In the weekend of 3 to 4 september 2005, Neil Burridge organized the Bronze Sword Festival. Neil Burridge is one of the few people in the world that can make accurate reproductions of the magnificent bronze age swords, which were some of the most remarkable examples of metal working by man in ancient times. Neil has lots of experience with organizing courses in which people can get some hands on experience with bronze age metalworking, such as casting swords. For this event, the intention was to get a large group of people together with an interest in the bronze age. And people came from all corners of the world, from England, Ireland, Netherlands and even the US. Some of the people I'd known from various online forums, such as Sword Forum International and Bronze Age Center, so this was a great opportunity to finally meet this people in real life. Although I expected this event to be great, my expectations were greatly exceeded. I've met so many great people, and even though the event took only a few days, by the end it felt like I've known these people all my life.
Some of the people including myself arrived a few days early, and stayed
at Neil's home. Both Paul and myself came from the Netherlands, and we
arrived in Penzance on wednesday evening, and were picked up by Neil. Brock
and Claudia came on the same evening, after flying over from the US.
As we all had an exhausting journey behind us, especially Brock and Claudia, we called it a night.
Sword casting at Neil's home
Cooling an antenna sword
Before the official event, Brock, Paul and I did some swordcasting at Neil's place. Each of us ended up with a very nice blade for an antenna sword, a late bronze age continental type bronze sword. Each of the three castings gave a very nice and expecially large blade. When hilted, the total length will probably be around 80cm. Brock also did a sword casting course, which involved making his own mould, and casting a sword with it. His choice was an Aegean Type Ci rapier, which came out amazingly well. Although my personal interest is more in North-Western Europe, I must admit that I really liked that Ci rapier. So I'm very much looking forwards to see the finished result, after it's been polished and hilted.
Bronze Sword Festival Day 1
View of the landscape
The farm in which the events took place
Climbing on one of the tors
On friday the 2nd of september, Neil, Brock, Claudia, Paul, Guy
(a friend of Neil) and myself traveled to Trewortha Farm, located on the
Bodmin Moor, where the actual event would take place. I'd been to Trewortha
before while doing Neil's rapier and sword casting courses. I found it
one of the nicests places I've visited, so I was looking very much forwards
again to return there. After Neil and Guy were kind enough to drive us
to Trewortha, we arrived on the moor. Some of us stepped out of the car
to walk the last bit to the farms, enjoying the fantastic landscape. When
we arrived at the farm, we set up camp. During this day most of the other
people arrived as well, so we helped eachother set up camp, and did some
preparations for tomorrow. Before sunset, we also climbed one of the tors,
to which gave a fantastic view over the surrounding landscape. When we
headed back to the farm, we lit the fireplace in the farm, had a few beers
and an overal great time. More photos can be found here.
Bronze Sword Festival Day 2
Working on the swords
Everyone got handed their swords, and started polishing and grinding to make them shiney, while enjoying the wonderful weather outside. In the mean time, bronze was being melted in the farm, with which experiments were done at casting swords in clay moulds, as it was done in the bronze age. The experiments did not result in swords yet, but they were definately very educational. Few people so far have succesfully cast good reproductions of bronze swords, and even fewer have even attempted it in authentic clay moulds. So while not a succes yet, a lot of lessons were learned, which someday will lead to re-discovering the art of sword casting in the bronze age. During the day, Martyn Barber and Simon Timberlake each gave an interesting lecture. Martyn is the author of "Bronze and the bronze age", a book I highly recommend reading. Most bronze artifacts ended up in the ground in very special circumstances, and Martyn tells the stories these artifacts can tell by the way they were deposited. Simon is an expert in bronze age mining, and gave an very informative lecture on the evidence of bronze age mining.
In the evening we Anni Brøgger did perform a ritual fertility dance, using a very accurate reproduction of the clothing from "Egtved girl". Egtved girl's custom was found in perfect condition in her grave in Denmark, and therefore give a unique view into the appearance of bronze age people. Anni's dance is based on various depictions from the bronze age, such as rock carvings and bronze figures, creating a unique piece of living history. For more information about Anni Brøgger's depiction of Egtved girl, her site can be found here.
The evening was spend around the fire, liquid gold flowed richly and singing by Freyalynn, Billy and other people and even one of the bellow tubes was turned into a digeridoo:) Althogether a fantastic evening with fantastic people in a fantastic place, which went on well into the late hours.
More photos can be found here.
Bronze Sword Festival Day 3
Edge working, a true teamwork activity
More working on the swords
Visiting the three stone circles
As a result of last night, I missed most of the next morning. When I finally started to recollect my conciousness, I stumbled to the breakfast room, with a big mug of coffee and just caught the last part of Simon's speach on the find of the golden shield. The morning was further filled with more work on the swords, which included working on the cutting edges. One of the most intrigueing parts of the sword manufacturing is the forging of the edges, which were done to harden, thinning and giving the edges a more effective shape for cutting. The original blades had a remarkable fine finished cutting edges. Neil Burridge has done much work in finding a method which might have been used to get this finish on the cutting edges.
In the afternoon we went out to visit the three stonecircles, Rilaton burial, where the golden cup was found and a stone age hilfort. The evening was again spend around the fire, with some of the most diehards still working on their swords late into the evening.
More photos can be found here.
Bronze Sword Festival Day 4
Saying goodbye to the farm
After a fantastic weekend, it was time pack and say goodbye to Threwortha
farm, with a symbolic drawing by Freyalynn marking our last moment in the
farm. It's been a fantastic weekend!
Trip to London
At the British Museum
For a small group of us, the festival wasn't really over yet, as we headed down to London. Matt, Eli and Roy were kind enough to give the rest of us a lift all the way to London. The next two days, me, Matt, Paul, Claudia, Brock went to visit the Museum of London, which houses one of the best British collections of bronze age swords, axes, and spearheads. In the museum we ran into Mark, who had also headed to the Museum of London, and the six of use went on to the British Museum, to see some of UK's greatest treasures. Photos from the British Museum can be found here.
In the evening Matt invited us to attend a lesson at Scola Gladiatora, which I'd been very much looking forwards to. Both Paul and myself participated in the training, which involved two-handed swords. This was more fun than I even expected, so much that I got addicted even before the end of the training! I can now understand the obsession of the Scola members, sword fighting rocks! Now I've got to find some training partners in the Netherlands:) During a break in the training Brock and I showed some of our bronze swords, with which it all began, which was well recieved by the Scola members. Thanks to Matt for making this possible!
The next day Matt returned to work, and the remaining five of us met with Neil, and we visited the Walace collection, a remarkable collection of arms, armour and art, once owned by the very wealthy Walace family. Then it was time for Paul and myself to catch our flight back to the Netherlands.
Althogether this event was definately one of the highlights of my life, a fantastic and very rich experience, in which each member added their own bit to make it even more fantastic. The Bronze Age Festival was definately a blast, especially for being able to meeting such a fantastic group of people. Many, many thanks to Neil for organizing this event, and thanks to everyone for their contribution. This was a truly unforgetable experience, and I'll definately be there again next year!
Visit Neil Burridge's site here: http://www.bronze-age-craft.com/