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A FEW NOTES REGARDING THE DACIAN PRUNING KNIFE

Cătălin Borangic, Nemvs, V, nr. 9-10, 2010, p.10-21
romanian text and more photos HERE


The weapons used inside the Dacian territory covered a large variety, ranging from the most simple knives to the pretentious and complicated armours. However, the Dacians had a clear predilection to curved weapons- they used them all: ordinary knives, daggers, swords of various sizes- so frequently, that they became typical for the military phenomenon in Dacia.
Among all these weapons, there is a particular category- the pruning knife- massive object used for a double purpose: tool and weapon.
This particular knife has been present in a large geographical area and the random character of the discoveries, the blurry archaeological context in which it has been discovered created the theory that this weapon belonged to another period. These theories have been confuted by the archaeological proofs which place these artifacts during the Dacian era, even if it will have been used until the Middle Ages.
It is probable that the pruning knife had its origins in the ancient sickle, but during the Dacian kingdom, they reached a single shape, with only small morphological variations. They were generally short (20-40 cm), with a tick, broad blade curved at its point, they had the edge on their concave side and the latter was rather broad. The profile of the blade was either rhombic or triangular and it was fixed on a handle through a filiform hand or simply through a sleeve. In some cases, an iron ring was used to fix the handle to the blade.
The presence of the pruning knife among the Dacian weapons might be considered a momentary adaptation to challenging situations, but on the other hand, it can be assumed that this occurred because civilians joined the army along with nobles and warriors, using their daily tools as weapons. The latter hypothesis, however, is hard to grasp through archaeological research.
There is a great discrepancy between the scenes from Trajan’s Column showing Dacians with trophies taken after battles and carrying sophisticated weapons, such as spears, spades, curved swords, armors, flags, shields, and the scenes of war, in which weapons are presented differently. This might be an important clue regarding the reflection of the differences between various categories of warriors in the Dacian society.
In this scenario, the pruning knives seem to be a category of weapons used by the ordinary warriors. However, its effectiveness was just as appreciated as the rest of the curved weapons used by the Dacians. There were various situations in which other (higher) categories of warriors did not hesitate to use this type of knife.
The spreading and the frequency of this weapon, dated around 1st century BC and 1st century AD in the Dacian area and its usage-even if ocasionally- as weapon, allows us to add it to the Dacorum falcibus, mentioned by Cornelius Fronto.
Thus, the pruning knives-especially the large ones- supplement the complex collection of curved weapons used by the Dacians.