Seaxes

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For blades over 14" in length see Langseax
For blades under 7" in length see Knife

Rulings

Authenticity Summary

Authenticity Summary
Type of Seax Very Early
(793-899)
Early
(900-979)
Mid
(980-1041)
Late
(1042-1079)
Very Late
(1080-1179)
Angevin
(1180-1215)
Seaxes with blades from 7” to 10” Encouraged Optional
Seaxes with blades from 10” to 14” Optional Unacceptable
Wood handles Encouraged
Wooden handles with bark Unacceptable
Bone handles Optional
Worked antler handles Allowable
Unworked antler handles Unacceptable
Composite wood / bone / stone handles Allowable
RICH
Decorated knife sheath Encouraged Optional
Undecorated knife sheath Allowable
Unsheathed knives Unacceptable
Double/single edged knives (not seaxes) Unacceptable Encouraged
Sheath horizontally hung Encouraged Optional Allowable
Sheath vertically hung Encouraged
Rondel & bollock daggers Unacceptable

MaA Summary

MaA regulations for seaxes

NOTES

i) The blade and tang must be made from steel. They must be rust and burr free and must be of good overall construction and condition.
ii) The blade edge must be no less than 2mm and no more than 5mm (1/5”) in thickness. In cross section, the edge may be rounded or round shouldered but must not be square edged. The edges of a weapon must include its cutting surface and any back edges also.
iii) Seaxes with a blade exceeding 200mm (8”) in length must be made entirely of spring steel.
iv) The seax tip should be rounded to no less than an 18mm (11/16”) diameter. (i.e. the diameter of a 1999 5 pence piece). Any angle on the back of the seax that is must be rounded over.
v)The blade should not be parallel-edged (back edge to cutting edge).
vi) The blade should not be parallel-sided.
vii) The blade may have a narrow fuller in one or both sides.
viii) Seaxes may have small ferrules on the hand-grip but must not have a properly developed crossguard or a pommel.


History

The short Seax is also known as a Scramasax, a Hadseax or just a Sax. The term Scramasax comes from Gregory of Tours writing in AD575, who speaks of "boys with strong knives (cultris validis), which they commonly call scramasaxes (scramasaxos)." in his History of the Franks (IV, 52). It is not known if this name continued in use into the Viking Age.
It is not uncommon for burials in the Viking age to contain more than one knife. It is likely that small heavy seaxes were in use up until the end of the C10th but that as a weapon it possibly really belongs to the pre-Viking period.
Although primarily an everyday tool, in battle it could be used to finish off a felled opponent, and in the case of some ceorls, a mid to large sized scramaseaxe could have taken the place of a sword. Although it contained much the same amount of iron to make as a sword, the scramaseaxe was an easier weapon to make with only one sharp edge and a thick reverse edge. Examples found have both just plain iron blades or pattern welded ones as well as inlaid blades.
Seaxes were also almost certainly just everyday tools: butchery knives, woodworking tools, eating knife, etc.. Most blades were broad, heavy and with an angled back sloping in a straight line towards the point and this is the typical Saxon style.
The Scandinavian style had a more curving back and the Frankish style a more curving blade. Blades were often inlaid with gold, silver, copper or bronze wire beaten into fine channels carved into the iron blade. The grip was of wood, bone or antler and was sometimes carved or decorated. The hilt was usually without a pommel or crossguard, whilst the tang went all the way through the smaller seax handles and was clenched over at the end of the grip.
Scramseaxes were always carried in a sheath of folded leather sewn down the blunt side of the blade, which was often decorated. It is unlikely that a small scramaseax could kill a heavily padded or mailed man, probably just serving to irritate him. It's main employment was probably as an eating and all-purpose 'pocket' knife. The blunt reverse edge of the seax could be used as a hammer to break bones to extract the marrow, or even hammered through materials via it's blunt back as a sharp wedge. It also gives a lot of strength to the whole knife.

Images of Seaxes (C8th to C11th)

  • 775-800AD St. Andrew Sarcophagus
  • C8th England, Derbyshire, Repton. Stone carving, [CAMERON 2000:p.200] [HINTON 2005: p.105]
  • 850-900AD Brussels, Bibliotheque Royale, Lat. 9987. Psychomachia
  • C9th Paris, BNF, Lat. 8085 fol.57r. Virtue, armed with a sword and seax, combating a Vice. [BNF]
  • C10th Brussels, Bibliotheque Royale, ms. 10066-77 Psychomachia f.112r-139r
  • England, Dorset, Cranborne. Silver strap-end [HINTON 2005: p.113]
  • Middleton Warrior [BAILEY 1980:pl.14]
  • 975-1000AD Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS23, f.23r.[PARKER]
  • 1025-1050AD Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS lat 8824 - seax.jpg [OHLGREN 1992]
  • 1076AD Bayeux Tapestry [WILSON 1985:pl.6, 7]


Literature (C9th to C11th)

