Hate or glory: a categorical and experimental consideration of Bronze Age halberds in Scotland in relation to MBA weaponry
Despite being one of the largest collections of their type in Europe, the Early Bronze Age halberds in Scotland have not been catalogued or analysed since Coles’ 1968-9 work. Accordingly, every halberd in Scotland was recorded and catalogued to assess the size and level of preservation of the assemblage. Experimental work using a replica halberd was designed to determine the combat capabilities and limitations of the weapon, and to determine the extent of damage inflicted on the blades during interpersonal combat. Prior to this, experiments using a replica Middle Bronze Age dirk from Friarton, Perthshire were designed to establish the methodology and experimental protocol. During the creation of the experimental protocols, parameters considered included the design and manufacture of the replica, the human tissue analogue used, the layout and audience for the experiment, and the subsequent data analysis. The experimentally derived data on the dirk were compared with extant catalogue data to investigate whether the damage inflicted on the replica blade could be observed on the prehistoric dirks. Following the methodology and experimental protocol refined following the investigations with the replica dirk, the replica halberd experiments were then undertaken, first using SynboneTM as a skeletal tissue proxy, and secondly a pig carcass as a soft tissue proxy. The damage to the replica halberd blades observed following the experiments was analysed and compared to the newly-catalogued prehistoric halberd assemblage An interpretative model synthesising all the halberd data was then derived as one possible interpretation as to the uses and distribution of the halberds; the halberds were shown experimentally to be functional combat weapons, able to be used effectively with no great amount of training or mobility, and the mending and conservation evidence in the prehistoric assemblage is hypothesised to be linked to their role as combat and political power proxies in long-distance communication networks across northern Europe.