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Thomas Peters




Location: La Farge, WI
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PostPosted: Wed 16 May, 2012 11:12 am    Post subject: Single edge Viking Swords         Reply with quote

Good Day to all.
Is there any historical evidence for single edged viking swords? If there is, pictures of examples would be great or if there is already a post on this subject that you could send me to I would greatly appreciate it.
Thank you all in advance.

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Wed 16 May, 2012 11:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Indeed. See here:

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=21716
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=15945
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=2304

Happy

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Ryan S.





Joined: 04 May 2012

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PostPosted: Wed 16 May, 2012 11:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, it is a sax, although it is often called a langsax or some variant of that do differentiate between the sword and the knife.
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Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
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PostPosted: Wed 16 May, 2012 12:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wouldn't call Norwegian single edged sword a sax. It may have evolved from it, but its dimensions and use are typically sword-like. So I think to say it's a single edged sword is more precise than to call it a langsax.
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Thomas Peters




Location: La Farge, WI
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PostPosted: Wed 16 May, 2012 10:56 pm    Post subject: Single edge Viking Swords         Reply with quote

Chad, Thank you for the links to the other topics and the pictures contained in them.

Ryan, I personally do not consider a seax or the larger versions of it to be a true sword so to speak. That is my opinion of course and is not based on any historical reference. It kind of goes back to the old question when does a knife become a sword, but that is for another topic. Thanks for the response.

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Ryan S.





Joined: 04 May 2012

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PostPosted: Thu 17 May, 2012 10:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
I wouldn't call Norwegian single edged sword a sax. It may have evolved from it, but its dimensions and use are typically sword-like. So I think to say it's a single edged sword is more precise than to call it a langsax.


interestingly, on the internet the term seax is used primarily for the knife, and the larger one is called a langseax, but in The Archaeology of Weapons, Oakeshott uses the term sax for the sword, and handsax for the knife.

In which way is a langsax not a sword?
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Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
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PostPosted: Thu 17 May, 2012 11:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"Sax" means "cutter" in old norse. In modern scandinavian languages the word denotes sicissors. We do not know where they drew the line historicaly.
However, since there are very few viking age swords shorter than 70 cm (4 out of the 200 measured by Pettersen), and fighting knifes are generaly rare in norway, the distinction is pretty clear.

In fact, Pettersen points out that some of the longes blades from the viking age are in fact early single edged blades. Several of these measure over 85cm, 10 longer than the overall average.
As such, it is posible that the Norwegian singleedged swords start out as light, long cutting swords developed from the large single edged saxes of the earlier period.
As the period progresses, they shrink to "normal" sword size, and gradually become rare by the 10th C.

"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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Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
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PostPosted: Thu 17 May, 2012 2:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ryan S. wrote:
Luka Borscak wrote:
I wouldn't call Norwegian single edged sword a sax. It may have evolved from it, but its dimensions and use are typically sword-like. So I think to say it's a single edged sword is more precise than to call it a langsax.


interestingly, on the internet the term seax is used primarily for the knife, and the larger one is called a langseax, but in The Archaeology of Weapons, Oakeshott uses the term sax for the sword, and handsax for the knife.

In which way is a langsax not a sword?


I don't think terminology is very important here, at least between different length saxes. But between sax and single edged swords there are some important differences. Like Elling says period and area of use, and I would say hilts. Single edged swords are hilted in the same way double edged swords are, saxes usually are not...
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Ryan S.





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PostPosted: Thu 17 May, 2012 9:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am not sure I understand you guys, Elling is talking about blade lengths and Luka is talking about hilts. Saying that length determines the difference between a sword and a knife is not new, although I am not sure what distinction Elling is making. As far as hilts being the difference between a sword and a knife, I don't think that holds, because there are many daggers which have almost identical hilts to swords.
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Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
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PostPosted: Fri 18 May, 2012 2:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ryan S. wrote:
I am not sure I understand you guys, Elling is talking about blade lengths and Luka is talking about hilts. Saying that length determines the difference between a sword and a knife is not new, although I am not sure what distinction Elling is making. As far as hilts being the difference between a sword and a knife, I don't think that holds, because there are many daggers which have almost identical hilts to swords.


Some saxes have blades as long as most swords, but not in Norway in the period when single edged swords were used. During that time Norwegian saxes were short. And there is no point in calling single edged sword saxes just when only thing they had in common with saxes is the single edge. About everything else they are typical viking swords of the period. And about hilts, we are not talking about medieval daggers here which could be hilted in the same way as swords were. We are talking about the saxes, and between sax hilts and sword hilts in 9th century Norway there is a great difference. Search some old topics about saxes and langsaxes here on myArmoury. There are really great topics around here, about saxes in general, and some about their grips specifically.
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Ryan S.





