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Juan Cocinas




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Apr, 2010 11:09 am    Post subject: Viking & Anglo-saxon spears in Archaeological Finds         Reply with quote

Hello all! Been perusing various historical weapon merchant sites and have noticed that many of the offered spears from this era/area come with buttcaps, buttspikes, or ferrules. Is there any historical/archaeological rationale for this, or is it just another case of historical inaccuracy in the marketplace? I can't seem to find any mention of "Viking" or AS spears found in grave or bog-sites w/buttcaps or spikes. If the passage of time destroys wooden spearshafts, then the location of the endcap relative to the spearhead could provide us with some useful data regarding spear length, yes? I am hopeful that there is something to this, as I prefer a balanced shaft (w/ferrule or spike) for single-handed usage, allowing grip further back which means a bit more distance in the thrust. Thanks, gentlemen.
"Resist your time- take a foothold outside it." Lord Acton
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Apr, 2010 12:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am interested in this as well. I have the impression that spears were sometimes thrown in that era. (Folklore claims include throwing two spears at once, catching a spear in flight and return throwing it, etc. ) I don't practice the technique, especially the part about catching and return throwing!, but believe it favors a forward weight balance as opposed to a balanced butt cap/ weight concept. (Look at some engineered modern javelins and I think you will see what I mean about reduced weight and taper at the butt end.)
Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Juan Cocinas




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Apr, 2010 12:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, very true. Viking era warriors are known to have utilized throwing spears, as well as heavier battle spears. Thrusting and cutting spears are where a counterweight can provide benefit. I also wonder, with their penchant for carving/decorating every spare inch of wood and leather on everything they owned/used, what kind of marvellous carvings their spearshafts must have sported. I also wonder if spears were ever pattern-welded or even fullered? I have seen some examples somewhere on the web of spearheads decorated with gold and silver wire hammered into the steel. Very beautiful. I wonder if any spearshafts from that era have survived the ravages of time. One supposes that a throwing spear wouldn't have the same level of style/embellishment, as the thinner hafts would probably have to be replaced more often than the sturdy shaft of a battle spear. I consider the spear to be the single most important technological leap in mankind's history, the second being the written language... Idea
"Resist your time- take a foothold outside it." Lord Acton
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Vilkas V.




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Apr, 2010 4:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As far as I know, there is no archeological evidence spear caps/butts uncovered in Viking sites.

In my opinion, it is doubtful that they would carve the shaft of a spear, stabbing or throwing, due to fears of weakening the shaft.
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Tom King




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Apr, 2010 4:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is definately proof of pattern welded spear blades (at least in the sagas)

Broken high quality sword blade= one nice new spear
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Juan Cocinas




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Apr, 2010 4:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom you make a very good point. Somehow I always think of broken swords becoming seaxes or knives, but a fullered & pattern-welded hewing spear would be a thing of lethal beauty.
"Resist your time- take a foothold outside it." Lord Acton
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Apr, 2010 4:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While counterweights seem a nice idea, they are, quite correctly, not found in the norse material.

The late viking age spear was typically a long, slender bladed affair, with a almost ridicolosly thin shaft; often less than 20 mm! (4/5 inch). Earlier designs had thicker shafts.
The spear heads where, also quite correctly, often very ornate. Typically they where decorated with innlays on the socket, though some of the wider ones where pattern welded, like the one attatched.

Over all, balancing spears seem to have little battlefield effect, as the total weight of the weapon goes up, and the effects on handling are marginal.



 Attachment: 79.98 KB
two spearheads from Bergen historical Museum [ Download ]

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Apr, 2010 4:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a nice pattern welded spear head from the Ian Pierce's "Swords of the Viking Age":

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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Apr, 2010 5:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice...
Where is it found? It doesn't look like any of the Pettersen types, at first glance... The broad bladed norwegian finds tend to have rather stout sockets.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Apr, 2010 5:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Marikkovaara mountain in Rovaniemi, Lappland. It's in National Museum of Finland in Helsinki. It's found with a type XI sword so both are probably 11th or 12th century.
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Juan Cocinas




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Apr, 2010 5:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanx for posting those pattern-welded spear pics gentlemen. Very impressive, one can only imagine how incredible they looked in their prime. I still can't shake the image of a sturdy spearshaft just covered in intricate carvings fitted to one of these amazing spearheads. I still have this gut feeling that some sort of ferrule would at the least serve as protection from moisture, rocks, etc.(like on a walking stick). Sigh, Elling you're probably right about the weight consideration. Lighter=Faster. Now I wonder if a pic of a fullered spearhead reforged from a broken sword is floating around somewhere in cyberspace...
"Resist your time- take a foothold outside it." Lord Acton
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R Lister




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Apr, 2010 11:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are lots of spears found in A/S graves. Lots in pairs or threes, i'm guessing as javlins or similar. The spear heads are found arround the head of the corpse. So they are around 5-6 feel long.

Throwing blunts at sheald walls, shows that the spears fly well, and are a great distraction. I've not got my mits on any propper sharp replicas from the graves that i'm looking at to try throwing them.

