Bows and arrows in the Viking age-2 Styles

Bows and arrows have for millenniums got used when hunting and also during battle situations. The reason why they were handy, and remain as such, is that you can target prey or an enemy from far and still maintain a safe distance. During battles, archers were the first line of defense before the armies came together to fight.  

When you do think about the Vikings, you would think that was always the case because they were indeed considered one of the greatest warriors in history. However, from what has been unearthed, the reality about Viking bows and arrows is slightly more mundane then based on war. Read on to find out.

Viking bow and arrow facts

There are a few things that are known about bows and arrows in the Viking age. They were sometimes made out of rare species of trees. The other aspect to recognize is that the Vikings mostly used the bows and arrows for domestic purposes (we will cover later why). The bows and arrows found over Viking territory do vary, indicating that there was a uniqueness in how the bows and arrows got made, especially the arrowheads.

The types of bows that got used during this era were longbows, which are a type of bow that is about the same size as the user. Myths are claiming that the bow length was from five feet tall in the 11th century. In the 15th century, the height went up by an extra foot. The average size was, however, about a meter and one point eight meters.

There is evidence of other types of bows, such as the recurve bow that was more common at the time in Europe and Asia. The recurve bow tends to be stronger when it comes to the energy in which it releases the arrow. They were also practical in instances such as in the forest where the longbow was not as effective. The recurve was also generally better to use on horseback because of their design.

Do Vikings use bows?

Yes, Viking did use bows and arrows, and several folklores refer to the use of bows and arrows. In these instances, the men in the stories show a real act of heroism and their impressive ability to use bows and arrows to defend themselves. With just this weapon, they were able to ward off attack from the enemy even when they were outnumbered.

Overall, based on historical findings, bows, and arrows were not typically found in the graves of the warriors. Instead, they were found in households. That indicates that bows and arrows were not a tool of war, but it was for domestic purposes. It can be assumed that the bows and arrows were meant for hunting. In the folklore, a lot of these stories center around men who were defending their homes.

What are the bows and arrows usually made of?

The bows were made from either elm, ash or yew wood. The shafts are thought to have been made out of hardwood, though evidence of the same is limited. There are bows found in Denmark that date back to 2800BC and made from elm. There is also found in a different location within the country and date back to 1500-200BC. Iron and horn got used to strengthen the bows, while the nocks of the bow got made from horn or wood.

What bow and arrow size did the Vikings use?

They were between 1.6 and two meters in length. When it comes to the arrows, there is more variety in terms of the shapes and sizes they come in. The shortest arrowhead that has been found from 10th-century sites in Norway is about 12cm long. Those found in Iceland tended to be between 10 and 15 centimeters long. Some are longer, and that was perhaps dependent on the person. When it came to the shaft, those that have gotten found are about 70 to 80 meters long. In diameter, they were about 10mm.

How important is bow and arrow for the Vikings?

Given the evidence of where the bows and arrows got found, it is assumed that bows and arrows were more of a domestic tool than a tool of war. It is the same way that different communities have different weapons around the house for various things such as hunting or protecting the household from intruders, animals included. That is the assumption given that a lot of the arrowheads excavated were indeed found in home sites.  

Bows and arrows in the Viking age

It is thought that the range for the bows at this time was about 200 meters and also had a draw weight of 90lbs. That is as per the evidence of the 10th-century bows and arrows found. Based on the medieval Icelandic law, however, it shows that the range went up to as high as 480 meters. It is thought that was for archers. Additionally, the draw weights varied depending on a person’s capabilities. It is thus likely that they changed, making it somewhat challenging to establish an average draw length.

Another aspect of bows and arrows in the Viking age is that it was unclear how they got carried around. The reason for that is because evidence of the existence of quivers is limited. The only reference of it is in the stories of war passed down through the generations. Also, there were remnants of a quiver made of leather, but even that is assumed as such.  

did vikings use recurve bows

The Vikings primarily used longbows rather than recurve bows. Longbows were more common in Northern Europe during the Viking Age. These longbows were typically made from a single piece of wood and had a simple, straight design. They were used for hunting, combat, and other purposes.

