weapons of the ancient Udmurts
is an integral part of the material culture of any
society. We should have in mind that human lives
depended on the effectiveness of the weapons. Many
researches hold that due to the fact it was ancient
weapon producing that most advanced technologies were
in the Laboratory of natural sciences of the Institute
of Archaeology, RAS, the project is carried out
concerning the investigations of the blacksmiths’
craft of the ancient Udmurts – the Finno-Ugrian people
that once inhabited the Kama and Vyatka rivers’ basin.
The sites situated in the river Cheptsa basin and
attested to Polom – Cheptsa culture are now the best
studied ones in the region. The materials considered in
the present paper are related to the Polom stage of this
culture (the 5th – the early 10th
cc.). A large collection of weaponry has been studied
metallographically, together with implements and
household utensils; the selection under discussion
includes a sword, six broadswords, three sabres, seven
daggers, eight spearheads, and 28 arrowheads.
above pieces of weaponry can be divided into two basic
groups: hunter’s equipment, and arms proper. It is
quite clear, that any strict division is impossible,
since any weapons used for hunting could have been used
as arms as well. Therefore it seems to be more correct
to term the above groups as the professional weapons (used
in military actions only), on the one hand, and those of
universal character, on the other hand.
basic characteristics of weaponry are technical and
technological data: the material used for shaping the
artefact, the modes of strengthening cutting edge, and
so forth. Actually, it was the smith’s skill that was
responsible for the effectiveness of the weapon. This
work is aimed at consideration of the technical and
technological features of the weapons used by the
profound studies of iron and steel artefacts are now
impossible without application of the
archaeometallographic method which provide the
opportunity to reconstruct the technological methods of
shaping blacksmiths’ production. The data of the
archaeological metallography finally give grounds to
answer the questions concerning the quality of
production, the knowledge and professional skills of the
craftsmen, probable region where the artefacts have been
manufactured, and other. It is clear that one cannot
obtain full and detailed information on the weapons
without analytical investigations.
played an essential role in the life of the ancient
Udmurt tribes in the second part of the 1st
millennium AD. This was caused, first, by growing
significance of hunting in their economy, and, second,
by the unstable situation that had emerged in the Kama
basin, where the aboriginal population suffered from
constant pressure of the steppe communities. Having
studied the pieces of weaponry originating from the Ural
sites, S.R. Volkov came to the conclusion that in the
second half of the 1st mill. AD in the Kama
basin a developed complex of weapon had existed, well
corresponding to the level of development of the
military technique of the epoch. Practically all the
advanced transformations that took place in the steppe
and forest-steppe territories were adopted by the local
population practically at once, or after a short time,
including new shapes of arrowheads, sabres, battle-axes
(Volkov, 1993, p.91).
were the most wide-spread kind of weapons. They show
great diversity in their types, though hunter’s flat
ones absolutely dominate. No strict correlation between
arrowhead type and the technology of its manufacturing
has been revealed (Fig. 1). The leading operation in
shaping arrowheads was free forging applied to various
kinds of the raw material. As far as the analysed
collection is concerned, 13 pieces were made of bloomery
iron. Five items turned to be produced of the iron with
high phosphorus content (analyses Nos. 9684, 9752, 9756,
9757), with micro-hardness of ferrite 236-350 kg/mm2.
Six artefacts were made of bloomery steel (analyses Nos.
9746, 9751, 9754, 9759, 9817) with carbon content up to
0.3-0.4%. Two arrowheads were manufactured of better
material – deliberately produced carbonised steel. One
of them was of rhomboid shape with broadening blade and
stops on the tang (Fig. 1, No. 9743). Most probably, it
was forged of some broken tool, as it can be seen from
the soldering joints chaotically disposed without any
technological purpose. The item had been quenched,
troostitic structure was revealed. In the non-quenched
portions carbon content reached 0.5-0.7%%. Another
arrowhead is related to the group of chisel-like ones
without stops (analysis No. 9758). To produce it the
medium carbon content steel was taken (C 0.4 %), the
material was well forged, steel structure is finely
dispersed. The battle qualities of three items were
improved by application of chemical-thermal treatment (analyses
Nos. 9739, 9742, 9760). One of these arrowheads
underwent troostitic hardening (No. 9760). While shaping
four items the smiths practiced technological welding (Fig.
