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Las espadas del Bronce Final en la Península Ibérica y Baleares, by Dirk Brandherm
Prähistorische Bronzefunde IV, 16, Stuttgart, Franz Steiner Verlag 2007; XII, 212 pages; 71 plates, 14 figures, 3 tables; ISBN 9783515091664. (€96)

For British readers the principal importance of this corpus of bronze swords from Spain and Portugal, in Spanish with a German summary, is the distinction of the swords found in the Ría de Huelva deposit from carp’s-tongue swords. The main typological difference lies in the junction between grip and shoulders: angular on Huelva swords but curved on carp’s-tongue swords. In addition, while some Huelva swords are found north of the Pyrenees, these are normally single finds and not in hoards, while carp’s-tongue swords are much more common as fragments in hoards than as single finds. In Spain and Portugal, however, carp’s-tongue swords—Brandherm’s Safara type—seem to be absent altogether as fragments in hoards and any of the components of classic carp’s-tongue hoards are rare, while complete carp’s-tongue swords are scarce compared with Huelva swords. So apart from typology we have distinctions of deposition and of chronology with Huelva swords and their eponymous find, which Brandherm dates around 950 BC, now seen to represent a phase earlier than carp’s-tongue swords; which means those maps showing the carp’s-tongue complex extending from Andalusia to England must be rolled up and put away. The implications of these distinctions for the Late Bronze Age sword sequence have been discussed by Brandherm and Colin Burgess (2008, essential reading for anyone concerned with the Bronze Age in western Europe) and for the Atlantic Bronze Age by Burgess and your reviewer (Burgess & O’Connor 2008).

Huelva swords loom large numerically in Brandherm’s corpus, making up about 60% of the classifiable entries. The corpus also includes moulds while appendices list swords from the Maghreb, chapes, hilt fittings and the stone stelae showing Late Bronze Age swords—the last a substantial catalogue in its own right with 63 entries. A fifth appendix by Salvador Rovira covers the archaeometallurgy of Iberian swords, while the last appendix contains radiocarbon dates. One of the north African swords is of especial interest because its broad midrib relates it to Atlantic Rosnoën swords and trapezoidal-hilted rapiers but it was dredged from the River Loukos (Larache in Spanish) not far from the site of the Phoenician colony of Lixus.

The corpus begins with what we would call rapiers and, while numbers are smaller than in Britain, the introduction and evolution of swords in Spain and Portugal bears a striking similarity to Britain with these rapiers followed by tanged swords, then imported flange-hilted swords and local versions of them. Three of the swords are in British collections: one in Cambridge, supposedly from the Seine at Paris but perhaps of Portuguese origin, and two in the British Museum. The extensive bibliography does not contain the anonymous note on Huelva in the first issue of Antiquity, presumably by O.G.S Crawford, whose first name is wrongly given as Oswin when he is cited. The volume is appropriately dedicated to Marisa Ruiz-Gálvez, who began to compile the corpus.

Dirk Brandherm, recently appointed a lecturer in Queen’s University, Belfast, concludes by emphasising that his study places the Iberian Peninsula firmly with the European Bronze Age. He in turn has made a fundamental contribution to the study of the Bronze Age in Europe, far beyond that usually associated with a corpus such as this.

Brendan O’Connor


Brandherm, D. & Burgess, C. 2008. Carp’s-tongue problems, in F. Verse et al. (eds), Durch die Zeiten…Festschrift für Albrecht Jockenhövel zum 65. Geburstag. Rahden/Westfalen: Internationale Archäologie, Studia Honoraria 28, 133–68

Burgess, C. & O’Connor, B. 2008. Iberia, the Atlantic Bronze Age and the Mediterranean, in S. Celestino, N. Rafel & X-L. Armada (eds), Contacto cultural entre el Mediterráneo y el Atlántico (siglos XII–VIII ANE). La precolonización a debate. Madrid: Escuela Española de Historia y Arqueología en Roma-CSIC, Serie Arqueológica 11, 41–58

Review submitted: November 2008

The views expressed in this review are not necessarily those of the Society or the Reviews Editor.

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