Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Viking alternative armours. Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Nathan Quarantillo




Location: Eastern Panhandle WV, USA
Joined: 14 Aug 2009

Posts: 279

PostPosted: Sun 27 Jun, 2010 7:06 pm    Post subject: Viking alternative armours.         Reply with quote

Hello all.
I was wondering about some armours other than maille on Norse warriors.
it seems that in every large reenactment picture I see, there is always about 2-5 people running around with either lamellar (someone correct my spelling, I know i butchered that Laughing Out Loud ) or scale either over the maille or as a standalone armour.
I was wondering if there is any primary or secondary sources mentioning any type of armour as such.
To me, it wouldn't sound too far fetched that a successful viking (Not all norse were vikings, in their language, viking means raider) would pick one up on his travels (they made it pretty far out there, into the Mediterranean and north Africa, Constantinople many times). They went to areas where scale and lammallar would be quite common.
Also, the Rus, a originally norse people, settled in RUSsia (not too much of a strech there) where lammellar and scale would be common.
Also, many Norsemen served the Byzantines as mercenaries, even forming the Varangian guard. So there would have been many opportunities for a Norseman to pick up a set of scale or lammellar.
But my question is are there any sources that either mention it or depict it?





all help is appreciated, thanks Happy

"Id rather be historically accurate than politically correct"
View user's profile Send private message
Andy Ternay




Location: Dallas
Joined: 21 Feb 2009
Reading list: 10 books

Posts: 51

PostPosted: Sun 27 Jun, 2010 8:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is a good thread from a couple of years ago discussing this: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=12510

The upshot is that some graves in Birka were found to contain a few plates from lammellar armor and there is a great deal of debate about the significance of those plates. But as far as I know, that is the only evidence we have that Vikings had or used lamellar armor.

I'm not sure why lamellar has such popularity among re-enactors. Other than the fact that females always pass up the guys in maille for the lamellar clad warriors. Wink
View user's profile Send private message
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,131

PostPosted: Sun 27 Jun, 2010 10:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Birka lamellar has been demonstrated to have been Central Asian or Siberian in origin. Since it was found in a burnt out fortress and not a grave, it is not possible to tell who may have worn it. There is no other evidence of lamellar in Scandinavia during the Viking period. Wishful thinking doesn't change this. Based on the available evidence a "viking" wore mail or nothing but a helmet.
View user's profile Send private message
Nick Bourne




Location: London, United Kingdom
Joined: 09 Nov 2008

Posts: 44

PostPosted: Mon 28 Jun, 2010 3:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So how about those Northmen serving in the Varangian guard, would they be given Byzantine lamellar? If so what form and shape would this armour take (simple torso coverage or more?), and what materials would it be made of?
View user's profile Send private message
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,131

PostPosted: Mon 28 Jun, 2010 3:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is no evidence for a Scandinavian wearing lamellar armour in a Scandinavian context during the Viking period. It would be dishonest to examine Byzantine military equipment and extrapolate that to a Scandinavian context.
View user's profile Send private message
Nick Bourne




Location: London, United Kingdom
Joined: 09 Nov 2008

Posts: 44

PostPosted: Mon 28 Jun, 2010 3:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not trying to say "well norseman had lamellar in Byzantine so it must have been around the whole of the viking world", I'm essentially asking what the Varangians as a fighting unit would have had access to in terms of armour
View user's profile Send private message
Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
Joined: 10 Feb 2005
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 3
Posts: 1,532

PostPosted: Mon 28 Jun, 2010 5:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One could portray a "truly poor" warrior, and just go with no armour. There is no way to prove percentages of who had it, and how much of it was recycled or inherited. But, there are a lot more shields, spears, and sword fragments than armour fragments to contemplate in historical finds.
Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
View user's profile Send private message
Nathan Beal





Joined: 02 Apr 2006

Posts: 68

PostPosted: Mon 28 Jun, 2010 8:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nick Bourne wrote:
So how about those Northmen serving in the Varangian guard, would they be given Byzantine lamellar? If so what form and shape would this armour take (simple torso coverage or more?), and what materials would it be made of?


As much as I normally wouldn't recommend an Osprey book, Byzantine Infantryman: Eastern Roman Empire c.900-1204 by T Dawson is excellent for this stuff. Website by the same author has some details on his reconstructions in steel http://www.levantia.com.au/military/armour.html

Dan Howard wrote:
There is no evidence for a Scandinavian wearing lamellar armour in a Scandinavian context during the Viking period. It would be dishonest to examine Byzantine military equipment and extrapolate that to a Scandinavian context.


Couldn't agree more with you Dan, especially when you take into account the rapid exit made from Byzantium by Harald Hardrada and his companions. The account of his exploits talk about him sending weapons home but not armour. Same in the flight from Byzantium (a fairly rushed affair to say the least).

HTH
N.