1, Nos. 9745, 9747, 9807, 9820): steel working edge was
welded on the core made of bloomery iron. On the
arrowhead of chisel-like type with stops (analysis No.
9747) steel working edge was welded in the point,
finally the artifact underwent heat-treatment (troostitic
structure has been revealed).
From the above results of micro-structural investigation
it is clear that simple technological schemes were used
for shaping the majority of the arrowheads. Only the
group of battle (armour-piercing) ones should be
considered an exception, since they were often
manufactured with application of additional
technological operations (No. 9747 – welding-in, Nos.
9742 and 9760 – carbonisation), or produced of harder
raw material (No. 9743 – of carbonised steel, Nos.
9755 and 9756 – of phosphorous iron). Heat treatment
was exercised only on battle arrowheads (analyses Nos.
9743, 9747, 9760).
of Polom culture can be divided into six types according
to the shape of their blades (Semenov, 1980, p.46). All
these types are present in the studied collection.
Similar to the arrowheads, no correlation of certain
technology and spearhead type has been traced (Fig. 2).
We should rather point out some technological
unification of manufacturing of this category of
blacksmiths’ production. The majority of spearheads
were shaped of solid-metal blanks. To make the latter
both bloomery iron (No. 9803) and bloomery steel were
used (Nos. 9735, 9738, 9802, 9805). Two items after
shaping were carbonised (Fig. 2, Nos. 9736, 9737). To
manufacture the spearhead from the Polom cemetery (Fig.
2, No. 9804) a sophisticated technology was used: on the
core of the blade shaped of bloomery steel a smith had
welded the working edges made of piled metal.
piled material consists of 6-7 strips of bloomery steel
with carbon content up to 0.3%. I should like to stress
two specific technological features in the process of
producing the spearheads, namely, while shaping this
class of artefacts no meta-stable structures have been
discovered, though carbon content reaching 0.5% on
separate spots fairly well suited application of heat
treatment. Another characteristic feature is the way of
shaping the blades of barbed spearheads (Fig. 2, Nos.
9737, 9805). In the later period (the Cheptsa stage of
the culture dated to the 10th – the 13th
cc.) spearheads and arrowheads of this type were
manufactured in different way, the barbs were welded on
the blade core (Terekhova et al., 1997, p.265). The
Polom blacksmiths carried out different operations: they
shaped the barbs by cutting the blade up.
of the discussed collection comprise a sword,
broadswords, and sabres. They were undoubtedly designed
for professional warriors. Blade weapons of the ancient
Udmurts with very few exceptions entered the men’s
complex of artefacts and marked the corresponding
activity. Swords and sabres are known from the burials
dated back to the Polom stage of the culture; then
general situation in the region became more stable,
which caused sharp decrease in significance of this
class of weapon. In the burials of the Cheptsa stage of
Polom-Cheptsa culture (the 10th – the 13th
cc.) sabres, swords, and daggers are practically absent
the folklore of many peoples blade weapons symbolised
military strength, thus, the Udmurts’ tales portray
the ancient heroes armed with illyan’ sabre
(“the sabre of unbaked dough”). According to T.G.
Vladykina’s interpretation, this folklore image is
typified by ancient Udmurt semantics that has preserved
the real early method of heat-treatment performed by the
ancient craftsmen – troostitic hardening in dough or
some similar matter. It should be said that this
procedure quite well corresponded to the function of the
discussed group of weapons (Vladykina, 2001, p.93, 94).
ethnographic data mirror great importance of blade
weapons in the Udmurts’ ritual practice. According to
the information obtained by the scholars in the late 19th
– the early 20th cc., the fortune-tellers (tuno)
used sabres and daggers for performing some important
rites, such as moving the family into a new house,
choosing priests for the Great kuala or Lud (Shutova,
analysed sword (Fig. 3. No. 10801) originates
from the Varni cemetery and dates from the 5th
– the 6th cc. Its two-edged blade is
straight, rhomboid in section, nearly 5 cm wide at the
hilt. The length of its preserved part is around 65 cm.
