The Artistic Papsaare Macehead – Weapon or Symbol of Power?


  • Ain Mäesalu



Medieval weapons, medieval macehead, medieval power symbol, medieval art


The article provides a survey of an archaeological find from 2016 –
a macehead of moulded bronze found in the village of Papsaare in
Pärnu County. Human faces are depicted on two opposite side of the
middle section with hemispheres between them that are separated
by grooves into six “leaves”.

Maceheads with images of humans are extremely rare in Europe.
Until now, only one macehead with a man’s face was known to exist
from Sweden, and another from Norway. A macehead with the full
figures of two clerics was found in Finby, on the Åland Islands. The
Papsaare macehead was apparently produced in the second half of
the 12th century or the 13th century somewhere in northern Europe. It
was probably the power symbol of a noble or military leader, which
could also be used as a weapon if necessary.


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Author Biography

Ain Mäesalu

Ain Mäesalu (b. 1955) is an archaeologist, who has worked for 33 years as a lecturer on archaeology at the University of Tartu. He had dealt with the archaeological research of Estonia’s medieval castles and the city of Tartu, and written numerous articles on medieval weaponry.