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PostPosted: Fri 18 May, 2012 6:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

looking up information about saxes is hard because of the terminology and spelling, but I found information on the types of sax Oakeshott talks about. One is a migration period weapon, described as cleaver-like, http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=5741 and the other is the single-edged viking sword described by Oakeshott as a Norwegian long sax. What you guys are saying is that the migration period sax is not a sword, and the viking age sword is not a sax. Have I got that right?
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Sat 19 May, 2012 5:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I would say so, but I don't say it's the only correct way of looking upon this matter.
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Ralph Grinly





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PostPosted: Sat 19 May, 2012 2:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In some ways, I think the distinction should be drawn not on length, but on the way of use. Swords of the time were meant to be swung, where-as knifes, no matter the length tended to be used make shorter cuts or stabs? I guess what I'm trying to also say is, if the weapon is hilted like a sword of the period, it's a sword, not a knife Happy
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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Sat 19 May, 2012 5:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ryan, not wanting to add to the confusion, but generally the early choppers with asymmetric tangs are not considered real seax either. Many of us prefer terms like Germanic war-knife or early Germainic single-edge swords. Also, these are pre-Migration period. If it is Migration period, it is probably a true seax, except of course when it isn't. There is still a lot of argument about terminology in this area and as far as I know there is no real consensus. I can not count the number of times that I have had to answer a question about seax with "what do you mean by seax?"
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Ryan S.





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PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2012 8:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ralph Grinly wrote:
In some ways, I think the distinction should be drawn not on length, but on the way of use. Swords of the time were meant to be swung, where-as knifes, no matter the length tended to be used make shorter cuts or stabs? I guess what I'm trying to also say is, if the weapon is hilted like a sword of the period, it's a sword, not a knife Happy


to me that really makes no sense at all. The hilt is less important than the blade in determining function, and I am not sure how you got such insight into Viking or Migration period weapon technique. I suppose there are two ways to look at it, how did the users of the weapons classify it, or classifying weapons based on our modern understanding of the terms such as sword and knife (which may cause problems as the word translated as knife can have different meaning in different cultures). I suppose the hilt thing can be a rule of thumb for weapon periods where it is true, but it can't be the basis of the entire classification.
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Audun Refsahl




Location: Norway
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PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2012 2:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm with them, there is a difference between langsax and single edged swords. you have to look at the whole picture, there are several differences. the hilt is one, and it does matter that there is a difference between sword hilts and sax hilts. sax hilts are like knife hilts, sword hilts are like sword hilts. the single edge sword hilts follow the same trends as the double edge sword hilts, the sax hilts does not.
also the blades differ. sword blades generally have a wide fuller, both on single and double edge blades, while saxes generally have narrow if any fullers.
as for oakshotts use of the term longsax. petersen makes a clear distinction between saxes and single edge swords. we use petersens and geibigs typologies on viking weapons, and oakshott on medieval. so most people will stick to petersens term, single edged sword...

just bacon...
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Ryan S.





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PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2012 11:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know there are differences in the blade, which is why it frustrates me they focus on the hilt. I don't think there really is an us versus them thing here. I am just trying to understand the terminology and what determines it.
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Audun Refsahl




Location: Norway
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PostPosted: Tue 22 May, 2012 12:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

well, that doesn't have to be frustrating. there are multiple differences between the two, you have noticed one, they pointed out the other. Petersen in his typology of swords focused mainly on hilt designs, while geibig in his typology of the same swords focused mainly on the blade designs. this doesn't mean the disagreed, but it does mean that we can cross reference between two typologies and for nerds thats really good shit:)
I dont think oakshott is right when calling the norse single edged sword from the viking era a "longsax", I find it confusing and inaccurate, and unneccesarily so. fortunately, petersen wrote about single edged swords in his work on norwegian viking swords, he also wrote on axes, spears and seaxes. these are all available on the internet, so you can read them for free. I think you will enjoy the reading Happy
(I can only find it in norwegian right now, but I'm sure its available in english somewhere, I will have another look)

just bacon...
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Ryan S.





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PostPosted: Tue 22 May, 2012 2:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

its a potentially confusing area because there doesn't seem to be a universal understanding on the difference between a knife and a sword. I think now when Elling said fighting knife he was talking about a much larger weapon than I thought.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 22 May, 2012 3:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"Fighting knife" or "Weapon knife" is (norwegian) archeolgical catch all for kifes made to be weapons. As distinguished from tool knifes.

We do not know how the words where used in the period, but in modern use, "sax" has come to be used spesificaly about the broken back seax. A design which was allready falling from use when the viking age started, and disappears not long afterwards.

"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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