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Phil U




Location: Seattle
Joined: 07 Nov 2010

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PostPosted: Wed 02 Nov, 2011 8:20 am    Post subject: Lower class Viking age kit         Reply with quote

First post after lurking a bit so first let me say: wow! I admire the knowledge here.

I searched around a bit but had little luck in finding what people think would be carried as war gear by your typical Viking age viking. My lay impression is that most of what we see commercially for reenactment or for hobbyists, or what we see in museum from digs and such, would likely be the sort of stuff carried and worn by someone in a leadership role.
I'm wondering what the guy hauling on the oar had at his disposal. Chainmail? Sword? Shield? Axe? Spear?

Informed answers or plain speculation both welcome!
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William Swiger




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Nov, 2011 8:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From what I gather, the regular warrior for the most part used axe and/or spear. Shields were pretty standard.
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Nov, 2011 9:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Phil, welcome to the forum.

If you haven't seen this already then you will find a lot of useful info at www.hurstwic.com.

If you'r looking to portray an "average" warrior of the viking age, then apart the clothing and camp gear, which you will find in the above site, you will looking for a spear and shield. These are the two fundamental pieces of war gear, later when you can afford it you could add a langseax or a battle axe (different from a wood axe, which most men of this age would carry as part of their camp gear). Swords, helmets, and armour, could only be afforded by the wealthy, so hold off on buying these untill you want to portray someone with a little more cash. Hope this was helpful.

Éirinn go Brách
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Phil U




Location: Seattle
Joined: 07 Nov 2010

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PostPosted: Wed 02 Nov, 2011 10:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Excellent link, thank you! No I had not seen that. Too bad I'm on the other side of the continent from the Hurstwic people......I havent seen a northwest or pacific northwest version of that sort of fun.

Axe-spear-shield-helmet looks like pretty standard gear then. There's something appealing about building a kit that reflects what the oarsman would have, rather than Jarl Snorri whats-his-name. Maybe that's my own humble ancestral origins coming through. I'll keep this attitude until I manage to assemble funds for a Jake Powning sword Big Grin
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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
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PostPosted: Wed 02 Nov, 2011 3:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Phil U wrote:
Axe-spear-shield-helmet looks like pretty standard gear then.


I'd think again about the helmet. It was a fairly expensive piece of kit back then...

I *think* the average poor Viking would have a sax before a helmet. He would definitely have a shorter knife, even before the having an axe.

Anyway it's good to see people interested in the lower end of things. It's difficult enough to get a really good and detailed poor-man's kit....
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William R. Short




Location: New England
Joined: 14 May 2007

Posts: 24

PostPosted: Wed 02 Nov, 2011 3:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the reference and the kind comments.
Phil U wrote:
Too bad I'm on the other side of the continent from the Hurstwic people......I havent seen a northwest or pacific northwest version of that sort of fun.

Shortly, anyone will be able to join in the fun and use our training approach. We at Hurstwic are in the process of developing an affiliate program so our drills, exercises, and games can be used most anywhere. Links to more information about our approach to training is here:
http://www.hurstwic.org/viking/
Regular updates are on Facebook, and when the program is ready, we'll be sure to announce it here as well.

Best regards,
William Short
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Jim Adelsen
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Location: WI
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PostPosted: Wed 02 Nov, 2011 4:08 pm    Post subject: Re: Lower class Viking age kit         Reply with quote

I pretty much agree with everything said so far. A shield, spear, and knife would be where to start. Regardless of your class the spear was probably the most used weapon. Then maybe an axe. Helms seem popular in the sagas, but not in digs.

Phil U wrote:
First post after lurking a bit so first let me say: wow! I admire the knowledge here.

I searched around a bit but had little luck in finding what people think would be carried as war gear by your typical Viking age viking. My lay impression is that most of what we see commercially for reenactment or for hobbyists, or what we see in museum from digs and such, would likely be the sort of stuff carried and worn by someone in a leadership role.
I'm wondering what the guy hauling on the oar had at his disposal. Chainmail? Sword? Shield? Axe? Spear?

Informed answers or plain speculation both welcome!

www.viking-shield.com
www.thevikingmuseum.com
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Phil U




Location: Seattle
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PostPosted: Wed 02 Nov, 2011 4:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Good points, thank you all.
Hustwic site emphasized the rarity of metal..... Sven the Oarsman wouldnt be all decked out like King Olaf.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Wed 02 Nov, 2011 6:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Don't forget the leather armour if playing a viking Big Grin (joking here)
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Eric W. Norenberg





Joined: 18 Jul 2008

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PostPosted: Wed 02 Nov, 2011 9:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Phil U wrote:
... Too bad I'm on the other side of the continent from the Hurstwic people......I havent seen a northwest or pacific northwest version of that sort of fun...


