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Micro-X-ray computer tomography in archaeology: analyses of a Bronze Age sword

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A 3000-year-old sword with a broken blade of the Schalenknauf-type, that has been found in a Late Bronze Age grave near St. Plten, Lower Austria, was analysed using different methods to get information about the manufacture and usage of Bronze Age swords. Among the methods used were X-ray, micro-X-ray computer tomography, EPMA, metallographic and surface analysis. The micro-X-ray computer tomography was done at the University of Applied Sciences in Wels, Upper Austria; it was the first time this method was ever applied on Bronze Age weaponry in Austria. It was possible to detect the cause of the breakage, assess the quality of the casting and locate the pouring gate. Furthermore, a detailed description of the casting method, the construction of the haft and the casting mould could be made. The break of the blade and the absence of other visible destruction marks (which are often found on intentionally destroyed swords) are arguments that support the theory of the use of the sword as a weapon. As the metallographic examination of the blade sample shows, the sword blade was annealed and cold-worked. Afterwards the blade was sharpened. A high percentage of European research on Bronze Age swords still considers them as unused or unusable weapons; this denies thousands of years of continuous development towards ultimate effectiveness.

Keywords: Bronze Age; CT; casting quality; sword; usage of weaponry

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Institut fr Urund Frhgeschichte, Universitt Wien, Franz-Klein-Gasse 1, 1190 Wien, sterreich,, Tel: +43 (0)650 386 2443

Publication date: June 1, 2008

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