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Nathan F




Location: ireland
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 12:22 pm    Post subject: bone leather and linen armour in the viking age         Reply with quote

i really just want to know what people know about this as there are many contradicting sources on it so i would like to see what was real and what was legend.
for here starts war carrion birds sing, and grey wolves howl
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Johann M




Location: London
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 12:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

the only documentable armour for the time and place is mail and spangenhelms...and of course a large round shield to hide behind. everything else is unproven or highly debatable.
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Ben Mudd





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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 12:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There's a fragment of leather with what very much appear to be quilting lines in it, generally interpreted to be part of a leather-faced gambeson, on display in the Kildare Street museum in Dublin. I believe this dates from the early 11th century? In any case, this is certainly not evidence for leather armour and may not be part of a gambeson at all.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 1:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The leather find is more likely to be clothing, rather than armour. But there are probably a dozen plausible interpretations of the fragment.
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Ben Mudd





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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 1:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's certainly true. There are any number of things that could have been made of quilted fabric with at least one layer of leather.

Let's speculate that it is clothing too, and to be more specific, let's speculate that it's a garment for the upper body. A coat or tunic or some such. Let's say its primary purpose was to keep the wearer warm. We'll call it a multi-layered padded wool garment with a thin leather shell, which would make for a great sea coat or winter coat. This speculative garment is primarily an item of civilian, or more likely maritime, attire. BUT . . . if our friend the mariner in his spiffy wool and leather sea coat happens to get in a fight, and happens to put on his mail over his coat so that he stays warm as well, I think he'll find, as modern tests show, that the padding makes a huge amount of difference in terms of how well his mail protects him. He might then wear that coat under his mail at all times he wears the mail, hot or cold weather, because he's found that it can save his life and he values that. He might then tell his friends how much better it is, and then they might hit each other with logs a few times when drunk and go, "Hey, looka' that, Sveinn's right!" and then they might all start wearing their spiffy sea coats under their mail until it's a fashion. All of which might have happened long before there were Vikings, so that by 10xx whatever year this thing was made, it was already common practice.

Or maybe not, but it certainly became common practice at SOME point before we have true evidence for it in later years.

Remembering how insanely little direct evidence we have regarding Viking clothing, I think that it's at least a reasonable hypothesis that a garment like this might have been worn that had both civilian and military use. A thing like that might well provide a fair degree of protection on its own, even without wearing mail over it, since any attempt to quantify how common hard armour (aka armour of any sort) was during the early Medieval period is tenuous at best. But, in any case, this is almost definitely NOT "leather armour" in the sense that we would interpret that today, and especially in the way that the SCA and LARP groups would interpret the term "leather armour" to mean.

But this is all speculation, after all, with almost no evidence to rely upon, so feel free to disagree with me.
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Tom King




Location: florida
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 2:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Really if there is evidence of Leather armor anywhere in Europe then a viking somewhere sometime used it. They adopted whatever worked. If this is for a kit, look towards a varangrian styles. Leather Lamelar, that sort of thing.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 2:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Viking and Varangian are completely different contexts. We have had this discussion time and time again. If it was used somewhere sometime then you may as well give vikings samurai swords and ninja stars. If there is no evidence for it then it is grossly irresponsible for a re-enactor to claim that it is "historical".

FWIW there is no evidence for Viking or Varangian leather lamellar either.
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Nat Lamb




Location: Melbourne, Australia
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 5:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ahh, but remember, with Ninjas, lack of evidence constitutes PROOF that they were there, such are their skillz of stealth! The fact that Ninjas never appear in viking art or in the sagas is a higher grade of evidence than promary archeological find, a Zerothery source if you will.
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Tom King




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 5:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Technically varangian are Rus, who are technically finns, who are technically swedes. So a semi-diluded viking. and leather rots. It has also been widely theorized that vikings adapted clothes and weopons of invaded areas, so if say the franks had good leather armor then it would have been used.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 9:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nat Lamb wrote:
Ahh, but remember, with Ninjas, lack of evidence constitutes PROOF that they were there, such are their skillz of stealth! The fact that Ninjas never appear in viking art or in the sagas is a higher grade of evidence than promary archeological find, a Zerothery source if you will.


Brilliant! Cool
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R Lister




Location: Hamwic
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2010 11:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Looking at the sutton hoo helmet there are guys that could be wearing leather armour depicted on the plates there.

I have based my war coat on this. I know that Sutton Hoo is several hundred years before the viking age but its there.


My understanding of chain mail(having never worn it) is that you need some heavy padding between it and you to soak up some of the impact and stop the broken rings from sticking into you.


My group leader when in his leather and maile can be hit very hard and practically not feel it.

But this is all conjecture.

Rich
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2010 12:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From the period, there is a lot of pictorial evidence. It's generally Frankish though rather then Viking. For example you have the Stuttgard psalter (820-830AD):
http://www.wlb-stuttgart.de/index.php?id=3547...et%5bstyle

And the Utrecht Psalter (820-840AD):
http://psalter.library.uu.nl/

They are a great source in at least getting an impression of what the outfits looked like. It leaves a lot open for interpretation though. I'd love to make an outfit based on these psalters though. They are very different from what you generally see in re-enactment, which makes me believe that re-enactors are generally completely off.

