As you probably know, I am a huge axe fan and I collect all the information about Early Medieval axes. This time, I would like to present a fascinating axe, which is unfortunately not so well known by academia, yet it is a remarkable and noteworthy piece. Let’s have a look at it!
The axe from “Falköping Museum” (Paulsen 1956: 64, Abb. 25d).
The axe was published by only one researcher – Paulsen – in 1939 (Paulsen 1939: 37, 53, Abb. 21.4) and in 1956 (Paulsen 1956: 40, 64, Abb. 25d). Both sources shares the same picture and description. All the information that Paulsen gives us is:
“Decorated axe. The blade is open and filled by a palmette. The shaft hole area is particularly emphasized by round bumps above and below it. The shaft hole lobes are triangular. The hammer is slightly tilted down.” (Paulsen 1956: 40)
The axe is said to have inventory number 1108:59 and it should be stored in Falköping Museum, Sweden. Unfortunately, when we contacted Cecilia Jensen from the museum, she denied the object belonged to the collection. The axe is also missing in SHM catalogue (Statens historiska museum; National Historical Museum). It seems the object is no longer available and was probably destroyed.
The axe belongs to Kotowicz type IA.6.33, which is distingushied by its narrow, symmetrical blade and button-shaped hammer. As Paulsen states, the blade is open and decorated with incised plant ornament. The neck and hammer are decorated with bulges. Based on analogies, which will be described later, it can be dated to 10th – 11th century. The size can be roughly estimated (Paulsen indicates approximate scale) to 10-11 cm × 4.5-5.5 cm, unfortunately we have no guarantee this size is correct. It is unknown, whether the axe was decorated with non-ferrous metals.
The closest analogies of the axe belong to Kirpichnikov type I (Kirpichnikov 1966: 33) and can be found in the present-day Russia (Caucasus, Kuban, Middle Volga, Ryazan and Tatarstan). This area was probably the place of production and the type was spreading from there to Kievan Rus and Scandinavia. As the result, we can find quite a huge number of typologically similar axes as far as Scandinavia and Poland (Kotowicz 2018: 117-8; Vlasatý 2016). The axe, which is the closest in both shape and decoration, comes from Central Volga area, Kazan Region, and is dated to 11th century (Williams 2014: 88, Fig. 20). The axe from “Falköping Museum” is, however, unique by its open blade with a palmette, which resembles four Danish and Swedich axes from 10th-11th century (Kotowicz 2013: 49). However, the closest example with an open blade comes from the collection of the Krasnodar State Historical and Archaeological Museum-Reserve (see here). A similar Kotowicz type IB.6.33 (basically the version with an asymmetrical blade) is roughly dated to 10th – mid 12th century by Kotowicz (Kotowicz 2018: 117-8). The hammer-axe from Bj 644 in Birka is also dated to 10th century (Vlasatý 2016).
A selection of axes of Kirpichnikov typ I from Scandinavia, Germany and Russia.
1 – Falköping, Sweden (Paulsen 1956: 64, Abb. 25d); 2 – Birka, Sweden (SHM); 3 – Rjazan Region, Russia (metal detector find); 4 – Simunde, Gotland, Sweden (Thunmark-Nylén 1998: Taf. 260, 7); 5 – Tåby, Sweden (SHM); 6 – Gotland, Sweden (Paulsen 1956: 41, Abb. 13c); 7 – Söderköping, Sweden (Paulsen 1956: 41, Abb. 13a); 8 – Haithabu, Germany (Westphalen 2002: Taf. 17, 4); 9 – Broby, Sweden (SHM).
My friend Carlos Benavides from Chile prepared a beautiful visual reconstruction of the axe. A 3D model was then also printed and can be used for replicating the axe. In case you are interested in the model, please, contact Carlos. Let me also say that any possible misleading details are caused by the lack of information from previous research.
Kotowicz, Piotr N. (2013). The Sign of the Cross on the Early Medieval Axes – A Symbol of Power, Magic or Religion? In: Weapons Brings Peace? Warfare in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, Wratislavia Antiqua 18, Wrocław: 41–55.
Kotowicz, Piotr N. (2018). Early Medieval Axes from Territory of Poland, Kraków.
Kirpichnikov, A. N. (1966). Древнерусское оружие: Вып. 1. Мечи и сабли IX– XIII вв.// АН СССР, Москва.
Paulsen, Peter (1939). Axt Und Kreuz bei den Nordgermanen, Berlin.
Paulsen, Peter (1956). Axt und Kreuz in Nord- und Osteuropa, Bonn.
Thunmark-Nylén, Lena (1998). Die Wikingerzeit Gotlands II : Typentafeln, Stockholm.
Vlasatý, Tomáš (2016). „Sekeru s sebou“ katalog seker z Birky, komentář a srovnání. In: Projekt Forlǫg: Reenactment a věda [online]. [cit. 2020-02-01]. Available at: https://sagy.vikingove.cz/sekery-birka/
Westphalen, Petra (2002). Die Eisenfunde von Haithabu. Die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu 10, Neumünster.
Williams, Gareth (ed.) (2014). Vikings: Life and Legend, London.