I don't know how active these folks are, but...
http://www.glamfolk.com/gf/2010/09/poulsbo-viking-fest/

And do make sure you get those horns mounted properly to your leather helmet!

Edited: forgot about our local Vikings of North America chapter (not actually a motorcycle club):
http://mikillvidrland.club.officelive.com/default.aspx

Cheers!
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Matthew Bunker




Location: Somerset UK
Joined: 02 Apr 2009

Posts: 483

PostPosted: Thu 03 Nov, 2011 5:25 am    Post subject: Re: Lower class Viking age kit         Reply with quote

Phil U wrote:
what people think would be carried as war gear by your typical Viking age viking. My lay impression is that most of what we see commercially for reenactment or for hobbyists, or what we see in museum from digs and such, would likely be the sort of stuff carried and worn by someone in a leadership role.


Firstly, are you talking about an average man living in early medieval Scandinavia (ie a farmer) or someone who goes off raiding as part of an armed band or army?

Being part of a ships crew means you're a picked man and you're going to be as well equipped as possible within the means of the man that owns the ship.

Regardless of which you choose, 10th/11th century Scandinavia law is quite clear on the subject of weapon ownership:-

Quote:
Whenever a weapon-thing is to be held...all free men of major age shall attend that Thing. Now the men shall display their weapons as the law demands, A man shall have a broadaxe or sword, a spear and a shield which at the worst must have three small plates of iron laid across it and shall have the hand grip fastened with iron nails. Each of these three folk weapons carries a fine of three oras if wanting.


There's another passage that says that every rowing bench on a ship would be equipped with one bow and two dozen arrows.

"If a Greek can do it, two Englishman certainly can !"
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Phil U




Location: Seattle
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PostPosted: Thu 03 Nov, 2011 5:55 am    Post subject: Re: Lower class Viking age kit         Reply with quote

Matthew Bunker wrote:

Firstly, are you talking about an average man living in early medieval Scandinavia (ie a farmer) or someone who goes off raiding as part of an armed band or army?

Being part of a ships crew means you're a picked man and you're going to be as well equipped as possible within the means of the man that owns the ship.
.


I think I was operating under the assumption that the ships crew WAS basically comprised of farmers with a few pieces of gear, but as you note, the ship owner would probably take more care in crewing his expedition. That's an intrigueing bit of law you posted.
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Ken Speed





Joined: 09 Oct 2006

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PostPosted: Thu 03 Nov, 2011 10:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think Matthew's points are valid but I think things probably changed over time. For English language people the Viking age started with the raid on Lindisfarne in 793 and I suspect that raid and earlier ones were less structured than later actions. I would also imagine Vikings would sometimes bring along somebody to fill up a crew of replace a casualty between battles and those replacements might be younger sons or cousins with less experience and equipment than some others.
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Philip C. Ryan




Location: Omaha, NE
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PostPosted: Thu 03 Nov, 2011 10:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew, where did that quote come from? I am interested in reading more about it.
Skjaldborg Viking Age Living History and Martial Combat
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Nov, 2011 10:12 am    Post subject: Re: Lower class Viking age kit         Reply with quote

Phil U wrote:
Matthew Bunker wrote:

Firstly, are you talking about an average man living in early medieval Scandinavia (ie a farmer) or someone who goes off raiding as part of an armed band or army?

Being part of a ships crew means you're a picked man and you're going to be as well equipped as possible within the means of the man that owns the ship.
.


I think I was operating under the assumption that the ships crew WAS basically comprised of farmers with a few pieces of gear, but as you note, the ship owner would probably take more care in crewing his expedition. That's an intrigueing bit of law you posted.


I would also assume that successful raiders would have accumulated enough wealth to buy better equipment or even use some captured arms and armour to either use themselves or sell ?

Maybe a new crew with a new ship going on their first expedition might have many on board with the minimal kit.

Quality is also and issue as well as the " bling " factor: A spear can be functional and cheap and not heat treated or it can be a pattern welded spear head of great price and quality.

A) Basic spear, really cheap, not very high quality and sort of expendable until something better is acquired.

B) High quality spear but plain(er).

C) High quality spear decorated and also a prestige item.