Jeroen Zuiderwijk
- Bronze age living history in the Netherlands
- Barbarian metalworking
- Museum photos
- Zip-file with information about saxes
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Boyd C-F




Location: Nelson, New Zealand
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2010 1:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hooray - In this picture the shield bosses have the little flat bit often seen on archeological finds;

http://www.wlb-stuttgart.de/digitalisate/cod....n/005v.jpg

Though I'm not sure about this shield...

http://www.wlb-stuttgart.de/digitalisate/cod....n/005r.jpg
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2010 2:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Boyd C-F wrote:
Hooray - In this picture the shield bosses have the little flat bit often seen on archeological finds;

http://www.wlb-stuttgart.de/digitalisate/cod....n/005v.jpg

Though I'm not sure about this shield...

http://www.wlb-stuttgart.de/digitalisate/cod....n/005r.jpg

Nice one isn't it? If it were me, I'd be very tempted to actually go for that one Wink

N.b. of course what needs to be kept in mind with these drawings is that they were a 9th century attempt to portray biblical stories. So it was not the intent at all to display what people looked in the 9th century. However, judging from the high accuracy of the swords, spears, shield(bosses), I'm fairly confident that for the rest the artist(s) were relying heavily on the then contemporary clothing and armour, as that was probably all he knew. It is possible that some drawings were based on older drawings though. F.e. there are later drawings copied from the Utrecht Psalter, IIRC in the Canterbury Psalter 1150. So drawings could represent earlier dress. N.b. here you can find a list of psalters, a lot of which may contain interesting images (I have yet to look up most on the internet).

Jeroen Zuiderwijk
- Bronze age living history in the Netherlands
- Barbarian metalworking
- Museum photos
- Zip-file with information about saxes
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2010 9:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom King wrote:
Technically varangian are Rus, who are technically finns, who are technically swedes. So a semi-diluded viking. and leather rots. It has also been widely theorized that vikings adapted clothes and weopons of invaded areas, so if say the franks had good leather armor then it would have been used.


Not to be sounding like I'm beating on you in particular, but there are an awful lot of "ifs" piling up, here! Fashions didn't necessarily flow faster just because of some perceived ethnic or linguistic link between cultures. But since no one has come up with good evidence for Frankish leather armor, there's still nothing to be adopted by the Vikings. As Dan says, we've been over this many times, and all the speculation hasn't turned into *evidence*, so far.

Oh, and there are certainly archeological sites that turn up hundreds of leather finds: shoes, scabbards, pieces of clothing, tent parts and shield covers (on Roman sites), etc. But virtually no leather armor!

Again, my apologies, Tom, if this gives the impression of a personal attack! It's not, you just had a handy quote that summarized that sort of argument.

Valete,

Matthew
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Nathan F




Location: ireland
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2010 10:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

see i have seen so many references in various sagas stories legends and so on of magical armour made of layers of linen or leather and even bone so if only some unfortunate group of vikings with these fell in a bog we would all be sorted.
for here starts war carrion birds sing, and grey wolves howl
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2010 1:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan F wrote:
see i have seen so many references in various sagas stories legends and so on of magical armour made of layers of linen or leather and even bone so if only some unfortunate group of vikings with these fell in a bog we would all be sorted.


If you cite some of these then this discussion can go somewhere. Try using the sarch function first so you don't waste time looking for those that have already been thoroughly discussed.
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Boyd C-F




Location: Nelson, New Zealand
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2010 1:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Back to the Stuttgart psalter; there are lots of images with a scale based armour, coloured grey like the sword and spear blades and the helmets, so it could be possible that they're made of some kind of metal! Does anyone know of finds from this period that match these scales?

This image shows damaged equipment (either broken on purpose or due to combat) interestingly the scale corslet is not coloured grey

http://www.wlb-stuttgart.de/digitalisate/cod....n/088r.jpg

@ Jeroen;

I wonder if that shield would be good for trapping weapon blades?
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Hadrian Coffin
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Location: Oxford, England
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2010 6:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello,

Ireland seems to have quite a bit of evidence suggesting leather being used as armour. There are finds that do appear to be remnants of leather armour, and there are fairly thorough descriptions of leather being used as armour. Frankly it is conjecture, but there is more evidence to suggest the use of leather as armour than evidence to suggest it was not. The arguments against its use are fairly shallow, and there is enough suggestion of use to determine that it most likely was used.

Part of the problem is determining exact definitions of what constitutes armour as opposed to clothing. If armour is defined simply as a garment worn to battle, the textile clothing is armour (unless you are suggesting Vikings ran into battle completely naked). If armour is defined as a garment specifically designed for use in combat, everything and nothing is armour. There is nothing to suggest that there was not clothing (i.e. tunic, trousers, etc.) worn specifically in combat, and nothing that flat out says the only use of mail is in combat (perhaps it was just clothing Laughing Out Loud). If armour is defined as a garment that offers some protection from period weapons, than a thick wool tunic, a leather jerkin, and a mail shirt are all forms of armour. If armour is defined as a garment that offers complete protection from period weapons, nothing is armour. Every type of armour can fail, and thus nothing would be armour.

Frankly there is nothing that can "prove" the argument either way. There is sufficient evidence to suggest leather was used as armour (but nothing to "prove" it). There is slight evidence to argue it was perhaps not used (I have yet to see a decent reason why leather could not be used as armour).

Lastly, I do not re-enact. If the point of re-enactment is to portray the norm, or display only items that are based off of nearly complete finds, then leather should not be used as armour... but on the same token neither should mail. We have only one near complete find, so clearly it was not something every single Viking wore (you are trying to portray the norm, are you not?). From an academic standpoint, arguing is the best form of learning....and in academia pretty much everything is open to argument, and the arguments never really seem to die. Thus it is best to determine for yourself, based on the evidence, whether or not leather armour existed.

Cheers,
Hadrian

p.s. Concerning Ninjas... This is not the same sort of argument, there is absolutely nothing to suggest Ninjas ever came into contact with Vikings. Whereas there IS evidence to suggest leather armour existed.

Historia magistra vitae est
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Tom King




Location: florida
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2010 8:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I remember an exerpt from some saga descibing a gift of "reindeer hide shirts... that could turn a sword better than mail" (paraphrase of course, there's a chance I read this back in the 90's)
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