  • Beowulf c.1000AD
    • "Grendel's mother; the hard man of conflict then heaved, now that he was enraged, the deadly foe, so that she fell to the floor; she again him quickly gave hand-reward with wrathful grips and clutched him against herself; hen, weary in spirit, he stumbled, the strongest man, warrior on foot, so that he was in a fall; then she bestrode the guest in her hall, and drew her seax, broad and bright-edged; she wished to avenge her son, only offspring;" lines 1538-1547 heorot.dk
    • "Then again the king himself gathered his wits, drew a slaughter-seax bitter and battle-sharp, that he wore on his byrnie;" lines 2702-2704 heorot.dk
    • "beside him lies his life-contender sick with seax-wounds" line 2903-2904 heorot.dk



English Seax Blades (C9th to C11th)

Out of 128 knives found from Coppergate York, only 1 can be classed as a seax. [CAMERON 2000: p.64-65]

England, Cambridge, River Cam at Dimmock's Cote
Current Location- University of Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge
Type- ? 800AD
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: ?; Blade Width: ?; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: ?
Comments- 'large scramasax with a groove along the back of the blade' [BJORN 1940:p.69].
Bibliography- [BJORN 1940:p.69]
England, Cumwhitton, Plough Soil
Current Location- Tullie House Museum
Type- ?
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: ?; Blade Width: 30mm; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: 220mm
Comments- 'Patern-welded blade with remains of possible leather sheath still attached' [PATERSON 2014:cat.634].
Bibliography- [PATERSON 2014:p.50,51 & Cat.634]
England, Cumwhitton, Grave 5
Current Location- Tullie House Museum
Type- ?
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: 182mm; Blade Width: ?; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: 270mm
Comments- 'Part pattern welded. Has a horn handle with inlaid silver wire.' [PATERSON 2014:cat.885].
Bibliography- [PATERSON 2014:p.110 & Cat.885]
England, Kent, Sittingbourne
Current Location- British Museum 1881,0623.1
Type- Wheeler IV 900-925AD
Find Date- 1881
Size- Blade Length: ?; Blade Width: ?; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: ?
Comments- 'inlaid with copper, bronze, silver and niello.' [WILSON 1964:cat.80].
Bibliography- [WILSON 1964:cat.80] [British Museum]
England, London
Current Location- London Museum ALG84[588]381
Type- Wheeler III/II 1000-1100AD
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: ?; Blade Width: ?; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: 247mm
Comments-
Bibliography- [Museum of London]
England, London, Honey Lane
Current Location- British Museum 1856,7-1,1413
Type- Wheeler IV 978-1016AD
Find Date- 1856
Size- Blade Length: ?; Blade Width: ?; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: 327mm
Comments-
Bibliography- [WILSON 1965:Cat.43]
England, London, Park Street
Current Location- British Museum 1879,12-22.1
Type- 800-1000AD
Find Date-
Size- Blade Length: ?; Blade Width: ?; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: 266mm
Comments-
Bibliography- [WILSON 1965:Cat.81]
England, London, Princes Street
Current Location- London Museum 29.94,17 (Wheeler no.21)
Type- 900-1000AD
Find Date-
Size- Blade Length: ?; Blade Width: ?; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [WHEELER 1935:p.]
England, London,Thames
Current Location- British Museum 1859,1-22.12
Type- 800-1000AD
Find Date-
Size- Blade Length: ?; Blade Width: ?; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: 232mm
Comments-
Bibliography- [WILSON 1965:Cat.50]
England, London, Thames
Current Location- London Museum A1781 (Wheeler no.25)
Type- 900-1100AD
Find Date-
Size- Blade Length: 247mm; Blade Width: ?; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: 334mm
Comments-
Bibliography- [WHEELER 1935:p.]
England, London, Thames at Blackfriars
Current Location- London Museum A9313 (Wheeler no.8)
Type- 800-1000AD
Find Date-
Size- Blade Length: ?; Blade Width: ?; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [WHEELER 1935:p.]
England, London, Thames at Brentford
Current Location- London Museum A10721 (Wheeler no.11)
Type- 700-900AD
Find Date-
Size- Blade Length: ?; Blade Width: ?; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [WHEELER 1935:p.]
England, London, Thames at Brentford
Current Location- London Museum A13935 (Wheeler no.22)
Type- 900-1100AD
Find Date-
Size- Blade Length: ?; Blade Width: ?; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [WHEELER 1935:p.]
England, London, Thames at Brentford
Current Location- London Museum O2136
Type- 500-700AD
Find Date-
Size- Blade Length: 181mm; Blade Width: ?; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [MUSEUM OF LONDON]
England, London, Thames at Fulham
Current Location- London Museum A24399 (Wheeler no.18)
Type- Wheeler IV 900-1000AD
Find Date-
Size- Blade Length: ?; Blade Width: ?; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [WHEELER 1935:p.]
England, London, Thames at Fulham
Current Location- London Museum A24909 (Wheeler no.17)
Type- Wheeler III/II 900-1100AD
Find Date-
Size- Blade Length: ?; Blade Width: ?; Blade Thickness: ?; Total Length: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [WHEELER 1935:p.]
  • England, London. One find from cheapside could have had a blade of 25cm. [CAMERON 2000: p.64-65]


