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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

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PostPosted: Thu 26 Apr, 2012 1:00 am    Post subject: reenacting with skullcap under hat         Reply with quote

as im sure many of you know helmets were, prior to the high middle ages, comparatively rare in terms of the number of people that would wear them in an army
this is particularly true for the 'viking age' and darkages
yet for modern reenactment, we dont want to get our heads dented in, so many of us wear helmets anyway (as well as gauntlets but thats another story)

but in order for a club to be able to have a decent

one solution ive heard is to either wear a cervelliere or some kind of basic metal skullcap under a period hat (in the way t was apparently done during the english civil war.

how often is this actually done, and how well does it work n terms of keeping your head safe
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Matthew Bunker




Location: Somerset UK
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PostPosted: Thu 26 Apr, 2012 4:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Given that what most re-enactors want is protection from crushing, blunt force injuries rather than from cuts from sharp weapons, I'd say that a 'secret' isn't going to be of much use as it's in direct contact with the skull with little or no padding under it.

However, I'd question your assumption that helmets were rare in early medieval armies. The majority of soldiers in the BT are wearing one, the Anglian cavalry on the Aberlemno stone are wearing them, heroic poems such as Beowulf mention them frequently, surviving laws list a helmet as being required of anyone being sent to the old English fyrd etc.

I don't think that the absence of helmets from archaeology should be taken as proof that helmets were rare items.

"If a Greek can do it, two Englishman certainly can !"
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Ben Anbeek
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PostPosted: Thu 26 Apr, 2012 6:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

you don't need armor while reenacting.

archers,cannoneers and handgunners don't need armor if they don't fight in a melee.

i have seen german pike blocks with no armor, just 3 dozen blokes with 6 meter pikes. (nobody did get thru)

so as always the question is what time frame, location and what will you be reenacting???



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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
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PostPosted: Fri 27 Apr, 2012 12:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

viking era axa 9th-mid 11th century, (although for more ambiguously dated items i might accept dates up to the beginning of the 12th C)
MY specific era id be reenacting is a rus man, one of the 6000 part of prince vladimirs men who were given to the byzantine emporer as reinforcements who subsequently became a man of the varangain guard.

but contrary to popular image of the guard as this corps of tank like men whoes armour would be superseded by only the cataphracts (well not quite but you get the picture).
literary evidence suggests the guard were likely to be fairly lightly armoured in most cases ,especially in terms of body armour (though the STANDARD base armour for byzantine infantry including the average pikeman was a kavadion aka gambeson so its not unreasonable that the average rus varangian would have had one soon enough after joining) same maybe goes for helmets

http://www.nvg.org.au/documents/vv/vv_issue_47.pdf this is an article done on the armour of the varangian guard

regarding the bayeux tapestry how relaible is it as a source of what the composition of armies was. . maybe the makers depicted it like that to show them looking better than they maybe were? *shrugs* well i mean, the numbers anyway

but the anglo saxon laws of the equiptment of the fyrd is interesting
its THAT which i think is useful information for many since we all knowthe image ofthe rich man aka, the sutton hoo, valsegard, gjermundbu, gnezdovo and 'black grave' burials the question is the common man.. what date are these anglo saxon laws based around? and is there evidence it continues until the era of hastings?
i dunno what the situation in terms of helmets for the rus is, as far as i know but
in the east helmets are far more common for the 10th century my understanding is that the northwest has 1 full helmet aka gjermundbu.. the east has a decent handful of helmet finds dated to the 10th century.. some more ornate than others

and i will definately be melee, either hand weapon and shield or danish axe or maybe a 7-8 foot 2 handed spear
so armour is reccomended.
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Matthew Bunker




Location: Somerset UK
Joined: 02 Apr 2009

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PostPosted: Fri 27 Apr, 2012 2:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:


what date are these anglo saxon laws based around? and is there evidence it continues until the era of hastings?



From the time of Alfred's military reforms in the face of Scandinavian threat all the way to Hastings (and probably beyond, given that the fyrd was maintained as a military instituation after the Norman victory).

The fyrd was made up of land-holders and their personal retinues, all of whom had to be equipped and trained to a certain standard.
Yes the majority were probably Churls/Ceorls but these were still landed farmers/freemen; men of means and supported during periods of military service (both financially and in terms of equipment) by their local communities.

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




Location: Sydney, Australia
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PostPosted: Fri 27 Apr, 2012 3:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Bunker wrote:
William P wrote:


what date are these anglo saxon laws based around? and is there evidence it continues until the era of hastings?



From the time of Alfred's military reforms in the face of Scandinavian threat all the way to Hastings (and probably beyond, given that the fyrd was maintained as a military instituation after the Norman victory).