One could say the same for the seax, axe, shield and helm.

I would think that the standards for sword would tend to be higher even for the poorer quality ones because a functional sword does need to be reasonably good to be worth using. ( Just conjecture ).

And maille would be something for the rich only I think ? But maybe by definition the possessor of a maille shirt due to battle and plunder might be by definition considered " rich " just because of possession of a maille shirt. Wink i.e. rich in property if not in income maybe. Also if a maille shirt was acquired due to a raid or battle the odds are good that other goods would also have been " liberated ". Wink Laughing Out Loud

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Matthew Bunker




Location: Somerset UK
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PostPosted: Thu 03 Nov, 2011 10:28 am    Post subject: Re: Lower class Viking age kit         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
A spear can be functional and cheap and not heat treated or it can be a pattern welded spear head of great price and quality.



And a sword can be a poorly made thing that bends when used and has to be straightened out under your foot or it can be a pattern welded beauty that shows it's serpent when you breathe on it. Both are mentioned in the sagas.

If you can make a scythe, or any other agricultural implement, you can make a bad sword.

The quote is from the earliest Gulathing laws.

"If a Greek can do it, two Englishman certainly can !"
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Phil U




Location: Seattle
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PostPosted: Thu 03 Nov, 2011 10:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Warning: speculation ahead.

Seems to stand to reason that your typical knarr oar-puller / farmer would be armed with an axe or spear,
not a sword. Those weapons are cheaper, and it's easier to craft one of tolerable functionality. The discussion
here reminds of a remark on the above-mentioned viking info site to the effect that a small fraction of recovered
weapons from the viking age are swords.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Nov, 2011 10:42 am    Post subject: Re: Lower class Viking age kit         Reply with quote

Matthew Bunker wrote:
Jean Thibodeau wrote:
A spear can be functional and cheap and not heat treated or it can be a pattern welded spear head of great price and quality.



And a sword can be a poorly made thing that bends when used and has to be straightened out under your foot or it can be a pattern welded beauty that shows it's serpent when you breathe on it. Both are mentioned in the sagas.

If you can make a scythe, or any other agricultural implement, you can make a bad sword.

The quote is from the earliest Gulathing laws.


Well I guess cheap and bad quality was also used but I would think that one would want to upgrade to a better sword as soon as one could afford one ?

Would there have been a minimum standard of quality for a sword that only a naive or inexperienced, or just really poor warrior, would purchase something of even lower quality ? At some point it's not a case of bending after every use but snapping in half at the first serious use.

I can see lower end but still functional swords being in use and making the really good sword stand out as even more desirable and expensive.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Nov, 2011 11:27 am    Post subject: Re: Lower class Viking age kit         Reply with quote

Matthew Bunker wrote:
Jean Thibodeau wrote:
A spear can be functional and cheap and not heat treated or it can be a pattern welded spear head of great price and quality.



And a sword can be a poorly made thing that bends when used and has to be straightened out under your foot or it can be a pattern welded beauty that shows it's serpent when you breathe on it. Both are mentioned in the sagas.

If you can make a scythe, or any other agricultural implement, you can make a bad sword.

The quote is from the earliest Gulathing laws.


Well, if I'm not mistaken, all swords were pattern-welded as that was the method they used at the time (pre-1000 AD or so)

The same does not seem true of spears as some heads were diminutive and of plain iron and others do show the pattern welding we have seen in texts and museums.

I imagine some were more reliable than others of course, but period examples show that decorative hilts don't always equate with more consistently hardened blades. This kind of inconsistency in blade quality continues into the 16th. c.
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Matthew Bunker




Location: Somerset UK
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PostPosted: Thu 03 Nov, 2011 12:24 pm    Post subject: Re: Lower class Viking age kit         Reply with quote

Jeremy V. Krause wrote:


Well, if I'm not mistaken, all swords were pattern-welded as that was the method they used at the time (pre-1000 AD or so)



I think you are mistaken. Use of pattern welding starts to decline afte the 7th century. In a survey of swords in the British Museum, 100% of 7th century examples were properly pattern welded but this declines to less than 50% by the late 9th/10th century (when pattern welding is being applied as decoration onto homogenous cores).

But that's not the point I was trying to make, and sorry for not being clearer. Pattern welding isn't all of the same standard and isn't always a mark of quality.

And the Ulfberht 'fakes' point towards there having been a market for swords that looked the business but didn't cost as much or perform as well as the genuine article.

"If a Greek can do it, two Englishman certainly can !"
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