In the spring of 2009, I examined and documented three anthropomorphic hilted short swords from the high Celtic Iron Age at the British Museum. These are swords with the hilt constructed to look like a little man. One in particular spoke to me, it had a well preserved hilt but with the face partially worn away so that only the eyes remained clear. I spent an intense day with calipers and vellum tracing and sketching these swords beside my friends and fellow sword makers Peter Johnsson from Sweden and Owen Bush from England. The act of weighing, tracing, measuring and sketching the sword felt almost like capturing the spirit of the thing.
That night we spread our drawings out on the floor of Owens dining room, it’s a dark beamed room in a building built in the sixteen hundreds. Looking down at our drawings it was hard to escape the feeling that we had stolen something precious. After having spent a life imagining the ancient Celtic world– Cernunos, the Dagda, Fionn MacCumhal and CuChulainn, Culhwch and Olwen, and poring over books and papers with pictures of their ancient material culture, I had a tangible piece of it here on the floor. A vellum tracing of a sword gripped by the hand of an ancient Celt before the Romans came to Britain. Oh, it was a heady night, we drank wine and argued and laughed over obscure bits of myth and history.
I returned with a tracing of the blade on a role of vellum, measurements, sketches and photographs. When I got back to my shop I created a sword based on what I had measured but also what I had sensed in the design of the original. I made a scabbard embellished with La Tene period curvilinear ornamentation to compliment and protect the blade.
The blade on this sword is forged of 558 layers of 1075/8670m figured steel. It has a strong distal taper with a concave cross-section. It feels light and deadly in the hand. These small swords are extremely efficient in every sense. The high layer spirit pattern blade shimmers like water or smoke when you move it in the light. The hilt and scabbard fittings are cast silicon bronze, and the scabbard is birdseye maple lined with sheared sheep fleece to protect the blade.
Blade – 42cm / 16 1/2″
Hilt – 14cm / 5 1/2″
Weight of sword – 496 g / 1lbs 1.5oz
Overall Length – 56cm / 22″
Scabbard – 53.5cm / 21″
A detailed description of the reconstruction process can be viewed here – Anthropomorphic Sword Reconstruction with the exact dimensions of the original and my interpretation of them for this reconstruction.