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A researcher holding the bollock dagger that was found at Ypres, Belgium.	Source: VRT

Dropped Your Bastard Sword? Then Whip Out Your Bollock Dagger

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If you find the term ‘bollock dagger’ too crude, you could rightfully call this weapon a ‘kidney dagger.’ But that’s how the Victorians attempted to mask the true nature of this horrendous invention that was recently discovered outside a 13th century cathedral in Belgium.

Drone Mapping, 3D Models And Bollock Daggers

The Ypres Salient around Ypres in Belgium was an extremely important part of the Western Front during the First World War, and several major battles were fought there. One of the victims of wartime bombing was St Martin's Cathedral, a church and former 13th century mega-cathedral. At 102 meters (335 ft) tall, this iconic medieval building is among the tallest buildings in the country.

Recent excavations in front of Ypres Cathedral have exposed the city's former harbor quay wall. According to a report in VRT News, archaeologist Robrecht Vanoverbeke said last Tuesday another 25 meters (82 feet) of quay wall was excavated and the full length has been filmed with a drone. The high-resolution images will be used to generate a 3D simulation of the medieval harbor. However, while all this was going on above ground, the excavators unearthed coins, cutlery and jugs from thick clay deposits. One of the more interesting finds was a ‘bollock dagger.’

Excavations work outside St Martin's Cathedral, Ypres, Belgium. (VRT)

Excavations work outside St Martin's Cathedral, Ypres, Belgium. (VRT)

An Ancient Weapon Of Mass Destruction

Unlike the controlled combat of modern MMA and UFC, hand to hand fighting in the old world was often a case of kill or be killed. He who hesitated, might not live to regret it. During the Middle Ages many European men wore bollock daggers around their waists as a second sword that they could use during combat if they dropped their primary weapon.

The recently discovered weapon’s handle has two spheres resembling the male testes (bollocks) and this specific type of dagger was popular not only in Flanders, but in Scandinavia, Wales, Scotland and England between the 13th and 18th centuries.



A set of bollock daggers found on board the 16th century carrack Mary Rose, salvaged in 1982. (The Mary Rose Trust / CC BY-SA 3.0)

A set of bollock daggers found on board the 16th century carrack Mary Rose, salvaged in 1982. (The Mary Rose Trust / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Dropped My Bastard Sword, Where’s My Bollock Dagger?

With its long narrow point, the so-called bollock dagger was used to stab opponent genitals, but in Victorian Britain the device was gentrified and called a ‘kidney dagger’. Hannelore Franck of the Yper Museum said medieval men wore bollock daggers ‘very suggestively’ between their legs. The museologists explained that they were swung between the legs not as a point of practicality, but as ‘a parody or joke.’ The NWS article says Sandrin Coorevits, coordinator of the Yper Museum, ‘is very happy with the dagger and that she plans to ‘get to work on it soon’.

Archaeological excavations in the city of Ypres recently revealed the foundations of medieval wooden loading cranes that were previously identified on medieval maps. Belgian archaeologists now intend to date the site by analyzing the tree rings within the wooden timbers. According to a report on KW, the archaeologists said it was ‘a surprise’ to find an intact quay wall of 50 meters long and that they plan to preserve and display the old wall in a new city square.

Hannelore Franck of the Yper Museum said this site differs from most other archaeological digs in Belgium. The reason so many exceptionally well-preserved archaeological finds have been made at this site is because of its layers ‘greasy clay soil,’ said Frank. And now, perhaps the greasiest find off them all, a bollock dagger.

While that would have been a great place to end this report, the article simply cannot be ended without us first visualizing a medieval gentleman, a man of education and pride, after dropping his sword in a duel. He might say, ’Damn it. I’ve dropped my bastard sword and my bollock dagger is blunt. I’ve had it’.

Top image: A researcher holding the bollock dagger that was found at Ypres, Belgium. Source: VRT

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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