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Viking Weapons

The Vikings were a fearsome people, and their weapons reflected that. The viking axe was perhaps their most iconic weapon, and was used for both chopping and throwing. Vikings also used swords, which were excellent for thrusting and slicing. They also carried shields, which could be used to deflect enemy attacks. All of these weapons were deadly in the hands of a viking warrior.

The Viking Sword

The Viking Sword was a single-handed double-edged weapon that was used with a shield in combat. The sword design was used across much of Europe and not just by Vikings.

Because they were expensive to make Viking Swords were status symbols as well as weapons. A typical sword would have a length of between 70 and 90 cm with the blade being around 60 cm. The width of the blade would taper to a point and the cross-section of the blade was usually diamond or triangular in shape.

The sword was worn on the right side of the body so that it could be drawn by the right hand which also left the left hand free to hold a shield.

The grip was oval in shape so that it could be held in one hand comfortably. The pommel (the knob at the end of the handle) was used to balance the sword and stop the hand from slipping off when swung with force. It could also be used as a weapon in close-quarters combat.

The scabbard (the sheath that the sword is carried in) was usually made of wood and covered in leather. It was worn on a belt so that it could be easily drawn when needed.

A slightly different variant originated from Eastern Norway. These single-edged swords are characterized by a wide, slightly tapering and acutely pointed blade. They were typically between 70 and 80 cm in length, were intended for thrusting rather than slashing.

Higher status Vikings could own ornately decorated swords with inlays of precious metals. The hilt (the handle) was often made of antler, bone or wood and the pommel was usually metal. The grip was wrapped in cord or leather.

The scabbard was also often ornately decorated and might be made of wood, bone or metal. It was suspended from a belt worn over the right shoulder.

A Viking sword was a valuable possession and was handed down from generation to generation. Swords have been found in graves dating from the 9th century onwards which indicates that they were used by Vikings for many years.

Viking Axes

The most common hand weapon among Vikings was the axe. It was used for both close-quarters combat and throwing.

Axe heads were usually made of iron and could be either single or double-sided with a blunt or sharp edge. They were mounted on a wooden shaft which was between 1 and 2 m long.

The length of the axe head varied from 15 cm to 30 cm depending on its purpose. A larger axe head was used as a weapon while a smaller one might be used as a tool.

In the later Viking Age axes could be found with a rounded head, measuring 45cm. These may have had more 'bite' in combat but would have been harder to make and to maintain.

Many modern illustrations show a "double bit" axe (ie it has a double head. There is no evidence to show that these were made or used by Vikings.

Throwing axes were small with a weight of between 500 g and 750 g. They had a short handle so that they could be easily thrown with one hand.

Axe heads were often decorated with geometric patterns or Viking symbols.

Vikings also used spears and arrows in combat.

Spears were usually around 2 m long and had a metal point at one end. They could be used for thrusting or throwing.

Arrows were made of wood and had a metal head. They were shot from a bow and were used to attack at a distance.

Viking Spears

The spear was certainly the most common weapon used by Norse peasants, but was also used extensively by Viking Warriors both as a thrusting weapon and for throwing

They consisted of metal heads with a bladelesse point, mounted on a wooden shaft of around 2m in length. The head could be either socketed or solid, and was usually between 20cm and 60cm in length.

The spear-shafts were generally of ash as this was light and strong, but other woods such as birch or maple were also used

At the base of the spearhead there was often a metal ferrule to provide extra strength where the wood met the metal head. This also helped to prevent the head from being dislodged in combat.

The spear was used for both thrusting and throwing, the latter being more common in warfare. It could also be used as a missile weapon with a cord or rope tied to the shaft just below the head, which allowed it to be thrown further and with greater accuracy.

Viking Arrows

Arrows were made of wood and had a metal head. They were shot from a bow and were used to attack at a distance.

The heads were usually made of iron or steel, and could be either barbed or unbarbed. Barbed heads were more effective as they would cause more damage on impact and would be more difficult to remove.

The shafts were usually made of wood, although some arrows have been found

Viking Bows

Viking bows were generally around 1.8m long and were made of wood, horn and sinew. They were strung with animal gut or plant fibre, and could shoot arrows up to a distance of around 250m.

The heads were usually made of iron or steel, and could be either barbed or unbarbed. Barbed heads were more effective as they would cause more damage on impact and would be more difficult to remove.

The shafts were usually made of wood, although some arrows have been found with stone or bone points. They were fletched with feathers to help stabilise the arrow in flight.

Although not as common as spears or axes, arrows were still used by the Vikings, both in hunting and warfare. They were made of wood with a metal head, and ranged in length from 50cm to 80cm.

Viking Seax Knife

Many Vikings also carried a Seax (a small knife) as a weapon and tool.

Seaxes were single-edged knives with a curved blade. They were between 20 cm and 60 cm long. The handle was often decorated with Viking symbols.

Viking Shields

A shield was an essential piece of equipment for a Viking warrior. It was used to protect the body from enemy attacks.

Shields were usually made of wood and covered with leather or cloth. They could also be made of metal. The boss (the metal disk in the center) was used to protect the hand holding the shield.

The size of the shield varied depending on its purpose. A large shield might be 1 m in diameter and was used to protect the whole body. A smaller shield might be 60 cm in diameter and was used to protect the head and upper body.

Shields were often decorated with Viking symbols or patterns.

Viking Armor

Viking armor was designed to protect the body from enemy attacks.

The most common type of armor was a mail shirt. This was made of small metal rings that were linked together. It covered the chest and back and sometimes the arms and legs. Mail shirts were very expensive and were only worn by wealthy warriors.

Other types of armor included leather jackets, wooden boards (worn like a vest) and metal plates (attached to cloth or leather).

Viking helmets were made of metal or leather and had a metal band around the edge. They often had horns or wings attached to them.

 

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