Similarly, spears may have been put out of use not by bending or breaking the metal point, but by breaking or burning the wooden shaft. Certain graves are too short for the full length of the spear to have been buried with the deceased, suggesting that only the metal part was buried, or the wooden parts were destroyed.
There are two exceptions to this phenomenon. One, in West Gate Tomb 6 at Eretria dated to the late eighth century, is a bronze spearhead that has been twisted and partially destroyed. This spearhead has usually been interpreted as a Mycenaean heirloom, used as a sceptre, but it also may have been an Italian or European object.Show Bettelli 2001.
On Crete, long iron spearheads are regularly found bent out of shape in much the same manner as the Athenian and Eubeoan swords mentioned above. It is likely that the spear held more significance to the Iron Age Cretans than to those further to the north.
There are no fully satisfactory explanations for the killing of weapons in the Iron Age Aegean. As mentioned above, there is no evidence that the swords were anthropomorphised as they are in other cultures, and so the term “killed” is unlikely to be how the Iron Age Greeks thought of the process.
A soulless interpretation of the killing of swords suggests that it is simply a means by which these objects can be made to fit in the grave.Show Snodgrass 1999, p. 37; Smithson 1974, p. 341. While this might apply to the bronze phalara, it is an unsatisfactory explanation for the swords considering the effort involved in their destruction. A simpler explanation would have been to dig a slightly larger grave in the first place. One grave in the Athenian Kerameikos also included a killed dagger, 0.27m long, that would have fit in the grave without bending.
I have proposed that the eighth-century examples, particularly those from Eretria were multiple swords appear in a single burial, may have been killed because they were weapons taken from the enemy.Show Lloyd 2015. There is increasing evidence for the significance of the capture of weapons and armour in combat from the eighth century, including dedications in sanctuaries and, in the seventh century, references in the poems of Archilochus and Alcaeus.
However, this explanation is unsatisfactory for the killed swords of the ninth century. In those cases, our best guess is that the prestige of metal weapons and their scarcity made killing them a significant symbol of power.
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