15th Century Ceremonial Sword. Credit MetMuseum.org
15th Century Ceremonial Sword. Credit MetMuseum.org

Most fighting in medieval times took place up close, face to face. A knight always needed to be ready to protect himself, his lord, his fellow knights, and the weak and defenseless. Hence, he never went anywhere without his sword.

Named the arming sword, war sword, or knightly sword, this single-handed, double-edged blade measured roughly 30 inches long with a 6 inch hilt. Made of steel or iron or a combination of both, the blade had to be flexible yet strong.

Many people think these swords were heavy and cumbersome, perhaps due to all that shiny metal. But research and reenactment has proved otherwise. The weight actually ran between 2.5 to 3.5 lbs., which means it was light and manageable. This makes perfect sense; a heavier sword would only slow the reaction time and wear out its wielder. Well-made and well-balanced swords in properly trained hands equaled an agile and deadly weapon.

These swords evolved in purpose from cut, to cut and thrust, to thrust, over the course of the Middle Ages. At each stage, armor was developed to counteract the swords, and in turn the swords changed shape to be more effective against the armor. A straight blade and blunt point was effective to cut padded or leather armor, so chain mail was invented. Sword blades then became more tapered down to a point to pierce the links (cut and thrust). Then plate armor became the best protection, and sword blades narrowed further to an even finer tip (thrust). Defense and offense go hand in hand; it has always been this way in warfare.

Swords in general were only carried by knights or those appointed to by the king; it was unlawful for regular citizens. And, since a knight’s sword always hung at his side, ready for use, he developed a strong attachment to it. Why wouldn’t he? It could mean the difference between life or death, especially his.

Terracotta Army detail, Xi'an, China
Terracotta Army detail, Xi’an, China

7,000 warriors standing ready for battle fully armed with swords, axes, lances, spears, and crossbows. But these warriors never put their weapons to use. The terra cotta army discovered in the mausoleum of the first Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang (246-210 BC) is known the world over. The warriors are made of clay but the weapons are real.

Archeologists have always wondered how this vast amount of weapons, to the tune of tens of thousands, could have been manufactured with such quality and uniformity. For some time, it has been believed that the weapons were mass produced and assembled in a line (Fordism), meaning less skilled workers doing repetitive tasks. But new evidence proves otherwise.

40,000 bronze arrowheads found in the tomb were tested and revealed unique chemical signatures based on location, indicating different batches were made at each site. The conclusion is multiple autonomous workshops operated at the same time to produce finished products, such as quivers filled with 100 bamboo-shafted arrows adorned with feathers.

Standardization of weapons and this cellular production method (Toyotism) means repairs and replacements could take place quickly on the battlefield or far from home, which may be why the Qin army was so successful in ending centuries of war and uniting China under single rule.

Interested in learning more about how Qin Shi Huang built his terracotta army?

Portrait of Richard III of England, painted c. 1520
Portrait of Richard III of England, painted c. 1520

A dead body discovered in digging up a modern day parking lot. Ancient records show the burial was beneath an old friary. The skull, severely fractured, and a metal arrowhead still embedded in the spine. But these are not just any skeletal remains, but possibly those of a king.

Sounds like the latest BBC Mystery, but this is a real life one. And the remains are being tested to determine if it is the body of King Richard III, who ruled for only 2 short years and died at the age of 32 in the Battle of Bosworth on August, 22 1485. Historic accounts state he died from a violent blow to the head by a poleaxe or halberd, driving his helmet into his skull. His body was carried to a local friary and, by one account, buried beneath the choir floor.

Whether that part is true or not, it begs the question – did the good friars fear people might desecrate the grave? Absolutely. Historical accounts tell of how two young princes mysteriously disappeared from the Tower of London (the Royal residence at the time) following their being declared illegitimate heirs, thus making Richard III king of England. Many believed Richard had the boys executed, although there is considerable debate about their fate. But if many people at the time believed Richard of foul play, the friars placed his body where no one would have an easy time finding it. And thus it remained, until now.

King Richard III was the last English king to be killed in battle.


For the rest of the story: National Geographic: Body Under British Parking Lot May Be King Richard III.

Sgian Dubh, a black or hidden dagger worn in the hose/sock with the Scottish National Dress
Sgian Dubh, a black or hidden dagger worn in the hose/sock with the Scottish National Dress

No good Scotsman would be caught without his sgian dubh  (/ˌskiːən ˈduː/skean-dhuScottish Gaelic pronunciation: [s̪kʲɪnˈt̪uh]) a small knife that was carried in the top of the boot or hose. In Gaelic, sgian means “knife or blade” and dubh means “black”.

History varies on this weapon. Some researchers believe the black refers to the wooden handle that was often made of bog wood, which is dark brown to black in color; others believe that it was carried as a concealed weapon, thus making the intent dark. This is interesting when it is well-known that baring a blade in someone’s house to which one was invited was seen as a threat.

The custom of revealing a concealed weapon and placing it in plain sight in the top of your boot was meant as a sign of peace to the household, that is, no secrets and no intent to harm.

In the Old West, this was like checking your guns at the door.

Modern day sgian dubhs can be very ornate with decorated hilts, pewter caps or stones, and engraved blades. But in medieval times, the people leaned toward the practical. Sgian dubhs were single-edged utility knives with three to four inch blades used for skinning animals, cutting bread, and the like, but could be used in defense as a last resort. You might think it makes sense that if it was carried in a boot or hose top, it would have a flat hilt so as to lay more securely against the leg, but since antler horn was also used, it is more likely it had a rounded grip.

For more information:


In the Dead Zone - My Life on Hold Right NowEver have to make a dreaded phone call to get something straightened out or news you’re not even sure you want to hear? You’re already anxious, keyed-up, and then it happens…they put you on hold: that silent limbo where time slows to a crawl, where you can feel the ticking of the clock with each heartbeat.

I find my life on hold right now. I’m in a kind of writer’s limbo which I’ve termed “The Dead Zone” – this is because people in the publishing biz are currently reviewing my book proposal…for weeks…months…and not a peep yet. There is no sign of life on the other end, just like that interminable dead air.

Finishing my first book, after 7 years of writing, has been an exhilarating experience, but also one of deep sorrow, or perhaps loss. Honestly, I haven’t sorted it out. I just know I didn’t want to write for awhile.

Meanwhile, I rode the rollercoaster of emotions as I began to seek publication: from fear – they’ve completely forgotten about me or worse they gather every Friday around the water cooler and laugh at my dialogue; rejection – any day now they will wise up; vulnerability – what was I thinking, terrible, awful, no good; and joy – well, they haven’t said no yet.

My poor brain. My poor ego.

Here is what I’ve learned during my stint in The Dead Zone:

  • Declutter. It’s amazing how papers pile up, and mere minutes at sorting can make a huge difference.
  • Exercise. Start new habits to benefit body, mind, and spirit.
  • Take time to ponder: life, God’s word, art, nature.
  • Read a good book, but not your own.
  • Get personal. Spend alittle quality time on yourself, doing things that are meaningful and perhaps pampering, the kind of things that get put off in the daily rush.

So, I did these things, and I discovered one major flaw – I missed writing. It is afterall my therapy. So next time, I will direct myself to keep writing something. Anything.

And so, I started the next book in the series. And the beginning…may just be the best thing I’ve ever written.

Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!
Psalm 27:14