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Nick Bourne




Location: London, United Kingdom
Joined: 09 Nov 2008

Posts: 44

PostPosted: Wed 27 Oct, 2010 11:22 am    Post subject: The Norwegian langseax         Reply with quote

Greetings people of the forum!
I'm looking for information on the Norwegian langseax.
As far as I can gather they are long single edged slashing weapons used in Scandinavia around the time of the Viking Age but thats it, can anyone give me some specifics? e.g. time period, variants, prevalence, etc.?
Do these weapons have a specific role, e.g. boarding weapons (as has been suggested to me) or just an alternative to a sword?
Also any pictures of reproductions or originals would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for your time,
Nick
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Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Oct, 2010 8:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Excatly what is meant with use of the word seax is a bit unclear (in modern scandinavian it means scissors...) but single edged swords where quite common in Norway in the centuries before and the early viking age. the become rarer towards the end of the period, but there finds of single edged swords all the way up to the late 10th century.

If these are the weapons described as longseaxes, or they where simply called swords is hard to tell. Large fighting knifes are not very common in the norwegian viking age material, though.

single edged swords varied hugely in dimensions; the longest found has a more than 90 cm (3ft) long blade... The single edge design also allows for light blades, but again the variation is huge, from light, fast blades to what are for all practical purposes a falchion.

"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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Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
Joined: 10 Feb 2005
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Oct, 2010 11:04 pm    Post subject: Re: The Norwegian langseax         Reply with quote

Nick Bourne wrote:

I'm looking for information on the Norwegian langseax.
As far as I can gather they are long single edged slashing weapons used in Scandinavia around the time of the Viking Age but thats it, can anyone give me some specifics?


A fairly plain, long, single edged sword similar to the Tude River find (Swords of the Viking Age # C24554 on page 48) would be a good choice in my opinion. The Albion Beserker model is somewhat similar.

The old migration, generically "saxon", style seax, like the Beagnoth or Thames River seax, seems to have still been around close to the beginning of this time period. But it should not be thought of as unique to, or limited to the Danish/ Viking era.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Kirk Lee Spencer




Location: Texas
Joined: 24 Oct 2003

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PostPosted: Sat 06 Nov, 2010 11:52 am    Post subject: Re: The Norwegian langseax         Reply with quote

Nick Bourne wrote:
....Also any pictures of reproductions or originals would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for your time,
Nick


Hey Nick...

I found this website to be a real treasure for understanding Norwegian seaxes (and swords).

http://www.unimus.no/arkeologi/#/listView?div...y=artifact

If you go to google and hit the more button and go to translate, a translation box will open up. Select Norwegian to English. Then cut and paste the text from the website in the box and you can read about these finds.

p.s. go to the bottom of the page and hit the blue arrow to see the other pages should be 25 in all with many examples of Norweigian langseaxes... almost all with the characteristic straight spine.

Hope this helps...

ks

Two swords
Lit in Eden’s flame
One of iron and one of ink
To place within a bloody hand
One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
Two eternities
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R D Moore




Location: Portland Oregon
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PostPosted: Sat 06 Nov, 2010 6:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here are some more links you'll want to study:
http://forums.dfoggknives.com/index.php?showt...x&st=0
http://forums.dfoggknives.com/index.php?showtopic=15373&st=62
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/download.php?id=26738
http://web.archive.org/web/20070609181921/htt...ersson.pdf

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




Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Joined: 10 Nov 2009

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Posts: 793

PostPosted: Sun 07 Nov, 2010 7:42 am    Post subject: Re: The Norwegian langseax         Reply with quote

Nick Bourne wrote:
Greetings people of the forum!
I'm looking for information on the Norwegian langseax.
As far as I can gather they are long single edged slashing weapons used in Scandinavia around the time of the Viking Age but thats it, can anyone give me some specifics? e.g. time period, variants, prevalence, etc.?
Do these weapons have a specific role, e.g. boarding weapons (as has been suggested to me) or just an alternative to a sword?
Also any pictures of reproductions or originals would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for your time,
Nick


As with the later era Messer, I expect that knife makers simply made sword sized knives when there was a need for them but stiff and possibly non-tapered or even reverse tapered to make a tip heavy cutter, while swordsmiths when they were available and the customer could afford it made real swords with a both tapred and distally tapered flexible blande with a longer reach for the same weight and balance.
The Norwegian finds are a bit unique in that they're usually single edged and what we recognize as real swords with a distall taper and were likely flexible, backswords if you will like a straight saber with a machetelike tip, while the about 200 finds in Sweden as well as many in england and cental europe are brokenback or dagger pointed seaxes of various size and weight from small knives up to fairly large weapon size with heavy sword weight.

As far as I've been able to gather, seax means cutting edge, as in knife. Scramaserax seems to mean Wounding seax, as in a weapon specifically meant for wounding and thus a tool of war, where the smaller ones regardless of point type are just seaxes. Langseax is most likely another name for the longer scramaseax. "Lång", as in "long" are the same word in modern Swedish and english as "Lang". It may even be a purely modern term derived from several steps of translations of various sagas, from often modern swedish or german to english.

Can we separate the Norwegian backswords from the rest of the seaxes since they're more proper swords than big knives?
If so, the Norweigan swords are typical backswords, with the same pros and cons as the more modern saber. No back edge to cut you on your own blade if fighting wihtout armour, you can do heavy emergency blocking close to the body, and the blade probably becomes tougher to break. Easier to grab the back of your own blade also for techniques similar to japanese style two handed blocks, binds and deflections. I'm sure this would appeal to some swordsmen.

Regarding the use of the heavy and thick short sword lenght scramaseaxes that were the most common, finds vary between 45 to 76 cm in length. Popular historic fictional writer Bernard Cornwell describes their use as heavy cutters for close combat in confined spaces used in castle gates, tunnels and other confined spaces and as backup swords if the main sword broke.
And he may well be on to something there. In a press where you have limited space to weild a full sized sword, you could have better use for a sturdy but fairly short scramaseax the same way as the Gladius used by the Romans in earlier times.
Having test cut a reconstruction of the Beagnoth Seax, with a blade weight of 987 grams and a length of 72.1 cm, complete weight being around 1100 grams with a handle (same weight as a typical Gaddhjalt), it has a very powerful cut and thrust despite its' short lenght and a very similar feel to my large Khukri.

If I was a viking age warrior preparing for a bridge battle, I'd opt for either a spear or axe if I was at the back and a heavy seax and a large shield if I was in the front expecting to get driven into the enemy line and keep being pushed from the back by my own side and stuck in the middle of it with little room to move. Then if it turned into a rout or broken up battle at one of the ends of the bridge one would draw the real sword. Seems quite practical, but if that was really how it was done we'll never know for sure.

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