visible. I made an illustration showing the comparable areas of the other swords that we've classified as "Type CS." The same depression is clearly visible on the Cvet sword (Sword 12). I'm pretty sure I can see it in the photo of Sword 13 (Alejandro), and it's possibly (barely) discernible on Sword 10 (Florida eBay). I can't see it on Sword 15 (Frioacero).
What does this mean? If that Texas-shaped depression -- clearly visible on the Sea and Cvet swords -- isn't present on some of the other swords we're calling CS, we're going to have to subdivide.
I'm hoping to get a chance to examine Sword 24 firsthand. It will be the first CS I've been able to look at up close. If my current chronological model is correct, the metrics of the Hercules figure on Sword 24 should fall somewhere between those of the Italian eBay (Type J) sword and the Design Toscano sword.
I just received the first photos of Sword 17. I don't have a lot of time today, but I wanted to pass along these photos, the information that we have about the sword, and few initial thoughts. I think this sword is potentially very important, possibly filling a gap between the Type F swords and the later "J" generation. First, here are the photos we have so far, emailed to me by the owner:
Here are the two comments by the owner left on this blog post:
"ladies and gentleman I have the exact match of that sword . I tried to contact the show but got no answer ( I wonder why). I purchased the sword some 35 years ago in a roman flee market in Rome. I took it to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art to be examined buy the curator of the museum in new York .he said it wasn't a real roman sword that was possibly made for a Cecil B DeMille movie. I have it hanging on my wall where it will probably be for a long time. Like the man said that show is all show and no go. I am posting my email address I have nothing to hide all you suckers excuse me believers can contact me if you wish. 3/20/16"
"Sword is brass or bronze. I was told 40 years ago by the curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art the sword was possibly made for a movie. There is a cast mark on the back of the handle the sides also seem to be two pieces combined together. I bought the sword in Rome at a flee market. The sword might be a collectors item if you're into old movies."
My first thought in looking at the photos was that Sword 17 looks like a Type F but without the partial fullers. While we don't have a good close-up of the front of the Hercules figure, it's evident even from the long shot that the detail is pretty good (the beard, belt, and lion's paws are discernible and it's got the two-bumped log). The blade is longer than the J blades, has "nicks" like the F blade, and is lacking the "J" anomaly. So it's like an "F" in many ways, but there aren't any fullers visible. Here's a side-by-side comparison of the Sword 3 (California) and Sword 17, scaled using the tape measures:
The comparison isn't perfect because of the oblique angle of the Sword 17 image. It looks to my eye, though, like Sword 17 could easily have been created by simply removing the fullered section of the blade from an "F" sword. If that's the case, it would post-date the "F" generation and presumably pre-date the "J" generation.
At some point soon I'll create of a graphic depicting what I think is the most likely sequence of these things at this point. I'd lay it out like this:
There's more to it than this, but I think this is a reasonable working model of change in our beloved Fake Hercules Swords. I can tell you that more data will be forthcoming, and I hope to be able to examine more of the swords firsthand. I can't think of anything we know right now that falsifies this general sequence -- let me know if I've overlooked anything! I'll post the updated database after I estimate some measurements from the Sword 17 images.
In our new era of "alternative facts," I'd like to offer my support and empathy to the mainstream media. As someone who has been in the trenches with the "everything you've been taught about history is wrong" crowd for a couple of years now, I know it's frustrating to deal with people who have embraced lying not just as an occasional expedient behavior but as the organizing principle of a lifeway, Don't give up -- you'll get the hang of it eventually.
As evidence that the steadfast collection and presentation of facts can eventually have an effect on the narrative, I present to you this video by Critical Thinking:
Now that's some funny stuff.
Information about Fake Hercules Sword 20 comes to us from Michael Castagne, who reports that he was given the sword around 2007 by a friend who purchased it for $5 at a Toronto yard sale.
I've added the sword (a "J") to the database, estimating some of the basic dimensions from the scaled images.
