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An Ancient (Short) Sword Just Added to the Collection


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Just received my second Ex-John Piscopo Collection piece. This new acquisition is a small sword*, missing its pommel. (My other Ex-Piscopo is a modest bronze dagger blade.)

 

* At 20 1/8” long, the new pickup can rightfully be called a sword (albeit a small one), rather than a dirk or dagger. It just made the cut. (Get it? 😁) Technically, it would be a dirk if it measured between 14” and 19.6”. Less than 14” would have made it a dagger. Of course, the new piece would have originally measured even a bit longer with its pommel, which is now missing. Frequently, however, ancient Iranian edged weapons with crescent guards are simply referred to as daggers – with no consideration of their size. While, from a technical standpoint, the term may not apply to all of these varieties (since sizes vary), the usage of “dagger” seems to be the standard convention.

 

John Piscopo was a passionate and highly respected collector of ancient weaponry and, in the words of a member of the Ancient Artifacts forum, he was “the father of the Internet antiquities community.” Piscopo was 62 years old when he passed away in 2005. The collection of ancient weapons (Iranian, Southeast Asian, and European) that he amassed was one of the most important in the world. As a result, “Ex-Piscopo Collection” is significant provenance. I would say that, other than owning a deaccessioned specimen from a well-known museum collection, “Ex-Piscopo” is the most meaningful provenance one can hope for where ancient weapons are concerned.

 

Of course, the most distinctive feature of my latest pickup is its penannular (crescent-shaped) guard. Such guards first appeared in western Iran toward the end of the Late Bronze Age. They come in lots of different varieties. They are categorized not just by their shapes, but by their find spots and age (which is sometimes determined by context at the dig sites). According to Babak Rafiei-Alavi in The Biography of a Dagger Type: The Diachronic Transformation of the Daggers with the Crescent-Shaped Guard: “In the Late Bronze Age (1600-1300 BC), the guard has a functional role, it is part of the hilt and holds the blade. In the Iron Age I (1300-1000 BC) the functional guard was in several cases changed to a non-functional and ornamental unit. (During) the Iron Age II (1000-800 BC), this non-functional attribute was mostly transformed back to its functional trait.”

 

Regarding such weapons, Christian Konrad Piller states (in Notes on the So-Called ‘Daggers with a Crescent Guard’): "...daggers with such a guard do not form a homogenous type. In fact, there are several subtypes and variants which differ in their production technique and their general outline. Furthermore, there are a lot of variations concerning the shape and the cross-section of the blade and the hilt.”

 

Although the sword I won has some formal similarities to some Iron Age II Iranian swords of comparable size and with similar (though usually skinnier) elliptical penannular guards, it is possibly unique in its details and overall form – particularly in the boxiness of its crescent, and the way the blade’s shoulders project slightly outward from the guard. That guard is definitely functional, holding the blade in place. (It isn't just a decorative feature.) So, this sword, while possibly unique, is more akin to penannular edged weaponry of the Iron Age II than to earlier (Late Bronze Age and Iron Age I) examples. I think I can safely (though still broadly) date my sword to early first millennium BC. It was during this period that the crescent guards were occasionally used in combination with “double disk” (a.k.a. “cotton-reel”) pommels. My example presumably had a pommel in antiquity, and it may have been the double disk type.

 

Here is the new pickup:

1698224441_AESword03.jpg.53db04f2bace631e4f5bfadca00e0923.jpg

AE Sword #03

Likely Northwestern Iran, Talish area
c. 1000 - 800 BC
51.1 cm (20.1")

This short sword may well be unique in its form and details. However, it has some aspects in common with the following:

Cf. Mahboubian (Art of Ancient Iran: Copper and Bronze), 392 (for somewhat similarly shaped guard and cylindrical grip), 396 (for similar cylindrical grip and missing pommel)
Cf. Moorey (Catalogue of the Ancient Persian Bronzes in the Ashmolean Museum), Pl. 7, Fig. 58 (also illustrated on page 81) for sword with somewhat similarly shaped guard, blade, and grip. (However, the blade of the illustrated specimen has blood channels rather than midrib)
Cf. Rafiei-Alavi (The Biography of a Dagger Type), Figure 11

Description:
Wide-shouldered, tapering blade with thick midrib; elliptical penannular guard; slender cylindrical grip with incised linear motifs; pommel missing (may well have been a double-disk/cotton-reel pommel); stable crack through blade at shoulder; abrasions and nicks commensurate with age.

Ex-private San Diego collection
Ex-John F. Piscopo Collection

 

gripping.jpg.7959b9bcdd8c8bd2526d2fb11b8366d8.jpg

 

And here are some reference book illustrations and photos of various other weapons with penannular guards:

1809654435_ExamplesPenannG2.jpg.b7a52f198f422934640bc4aaee1e24b9.jpg

Edited by Kamnaskires
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21 hours ago, Kamnaskires said:

Just received my second Ex-John Piscopo Collection piece. This new acquisition is a small sword*, missing its pommel. (My other Ex-Piscopo is a modest bronze dagger blade.)

 

* At 20 1/8” long, the new pickup can rightfully be called a sword (albeit a small one), rather than a dirk or dagger. It just made the cut. (Get it? 😁) Technically, it would be a dirk if it measured between 14” and 19.6”. Less than 14” would have made it a dagger. Of course, the new piece would have originally measured even a bit longer with its pommel, which is now missing. Frequently, however, ancient Iranian edged weapons with crescent guards are simply referred to as daggers – with no consideration of their size. While, from a technical standpoint, the term may not apply to all of these varieties (since sizes vary), the usage of “dagger” seems to be the standard convention.

