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This idea may come as twisted, bizarre and as pure fantasy, but I have been thinking about it for a while and wanted to know what others think of it, or if indeed it has ever been done.

Throughout the ages and through much hollywood exposure, we have kind of become accostumed to the idea of the ''sword of your ancestor'' theme, such as ''this sword was yielded by my great great grandfather in his glorius momemnt when he defeated such and such and now I present it to you'' or ''your ancestors will guide you and your hand as you yield this sword for justice and all that'' type of scenarios.

This is where the idea struck me. Has there ever been a case, where, when a great warrior died, he was cremated (as was usually the case), his sword reforged, except not only with iron, but also with the (or some) of the ashes of the great warrior? Giving a sword that contains your ancestors remains to a young descendant warrior would give a much more ''personal'' touch to it than any heirloom ever could.

Giving that the world is a big place, many civilizations have come and gone, and metal making was quite widely spread, has this even been a pratice? Has there been any recovered swords with remains preserved in them?

Discuss.
How would one know? Even if swords had been metallurgically analysed (and very few have), wouldn't the "ancestor" just show up as ash/carbon?
Thats what I imagined. Is it now known if any civilization, tribe, people or whatever practised this or somethign similar?
I have not come across this, but my friend, read of a case that a sword maker had made a blade and found it not very good so he ground it down and feed it too his chickens, he then collected the droppings and resmelted and forged a new blade. Which he found was a much better blade. The swords power if passed down came from the man who wielded it so you find that graves of warriors were sometimes robbed of swords this you will find reading Viking sagas. However Caligvla broke into Alexanders tomb and wore his armour Big Grin
Regards Brennivs Big Grin
Hmm, so if the spirit of a chicken makes a sword much stronger, then chickens are obviously much more dangerous animals than previously thought. Best stay away from Kentucky Fried Chicken in future, just to be sure :lol:

Vale,

Celer.
Good grief! Most bizarre! Can't believe I'm posting a response.

But on the other hand, from a metalurgic point of view an interesting question. Now, human cremation ashes are mostly calcium, most of the carbon would burn off. This material is NOT something which will enhance the properties of any ancient sword(metal), but is very likely to really create structural weakness. I would not go to battle with a high calcium sword without a serious deathwish :lol: The only way to get the ashes to mingle with the iron of the original sword would be to melt it down and mingle the ashes with the iron. Chances are high that any impurities will be driven off as either slag or will be beaten out of the iron in the proces of forging.
If you would want to carry your ancestor into battle, the grip would be a more obvious place, as mixing the ashes with heated resin would get you a non-slip material that could be moulded around the tang. A cover of thin leather would prevent the resin becoming hot and sticky during prolonged carry. Oh well, just my two cents worth Big Grin
Hello

i don't know very much of this theme, But for example in hellenistic era, after the cremations, swords of died warriors were bended as a sign that means that nobody will ever use this sword again.

Gaius Decius Aquilius

This is not specific to Roman sword making, per se, but it may be insiteful into arms making in any pre-industrial society. This from the Manufacture of Armour and Helmets in 16th century Japan, (edit by H. Russel Robinson), written by Sakaibara Kozan in 1799. Kozan recommends using discarded shovels and hoes for the inner plates of armour after the hardened edge is removed. This softer iron is flexible and suited for the softer core of amour plate. The outer skin of harder steel is then added, as a seperate welding, or sometimes by folding, or forged, or case hardened, depending on the classification of the metal. Examination and classification of the iron or steel quality, of the implement or ingot determines the ultimate use as to a weapon or as armour. Kozan cautions that a shovel or hoe iron cannot be reworked more than five times. Raw iron fifteen times and steel only five. New steel for swords should be mixed with one part worn out sword steel and two parts hoe iron.

It is instructive that Kozan writes in a culture where arms and armour is reguarded in a highly spiritual context, but he makes no remarks as to any inherent metaphysical properties of the source of the metal, or the product.

Before some moderator throws this thread into the off-topic bin, I would like to remind everyone that cross-cultural analogy is almost universally accepted in Archeology and Theory, hence is applicability to Roman studies, here, as a potential for hypothesis building. One of these days there should be a thread on Archaeological Method and Theory, as the same evidence can be interpreted by several different schools of analysis with different results.