Alert readers will have noticed that I have added slots for Swords 22 and 23 to the database. Those are going to be interesting. My gut tells me we may be nearing another "tipping point" in the saga of the Fake Hercules Swords.
Oh wait, we're in a new era now so indulge me while I reframe the issue:
This blog post brought to you by insomnia.
A comment by Graham on yesterday's blog post about the newly-discovered Sword 21 raised the possibility that Sword 21, with it's fullered/ribbed "xiphos" blade was a member of the parent generation to the Type F swords (California [Sword 3] and Sonja [Sword 8]):
"Interesting. That design with the full length rib running down the center of the blade looks like the 'fullers' on the California and Sonja blades. Could one of these 'daggers' have been broken in two near the hilt and then used to cast those blades."
I think that's a reasonable working hypothesis.
One mystery that it would explain is the origin of the partially-fullered blade on the F swords . . . those swords have fullers that begin at the guard but end just a few centimeters down the blade.
The hypothesis that Sword 21 is a representative of a pre-F generation of swords raises several expectations. As I discussed in this post from last January, we can presume that successive generations of swords will be smaller and less detailed. Loss of both size and detail would have been the expected results of the process of making successive new molds from swords. If Sword 21 is earlier than Sword 3 (the Type F sword about which we have the most detailed information), we would expect the hilt to be larger and at least as detailed as Sword 3.
Unfortunately, we have only a single photograph of Sword 21. It isn't scaled, so we can't say anything about size. Comparison of the Sword 21 hilt with those of other generations of swords does seem to me to be consistent with the idea that it is early in the copy chain.
Even with the low resolution of the photo, several features are visible on Sword 21 that are absent from the later swords (e.g., the Type J's and the current Design Toscano version).
I didn't fully appreciate the possible significance of Sword 21 when I first looked at the image -- I thought maybe it was a bizarre side-branch. But now I think it could be closer to the root. I wish we had some better pictures of the thing. I wonder if it would be worth following up with the auction site to see if they know anything else about the sword (perhaps even who purchased it).
I'm looking forward to seeing what my fellow Swordgate fans think of the idea that Sword 21 gets us closer to the elusive Mother of All Fake Hercules Swords. My plan today is to take the kids to the beach. Hopefully you guys can solve the mystery while I'm looking for shark teeth.
This is a guest blog post contributed by Fake Hercules Sword Whisperer Pablo Benavente. There's been an uptick in the pace of discovery, and it's been difficult for me to keep all of our information up to date. Thanks to Pablo and JA Sterling for continuing to shake primary data out of the internet.
What Swordgate discoveries does 2017 hold? Last year was exciting, and I have enjoyed every discovery. But how many more of these things could there be?
Leave it to JA Sterling in her spare time to find this beauty:
If you scroll down to the end of this post about the "Sonja sword" (Sword 8), you'll see a photo from a newspaper that shows a sword with a strange blade shape (that's Sword 11 in the database -- we know nothing about it other than what's in the article). The photographer in me thought that the strange shape could have been a result of the photo being taken with a wide angle lens. Now, in the presence of evidence, I change my position! It's obvious that swords with "pugio" blades were indeed made at some point.
The sword shown above (Sword 21 in the database) was for sale on an auction website in 2013. The description on the website can be translated as follows:
"Model of Roman Dagger, XX Century. Iron with green patina, with a figure of a warrior on the hilt. Length: 67 centimeters"
That description and the single photo is all we have. It's not clear how detailed the Hercules is or if maybe he's "thinner" Hercules (maybe sign of an older model?). The blade shape is obviously different, and the central rib is a feature we haven't seen anywhere else. Assuming the reported length is correct, this is the longest Fake Hercules Sword we know about. The description of "iron with green patina" is curious.
I'm looking forward to hear everybody's opinions about it.
All views expressed in my blog posts are my own. The views of those that comment are their own. That's how it works.
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