Posted in Unit 13 (Final Major Project)

Unit 13 – Secondary Research – Viking Warfare and Weapons

BBC History made a very interesting article which talks about the weapons and warfare of the Vikings. Why I need to look at this website is because I am going to be writing about the Vikings going into battle; getting any sort of information on their formation or the weapons they used in combat is useful information.

The main offensive weapons were the spear, sword and battle-axe, although bows and arrows along with other missiles were also used. These weapons were not only carried in battle, but they were also the symbol of their owner’s status and wealth. Therefore these weapons would often be decorated in an array of inlays, twisted wire and other adornments in silver, copper and bronze. Swords were costly to make and would show the owner’s high class status – only the richest of Vikings were able to afford this luxury. These words were typically around 90cm and double-edged, but some exceeded this height. When the Vikings discovered a new form of metal (homogeneous steel), they ingraved their marks and inscriptions into the steel, such as ingelrii or ulfberht; these marking were personal to the crafter who made the blade. Viking craftmen often added their own designs onto these blades, elaborately decorating the hilts – many swords were even given names to show their uniqueness from other standard weapons that the less wealthier Vikings had.

Their defence consisted of circular shields that were around one metre across; they consisted of wooden boards with a iron hand-grip, which was riveted to the back of the boards. In the middle of the shield was an iron boss, protecting the hand from any additional damage. However, in Viking sagas from 13th century they documented these shield as being kite shaped – they changed the shape of the shield to protect their legs during battle. These sagas also mentioned mails – the Old Norse name being ‘byrnies’. Essentially this particular piece of armour consisted of interlocked ring and overlapping ends and was very expensive to make; only the wealthiest of Vikings were able to afford such luxury. As extra protection, the Vikings would wear a thick hide under the mail, mostly reindeer hide. It has even been said that this hide was even stronger than the mail itself, so using both would prove very effective during battle.

BBC History goes on to say that helmets were most likely worn by the leading man as they required a lot of skill to correct. A helmet that was found in a man’s grave in Gjermundbu, Norway has spectacles-like visor, an iron dome consisting of four sections with a spike on the corwn, and possible a mail neck-guard. The less wealthier Vikings mostly likely wore caps of hide into battle as they could not afford to have a helmet made.

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