Beware of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.
View user's profile Send private message
Chuck Russell




Location: WV
Joined: 17 Aug 2004
Reading list: 46 books

Posts: 936

PostPosted: Tue 29 Jun, 2010 1:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

and isn't he the same guy that got caught in England and his men didn't have time to put on their mail shirts when Harold's men came to fight at Stamford Bridge
View user's profile Send private message Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
Philip C. Ryan




Location: Omaha, NE
Joined: 04 Nov 2005
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 83

PostPosted: Tue 29 Jun, 2010 7:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, Chuck, that is about how the story goes, and yes, it is the same Haarald. However, I am not sure if it says "armour", or specifically "maille".... I think it depends on the version. Some versions also say that the armour was left behind with the ships so the warriors could make better time unencumbered by the weight.
Skjaldborg Viking Age Living History and Martial Combat
View user's profile Send private message
Nathan Quarantillo




Location: Eastern Panhandle WV, USA
Joined: 14 Aug 2009

Posts: 279

PostPosted: Tue 29 Jun, 2010 9:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I can't comment on Byzantine armour, or about it getting tossed around to the rest of the Norse world (that's why I posted the question)
But I can say that a viking (or any Norse) without maille would not be "truly poor". In the viking era, Maille was only worn by the nobility and chieftains, royalty, and such. Maille was the stuff of only the VERY upper class. Iron was quite expensive in the viking era, and only the nobility would have their paws on it. One could still be a wealthy man and still not be able to afford maille. A maille shirt say, weighs 25 pounds. This amount of iron (especially the good quality stuff to be drawn into a wire) would be a fortune in the viking era.
The average Norseman would only have a shield and a spear (or axe) as his wargear.The "truly poor" either wouldn't bother to show up to fight, or only have a simple farm or wood axe. A wealthier Norseman would have a spear and axe and shield, or a sax to go along with it. A even more wealthy man would have a sword in addition to this, as these items also used up much iron, and required special workmanship. A sword was worth 12 milk cows. Possessing one cow could often mean the difference between starving in the winter or not, so this was an expensive item indeed. Even richer men, (think very upper middle class, that stage before you start getting into nobility) would posses a helmet along with the aforementioned items.
So one could still be VERY well off without needing maille.
i just like armour. ALOT. So of course I want a set of rings, as uncommon as they would be in the era. Wink

"Id rather be historically accurate than politically correct"
View user's profile Send private message
Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,576

PostPosted: Tue 29 Jun, 2010 10:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The norse word for armour is "Brynje". Most of the time, this means mail. Lammellar is known as Spangbrynje. Spang means small plate, and is also used in Spanghelm (a helmet made from several pieces).

There are, to my knowledge, no finds of byzantine weapons in scandinavia, which would indicate that there where no significant arms export from that direction. Slavic style spearheads and sword hilts do show up, however. There is also a lot of import from the frankish areas around the Rhine.

As Nathan points out, the "average" dark age warrior would probably not wear armour at all. Swords, of a simple model, where not THAT expensive, though. Quite a lot of the swords found where rather simple types, well within the capablitities of a local smith. Scandinavia has long had a tradition of iron smelting from bog ore, so the availability of metal would have been greater than in some other regions of Europe.

When it comes to alternative armours, the most probable, though also undocumented, would be cloth armour, in the same style as early medevial gambesons. However, this would also be guesswork, so mail is still the only safe bet.

Also, quite a few reenactors have lots of (bought) armour and a inferior soft kit. As such decent clothing should be a first. Conveniently enough, a western viking could wear a knee length tunic and hose that remain fashionable until the 13th c, with some adjustments in accessories.

"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
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger
Mikael Ranelius




Location: Sweden
Joined: 06 Mar 2007

Posts: 252

PostPosted: Tue 29 Jun, 2010 10:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:

Also, quite a few reenactors have lots of (bought) armour and a inferior soft kit. As such decent clothing should be a first. Conveniently enough, a western viking could wear a knee length tunic and hose that remain fashionable until the 13th c, with some adjustments in accessories.


I'm with you in regards to the need for a decent civilian outfit, but is there really any evidence to support the use of hosen (as in stockings or chausses) in Viking-age Scandinavia?
View user's profile Send private message
Nathan Quarantillo




Location: Eastern Panhandle WV, USA
Joined: 14 Aug 2009

Posts: 279

PostPosted: Tue 29 Jun, 2010 11:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is some truth in Elling's statement, as swords DID become cheaper as the age went on. But the weapon still wasn't available to Norsemen of average means, and especially not the "truly poor".
But as I remember, there are few mentions of sword makers in Scandinavia and Norway, the sagas stating that most swords were of Frankish make. But then again, that might have changed with time also....

But i do have to wonder, how many times in spangebyrynje mentioned? is it a one time thing, or is it mentioned enough to give it some feasibility as used (even if uncommonly used) armour?
also, if my memory serves me well, the word Byrnje meant maille, and not just armour. But that IS open to interpretation.
I guess that it makes sense either way.... "small plate ARMOUR" and "small plate MAILLE" (excluding the D&D atrocity of calling everything maille, one has to admit that scale DOES in a way resemble maille made out of little plates)
Also, what constuction would this have? straight up lammellar (leather or metal?) or more in the style of real scale armour?
and don't worry, as always, the soft kit is most important. after all, even wealthy Norsemen fought in their clothes, but not even kings slept in their maille!
And even people that DID poses maille the sagas mention fighting without it at times.

