There is much to admire about the Viking era. Apart from the people and culture, one thing people tend to want to know about is the weapons used during wartimes. In this article, we are going to have a look at the most commonly used tools of war. It includes looking at what made these weapons different from other kingdoms present at the time.
Among all the weapons that the Vikings used during the war, the sword was not only the most expensive but prestigious as well. It’s for that reason that it was common for warriors to pass down the swords from generation to generation. Swords that were several generations old were considered to be more precious in the eyes of the Vikings. Those who yielded swords were found to be those from aristocrat families or great warriors in general. The poorer men in society were only able to get a sword after fighting in numerous wars and saving up enough money to acquire one.
What made the swords of the aristocrats and more impoverished farmers different was that those who had the money we’re able to do more with their swords. For example, they could have gold or silver inlays as well as intricate designs. Each sword that got made was given a name that would speak of it’s character and meaning. Even then, the swords were not the go-to weapon for Vikings. The primary reason is that the iron found in the region tended to be weak.
As a result, during the war, after several strikes, the sword would form a crack and eventually break. For that reason, the Vikings had to trade and also import swordsmiths from other regions to make the swords. To make the swords stronger, what they ended up doing was intertwining several strips of iron under high heat to form a stiffer blade. The sword was then able to strike through armors and also shields, making them powerful weapons to use during the war.
It would take about a month to complete one sword. Given the speed of making an ax or a spear, that would explain why they weren’t commonly used on the battlefield. If anything, they were left to the leaders during the war. At the time, the Viking swords were a double-leaf and double-bladed. They were between 60 to 80 cm in length. However, some were as long as 90 cm. The range was dependent on the warrior as well; there wasn’t a standard.
The weight of the swords was about 1.2 to 4.5 kg depending on the blade size and the amount of iron that got used during the production process. To make the swords a bit lighter, they had shallow grooves that were meant to reduce the sword’s weight and make it more flexible to use. The grooves did earn the name “blood troughs’ perhaps because blood would drain and flow out of these grooves.
Viking Battle Axe
If there’s something literature from the 21st century has gotten right is that the go-to weapons for Vikings were the ax. The ax is called the Tomahawk, and it looks very much like an improved version of the standard logging ax. The ax head was crescent-shaped. It was cheap to make, so much so that it was a weapon that every Viking warrior and farmer alike owned.
The ax was mighty in that it was able to break through the opponent’s shield and cause serious harm to them as well. It could also perforate a person’s armor, and even cut through their helmet. The ax was an all-round dangerous weapon in a Viking’s hand both when on the battlefield and in the wild. The axes were made from forged or carbon steel and they were extremely sharp. They were also handy around the farm where they could get used for cutting wood and other such activities.
Initially, axes were expensive and they were left for the knights and the nobles. However, over time, that changed with the introduction of the sword. From there, they became affordable for all. There was still a difference between the axes of the wealthy and the commoners. Those that were in prestigious positions had their axes decorated and adorned to show their status in society.
The Viking Tomahawk’s ax handles varied in length and made to get held using one hand. The short one would be about 40 cm, and the longer ones were an impressive 1.8 meters. The previous ones were best in close combat, with the others would get waved around and causing harm to opponents from afar. They would use them for vigorous slashing while their shorter counterparts typically got used with a shield as well, given it was close combat.
There were typically three types of axes the Vikings used. There were small hand axes for everyday use around the farm, they were throw-axes they used during combat or hunting, and there were the large axes they used during war. These latter axes did not have intricate designs as they were meant to be functional and to get the job done. Those axes that did have intricate designs or inlays were primarily for social or ceremonial purposes only.
The other weapon the Vikings used was the spear. It was cheap to make, and there was quite a variety of them, perhaps depending on the person’s preference and the craftsman that made them. They were low cost and equally just as easy to make. The spearheads got made from iron while the shaft was made from ash wood. The length of the spearhead would vary, and it was typically anywhere between 10 and 40 cm long. The shaft, on the other hand, would range between one and two meters.
tting, they had a wider spearhead with a longer shaft. They were also heavier to carry.
Some of the spears were also used to block swords as well. They had barbs or flanks that would block the swords or even prevent them from sliding down the spear and cutting off the warrior’s fingers. If the Viking warrior was strong, they would throw two spears in one go, or even thrust a spear between two enemies, killing them both at the same time.
When it comes to the spears, as with the other weapons, you’ll note there are differences in descriptions from the sagas and also what archaeologists have unearthed. It is not any different for the spearheads. There are variations in shape and sizes, depending on what the person wished the spear to do. Also, the spears of nobility looked different from the lowly farmers. For the wealthy, you would find that the spears were adorned with other metals.
Given that the Vikings used weapons that mostly had them in close combat, a shield was essential. The diameters were between 40 and 120 centimeters, but the most common was between 75cm and 90cm. The shield was wooden and covered in leather or cowhide to make it more resistant to enemy blows. The edge of the shield had metal, and the same was at the center to protect the warrior’s hand.
The shields, just as the other weapons, did differ in their appearance. They would have drawings made from a single color and also patterns. Some opted for something simpler like a cross, have derivations of the sun wheel or do segments and have something different on each part. However, very few shields showing this variety exist today. Those found with more elaborate designs and adorned with ornate gold or silver work tend to be more ceremonial than for war. It would perhaps explain how they survived.
The shield was not only to protect the warrior, but it got used when they were making battle formations. They would form a wall to protect themselves, allowing them to inch faster into the enemy’s formation. The spaces formed between the shield would get used to jabbing spears at the enemy. With the same shields, the Vikings would use brute force to break through a similar wall the enemy may have formed
Here, we have looked at the sword, ax, spear, and shield in the Viking era to know more about them. We hope that it has enlightened you, especially if you can trace back your origins to the Viking era. At the same time, if you are a hobbyist and would like to make any of these weapons, at least you have an idea of where to start.
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- what is a viking berserker
- Life During the Viking Era
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- Styles types of viking axes and their history
- Bows and arrows in the viking age
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