Spears I think were disposable, the shafts would break, you'd pick up one that had been thrown at you, etc etc.

Pattern welded blades on spears are very pretty. The ones i've seen, I don't think could have been made from broken swords, mainly due to the way the pattern welding fitted well round the socket and it looks right. And not cobbled.

However I may well be wrong.

In graves in southampton, and petersfinger there are small spear heads and longer ones. the longer ones found by them selves and shorter ones in groups. So, I feel implying that the larger blades were on longer hafts, and the smaller ones on shorter hafts.


Hope this helps


Rich
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Wed 28 Apr, 2010 2:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom King wrote:
There is definately proof of pattern welded spear blades (at least in the sagas)

Broken high quality sword blade= one nice new spear


Gisla Saga: "Now the broken Grasida was taken, and Thorgrim made a spear from it, and it was ready by the evening. There were patterns on it."

Sturlunga Saga, about 270 years later: " Sturla defended himself with the spear called Grasida nimbly and well; it was a great patterned-spear, old and apt to bend."

(As quoted in H. R. Ellis Davidson, The sword in Anglo-Saxon England, apart from translating "malaspjotr" = "patterned spear".)

Whether or not the latter Grasida (="grey sides") is the same as the former, who can say for sure, but it is possible.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 28 Apr, 2010 6:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

R Lister wrote:

Spears I think were disposable, the shafts would break, you'd pick up one that had been thrown at you, etc etc.



A throwing spear/javelin would certainly be more disposable than a large fighting spear but could be recovered if one won the fight or battle and could also be thrown back and forth by each side a few times. ( Thus the logic of the Roman pilum having a bendy metal shanks making this less likely to be thrown back )

The spear head being the valuable part one could or would recover the heads and have them remounted if the shaft was broken or even if just compromised for future use by a deep nick or cut.

A very good spear of high cost and quality would be more like a sword in value and not considered disposable but one would still throw it: If heavy it would only be throw at very close distances and maybe quickly recovered if it was safe to do so.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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R D Moore




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PostPosted: Wed 28 Apr, 2010 7:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Good question. But the lack of any butt caps being found in grave sites speaks strongly against them being used. Perhaps there were iron end plates similar to the cap on the attached seax tacked into place to prevent splintering that may have been thin enough to rust away.


 Attachment: 83.78 KB
PJ Seax scabbard II.jpg


"No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation" ...Gen. Douglas Macarthur
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Wed 28 Apr, 2010 8:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In my experience slogging various polearms around, the need for a buttplate is pretty much a theoretical consern. The wear is slight, and of absolutely no consequence for the use of the weapon.

Though the most ornate speatheads where probably used for showing off, almost all viking age spears are well made, and have fully closed sockets, unlike some medevial spears that are clearly "munitions grade".
Well made weapons where obviously a point of pride in the dark ages.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Juan Cocinas




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PostPosted: Wed 28 Apr, 2010 9:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you Mr. Moore. Your insight regarding the likelihood of a thin iron plate rusting away over the centuries shall provide just the shred of historical likelihood that I require to affix a thin iron ferrule to a spearbutt. Then I'll be able to use a hewing spear as a handy walking stick. Not sure that's entirely legal here in SF Laughing Out Loud On a serious note, thanks to all for the information, very interesting stuff. The combined level of knowledge at this site never ceases to amaze me.
"Resist your time- take a foothold outside it." Lord Acton
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Wed 28 Apr, 2010 10:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If I was to build a funcional sharp viking spear for test thrusting from a modern made head, what do you guys think of the current market for that?
The Hanwei heads look nice and have a decent price but I don't know if they're even hardened. Some other brands seem good too, but none look quite like the one in the pic above. Any sugestions where to look?
Not looking to spend a fortune on custom ordering one just now, sometime later I'd like to though. This one's for test-stabbing maille with as authentic a spear as possible without running away with the cost since it may become damaged.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Juan Cocinas




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PostPosted: Wed 28 Apr, 2010 10:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, Johan, the first one that comes to mind is the Arms & Armor Viking Spear, but those range from 170-200$us. It just looks more like the real thing than most. Viking-shield.com has a range of fairly inexpensive spearheads, including some of the hanwei's, but I can't speak to their historical accuracy. Windlass has a hewing spear they say is Hank Reinhardt-designed, which is very inexpensive, but it somehow doesn't look right where the socket meets the blade. That might just be the photo. BTW I have a lot of respect for Mr. Reinhardt. Johan, how do you plan to work your testing? Full byrnie/hauberk or small sheets of mail? Alternating Solid/Riveted rows. Pell-mounted? Textile/Gambeson Backed?
"Resist your time- take a foothold outside it." Lord Acton
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R D Moore




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PostPosted: Wed 28 Apr, 2010 2:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You're welcome Juan. I probably should have qualified my thoughts as hypothetical rather than likely. And if I was going to adhere to historical acuracy I wouldn't use anything on the butt. That certainly doesn't mean they were'nt used, just that their use has not been found, and to quote Jared Smith's signature quote "abscence of evidence is not neccessarily evidence of abscence."
"No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation" ...Gen. Douglas Macarthur
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