Standardised Manufacture of Iron Age Weaponry from Southern Scandinavia: Constructing and Provenancing the Havor Lance

  • Thomas Birch
Part of the Quantitative Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences book series (QMHSS)


This chapter examines a single weapon type classified as the ‘Havor’ lance, recovered from the famous war booty sacrifices of southern Scandinavia during the Late Roman and Early Germanic Iron Age. A metallographic analysis of 13 samples reveals that the Havor lance was produced using a fairly uniform construction technique, labelled here as the ‘spiral-form’ method. The spiral-form method is not only clearly visible in the macroscopic cross-sections of lance specimens but also in weld lines illuminated through X-radiography. This chapter follows on from previous research demonstrating the Havor lance to be a highly standardised weapon product in terms of both construction form and shape, as shown by traditional metric analysis and innovative geometric morphometric analysis.

The standardised form and appearance as well as the singular construction method of the Havor lance are at odds with the different microstructures and types of iron observed in the individual specimens. The metallographic and chemical analysis of entrapped slag inclusions reveal that the lances were made using phosphoric iron, ferritic iron, and steel from different iron production regions, which appear to correspond generally to modern-day Denmark and southern Norway. The discrepancy between the standardised appearance of the lances and the different types of iron used in their manufacture presents a more complex scenario than had hitherto been envisaged for iron availability and weapon construction in southern Scandinavia during the Iron Age.


Weapon Lance Iron Steel Phosphoric iron Iron Age Scandinavia Construction Provenance Standardisation Weapon deposit 



This chapter has been reworked from the author’s doctoral thesis entitled “The Provenance and Technology of Iron Age War Booty from Southern Scandinavia” (University of Aberdeen 2013). Many thanks are due to Peter Crew, Mike Charlton, Keith Dobney, and Thilo Rehren for their input and comments on the original work. Special thanks go to Arne Joutijärvi for his immense efforts in assisting with sampling the lances and gaining access to new material for study. This work was made possible only through the permission granted by Hans Christian Andersen, on behalf of Haderslev Museum (Denmark), to sample lances from Ejsbøl. Thanks are also due to Mark Gourlay and John Still at the University of Aberdeen for their assistance in sample preparation and SEM-EDS analysis. Finally, I would like to thank the reviewers for their comments and suggestions in improving this chapter. The final write-up of this research was supported by funding from the Danish National Research Foundation under the grant DNRF119 - Centre of Excellence for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet).


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Birch
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet)Aarhus UniversityHøjbjergDenmark

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