Recurve bows, on the other hand, have limbs that curve away from the archer when unstrung, and these curves give them a distinctive shape. While recurve bows existed during the Viking Age, they were less prevalent in Northern Europe compared to longbows. Recurve bows were more commonly associated with cultures from other regions, such as the steppe nomads of Central Asia.

The choice of bow type often depended on the materials available in a particular region and the preferences of the archers. Vikings were skilled archers, and they would have used the type of bow that best suited their needs in their specific environment and for various purposes, including hunting and warfare.

styles of viking bows and arrows

Viking bows and arrows primarily came in two main types, known as “Vynindaale” and “Dharham.”

“Vynindaale” was a composite bow characterized by a design where the bow handle consisted of two parts, one wider and one narrower. This design allowed Viking bows to generate greater power and achieve longer ranges. Additionally, “Vynindaale” bows typically had bowstrings made from multiple strands of horsehair, as opposed to the more common single-strand fibers. This type of bowstring could better absorb and distribute energy, enhancing shooting accuracy and power.

“Dharham” was a heavy bow, characterized by a wide and thick bow handle, requiring the use of both hands to draw the string. These bows were primarily used for close-range shooting and defense, offering high power and accuracy.

In addition, Viking mythology and legends also mentioned other types of arrows, such as “black arrows” and “silver arrows.” These arrows possessed unique attributes and were regarded as mythical artifacts in Viking folklore.

viking bow and arrow history and origin

The Viking bow and arrow originated in the Norse Viking cultures of Scandinavia and Germanic regions, dating back to around 2000 BC when iron bows and arrows had already appeared in the Nordic areas. Over time, the Viking bow and arrow evolved into a distinctive weapon that reflected the Vikings’ way of life, warfare strategies, and craftsmanship.

The origin of the Viking bow and arrow is closely tied to the lifestyle and environment of the Vikings. The forests and rivers of the Nordic region provided abundant wood and game, making bows and arrows the primary weapons and hunting tools of the Vikings. The shape of Viking bows gradually developed into long and flat designs suitable for use in the cold and damp climate of the North. Additionally, the craftsmanship of Viking bows was unique, often featuring reinforcements made of animal hide, horn, or wood attached to the bow’s body to enhance its strength and stability.

The use of Viking bows and arrows was versatile and multifaceted. They were employed not only for hunting and warfare but also for entertainment and competitive purposes. Archery competitions were popular during the Viking Age, serving as important forms of entertainment and competition. Furthermore, in Norse mythology, archery held a significant place, with figures like the divine archer Ullr determining the fates of all in events such as “Ragnarök,” the Twilight of the Gods.

In summary, the origin of the Viking bow and arrow is closely linked to the Vikings’ way of life and environment. It served as both a practical weapon and a hunting tool, as well as a source of entertainment and competition, reflecting the social and cultural aspects of the Viking Age.

Viking bow and arrow making techniques

The craftsmanship involved in making Viking bows and arrows is a complex process that requires several steps and techniques. Firstly, high-quality wood is chosen as the primary material, often using woods like yew, blackthorn, or other suitable varieties. The wood is then cut and carefully shaped to the desired form and dimensions.

Next comes the creation of the bowstring, a critical aspect of Viking bow and arrow crafting. Bowstrings can be made from animal sinew or plant fibers, and they need to be blended in specific proportions before being expertly wrapped around the bow limbs. The wrapping tension must be precise to ensure optimal performance and longevity without compromising the bow and arrow’s structural integrity.

Finally, assembly and adjustments are carried out to connect the bowstring to the bow limbs and fine-tune various details such as string tension and limb angles. Safety precautions must be observed throughout this process to avoid injury from sharp tools or implements.

In summary, crafting Viking bows and arrows involves meticulous techniques and skillful craftsmanship, as well as a deep understanding of the characteristics and performance of the chosen materials. These weapons were known for their formidable killing power and accuracy, playing a significant role in ancient warfare.

how to use viking bows and arrows

Viking bows and arrows were a long-range weapon used for both hunting and warfare. In hunting, Viking archers typically employed a standing posture with their feet shoulder-width apart, arms slightly bent. They would nock an arrow onto the bowstring, aim at their target, draw the bowstring with force until the arrowhead aligned with the target, and then release, capturing their prey.

In warfare, Viking bows and arrows were primarily used for long-range attacks, inflicting significant damage on the enemy. Viking archers often utilized volley firing techniques to enhance their offensive power. During naval battles, Viking archers would stand high on their ships, using the ship’s protection to unleash a dense barrage of arrows towards enemy vessels, forcing them to retreat or become ineffective in combat.

Beyond their role as weapons, Viking bows and arrows were also used in competitive settings. Archery competitions were highly popular during the Viking era, serving as a form of entertainment and competition. These contests had established rules and methods, specifying parameters such as the shooting distance, the number of arrows, and the size of the target.

In summary, the use of Viking bows and arrows was highly versatile and adaptable. Whether employed as weapons or tools for competition, archers needed to master specific skills and techniques. Viking archers required keen eyesight and strong arm strength, along with agility and quick reflexes. Through the use of Viking bows and arrows, the Vikings showcased their courage and abilities, becoming a formidable force in the ancient Nordic region.

why viking bows and arrows important?

The Viking bow and arrow held a paramount historical significance within Viking culture, serving as the primary weapon and hunting tool of the Vikings. It reflected the Vikings’ way of life, their warfare strategies, and their level of craftsmanship. Additionally, it played a crucial role in Viking mythology, showcasing the Vikings’ beliefs and cultural heritage.

In the everyday lives of the Vikings, the bow and arrow were vital tools. In hunting, Viking archers could accurately target prey at a distance, ensuring a reliable food source for the Vikings. In warfare, Viking archers could engage in long-range attacks, providing crucial support for Viking military strategies. Furthermore, archery competitions in Viking recreational settings became important ways for people to be entertained and to compete, displaying the Vikings’ courage and skills.

The Viking bow and arrow were not only practical tools and weapons but also possessed profound cultural significance. In Viking mythology, the bow and arrow were imbued with special symbolism. For instance, in Norse mythology, the god of war and fate, Ullr, was a divine archer whose arrows determined the outcomes of battles and the fates of the gods. Moreover, in Viking legends, some heroes and deities wielded magical bows and arrows, such as King Arthur in British legends and Siegfried in Germanic legends. These legendary tales not only underscored the Vikings’ reverence and esteem for the bow and arrow but also showcased the cultural heritage and beliefs of the Vikings.

In summary, the Viking bow and arrow held an exceptionally important historical position within Viking culture. It served as not only practical tools and weapons but also as symbols of Viking culture and heritage. Studying the historical significance of the Viking bow and arrow allows us to gain a better understanding of Viking society and culture during that era.

The Influence of Viking Bows and Arrows on Viking Culture

The Viking bow and arrow had a profound impact on Viking culture and were integral components of Viking life. Firstly, Viking archery was a vital part of the Viking way of life. The Vikings sustained themselves through activities such as maritime trade, raiding, and piracy to acquire wealth and resources. Their lifestyle and environment made archery a primary weapon and hunting tool, thus playing a crucial role in the daily lives of the Vikings.

Secondly, Viking archery influenced Viking warfare strategies and tactics significantly. The Vikings frequently employed tactics like seaborne raids and siege warfare, all of which relied on the support of archers for long-range attacks. The accuracy and skill level of Viking archers played an essential role in warfare, often deciding the outcomes of battles.

Additionally, Viking archery left a mark on European history and culture. Viking aggression and piracy compelled European nations to bolster their defenses and military capabilities, driving advancements in European military technology and weapon manufacturing. For instance, both the English longbow and the German crossbow were developed under the influence of Viking archery.

In summary, Viking archery had far-reaching effects on Viking culture, influencing daily life, warfare strategies, and contributing to the development of European military technology and culture.

Wrap up

There was more than the Vikings did with bows and arrows. It was not merely about battles and bloodshed. The evidence of this lies in the fact that most of what got found is in the household. Therefore, one can assume that apart from battle, the bows and arrows the Vikings used were more for domestic purposes than anything. There are different variations, and that also perhaps speaks of the artisans of the time.


 Viking Jewelry