The application of engineering measurement and three-dimensional (3D) computer aided engineering techniques to the study of medieval period European swords

  • Simon McKenna

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis details the programme of research undertaken by the author to investigate the use of engineering measurement and computer-aided engineering techniques for the modelling and analysis of medieval period ‘knightly’ swords.

The sword has an iconic cultural status that transcends its primary purpose as a tool of war, featuring frequently and extensively in art and literature from early human mythology through to contemporary film and digital media. In Europe, the sword was arguably at its most influential, both practically and culturally, during the mid-late medieval period, and yet there has been limited understanding and a misinformed mythology around the iconic knightly sword that proliferated during this period.

A resurgent interest, and associated research, in historical European martial arts has started to address this gap in understanding, and the use of engineering measurement and analysis techniques to inform historical research has been growing more generally in recent years. There is a clear benefit that such techniques can bring to create a more complete picture of historical artefacts in terms of their design, construction, and performance, and that was the focus of this research programme.

Of course, surviving medieval swords are, relatively speaking, rare, valuable, and often fragile, and these factors presented some specific challenges when trying to access and study them.

The original contribution of this work has been to overcome these challenges to develop and demonstrate a robust methodology for creating and analysing 3-dimensional models that accurately recreate the geometry and mass properties of historical artefacts. During the programme, consideration has been given to accuracy, repeatability, ease of acquisition and the constraints associated with this type of artefact, such that the methodology might be used beyond this specific programme of work. Having created these digital models, specific features have been analysed and simulated, and this approach has been applied to eight original medieval swords, providing new and interesting insights into their features, design, and original performance characteristics.
Date of Award18 Oct 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPaul Bills (Main Supervisor)

Cite this