Two clear rectangular steps mark the transition from the
blade to the flat tang. Judging from the opening
preserved on it, hilt was attached to the tang with
rivets. The Polom swords are close by their shape to the
swords of Azelino culture. V.F. Gening considered the
latter two-handed ones (Gening, 1963, p.69).
The analysed item was shaped of well-forged steel blank
with subsequent heat-treatment. The meta-stable
structure revealed on the cutting edges was identified
as martensite, further to the middle of the blade it
represented martensite with troostite, and in the centre
of the sample the structure of ferrite and pearlite was
revealed. In the centre of the sample taken from the
point of the sword (Fig. 3, analysis No. 10801A) carbon
content in steel was 0.4-0.6%%. In the section taken
from the cutting edge (analysis No. 10801Á) the
heat-treated zone was seen, and above it ferrite and
pearlite structures were disposed (carbon content
0.4-0.6%%), and perlite with cementite (C 0.9-1.0%%).
This spatial distribution of the structural zones points
to the fact that during the process of heat-treatment
the artefact was dipped in a cool matter for short time,
due to this procedure the hardest martensite structure
had emerged on the point, while the core of the sword
remained not heat-treated. The discussed sword was a
weapon of high battle qualities: it had got a hard point,
hard, but not fragile cutting edges, and the core more
ductile than the edges and the point, and at the same
time strong enough. High-quality smithing should be
pointed to, proceeding from the combination of high
carbon content in the metal and clearly designed scheme
of heat-treatment, the sword should be interpreted as
(Fig. 4). This kind of weapons may be considered
transitional from two-edged sword to sabre. Unlike
swords, broadswords have got straight one-edged blade
around 3-3.5 cm wide at the hilt, the transition from
the blade to the tang is smooth, showing practically no
signs of steps. The hilt was apparently solid,
perforated by the tang, no openings for rivets have been
discovered on the tang. The point of the blade was
double-edged. The whole weapon was 70-80 cm long.
technology of manufacturing broadswords was not
characterised by any specific complication. Three items
were made of bloomery iron (Fig. 4, Nos. 10802, 10807,
10809). The samples taken at a large distance from one
another have shown the identical structure; this
evidences that the artefacts have been shaped of
homogenous metal. I should dwell upon one of the iron
blades, broadsword No. 10809. Three samples were taken
from this object: form its double-edged point (analysis
No.10809A), from the cutting edge (analysis No.10809Á),
and from the tang (analysis No.10809B). On the two first
samples ferrite structure has been registered, but the
third one has shown the structure of steel with carbon
content ca. 0.7%. It cannot be excluded that here we
face a defective production, the craftsman had been
mistaken: he had used the blank carbonised in advance so
that the blade of the broadsword was shaped of iron,
whilst more hard steel turned to be on the tang.
shaping two other broadswords a craftsman had applied
the technological scheme of carbonisation (Nos. 10806,
10808). Sample 10808 is characterised by higher carbon
content on the double-edged point (0.5-0.6%%) and
presence of low-carbon steel on the cutting edge (up to
the sample from broadsword No. 10805 metal has been
partly preserved. Most probably, this piece of weaponry
has been shaped of high-carbon steel with C content
0.7-0.9%%. The metal is much free from slag impurities.
It cannot be excluded that for producing this particular
artefact cast steel was used, thus the discussed
broadsword should be determined as import.
4) comprise slightly curved single-edged blades supplied
with double-edged point. This type of weapons in the
discussed collection can be singled out conditionally,
it is difficult to distinguish between them and the
broadswords described above. The difference consists
mainly in the position of the tang: the broadswords have
it straight, so as its central axis coincides with that
of the blade, while on the sabres the axis of the tang
forms obtuse angle with the central line of the blade.
As for the sabre blades width, it is the same as that of
the broadswords, measuring around 3.5 cm at the hilt.
Clear steps form the transition from the blade to the
tang. The hilt evidently consisted of two plates with
the tang fixed in between with rivets.
the sabres investigated metallographically (Nos. 10803,
10804, 10810) have shown the same technological scheme
– they were forged of bloom blank and then wholly
carbonised. On the cutting edges carbon content reaches
up to 0.6-0.8%%. On one sabre only (No. 10810) there was
revealed Widmannstatten structure usually often observed
on carbonised objects. Two items were heat-treated (Nos.