The fyrd was made up of land-holders and their personal retinues, all of whom had to be equipped and trained to a certain standard.
Yes the majority were probably Churls/Ceorls but these were still landed farmers/freemen; men of means and supported during periods of military service (both financially and in terms of equipment) by their local communities.


so the local fyrd (i read fyrd as assentially militia for obvious reasons even if it was decently well armoured aka they had some sort of head protection..

and id assume people in armies didnt get much lower than that did they?
oh and what are churls
i know of thegns, huscarls, and earls (and roughly how high on the ladder they were). as well as reeves and shire reeves (sheriffs)but not churls what rank were they? were they like village headmen/ professional soldiers?

and as a friend pointed out although your point still stands regarding the availability of helmets
the rus,( my persona) were apparently quite dissimilar.
the gist of it is that the rus had a less dense population and not the same system of fuedalism as in england ...
so less capacity to ensure say 10,000 or whatever number of fyrdsmen, all had helmets of one form of another,

it doesnt specify anything about said helmets does it?? size, shape etc out of curiosity.

id imagine the simplest design would be 4 smallish plates made into a hemispherical helmet i.e like the gjermundbu but alot simpler and maybe with a simple strip of iron forming a nasel as well

ensuring minimum use of materials and smaller plates id assume need less work/ skill and less materials thus being easier for the local smith to churn out if needed. which would reduce the cost and make it more affordable..

hypothetically of course. i imagine thousands of helmts, while they had to be decent, mass producibility must have been SOMETHING of a factor in their design..'


ishould also point out the 'skullcap would have padding but the point is its hidden under a hat as well as possible i guess.
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 27 Apr, 2012 5:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
Matthew Bunker wrote:
William P wrote:


what date are these anglo saxon laws based around? and is there evidence it continues until the era of hastings?



From the time of Alfred's military reforms in the face of Scandinavian threat all the way to Hastings (and probably beyond, given that the fyrd was maintained as a military instituation after the Norman victory).

The fyrd was made up of land-holders and their personal retinues, all of whom had to be equipped and trained to a certain standard.
Yes the majority were probably Churls/Ceorls but these were still landed farmers/freemen; men of means and supported during periods of military service (both financially and in terms of equipment) by their local communities.


so the local fyrd (i read fyrd as assentially militia for obvious reasons even if it was decently well armoured aka they had some sort of head protection..

and id assume people in armies didnt get much lower than that did they?
oh and what are churls
i know of thegns, huscarls, and earls (and roughly how high on the ladder they were). as well as reeves and shire reeves (sheriffs)but not churls what rank were they? were they like village headmen/ professional soldiers?.
Churl is the lowest rank of freeman. Basically its the AngloSaxon equivalent of "peasant".
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Matthew Bunker




Location: Somerset UK
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PostPosted: Fri 27 Apr, 2012 12:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robin Smith wrote:
Churl is the lowest rank of freeman. Basically its the AngloSaxon equivalent of "peasant".


Depends very much on your definition of peasant (a term which changes in meaning both in terms of historical period and geography), something which has led to the common misconception that the fyrd was some sort of peasant army made up of people armed with pitchforks and no equipment which is, of course, cobblers.

A Churl/Ceorl was only one step down from a thegn. They were freemen with rights, property and social standing.
The term 'huscarl' just means 'House Ceorl'....House Freeman.

It's only after the Conquest that Ceorls loose the rights associated with their status and the name becomes synonymous with lowly peasants, tied to the land and the lord of the manor (bourne out by the fact that it's only in England that this germanic word develops such connotations).

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




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PostPosted: Fri 27 Apr, 2012 1:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Bunker wrote:
A Churl/Ceorl was only one step down from a thegn.
Yeah, one step down from Thegn, but also one step up from thralls. Wink

They are freemen, but the lowest rung of freemen.

Interesting tidbit... Churl is the rootword from which we get the name Charles and "Churlish" (which did not carry a perjorative meaning until much latter). The Germanic equivalent is where the name Karl comes from

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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Fri 27 Apr, 2012 3:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A thin helmet with little padding would do fine on a Dark age battlefield. After all, the odds are that it will be glancing spear thrusts rather than absorbing sword blows.
The surving one piece helmets from central europe (olmutz, St Wenechlas) are less than 2mm thick, as far as I remember.

For reenactment purposes, if the system does not use head hits. all you need to prevent bleeding headshots is a sturdy cap of some sort. After all, it only needs to dampen accidental hits.
If your rules call for a helmet, wear one, and make a kit that matches.

Helmets where not required for the Norwegian Leidang (Fyrd equalient). After 1275 it was required of the more wealthy farmers. However, it is the first upgrade from the basic kit. (Spear, shield, hand weapon)

"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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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Sat 28 Apr, 2012 11:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I reenact with the Sudrland chapter of Vikings Vinland, and we encourage hidden helmets. There are no headshots, so leather helmets and very light steel helmets are OK. I am currently about halfway finished with my secret helmet. I have just finished the hot forging from approximately 12 gauge, and will hide it under a slightly oversized, thick naalbound cap with another more fitted naalbound cap underneath. I may sew all three components together to make a steel-lined naalbound cap.
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Michael Ekelmann




Location: Seattle Metro Area, USA
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PostPosted: Sat 28 Apr, 2012 11:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robin Smith wrote:
Matthew Bunker wrote:
A Churl/Ceorl was only one step down from a thegn.
Yeah, one step down from Thegn, but also one step up from thralls. Wink

They are freemen, but the lowest rung of freemen.

Interesting tidbit... Churl is the rootword from which we get the name Charles and "Churlish" (which did not carry a perjorative meaning until much latter). The Germanic equivalent is where the name Karl comes from


But it's a huge step, socially speaking.

“Men prefer to fight with swords, so they can see each other's eyes!" Sean Connery as Mulay Hamid El Raisuli in The Wind and the Lion
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