Barbed Iron Arrowheads

Close up Image of conserved ArrowheadClick to enlarge Image of Arrowhead In 2005 an iron arrowhead was found in association with the line of postholes at the West end of the Old Vicarage garden along with pottery and soil samples which yielded radio carbon dating from 12th to 14th centuries. It was conserved at Bradford University and then taken for specialist examination to the Royal Armouries at Leeds. Interestingly we have two reports which agree on the dating period but have quite different interpretations on the purpose and use of the arrowhead:

Ian Stephenson suggested that:

“The arrowhead is similar to :

1) An early 13th Century find from Dublin (Nicolle 1999 ‘Arms and Armour of the crusading era 1050 -1350, Western Europe and the Crusader states fig 261)

2) A 14th Century find from London, currently held in the Museum of London (Edge and Paddock 1998 ‘Arms and Armour of the Medieval Knight’ p 93)

3)Several 14th Century manuscript illustrations (Strickland and Hardy 2005 ‘The Great Warbow’ p151 ‘The Luttrell Psalter’ p 163 and ‘The Romance of Alexander’ p188)

Analysis of its shape and form, along with the comparisons with the 14th Century Manuscript evidence point to use on the battlefield or in warfare.”

David Starley and John Waller,of Royal Armouries in Leeds offered:

“It is of the type used for hunting, and not for battle or warfare, which tended to be heavier in construction, square in cross-section and did not have the barbs or "wings" as on the Mellor example. Barbed arrows have been experimentally fired at heavily padded jackets and had failed to penetrate and bounced off. The heavier barbless arrows had penetrated more easily.

    Barbed arrows seem to have been designed to cause wounds with broad cuts that would result in considerable bleeding, so if shooting an animal, if it was not killed outright it would probably bleed to death very shortly afterwards.

In the U.S.A. where hunting with bows is apparently still practised, the technique is to try to approach to within about ten yards of the target to be sure of accuracy. When a hit is made, the hunter keeps perfectly still to avoid frightening the animal, which realising something is wrong with it, usually lies down and dies of loss of blood. If frightened by the sight of the hunter it would run away, sometimes for a considerable distance, before dying.

It was considered difficult to date the Mellor example but was thought to be definitely post Norman Conquest and probably 12th to 14th  century".

In 2006 two more iron arrowheads were discovered in the same area and were again conserved at Bradford University. The conservator, Sonia O�Connor, herself a championship winning archer, spotted something unusual about one of them: "There are two features on the Mellor arrowhead which are atypical of late medieval broadheads. The most significant is the presence of indentations along the inner edges of both barbs. The x-ray photograph shows that this is not due to corrosion but is an original feature, the barbs having been purposely indented during manufacture. The writer has not previously seen indentations figured or described on any other late medieval broadheads, or indeed any other metal arrowheads found in Britain. However, such indentations, called engrailings, are present on the inside edges of barbs on arrowhead-like figures known as pheons, which are heraldic charges or bearings.�The other atypical feature is the truncated terminations of the barbs, which the x-ray shows to have been an original feature, not due to breakage. With only rare exceptions the barb terminations on late medieval broadheads, where complete, are pointed. ...It could probably have been shot quite effectively from a longbow with a 60 to 90 pounds draw weight. The presence of the indentations and truncated barbs, however, being suggestive of a heraldic pheon, raises the possibility that the arrowhead was purposely shaped to indicate some special significance, esoteric, cerimonial or heraldic"

Apparently the diameter of the arrowhead sockets indicates the thickness of the arrow shaft, from which the power of the bow can be estimated. This is judged to be in the region of 70 to 120 pounds draw weight, closely comparable to the estimated 90 to 120 pounds draw weight of the bows found in Henry VIII�s Mary Rose battleship. In addition to the arrowheads, three horseshoe fragments were found. These are difficult to date, but stylistically are probably 13th to 16th century.

It would seem that we are finally uncovering a strand of Medieval Period archaeology previously confined to historical record, a time when a forester named ‘De Melleur’ might have lived and worked in the area.

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