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The halberd is the signature weapon of Switzerland, a real and symbolic manifestation of Swiss independence, which was safeguarded in the late medieval and early Renaissance periods by the ability of non-noble infantry armed with such weapons to successfully confront outside armies that relied on traditional heavy cavalry comprised mostly of noblemen. This halberd is rare and important for its early date, indicated by its form and construction; for retaining its original shaft, possibly the earliest original shaft to survive and a feature that is seldom found intact and unaltered on staff weapons predating the sixteenth century; and for the fact that the shaft is round in cross section, another early feature that was superseded in the fifteenth century by the much more typical quadrangular section one sees on the hafts of most staff weapons. Also an early feature is the presence of two “eyes,” through which the top of the shaft is inserted. This form of construction was superseded by a stronger, centrally placed socket in the early fifteenth century. In essence, the head of this halberd represents an important early transitional stage in the development of halberds from long curved knives on poles into their canonical form comprising an axe blade combined with a spear point above and a spike behind. It presents a key step in the creation of what became a widely used tool in the democratization of warfare, with a long afterlife as a highly decorated ceremonial arm that was carried as a sign of rank, remaining in use in Europe and America well into the eighteenth century.

Halberd, Steel, iron, wood, Swiss

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