10803, 10804), only their double-edged points underwent
this treatment. In both cases sharp quenching was
are mainly represented by large-size knives, their
blades being over 20 cm long. Two groups are singled out.
The first one includes the single-edged blades supplied
with flutes (Table, Nos. 5000, 5002, 5003), the second
one have not got any (Nos. 4999, 5001, 5004, 9716). Two
technological schemes were used for shaping daggers.
Four objects have been made of solid steel blanks (Nos.
4999, 5002, 5004, 9716) with irregular carbon content.
It may be concluded that bloomery steel was taken as the
raw material. Three daggers of this group were
heat-treated: the operations of quenching and subsequent
high tempering have been established.
shaping three other daggers piled blanks were used. Two
items turned to be produced of the blanks welded of iron
and steel strips, in the latter carbon content is up to
0.2-0.3%% (Nos. 5000, 5003). Ferrite structure has been
discovered on the strips of analysis No. 5001. The
welding on the items in question is not of high quality,
the welding joints are broad, with numerous slag
should like to draw special attention to the dagger from
the Varni cemetery dated from the late 4th
– the first part of the 5th cc. (analysis
No. 9717). It is different in shape from the items
described above, the dagger is a double-edged weapon,
its blade is 4.5 cm wide near the tang, and around 19 cm
long (the preserved part). The metallographic tests have
shown steel structure both on the blade and on the tang
(ferrite with pearlite and ferrite with cementite).
Carbon content is 0.5-0.7 %% on the blade and above 1%
on the tang. The metal is well forged, with homogeneous
structure. Such structures are extremely rarely
discovered on the artefacts originating from the Kama
sites of the mid 1st millennium AD. As the
analogies the swords yielded by the sites of Azelino
culture can be pointed out (Terekhova et al., p.143).
The similarity of structures revealed, chronological
closeness, and functional identity of the discussed
objects attributed to battle weapons give grounds to
suppose that the discussed dagger had been manufactured
in the same production centre that the Azelino swords.
both investigated battle-axes are identified as
peaks with elongated narrow wedge of triangular shape
and two pairs of projections. Both axes originate from
the same burial of the Varni cemetery. The core of axe
No. 9723 was shaped of bloomery steel. The edge of the
same steel was welded on the core, carbon content on the
edge was higher than that of the core. Finally, the
object had undergone troostitic hardening.
No. 9720 has shown another manufacturing method. Its
core was shaped of bloomery iron and then bent in two on
a stencil. Between the two ends of the blank a steel
strip was fixed, then it was shaped to form the edge.
Having performed welding, a blacksmith quenched the axe
(troostitic structure has been revealed). I should
stress that this object demonstrates more advanced
technological scheme used, as well as higher quality of
smithing than the previous one.
carried out metallographic investigation seems to
contribute essentially to our knowledge concerning the
ancient Udmurt weapons. Arrowheads and spearheads
appeared to be the most simply shaped objects, which is
not a surprise, since arrowheads in fact are the weapons
to be used once, and an arrowhead made of bloomery iron
fairly well met this purpose both while hunting and in
the battle field. Only for producing battle (armour-piercing)
arrowheads more complicated technological schemes were
applied, such as carbonisation and welding-on steel edge.
As for the barbed spearheads, certain chronological
changes occurred in the technology of their shaping: on
the early items the barbs were cut, and on the later
ones they were welded-on.
from the technology of production, the majority of the
analysed objects attributed to the class of professional
blade weapons (the sword, the broadswords, the sabres,
and the daggers) could have been manufactured by the
ancient Udmurt blacksmiths. The basic method of their
producing was forging artefacts of steel. Technological
welding was not practiced while shaping broadswords and
sabres. To improve the battle qualities of the weapons
heat-treatment was widely used. Some pieces of blade
weapons stay aside, probably these were imported
artefacts shaped of hard steel practically free from
slag inclusions (maybe cast steel?). The battle-axes of
Saltovo-Mayatskoe type were designed in accordance with
the schemes of technological welding, widely spread in
the ancient Udmurt blacksmiths’ craft since the 9th
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