Almost five years ago, we published the article “Axe Sheaths” at this website, which mapped poorly described phenomenon of axe protections. The article has gained great popularity among reenactors around the world. The conclusion of the article was that we were able to find 22 axe sheaths made of birch, pine, beech, oak, juniper, alder, spruce, yew and willow wood and elk antler. Wood and antler sheaths are often decorated and have different fastening methods that we have tried to digitally reconstruct.
Suggested variants of wooden sheaths. Bigger resolution here.
Metal axe sheaths of Roman age. Source: roman.military.history.
In light of new knowledge, it is my joyful duty to expand this list with three more unique specimens from Great Moravia and Ukraine. All of them are made of iron sheet that is bent around the blade and fastened. Let’s describe these objects in more detail.
Schematic drawing of the metal protector from Ukraine.
Made by Tomáš Cajthaml.
In Europe of 10th–12th century, we have at least 25 axe sheaths made of wood, antler and metal. During a personal discussion with scholar and veteran reenactor Petr Luňák, who processed the assemblage of Great Moravian axes, he showed me a series of photographs and literary references that suggested the use of wooden, leather and metal sheaths in Staré Město and Mikulčice. Unfortunately, these protectors are now destroyed and cannot be analyzed. It is also worth mentioning that the Great Moravian axes could be protected with strips of fabric (Kotowicz 2018: 151). In light of these finds, the problem of axe protectors seems to be far more complicated than it had seemed so far, and the lack of interest for this type of objects in 19th and 20th century played a major role.
The above-described type of metal sheath, specifically the find from Mikulčice, was copied by my friend and veteran reenactor Roman Král. His version uses only one hole located on the projection to fix the strap and the cap is not formed by folding the top edge of the right side, but is soldered. Roman’s intention was to make the upper part more solid so the protector fits tightly. Despite this change that pursues a practical purpose, it is a very tasteful work that illustrates how metal sheaths could look like in the Early Middle Ages.
Hochmanová-Vávrová, Věra (1962). Velkomoravské pohřebiště ve Starém Městě „Na valách“. Výzkum v letech 1957–1959. In: ČMMZ, vědy společenské XLVII, 201–270.
Kotowicz, Piotr N. (2018). Early Medieval Axes from Territory of Poland, Kraków.
Luňák, Petr (2018). Velkomoravské sekery, Brno: Masarykova univerzita [dissertation thesis].
Kainov – Singh 2016 = Каинов С.Ю., Сингх В.К. (2016). Деревянный чехол топора с Троицкого раскопа // Новгород и Новгородская земля. Вып. 30, 196–203.
Kitzler Åhfeldt, Laila (2011). Några träfynd i Sigtuna under runstenstid. In: Situne Dei, 49–60.27. března 2020
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