"Id rather be historically accurate than politically correct"
View user's profile Send private message
Mikael Ranelius




Location: Sweden
Joined: 06 Mar 2007

Posts: 252

PostPosted: Tue 29 Jun, 2010 2:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Quarantillo wrote:
There is some truth in Elling's statement, as swords DID become cheaper as the age went on. But the weapon still wasn't available to Norsemen of average means, and especially not the "truly poor".
But as I remember, there are few mentions of sword makers in Scandinavia and Norway, the sagas stating that most swords were of Frankish make. But then again, that might have changed with time also....

But i do have to wonder, how many times in spangebyrynje mentioned? is it a one time thing, or is it mentioned enough to give it some feasibility as used (even if uncommonly used) armour?
also, if my memory serves me well, the word Byrnje meant maille, and not just armour. But that IS open to interpretation.
I guess that it makes sense either way.... "small plate ARMOUR" and "small plate MAILLE" (excluding the D&D atrocity of calling everything maille, one has to admit that scale DOES in a way resemble maille made out of little plates)
Also, what constuction would this have? straight up lammellar (leather or metal?) or more in the style of real scale armour?
and don't worry, as always, the soft kit is most important. after all, even wealthy Norsemen fought in their clothes, but not even kings slept in their maille!
And even people that DID poses maille the sagas mention fighting without it at times.


Brynje/Brynja/Byrne/Brünne etc is thought to be derrived from Old Gaelic Bruinne, meaning "Breast/Chest [protection]".

Here are images of some of the lamellar found at the so called Garrison at Birka:

http://mis.historiska.se/mis/sok/fid.asp?fid=449491&g=1

http://mis.historiska.se/mis/sok/fid.asp?fid=449536&g=1

http://mis.historiska.se/mis/sok/fid.asp?fid=449497&g=1

http://mis.historiska.se/mis/sok/fid.asp?fid=371946&g=1

As already pointed out, the lamellar above are of Central Asian origin and apparently has its closest resemblance in lamellar used as far east as Tibet (!). Maybe it found its way to Birka from the Volga Bulgars or even further east via Rus trade routes.

It has been suggested that at least some of the suits of lamellar found at Visby (dated to 1361) originally was made in the 10th or 11th century. Nevertheless I highly doubt that lamellar are very represenative of Viking-age warriors within a Scandinavian context. Any form of body armour was probably held as a somewhat superfluous luxury item since the round shield constituted a more than adequate protection for warriors fighting in a shield wall.
View user's profile Send private message
Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,576

PostPosted: Tue 29 Jun, 2010 3:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The "Spangbrynje" term turns up in the medevial contemporary sagas. The uses I remember on top of my head are from King Sverres saga, from the end of the 12th century: One describes how Erling Skakke, father of king Magnus Erlingson, wore a "spangbrynje" which he did not close in the front, resulting in his death from a spear thrust in the belly.
The other describes a clash between two men during a naval engagement, where one of them is described as "beeing armed in Vendish (baltic) equipment, with Spangbrynje and kettlehatt."

The first reference sugests a full lamellar coat, as seen on russian medevial noblemen, the second someone who has bought a complete kit from a eastern merchant. By that time, norway had been engulfed in civil wars for decades, so bringing armour there in hope of selling would make sense.

When it comes to hose, both the franks and saxons where using them. Unlike them, we don't have contemporary texts or detailed illustrations. However, the silouette of for instance the Ledberg stone matches the "knee lenght tunic and hose" look, so do some of the early depictions of christ in norse art, like the Jelling stone.
Of course, one might intrepent this as hose, tight pants, loose pants with legwraps, and so on.

Ledberg, sweedish ca 1000


Charlemagne, in frankish dress, ca 870


Cćdemon manuscript, Anglo saxon, 960-1000

"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
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,131

PostPosted: Tue 29 Jun, 2010 3:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
The norse word for armour is "Brynje". Most of the time, this means mail. Lammellar is known as Spangbrynje.

We don't know that. All we can be fairly certain of is that it is different to a brynje. It might be scale, lamellar, or even a rudimentary brigandine/coat of plates.

It might be the same armour that Cambrensis said was worn at the attack on Dublin castle in 1171.
"laminis ferreis arte consutis" Which could be scale, lamellar, or a rudimentary brigandine/coat of plates. Cool
View user's profile Send private message
Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,576

PostPosted: Tue 29 Jun, 2010 7:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, we know that it is a baltic thing, and since lamellar would be the most common armour made from small plates in the high medevial baltic, it would be natural to asume that is what is being described.

Of course, if Erling Skakke fell thorugh a timewarp, and popped up at a medevial event, I would still tell him that he wasn't representative, and ask him to put on mail instead... :P

"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
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Viking alternative armours.
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum