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Viking-Age Weapons and Armor

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Charles Edmonson

on 10 March 2015

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Transcript of Viking-Age Weapons and Armor

Historical Context
Vendel Period: 550 AD to 750 AD
Viking Age: 750AD to 1050 AD
Battle of Hastings 1066 AD
Sutton Hoo Sword
Torslunda Helmet
The Torslunda helmet, also known as the horned helmet, is decorated on plate patrices. These plates were made of bronze and were used to decorate ceremonial helmets.
General Overview
Bayeaux Tapestry
A 270ft long strip of linen that depicts the preparations and the Battle of Hastings (when William began his conquering of England). The depictions of the events after have been cut from the tapestry.

It was commissioned around 1077 by Bishop Odo of Bayeux and made by women in Kent. The plan and design was done by a soldier, as shown by certain scenes only a soldier would have witnessed or understood. The tapestry contains about 50 different scenes and one researcher has counted 632 human figures, 202 horses, 55 dogs, 505 other creatures (some clearly mythical beasts), 37 buildings, 41 ships, 49 trees and nearly 2000 Latin letters.

Its religious significance lies in the various mythical beasts that litter the work. Echoing the same images that are incorporated in Viking armor and weaponry.
Viking-Age Weapons and Armor
Theoretical Implications
Anglo-Saxon, early 7th century AD
From Mound 1, Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, England
Anglo-Saxon sword blades were made using a technique known as pattern-welding, where rods of iron were twisted and then forged to form the core of a blade, to which sharp cutting edges were added. This method gave the blade an intricately patterned appearance resembling herringbone or snake-like markings. The sword-blade found in the Sutton Hoo ship burial is especially complex.
The sword is richly furnished with gold hilt fittings. The pommel is inlaid with garnet cloisonné, the guards are made from gold plates, and the grip has two gold mounts decorated with delicate filigree.
Length: 72.0 cm (blade), 85.4 cm (overall, including hilt)
Primarily a series of 7th century Anglo Saxon grave mounds for the wealthy and prestigious, Sutton Hoo contains an unprecedented wealth of undisturbed grave goods. Originating from various corners of Europe and beyond, the site's artifacts demonstrate strong international connections, wealth, and artistic and technological innovation. Scandinavian burial customs, weapons, and armor seem to be merged with native traditions. Weapons and armor found in the burial mounds include helmets, swords, spears, shields, knives, and axe-hammers. They are highly ornamented, and seem to have been, both artistically and functionally, works of master craftsmen.
Covers the the rise of Scandinavian warrior culture & chieftains, the age of raiding by vikings, and the end of the viking raids & the legitimizing of the Scandinavian kingdoms within Catholicism
Ager, Berry. "Viking Weapons and Warfare." BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/vikings/weapons_01.shtml#three (
accessed September 30, 2014)

"The Bayeux Tapestry". HistoryLearningSite.co.uk. 2011. Web. (September 30 2014)

"Britain's Bayeux Tapestry." Britain's Bayeux Tapestry. N.p., n.d. http://www.bayeuxtapestry.org.uk/Index.htm (September 30 2014)

British Museum Highlights, Sword from the ship-burial at Sutton Hoo. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pe_mla/s/sword_from_sutton_hoo.aspx

Jesch, Judith.
The Scandinavians from the Vendel Period to the Tenth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective
. Vol. 5. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Boydell Press, 2002.

"The Mammen Style." http://www.archeurope.com/index.php?page=mammen-style (accessed October 1, 2014)

"Odin as Weapon Dancer." The Viking Rune. http://www.vikingrune.com/2009/10/odin-as-weapon-dancer/ (accessed September 30, 2014).
The main weapons for the Vikings were the spear, sword and battle axe. The spear and the battle axe were the most typical, the former being cheaper and the latter more versatile. Swords were more costly to make, on the other hand, and were thus a sign of status. On that note, mail armor and helmets also took great skill and wealth to make. Instead, common foot soldiers wore leather armor.
The Dancing warrior (god) symbol, which depicted a man with a lance in hand in full animal-figure headdress, was a popular motif on helmets from the Vendel period and earlier.
On the right, the plate depicts an individual with a bear or wolf pelt. These warriors were known as Odin soldiers, leading many to believe that the figure in the left to be Odin.
Viking Helmet
Burial mound in Gjermundbu, Norway. 970 AD
The more elaborate armor and weapons were used for ceremonial pieces because it was expensive to make decorative swords, arms, and mail. For this reason, only the most wealthy leaders would be buried in with the full viking attire.
Viking grave hills in Denmark
Axe Head
Burial mound at Mammen, Denmark. 970 AD
These items found in burial mounds displayed various iconography depicting fierce animals and scenes of battle. These images could be intimated to assume the nature of contagion magic, where the representative image is meant to confer battle prowess or protection in battle, and safety in the afterlife.
Sword with runic inscription
Sæbø, Norway
9th century
Knife with bird on handle
9th century
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