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Discussion Starter #1
I came across a thread on a French Survival site “Vie Sauvage et Survie” where a question was asked about European medieval knives...

It turns out, quite to my surprise, that most European peasants quite commonly carried what amounts to either very large competition choppers or short single edge swords, so in the range of 12 to 20 inch blades.

They had different names across Europe, but tended to have a few consistent features: The edges would have very little belly (this like some of today’s competition choppers), however they generally were not blunt pointed, the spine being brought down gently to create a fearsome point: It is very clear they were used both as tools and weapons indifferently... Other frequent features were full wraparound hand guards (emphasizing their use as weapons) and a rigid sheath designed for horizontal carry (similar to “left hand daggers” used so ubiquitously with swords in Europe).

The British version of these was so ubiquitous it even gave the Saxons their name(!), being called the Seax, a broken back version of this looking very much like a 20 inch blade Bowie...

Other names were the Scramasax, in today’s Germany “bauernwehr” Bauer- peasant Wehr-defense, which says a lot... The French used the name “braquemart” but this later was used wrong by a famous author and became misapplied to mean a light sword... The term “fauchon” also exists, and this seems derived from Crusader encounters with Arabic style swords, but reduced in size.

In all cases, it seems large chopping knives were an everyday peasant tool in the Middle Ages, but with a strong defensive flavour, and as such usually associated with the “master of the household”.

I have to say I did not quite visualize the European Middle Age countryside as replete with machete-sized Bowies, drop points and choppers, but that is apparently how it was... The European wilderness was still dense back then (picture Europe as covered in forests) and this may explain why such large choppers fell out of favour in later centuries, as both woods and random violence dwindled...

I thought this was interesting to bring up, with the current bushcraft age assumption that the short broad blade/axe combination was anciently “traditional’... Often the sheath of these choppers did have small narrow utensils-like utility knives.

Gaston
 

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Your post has so many strange letters in the names of the weapons you mentioned I am not sure what they are called. But when Europe figured out how to mine iron ore and smelt it in to ingots to be pounded out in to tools the forest of Europe were doomed. They cut down the trees wholesale to make charcoal for the forges. There is an excellent show on this on Amazon prime called "Mankind, The Story Of Us" and it takes you from the beginning until modern day. And the deforestation of Europe was a big part of the story. And given the mud hut wattle dwellings they built its no surprise they needed edged weapons.

Study Asia and you see they used many edged tools for the harvest of food and hut building and then used the edged weapons in their tribal wars and wars against the French and Americans. And the story is that they were fierce warriors to fight even if you had guns against their Kris, Parang, Barong and Kukri knives.

I think it was a long while before metalic weapons were used in the south Americas. I believe they stayed with wood and stone tipped tools for a long time until they could buy or trade with the traders that came through. I'm not sure they had the iron ore or the know how to hand forge tools/weapons.
 

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...I think it was a long while before metalic weapons were used in the south Americas. I believe they stayed with wood and stone tipped tools for a long time until they could buy or trade with the traders that came through. I'm not sure they had the iron ore or the know how to hand forge tools/weapons.
There was plenty of iron ore, coal and trees for charcoal in both of the Americas. For whatever reason none of the native cultures were able to take advantage of it.
 

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Many forests in southern England were coppices. The trees were managed long term for steady, yearly production of charcoal, as most mineral coal was unsuitable for steel forging.

The limiting factors for metal forging in The Weald region of south England were the size of the reservoirs used to drive the mills and the availability of charcoal, as only so much could be made per year without affecting long term production of charcoal. The iron ore was available locally as nodules of iron, picked by hand after fields were ploughed.

The industrial revolution started in the Iron Gorge in Shropshire, when the local coal there was found to be free of impurities detrimental to steel making. Many cast iron and steel methods were refined there, eventually allowing for use of other mineral coals to be used in iron and steel production.

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There was plenty of iron ore, coal and trees for charcoal in both of the Americas. For whatever reason none of the native cultures were able to take advantage of it.
They knew how to work gold. Individuals from any culture can be intelligent but as a culture they were very backward and unable to progress beyond the stone age until the Europeans brought them iron tools.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
My point was that big chopping knives (obviously excepting tropical machetes) have since at least the early 20th century been mocked as the mark of the inexperienced tenderfoot, and yet what do you know: They turn out to have been in quite widespread traditional use throughout Medieval Europe, and this over many centuries, pretty much until the woods were tamed in fact....

This is surprising, as tropical vegetation is usually fairly wet and soft, which makes it natural for machetes/parangs/bolos etc, but harder and drier European vegetation is typically not associated with large chopping knives: The axe or saw usually is. It seems that even in hard European woods, large chopping knives were almost as common as axes in the Middle Ages. They also were appropriately of thick spine and rigid, not thin and flexible like Machetes.

Just as interesting was that they were typically not seen as purely tools (as the Bauernwehr name implies), but as versatile defensive/utility items, and as such associated with the head of a household.

The usual vision of a weapon less medieval peasant, armed only with task-appropriate tools, needs to be seriously revisited...

G.

P.S. The weird letters is how quotation marks came out...
 
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