Monday, 6 October 2014

Beaker Daggers

Beaker Culture gets its name from the Bell Beaker Pottery that accompanied its spread across parts of Europe. However Beaker Culture wasn't just limited to a trade of ceramics, among other things a similarity in weapons, art and to some extent religion can be found in the places where Beaker Culture gained a foothold.

In Britain the Bell Beaker usage was short lived and the Beaker period is most associated with the construction of Stonehenge and the spreading of metallurgy. The period may also have been accompanied by some form of human migration such as foreign experts (metallurgists and potters) who arrived in Britain to sell and eventually teach their new fangled skills to the British. The most famous example being the Amesbury Archer whose grave was found near Stonehenge and seems to be a metallurgists from the Alps near Austria, who made his fortune in Britain.

Beaker Daggers 
Notched kite shaped Beaker Dagger, found in London
Prior to the Beaker period large knives did not exist in Britain. Knives seem mostly to have been functional cutting tools for making things and butchering with. The appearance of Beaker Period Daggers marks arguably the peak of British stone technology however the reason for their appearance remains illusive. Beaker Daggers are rarely found, which could suggest they were of extremely high value so few made. Alternatively the reason could be the problem of finding a suitably large and high quality piece of flint to make them from, which would only be available in limited parts of the country. Another reason for their rarity could simply be due to the difficulty of the manufacturing process, which would have required substantial practice by knappers wasting whole nodules of flint in each attempt to perfect the skill to make them, making them economically unviable. The daggers have been seen as an attempt by knappers to compete with the new metal technology, perhaps this competition was a futile exercise that never took off or they were something quite apart from the metal daggers and any comparison misguided.

Un-notched leaf Beaker Dagger found in London
Beaker Daggers ranged in size from 5" to 8" inches but 7" to 7.5" seems the be the preferred size. Many were leaf shaped, some reached maximum width near the middle while others were kite shaped. From about halfway down the flint was shaped into a tang for hafting. Tangs varied in width, some thinning a lot while other being nearly as wide as the blade. Some dagger were notched on the tang, to aid hafting, while others weren't. The diversity of shape and design of the daggers is quite wide and individual knappers put their own style on them.

When I began knapping ten years ago my ultimate aim was to be able to make Beakers Daggers. It was a long journey, perfecting my skills and learning to make a plethora of other (easier) things along the way, but Beaker Dagger were always the ultimate aim.

This is the second batch of commercial daggers I have made, last year's batch now sold out. All were made with copper except the second from left which was made with stone and antler.

I made this video I musing about the possible uses of the stone daggers.

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