One of the major aims of the Sögel project is to investigate the development of the Sögel-Wohlde tradition and whether these blades have been influenced or imported from elsewhere. After all, it has to be considered that Northern Europe at that time was slowly transitioning from a Neolithic to a metal-using society, and there was no evidence of an independent development to the Sögel and Wohlde blades. Therefore, these blades are believed to have been introduced or imitated from elsewhere in Europe where bronze metallurgy was already in practice. One of the first and most plausible hypothesis concerning external influences was proposed by Rolf Hachmann in 1957, who considered swords from southern Germany and the Carpathian basin as potential archetypes for the Nordic blades. Since then, other regions have been suggested such as Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. However, the identification of potential predecessors is difficult based solely on typology, form or decorations. The Sögel project attempts to contribute to this discussion by connecting archaeological information with an in-depth archaeometric study using a novel multi-proxy approach. As such, the project aims on a holistic examination of the topic.
Typologies of Form
Carpathian connection – Hajdúsámson-Apa type swords
The Carpathian connection to Northern Germany and Scandinavia is related to the first imported swords that reached there, which are full-hilted swords of the Hajdúsámson-Apa type. These swords had their origins in the upper Middle Danube region and appeared further north around 1700–1600 BC briefly before the Sögel-Wohlde swords came into use. The Hajdúsámson-Apa type swords were cast in one piece and made with four to five false rivets. However, each sword of this type is a unique object and as such is difficult to classify as there is a lot of variation among the known variants. There are blades of this type that have both real and false rivets and perhaps most importantly there are variants where the blade and the hilt are separate. The blade itself has a rounded hilt plate and can appear with decorative motifs such as lines, dots and garlands very similar to the decorations of the Sögel blades. However, the Sögel blades are generally smaller with a narrower hilt plate. A little more than twenty of the Hajdúsámson-Apa type blades are known outside of the Carpathian basin ranging from Central Germany to Scandinavia. Some of them are seen as definite imports as they have striking similarities based on their design, decorations and technology, whereas others are believed to be local imitations.
Left to right: Sword from Oradea, Apa, Hajdúsámson and a Sögel blade from Mellinghausen; after: Kemenczei, T. (1991) Die Schwerter in Ungarn II. Prähistorische Bronzefunde, IV (9) & Laux, F. (2009) Die Schwerter in Niedersachsen. Prähistorische Bronzefunde, IV (17).
Northern Alpine connection
Southern Germany, as well as Switzerland and parts of Austria are considered as the place of origin for the Wohlde blades since comparable objects with trapezoid hilt plate are commonly found there. The following types are seen as potential Wohlde blade precursors: type Sandharlanden, Statzendorf and Gamprin. Whereas, type Varen and Haidershofen are similar to type Sögel due to the rounded hilt plate. The relationship between these blade types is thus based on their typology and form. A feature that occasionally appears on blades with a trapezoid hilt plate in both Northern Germany and the Northern Alpine region are decorated ring rivets. All these typological similarities could be evidence for a transfer of technology or formal ideas, but also for direct imports from south to the north. Genuine Sögel blades with their characteristic decoration however, are completely absent in southern Germany and the northern Alpine region as are Sögel-like decorations in general.
Left to right: Type Sandharlanden, Gamprin, Statzendorf, Haidershofen, Varen, and Wohlde; after Schauer, P. (1971) Die Schwerter in Süddeutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz I, Prähistorische Bronzefunde, IV (2).