R. Izard
(Note of thanks to Narukami for tipping me off to Kozan's work. Very expensive, but worth it.)
Okay, now Raph's thrown us this curve, I'll supply a literary example: In "Moby Dick," Captain Ahab has a new harpoon forged by the ship's smith. Ahab comes out with a bag of nail-stubs he's collected over the years. They are the stubs of nails from the hooves of race horses. Apparently it was believed that horsheshoe nails grew harder through repeated impacts and race horse nail stubs were the best of all for making tough steel. Then Ahab gave his razors to the smith to make the barbs, vowing not to shave until he'd killed Moby Dick. I don't know if this is metallurgically sound, but it's a shining example of obsession, just pure friggin' crazy.
Robert's certainly right about calcium not being at all good for iron objects, but I could see ashes being added to the forge as a sign of a great ancestor affecting the production of a weapon. Of course I've never actually heard of this being done, but there are certainly hints of such strange ideas in the suggested use of blood to temper swords and other such 'power embuing' acts.
Yes, It is what I imagined. Given the sheer number of barbarian tribes, different Gods, beliefs, and all that, I did imagine it would have been done at some time, or a variation, such as blood mentioned above by John.

Ahab's example helps illustrate that certain obsessions can spill over into the sword making process, something I have no doubt may have happened in antiquity, be it in Asia, Europe or elsewhere.

As for the metalurgical soundness of including calcium into the sword, this is obviously a drawback, but as Robert said above, this could be done by melting the calcium or bones and mingling them with the molten iron.
Quote:As for the metalurgical soundness of including calcium into the sword, this is obviously a drawback, but as Robert said above, this could be done by melting the calcium or bones and mingling them with the molten iron.

Iron was not completely molten in ancient ironworking. It was hot-forged from a bloom. I'm not sure you can melt calcium, either! Either way, the whole reason that iron was heated and hammered repeatedly was to remove impurities, so adding new impurities would not have made much sense to the blacksmiths.

My first question with a theory like this is if there are any ancient references to such a practice. If not, and if there are no archeological traces, then you're right, it's pretty much a fantasy idea.

Vale,

Matthew
Quote:
MARCVS PETRONIVS MAIVS:1jszbk30 Wrote:As for the metalurgical soundness of including calcium into the sword, this is obviously a drawback, but as Robert said above, this could be done by melting the calcium or bones and mingling them with the molten iron.

Iron was not completely molten in ancient ironworking. It was hot-forged from a bloom. I'm not sure you can melt calcium, either! Either way, the whole reason that iron was heated and hammered repeatedly was to remove impurities, so adding new impurities would not have made much sense to the blacksmiths.

My first question with a theory like this is if there are any ancient references to such a practice. If not, and if there are no archeological traces, then you're right, it's pretty much a fantasy idea.

Vale,

Matthew

Exactly, that was pretty much my query, if this has been documented to happen and what where the chances of it happening!

But it does sound like something a corny hollywood producer would pick up on!
Quote:If you would want to carry your ancestor into battle, the grip would be a more obvious place, as mixing the ashes with heated resin would get you a non-slip material that could be moulded around the tang. A cover of thin leather would prevent the resin becoming hot and sticky during prolonged carry. Oh well, just my two cents worth Big Grin
Or, why not just carve a new handle of the ancestor's bones, but then you're almost getting onto the edge of cannibalism. While not quite eating the "flesh" it is using part of the person's body to gain their power.

Anyway, weren't swords more commonly buried with their owner, so they could be used in the afterlife, especially with those who might have been significant or important enough to want to maintain their power? How else could Caligula have donned Alexander's armor from his tomb? Haven't a good portion of our sword finds come from gravesites?
Quote:Haven't a good portion of our sword finds come from gravesites?

Surprisingly few. The Romans tended to use cremation, without including weapons. Sure, there are Etruscan-era tombs with full equipment, but that practice seems to have gone out by the 4th or 5th century BC, and was probably just for aristocrats even then. Pretty much the same with the Greeks. Royalty like Alexander would rate a big tomb with all the fixings, like his father's (alleged) tomb in Macedonia. But tombs like that are magnets for looters, starting pretty much as soon as the funeral is over... Swords from the Republic and Empire are mostly water finds, I think. In the third century AD you start seeing a few more equipment burials (Lyon, for example, yes?), but even then I'm not sure they're the rule.

Vale,

Matthew

PS: Aren't you supposed to use an ENEMY's bone for your sword grip? And his skin for a drum, etc....
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