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Stuart Thompson




Location: Walton-on-the-Naze
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 2:08 am    Post subject: Kite shields in the Saxon army         Reply with quote

First of all sorry for my mis-use of 'army' just thought it looked better than 'seasonal warband' Wink

Anyway, how popular were kite shields to the Saxon warrior? I ask because i've seen many pictures were kite shields are being used. I thought it was a Norman-inspired shield for use on horseback, saxons/vikings fought on foot.

Here's a saxon warrior (housecarl?) Normal looking chap right.

Saxons and vikings preparing for 'stamford bridge'. I can see seven kite shields.

So really, when and how did they become 'popular' in the saxon army? (On a bbc series '1066 battle for middle earth' a character name of Ordgar uses one. He's some sort of captain so could it be only a man of rank carried such a shield? or a housecarl?)

P.s. Is it Housecarl or Huscarl?
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Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 3:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not 100% sure but I think kite shields are taken from Byzantines about the beginning of the 11th century by Scandinavians and Normans. Probably Saxons too. Also I think it was first designed for infantry as it covers more of a body than round shield so it's better for infantry and of course more practical for cavalry too. More knowledgable members will sure correct me here if something is wrong.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 4:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well the kite shield is also used a bit differently as it's an enarmed shield rather than a centre grip shield so usage is a bit different with it's own advantages and disadvantages and adopting the kite shield by an individual warrior would also mean learning how to use it effectively if one was already skilled in the use of the round shield.

I also think that it may have started with the Byzantines and spread from there as an international style i.e. any good idea gets adopted by others unless blocked by hide bound conservative tradition: There must have been a period where personal and regional differences meant that one might see both kinds of shield at the same time on the same battlefield used by both sides ? ( Disclaimer: Just speculation on my part, so others with actual evidence should chime in. Wink Cool ).

Oh, I also think that the Byzantines and also the Italians continued using kite shields rather late in period and mostly for infantry use. ( Early adopters as well as being late in giving up on the kite shield ).

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Stuart Thompson




Location: Walton-on-the-Naze
Joined: 15 Feb 2010

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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 4:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So, you reckon we'd have seen a mix of shields in the Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Norman armies? It's a given to say the round shield is perfect for a shield wall etc so I do wonder how it'd work with these ones Happy Might try it out.
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 5:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Most of the Saxon shields shown on the Bayeux Tapestry are kites. Granted, it's a Norman view of things, but there are some round shields shown so you'd think that if it was a clear cultural dichotomy that most or all of the Saxons would have round ones. Remember, there was a HEAVY Norman influence in England under Edward the Confessor. And the kite shape had been spreading for quite a while before him. It wouldn't surprise me if a lot of Hardrada's Vikings had kites, really. It's a good design--covers the legs better, and you can lean on it when you're tired!

Matthew
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Stuart Thompson




Location: Walton-on-the-Naze
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 5:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It makes sense Happy Might invest in one..could always use an extra leaning post!
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Samuel Bena




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 5:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What Matthew said , it seems from the Bayeux tapestry that one would have had a great difficulty telling the difference between a Anglo-Danish Housecarl and a Norman Chevalier (besides the two-handed axes+ the round shields were used somewhat longer by Saxons)
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Stuart Thompson




Location: Walton-on-the-Naze
Joined: 15 Feb 2010

Posts: 118

PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 9:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

How would they be incorporated into a shield wall?

Seeing as the shape is different one odd shield might upset the balance and a gap in the wall becomes exploited very quickly.

I might get one just to do a test, was going to post up some sparring videos in and out of kit but I really don't know. I prefer the kite shields as a whole but they seem to lack as a weapon unlike the round ones, personally i've twisted my arm to use the ridge of the shield as a defense break. Can knock your opponents teeth out then go under behind the knee or down upon his head/shoulder for a good take down.