 

John Piscopo was a passionate and highly respected collector of ancient weaponry and, in the words of a member of the Ancient Artifacts forum, he was “the father of the Internet antiquities community.” Piscopo was 62 years old when he passed away in 2005. The collection of ancient weapons (Iranian, Southeast Asian, and European) that he amassed was one of the most important in the world. As a result, “Ex-Piscopo Collection” is significant provenance. I would say that, other than owning a deaccessioned specimen from a well-known museum collection, “Ex-Piscopo” is the most meaningful provenance one can hope for where ancient weapons are concerned.

 

Of course, the most distinctive feature of my latest pickup is its penannular (crescent-shaped) guard. Such guards first appeared in western Iran toward the end of the Late Bronze Age. They come in lots of different varieties. They are categorized not just by their shapes, but by their find spots and age (which is sometimes determined by context at the dig sites). According to Babak Rafiei-Alavi in The Biography of a Dagger Type: The Diachronic Transformation of the Daggers with the Crescent-Shaped Guard: “In the Late Bronze Age (1600-1300 BC), the guard has a functional role, it is part of the hilt and holds the blade. In the Iron Age I (1300-1000 BC) the functional guard was in several cases changed to a non-functional and ornamental unit. (During) the Iron Age II (1000-800 BC), this non-functional attribute was mostly transformed back to its functional trait.”

 

Regarding such weapons, Christian Konrad Piller states (in Notes on the So-Called ‘Daggers with a Crescent Guard’): "...daggers with such a guard do not form a homogenous type. In fact, there are several subtypes and variants which differ in their production technique and their general outline. Furthermore, there are a lot of variations concerning the shape and the cross-section of the blade and the hilt.”

 

Although the sword I won has some formal similarities to some Iron Age II Iranian swords of comparable size and with similar (though usually skinnier) elliptical penannular guards, it is possibly unique in its details and overall form – particularly in the boxiness of its crescent, and the way the blade’s shoulders project slightly outward from the guard. That guard is definitely functional, holding the blade in place. (It isn't just a decorative feature.) So, this sword, while possibly unique, is more akin to penannular edged weaponry of the Iron Age II than to earlier (Late Bronze Age and Iron Age I) examples. I think I can safely (though still broadly) date my sword to early first millennium BC. It was during this period that the crescent guards were occasionally used in combination with “double disk” (a.k.a. “cotton-reel”) pommels. My example presumably had a pommel in antiquity, and it may have been the double disk type.

 

Here is the new pickup:

1698224441_AESword03.jpg.53db04f2bace631e4f5bfadca00e0923.jpg

AE Sword #03

Likely Northwestern Iran, Talish area
c. 1000 - 800 BC
51.1 cm (20.1")

This short sword may well be unique in its form and details. However, it has some aspects in common with the following:

Cf. Mahboubian (Art of Ancient Iran: Copper and Bronze), 392 (for somewhat similarly shaped guard and cylindrical grip), 396 (for similar cylindrical grip and missing pommel)
Cf. Moorey (Catalogue of the Ancient Persian Bronzes in the Ashmolean Museum), Pl. 7, Fig. 58 (also illustrated on page 81) for sword with somewhat similarly shaped guard, blade, and grip. (However, the blade of the illustrated specimen has blood channels rather than midrib)
Cf. Rafiei-Alavi (The Biography of a Dagger Type), Figure 11

Description:
Wide-shouldered, tapering blade with thick midrib; elliptical penannular guard; slender cylindrical grip with incised linear motifs; pommel missing (may well have been a double-disk/cotton-reel pommel); stable crack through blade at shoulder; abrasions and nicks commensurate with age.

Ex-private San Diego collection
Ex-John F. Piscopo Collection

 

gripping.jpg.7959b9bcdd8c8bd2526d2fb11b8366d8.jpg

 

And here are some reference book illustrations and photos of various other weapons with penannular guards:

1809654435_ExamplesPenannG2.jpg.b7a52f198f422934640bc4aaee1e24b9.jpg

Kamnaskires, Congrats on scoring a handsome Luristan weapon & excellent writeup ☺️! I was lucky to score a handsome Luristan dagger from the Piscopo collection shortly after his collection was put on the market. I ended up selling my dagger in CNG 483, lot 801, where it fetched $767.00 including the buyers premium. Pictured below are the two CNG photos along with two of my photos that are superior to CNG's 😏.

807_1.jpg.c2b1d513b17e97501a826d5af63117f6.jpg162809568_LuristanDagger2viewsExAlKowskyCollection.jpg.a05f393ce543d0679d98441dbbb50767.jpg

Luristan Dagger, circa 1,200-900 BC. Bronze: 13.18 in. long. Each side of the handle was originally inset with a hardwood or ivory hand grip. Ex Piscopo Collection; CNG 483, lot 807.

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9 minutes ago, Al Kowsky said:

I was lucky to score a handsome Luristan dagger from the Piscopo collection shortly after his collection was put on the market.

Nice, Al! I have several flanged hilt Luristani daggers, but not one from Piscopo's collection. Oh, how I would love to own that one! 

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