English style Seax Sheathes (C9th to C11th)

Seax sheaths are made from substantial leather up to 3mm thick and closed by rivets about 4 to 5cm apart. In England there are 12 finds of Seax sheaths out of a total of 61 [CAMERON 2000: p.64-65]

Germany, Aachen
Current Location- Aachen Cathedral Treasury (Okasha 1992 cat.1)
Type- ?
Find Date- before 1860
Size- Blade Length: ?; Total Length: 470mm ; Total Width: ?
Comments- Contains a name in Old English
Bibliography- [OKASHA 1992:p.64 cat.1 pl.IV]
Norway, Trondheim, Sor-Trondelag
Current Location- ? (Okasha 1992 cat.12)
Type- ?
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: ?; Total Length: ? ; Total Width: ?
Comments- Contains a name in Old English
Bibliography- [OKASHA 1992:p.64 cat.12 pl.V]
Norway, Trondheim, Sor-Trondelag
Current Location- ? (Okasha 1992 cat.13)
Type- ?
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: ?; Total Length: ? ; Total Width: ?
Comments- Contains a name in Old English
Bibliography- [OKASHA 1992:p.64 cat.13 pl.V]
Ireland, Dublin, Christchurch Place
Current Location- ? (Cameron 2007 cat.DLS 4)
Type- ?
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: ?; Total Length: 367mm ; Total Width: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [CAMERON 2007:p.]
Ireland, Dublin, Christchurch Place
Current Location- ?, E122:12660 (Cameron 2007 cat.DLS 5) (Okasha 1992 cat.2)
Type- ? 1050-1075AD
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: ?; Total Length: 295mm ; Total Width: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [CAMERON 2007:p.] [OKASHA 1992:p.64 cat.2]
Ireland, Dublin, Fishamble Street
Current Location- ? (Cameron 2007 cat.DLS 11)
Type- ?
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: ?; Total Length: 405mm ; Total Width: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [CAMERON 2007:p.]
England, Gloucester, 11-17 Southgate Street
Current Location- Gloucester City Museum, GLRCM 85/1968 sf.65 (Cameron 2000 cat.349) (Okasha 1992 cat.3)
Type- ?
Find Date- 1968
Size- Blade Length: 170mm ; Total Length: 190mm ; Total Width: 68mm
Comments-
Bibliography- [CAMERON 2000:p.] [OKASHA 1992:p.64 cat.3]
England, Gloucester, Berkeley Street
Current Location- Gloucester City Museum, GLRCM 19/79 sf.7 (Cameron 2000 cat.350) (Okasha 1992 cat.4)
Type- ?
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: 200mm ; Total Length: 415mm ; Total Width: 70mm
Comments-
Bibliography- [CAMERON 2000:p.] [OKASHA 1992:p.64 cat.4]
England, Hexham
Current Location- Hexham (Cameron 2000 cat.114) (Okasha 1992 cat.5)
Type- ?
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: ? ; Total Length: 100mm ; Total Width: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [CAMERON 2000:p.] [OKASHA 1992:p.64 cat.5]
  • York 115
  • York 214
  • York 215
England, York, Parliament Street
Current Location- ? sf.754 (Cameron 2000 cat.205)
Type- ?
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: ?; Total Length: ? ; Total Width: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [CAMERON 2000:p.112]
England, York, Coppergate
Current Location- ? (Cameron 2000 cat.206)
Type- ?
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: ?; Total Length: ? ; Total Width: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [CAMERON 2000:p.]
England, York, Parliament Street
Current Location- ? sf.753 (Cameron 2000 cat.207)
Type- ?
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: ?; Total Length: ? ; Total Width: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [CAMERON 2000:p.113]
England, York
Current Location- ? sf.4332 (Cameron 2000 cat.347)
Type- ?
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: ?; Total Length: ? ; Total Width: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [CAMERON 2000:p.135]
England, London, Trump Street
Current Location- Museum of London, MOL ? (Cameron 2000 cat.144)
Type- ?
Find Date- ?
Size- Blade Length: ?; Total Length: ? ; Total Width: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [CAMERON 2000:p.]
England, London, Cheapside
Current Location- Museum of London, MOL 11674 (Cameron 2000 cat.145) (Okasha 1992 cat.6)
Type- ?
Find Date- 1927
Size- Blade Length: ?; Total Length: 390mm ; Total Width: ?
Comments-
Bibliography- [VINCE 1991] [CAMERON 2000:p.208] [OKASHA 1992:cat.6]


A few Seax Sheathes from the C8th

  • Dover, Buckland, grave 145, leather sheath dated to 700-750AD
  • London, River Thames nr. Westminster Bridge, metal fittings, late C8th

References

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