The Oakeshott typology is a way to define and catalogue the medieval sword based on physical form. It categorises the swords of the European Middle Ages (roughly 11th to 16th centuries) into 13 main types, labelled X through XXII. The historian and illustrator Ewart Oakeshott introduced it in his 1960 treatise The Archaeology of Weapons: Arms and Armour from Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry.
The system is a continuation of Jan Petersen's typology of the Viking sword, which Petersen introduced in De Norske Vikingsverd ("The Norwegian Viking Swords") in 1919. In 1927 the system was simplified by R.E.M. Wheeler to only seven types, labelled I through VII. Oakeshott slightly expanded the system with two transitional types, VIII and IX, and then he started work on his own typology.
Among the many reasons for his typology, Oakeshott found date classification unreliable during his research. He wrote that the weapons' dates of manufacture, use, and retirement have been greatly obscured by trade, warfare, and other various exchanges combined with the weapons' own longevity.
Oakeshott's 13 sword types are distinguished by several factors, the most important of which characterize its blade: cross section, length, fuller characteristics, and taper. Taper is the degree by which a blade's width narrows to its point. This varies from blades of constant taper, the edges of which are straight and narrow to a point, to blades devoid of taper, the edges of which are parallel and finish in a rounded point. A fuller is a groove that runs down the middle of a blade, designed to lighten the weapon. X swords typically have a fuller running nearly its entire length, Type XXII blades have very short fullers, and Type XV blades have none at all.Type
Grip length can vary within a type (such as with #Type XIII).
Oakeshott's sword descriptions orient them with the point as the bottom and the hilt at the top. This was inspired by his observation that many blades bearing inscriptions and crests had to be oriented this way to be read correctly.
Oakeshott X describes swords that were common in the late Viking age and remained in use until the 13th century. The blades of these swords are narrower and longer than the typical Viking sword, marking the transition to the knightly sword of the High Middle Ages.
This type exhibits a broad, flat blade, 80 centimetres (2.6 ft) long on average. A very wide and shallow fuller runs down each side of the blade, fading just before the point (which is rounded). The grip's length is consistent with earlier Viking swords, averaging about 9 centimetres (3.5 in). The cross-guard is about 18–20 centimetres (7.1–7.9 in) wide, is square in section, and it tapers towards the tips.[ clarification needed ] In some rare cases, the cross is slightly curved.[ which? ] The tang is usually very flat and broad, and it tapers sharply towards the pommel. 10th century Norsemen referred to this type of sword as gaddhjalt (or "spike hilt"), referring to the strong taper of the tang rather than some visible characteristic of the pommel. The pommel usually takes either an oval Brazil-nut form or a disc shape.
In 1981 Oakeshott introduced Subtype Xa to include swords of similar blades that have narrower fullers, originally classified under type XI.
Swords of this type were in use c. 1100 – c. 1175. It presents similarly to Type X, with a short grip and a fuller that nearly runs the blade's entire length. In comparison, however, the blade is distinctively longer and more slender, and it tapers to an acute point. The fuller is also narrower. The shape of type XI blades is more suitable for slashing from horseback. Though it tapers to a point, it is generally too flexible for effective thrusting.
Subtype XIa presents a broader, shorter blade.
Typical of the High Middle Ages, these swords begin to show greater tapering of the blade and a shortened fuller, features which improve thrusting capabilities while maintaining a good cut. The Cawood sword is an exceptionally well preserved type XII specimen, exemplifying a full-length taper and narrow fuller, which terminates 2/3 down the blade. A large number of Medieval examples of this type survive. It certainly existed in the later 13th century, and perhaps considerably earlier, since the Swiss National Museum in Zurich possesses an example that has a Viking Age–type hilt but clearly a type XII blade.
The earliest known depiction of a type XII sword in art is in the statue of the Archangel Michael in Bamberg Cathedral, dating to c. 1200. The Maciejowski Bible (c. 1245) depicts other examples.
Subtype XIIa (originally classified as XIIIa) consists of the longer, more massive greatswords that appear in the mid–13th century, which precede the later long-swords and were probably designed to counter the improved mail armor of the time.
Single-handed transitional type XII swords have a grip about 4.5 inches (11 cm) in length.
Type XIIa has a long grip similar to that of type XIIIa. The XIIa was originally a part of the XIIIa classification, but Oakeshott decided they "taper[ed] too strongly" and were "too acutely pointed" to fit appropriately.