Then again like Matt said, you can lean on them and they protect more of your body especially the legs which everyone seems to go for! hmm..time machine please! Wink
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 9:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It looks ok here: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/upload/img..._72dpi.jpg
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Nathan Gilleland





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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 11:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I seem to remember another post here on the forums about when kite shields became curved (like the later heater shields). Perhaps at this point in time the kite shields were primarily flat, making incorporation into a shield wall much easier?
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 12:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, a "shield wall" is really just a line of guys with shields, isn't it? I've never been in one with any sort of structural integrity due to the form of the shields. Round shields varied quite a bit in size, anyway.




Round shields were frequently dished, anyway, not flat like most reenactors make them, so curved kites would not have been out of place (though flat kites certainly existed since on the Tapestry they are used as dinner trays!).

Matthew
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Stuart Thompson




Location: Walton-on-the-Naze
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 12:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Been reading about the kite in the Norse culture and it came around, exactly like Matt said, that the Vikings who left from Norway stored their tear-drop shields under or along the decks of their ships, so they must have been flat.

Also reading a saga now where the use of a kite is mentioned..Brennu Njals saga "Cut off the tip of his shield and most of his leg" However the word in Icelandic is 'spordr' which means different things, it means 'lower part' but also' tail' suggesting the 'tail' could have been the tail of a kite shield.

Another where "he used 'the tip' to strike the death blow..."
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Nick Bourne




Location: London, United Kingdom
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 2:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kite shields were definitely in use by the Anglo Saxons at least by the Battle of Hastings where both kite and round shields were in use, however I am unsure as to the prevalence of the design among Saxon warriors only that they were in use among the Huscarls.
For an infantryman it offers great protection to the legs and is much harder to pull away from the body than a centregrip round shield.
When in a shield wall I have found that the kite fits in the same way as a round shield but it also tends to bunch up the formation as the ones i have used have a smaller dimension than my round one.
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Stuart Thompson




Location: Walton-on-the-Naze
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 11:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Nick, I've heard that they kites are stronger/durable more so than the round ones but i'm not sure on this. What we need is some old old shields maybe secondhand then try them out.

An Anglo-saxon chronicle seems to suggest during one engagement (Possibly with the Welsh) a sword as struck down upon a mans skull, as he lifted his shied it embedded in the top and he was able to then strike his opponent down by slicing at his foot then his throat. In the sagas of the Norse Kings it reads a few times when circular shields were split in half, cracked, broken seemingly with ease.

Maybe if a kite shield was curved it'd provide more durability? I'll buy one of each rig them up and see how they peform.
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Nick Bourne




Location: London, United Kingdom
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 9:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Don't forgot that shields weren't really meant to last a whole battle and warriors would often take 3 or more and replace them as needed in a lull in the fighting.
It would be interesting to see a destruction test comparing the round shield, flat kite and curved kite against different types of attacks, maybe you could post any results?
Oh one more thing, when fighting against someone with a curved kite it is really hard to hit them due to the near total coverage of the frontal area as the shield curls around them, blows seem to glance off, not sure as to how this works in shield wall but that might also be something to try out.
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Stuart Thompson




Location: Walton-on-the-Naze
Joined: 15 Feb 2010

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PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 11:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have a hand axe, sword, a 'war' axe (huge double handed beast) and a spear belonging to a friend. I want to make and post a sparring video so this could muck up well as a test also. Bracing the shield(s) against a tree trunk or something similar to it being held. Would that work?

Actually any viking/saxon reenactors around the Colchester-London area? Could do a group sparring video. The ideas get flowing! Wink

I'll work on a few tests when the weather gets warmer.
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Stuart Thompson




Location: Walton-on-the-Naze
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 12:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually, I think its been done with the circular shield.






But still a few different shields with an array of commonly used weapons would hopefully throw up some exciting results!
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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 2:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Mr. Thompson,

Please cite your source, preferably by providing a link to the original location, when you post images that aren't your own.

Sincerely,

Mark Millman
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Stuart Thompson




Location: Walton-on-the-Naze
Joined: 15 Feb 2010

Posts: 118

PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2010 3:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Millman wrote:
Dear Mr. Thompson,

Please cite your source, preferably by providing a link to the original location, when you post images that aren't your own.

Sincerely,

Mark Millman


Apologies, all above images found here. http://www.hurstwic.org/index.html
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