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Arunas Bugvilionis
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Location: Lithuania, Baltic tribes, Vilkatlakai
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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 9:26 am    Post subject: How long was viking spears?         Reply with quote

Greetings! Another question that don't let me sleep - how long was viking spears?Any historical evidences?
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Colt Reeves





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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 1:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

According to Hurstwic we don't really know.

See here, about halfway down: http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manu..._spear.htm


Edit: In my opinion, this isn't something that would be standardized anyway. Bob the rich Viking might have had a "regulation" spear of whatever length was thought correct, while Fred the old farmer might have had a spear made from the only decent piece of wood he could find, though it was on the short side.

We modern people like to standardize and categorize things, but back then it was more of "Hey, this'll work" kind of thing. All hand-made and a little different, even if the maker tried to make exact copies.

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Nathan Beal





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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 7:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Colt Reeves wrote:
According to Hurstwic we don't really know.

See here, about halfway down: http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manu..._spear.htm


Not sue that's an entirely fair summary of the article, 'we don't know for sure' is certainly a reasonable assertion though.

If we look at contemporary images from neighboring places this confirms that spears somewhere between the 1 - 1&1/2 times the height as the user seem to be common. Based on my experience with blunts, going much larger than 1&1/2 the height of the user does tend to lead to an unwieldy item in the shieldwall (the butt just gets in the way of the guy behind you), this fits nicely with the saga evidence hurstwic cites.

There have been a number of cases of archeological finds where sufficient evidence of the shaft survives to give a length estimate (and the rare find of a butt spike gives us extra evidence there), i'd say that supports the above well (in the absence of reasonable height estimations to compare against) but we need to consider that this evidence is again often from paces outside of Scandinavia and predates the 'viking' period (pagan anglo-saxon material is better represented in english-language archeological reports)

But given that equipment was not centrally produced and the individual was generally responsible for supplying his own gear i would be very surprised if there was any real standardization. Add to this that it was common for multiple spears to be carried (anglo-saxon law codes require 3, 2 presumably for throwing) you find a mix carried by even one individual and then additional sizes/styles used for hunting purposes.

N.

HTH
N.

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Arunas Bugvilionis
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Location: Lithuania, Baltic tribes, Vilkatlakai
Joined: 24 Jan 2011

Posts: 41

PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 11:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

OK,thanx guys for Your thoughts,they are similar to mine. Once I've read,that medieval Lithuanians by going to capture trips takes with themselves only a spearheads.In our lands 90 % of territory was wood.So they make spear shafts by the way.And this is really hard to fight with very long spear within the shield wall.
There is one interesting information in ancient Livonia's cronicle written in 13th C,that once crusaders took Lithuanian's camp by surprise,and Lithuanians could'nt fight because all those spearheads was knocked off the shafts.

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E. Storesund





Joined: 10 Jan 2011

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PostPosted: Wed 02 Feb, 2011 6:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Frankly I don't think Frank the old farmer would have much of a problem getting a long wooden shaft if he made any effort. I guess it all boils down to what is practical length and what is not. Whatever that might be.
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Arunas Bugvilionis
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Location: Lithuania, Baltic tribes, Vilkatlakai
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PostPosted: Wed 02 Feb, 2011 2:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's the same I'm talking about. Maybe is some drawings or something to look at?maybe we could compare with other period and nation?Any ideas?
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Feb, 2011 6:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It seems that when spears were put in graves they were cut to the lenght of it to fit. So no one knows how long they really were. Longer than a grave, as in longer than a man probably since most (if not all) spear finds lack an end cap or lizard killer as many other spears thoughout history have, both pre- and post viking age. But this is all pure speculation.

One could look at contemporary illustrations from the carolingian empire as well as the Bayeux tapestry (Norman vs Saxon) perhaps for some ideas. Most spears in the Bayeux are lancelike horsemen spears or smaller barbed throwing spears though. Try carolingian sources for proper footsoldier spears.

Fighting in a shield wall with long spear and shield would need special training to work, but it's by no means impossible to do. Good examples are Greek Phalanx from the Hellenic/Persian war, Alexanders pikemen using shiled and Pike no less, as well as certain types of roman infantry specialising in long spear and shield. All are well documented shield battle line tactics of their time, some like the Spartans and Alexanders pikemen were elite units with superior spear training, possibly beyond anything seen in viking age or later at least until the reneissance Swiss pike.
A much easier way to use shiled and spear together is to put spearmen without shields and two handed grip just behind or together with shieldmen. For a spear to be effective for this use it probably needs to be at least 2.5 meters long and 3+ meters would be more effective.

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Sam Gordon Campbell




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Feb, 2011 8:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well I'd suggest that, if you want one, that you make it with regards to your height.
A shorter spear maybe no longer than you are tall, or perhaps a spear of 'perfect length'?
Just some thoughts, as I'm sure archaeological and textual references may give a means average, but that's by no means normal Laughing Out Loud

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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
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PostPosted: Thu 03 Feb, 2011 7:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Johan Gemvik wrote:
A much easier way to use shiled and spear together is to put spearmen without shields and two handed grip just behind or together with shieldmen. For a spear to be effective for this use it probably needs to be at least 2.5 meters long and 3+ meters would be more effective.

Just keep in mind that this was much less common historically than it is in mock combat today. This suggests to me that it probably works better in mock combat than in life-or-death combat. For one thing, a lot of historical soldiers had little armour and faced lots of arrows, slingshot, and thrown weapons, so they may not have trusted the man in front to protect them from something arcing in from above. Hurstwic does mention one or two allusions to Icelanders slinging their shields and wielding spears two-handed in a small fight though.
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