This typifies the classic knightly sword that developed during the age of the Crusades. Typically, examples date to the second half of the 13th century. Type XIII swords feature as a defining characteristic a long, wide blade with parallel edges, ending in a rounded or spatulate tip. The blade cross section has the shape of a lens. The grips, longer than in the earlier types, typically some 15 cm (almost 6 inches), allow occasional two-handed use. The cross-guards are usually straight, and the pommels Brazil-nut or disk-shaped (Oakeshott pommel types D, E and I).
Subtype XIIIa features longer blades and grips. They correspond to the knightly greatswords, or Grans espées d'Allemagne, appearing frequently in 14th century German, but also in Spanish and English art. Early examples of the type appear in the 12th century, and it remained popular until the 15th century. Subtype XIIIb describes smaller single-handed swords of similar shape.
Very few examples of the parent type XIII exist, while more examples of the subtype XIIIa survive. A depiction of two-handed use appears in the Tenison(Alphonso) psalter. Another depiction of the type appears in the Apocalypse of St. John manuscript of c. 1300.
The "greatsword," within the context of the late medieval longsword, is a type of "outsize(d) specimen," specifically the type XIIIa. The weapons were referred to by a variety of names, as in grans espées d'Allemagne or "big swords of Germany".
The larger subtype XIIIa sword has a grip approximately 6.5–9 in (17–23 cm) long.
Ewart Oakeshott describes swords of Type XIV classification as "...short, broad and sharply-pointed blade, tapering strongly from the hilt, of flat section (the point end of the blade may, in some examples, have a slight though perceptible mid-rib, with a fuller running about half, or a little over, of its length. This may be single and quite broad or multiple and narrow. The grip is generally short (average 3.75" or 9.5 cm) though some as long as 4.5" (11.4 cm); the tang is thick and parallel-sided, often with the fuller extending half-way up it (the tang). The pommel is always of "wheel" form, sometimes very wide and flat. The cross is generally rather long and curved (very rarely straight)." Eight of the nine examples Oakeshott provided of type XIV in Records of the Medieval Sword have the distinct blade profile of a very acute triangle, with only one specimen showing an accelerating taper toward the end of the blade.
Straight tapering blade with diamond cross-section and a sharp point. Type XVa have longer, narrower blades and grips sufficiently long for two-handed use. In contrast to type XIV, these are more greatly designed for thrusting above cleaving, their appearance coinciding with the rise of plate armor. However, blades of similar cross-section and profile can be found well before the Middle-Ages and after, meaning this blade form should not solely be assigned the purpose of defeating plate armor.Many Type XV fall within the terminology of swords commonly called "bastard" or "hand-and-a-half swords" in reference to the longer grips that allowed both one and two handed use, though swords with grips of only around 5 inches would not be considered among these.
A flat cutting blade which steadily tapers to an acute point reinforced by a clearly defined ridge, making it equally effective for thrusting. This type somewhat resembles a more slender version of type XIV. These swords appear in the contemporary artwork of San Gimignano and many other works. Blade length c. 70–80cm. Sub-type XVIa have a longer blade with a shorter fuller (usually running down 1/3 and rarely exceeding 1/2 of the blade). The grip is often extended to accommodate one and a half or two hands.
Characterized by a long, evenly tapering blade, hexagonal cross section, two-handed grip. Stiff, and suited toward thrusting. Oakeshott found some to be heavy swords, some examples weighing more than 2 kg, used for combat against armored opponents. Some of these blades however were light-weight, including a sword that Oakeshott studied at the Fitzwilliam museum of Cambridge. In use c. 1360–1420.
Tapering blades with broad base, short grip, diamond cross-section. In distinction from type XV, these blades almost always feature a raised mid-rib that reinforces the blade for thrusting, and in the examples given in Records of the Medieval Sword, they can be seen to have a less linear and consistent taper along the edge of the blade, sometimes showing a subtle increase of the taper toward the point. 1450 – c. 1520. Subtype XVIIIc: shorter grip, broad blade; c. 90. Subtype XVIIIe: Narrow, long blade with extended ricasso more narrow than the blade and very long grip.Subtype XVIIIa: narrow blades with a longer grip. Subtype XVIIIb: Bastard swords with a longer blade and long grip; were in use c.
15th century swords which were often one-handed, though two-handed examples exist. These have relatively narrow, flat blades of hexagonal cross-section, nearly parallel edges with little profile taper, narrow fullers, and a pronounced ricasso. The ricasso often presents increased blade decoration. Additionally, several blades of this type bear Arabic inscriptions as well as finger loops below the guard.
14th to 15th century "hand and a half sword" or "two-handed" swords, often with two or more fullers, sometimes reducing to one fuller partway down the blade. The edges of these blades are nearly parallel or only slightly tapered until reaching a final slope to a point. These are Bastard swords, and nearly always have a hand-and-a-half grip or Two-handed swords, with room for two hands. Subtype XXa: narrower blades with a more acute and linear taper, though these can still be distinguished in part by their multiple fullers.
Broad heavily tapering swords, similar to the fashionable Italian civilian Cinquedea of the late 15th century. Usually longer and less broad than the Cinquedea. Commonly presents with two or more fullers that continue nearly the full length of the blade. Also usually features downward (toward the blade) curved cross (quillions). The distinction away from an Cinquedea is largely based on size alone. A variation of the classic Cinquedea grip is not uncommon, though many have grips are more conventional to other European swords of the time period.
Broad flat blades, some sharing a moderate to heavy taper with Type XXII though not as heavily or consistently. These are often flat/spatulate in cross section with the exception of 1-2 narrow fullers that only extend a short distance beyond the handle. The proportions, history of surviving examples, and often ornate decoration indicate these may have mostly served a ceremonial role more than as weapons of war.Mid 1400s–1500s.
A pole weapon or pole arm is a close combat weapon in which the main fighting part of the weapon is fitted to the end of a long shaft, typically of wood, thereby extending the user's effective range and striking power. Pole weapons are predominantly melee weapons, with a subclass of spear-like designs fit for both thrusting and throwing. Because many pole weapons were adapted from agricultural implements or other tools in fairly large amount of abundance, and contain relatively little metal, they were cheap to make and readily available. When warfare breaks out and the belligerents have a poorer class who cannot pay for dedicated weapons made for war, military leaders often resort to the appropriation of tools as cheap weapons. The cost of training was minimal, since these conscripted farmers had spent most of their lives in the familiar use of these "weapons" in the fields. This made polearms the favored weapon of peasant levies and peasant rebellions the world over.
A sword is a bladed melee weapon intended for cutting or thrusting that is longer than a knife or dagger, consisting of a long blade attached to a hilt. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographic region under consideration. The blade can be straight or curved. Thrusting swords have a pointed tip on the blade, and tend to be straighter; slashing swords have a sharpened cutting edge on one or both sides of the blade, and are more likely to be curved. Many swords are designed for both thrusting and slashing.
The hilt of a knife, dagger, sword, or bayonet is its handle, consisting of a guard, grip and pommel. The guard may contain a crossguard or quillons. A tassel or sword knot may be attached to the guard or pommel.
A longsword is a type of European sword characterized as having a cruciform hilt with a grip for two-handed use, a straight double-edged blade of around 85 to 110 cm, and weighing approximately 1 to 1.5 kg.
The spatha was a type of straight and long sword, measuring between 0.5 and 1 m, with a handle length between 18 and 20 cm, in use in the territory of the Roman Empire during the 1st to 6th centuries AD. Later swords, from the 7th to 10th centuries, like the Viking swords, are recognizable derivatives and sometimes subsumed under the term spatha.
The French estoc is a type of sword, also called a tuck in English, in use from the 14th to the 17th century. It is characterized by a cruciform hilt with a grip for two-handed use and a straight, edgeless, but sharply pointed blade of around 0.91 metres (36 in) to 1.32 metres (52 in) in length. It is noted for its ability to pierce mail armor.
The English language terminology used in the classification of swords is imprecise and has varied widely over time. There is no historical dictionary for the universal names, classification or terminology of swords; A sword was simply a double edged knife.
A messer is a single-edged sword with a knife-like hilt construction. While the various names are often used synonymously, messers are divided into two types:
The Viking Age sword or Carolingian sword is the type of sword prevalent in Western and Northern Europe during the Early Middle Ages.
Ewart Oakeshott was a British illustrator, collector, and amateur historian who wrote prodigiously on medieval arms and armour. He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a Founder Member of the Arms and Armour Society, and the Founder of the Oakeshott Institute. He created a classification system of the medieval sword, the Oakeshott typology, a systematic organization of medieval weaponry.
On a sword, the crossguard, or cross-guard, also known as quillon, is a bar of metal at right angles to the blade, placed between the blade and the hilt. The crossguard was developed in the European sword around the 10th century for the protection of the wielder's hand. The earliest forms were the crossguard variant of the Spatha used by the Huns, the so-called Pontic swords. There are many examples of crossguards on Sasanian Persian Swords beginning from the early 3rd century. They might be the oldest examples. The crossguards were not only used to counter enemy attacks, but also to get a better grip on the sword. They were later seen in late Viking swords, and is a standard feature of the Norman sword of the 11th century and of the knightly arming sword throughout the high and late medieval period. Early crossguards were straight metal bars, sometimes tapering towards the outer ends. While this simple type was never discontinued, more elaborate forms developed alongside it in the course of the Middle Ages. The crossguard could be waisted or bent in the 12th and 13th century.
The parrying dagger is a category of small handheld weapons from the European late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. These weapons were used as off-hand weapons in conjunction with a single-handed sword such as a rapier. As the name implies they were designed to parry, or defend, more effectively than a simple dagger form, typically incorporating a wider guard, and often some other defensive features to better protect the hand as well. They may also be used for attack if an opportunity arises. The general category includes two more specific types, the sword breaker and trident dagger.
The Wallace Sword is an antique two-handed sword purported to have belonged to William Wallace (1270–1305), a Scottish knight who led a resistance to the English occupation of Scotland during the Wars of Scottish Independence. It is said to have been used by William Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and the Battle of Falkirk (1298).
The Cawood sword is a medieval sword discovered in the River Ouse near Cawood in North Yorkshire in the late 19th century. The blade is of Oakeshott type XII and has inscriptions on both sides. It most likely dates to the early 12th century.
A claymore is either the Scottish variant of the late medieval two-handed sword or the Scottish variant of the basket-hilted sword. The former is characterised as having a cross hilt of forward-sloping quillons with quatrefoil terminations and was in use from the 15th to 17th centuries.
The Seax of Beagnoth is a 10th-century Anglo-Saxon seax. It was found in the inland estuary of the Thames in 1857, and is now at the British Museum in London. It is a prestige weapon, decorated with elaborate patterns of inlaid copper, brass and silver wire. On one side of the blade is the only known complete inscription of the twenty-eight letter Anglo-Saxon runic alphabet, as well as the name "Beagnoth" in runic letters. It is thought that the runic alphabet had a magical function, and that the name Beagnoth is that of either the owner of the weapon or the smith who forged it. Although many Anglo-Saxon and Viking swords and knives have inscriptions in the Latin alphabet on their blades, or have runic inscriptions on the hilt or scabbard, the Seax of Beagnoth is one of only a handful of finds with a runic inscription on its blade.
The basket-hilted sword is a sword type of the early modern era characterised by a basket-shaped guard that protects the hand. The basket hilt is a development of the quillons added to swords' crossguards since the Late Middle Ages. In modern times, this variety of sword is also sometimes referred to as the broadsword.
In the European High Middle Ages, the typical sword was a straight, double-edged weapon with a single-handed, cruciform hilt and a blade length of about 70 to 80 centimetres. This type is frequently depicted in period artwork, and numerous examples have been preserved archaeologically.
The Ingelrii group consists of about 20 known medieval swords from the 10th to 12th century with a damascening blade inscription INGELRII, appearing with several slight spelling variations such as INGELRD and INGELRILT. It is comparable to the older, much better-documented Ulfberht group.
The Tomb Effigy of Jacquelin de Ferrière is usually on display in the Medieval Art Gallery of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The effigy is of the French knight, Sir Jacquelin de Ferrière, who was from Montargis, near Sens in northern France. The effigy is dated between 1275-1300 CE. It is 73 3⁄4 in (187 cm) long, 24 5⁄8 in (63 cm) wide, and 5 inches (13 cm) deep, and carved into a flat limestone slab, which now has a wooden frame. Effigies were often commissioned by the nobles or their families, as a means of remembrance. They would normally be found covering the sarcophagi of the knight, or installed in or near a church that the family were patrons of. Although the inscription on this effigy is not clear, most effigies contained similar inscriptions that would include the name and title, dates of birth and death–or approximates, a link between the date of death and a notable holy figure or day, and petitions of prayer that would offer pardons to those that prayed for the depicted soul–largely an attempt to create a tangible link between the nobility and divinity.