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Neal Matheson




Location: sussex UK
Joined: 08 Feb 2009
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PostPosted: Thu 19 Sep, 2013 6:03 am    Post subject: Nordic Archery         Reply with quote

I saw this on the Hurstwic site;
"Arrowheads are not commonly found in the graves of warriors, suggesting that bows were not thought of as tools for warriors. Most arrowheads are found at house sites, which might suggest that bows were thought of doemstic tools, used for hunting."
This doesn;t sound right to me. Vikings seem to have made great use of archery and I have seen more than one description of arrowheads in the graves of Nordic warriors. Ideas, thoughts?
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Bjorn Hagstrom




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Sep, 2013 6:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Archery is mentioned in the Saga's, in some quite famous episodes (The description of the Battle of Svolder, from numerous sources)

Hunting during the viking age (as probably before, and definitely after) has been an activity for the rich and wealthy. It takes time, specialized equipment and manpower. Think hounds, falcons, driving/herding teams and so on.

So it might just be that dumping a sheaf of arrows (that could be argued to be at least semi-expendable) in a tomb or grave comes off as a little cheap compared to a spear, axe or sword?

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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Baard H




Location: Norway
Joined: 13 Mar 2013

Posts: 99

PostPosted: Thu 19 Sep, 2013 9:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not to mention that the laws of the Frostating (from about 1000 AD and probably has roots much further back) and the law of Magnus Lagabte (1274 AD) both requires there to be one bow and twenty-four arrows for every other oarsman aboard the warships. With 20-30 bows per ship and a potential of up to 270-300 ships in the fleet, that becomes a lot of archers.
At kveldi skal dag leyfa,
konu, er brennd er,
mki, er reyndr er,
mey, er gefin er,
s, er yfir kemr,
l, er drukkit er.
-Hvaml, vsa 81
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Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Thu 19 Sep, 2013 11:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bjorn Hagstrom wrote:
Hunting during the viking age (as probably before, and definitely after) has been an activity for the rich and wealthy. It takes time, specialized equipment and manpower. Think hounds, falcons, driving/herding teams and so on.

That really depends on what you mean by "hunting" - a High Medieval hunting party, really a social gathering more akin to a modern sporting event, was an entirely different ballgame from a Norse farmer or three going out to bring in some game to supplement their larder. In the feudal system, hunting was strictly the prerogative of the nobility because the lands and game were owned by the crown (and tended by its vassals), but e.g. in Finland there were entire cultures that subsisted largely on hunting long before and even after the Viking times - and Scandinavia, it must be said, was never all that seriously feudalistic to begin with...

The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
-- R. E. Howard, The Road of Kings
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David Huggins




Location: UK
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PostPosted: Thu 19 Sep, 2013 1:26 pm    Post subject: Norse archery         Reply with quote

Falconry was very much an activity of the social elite during the Merovingian/Vendel period, the Salian Franks had laws concerning falconry and the Vendel/Valsgarde graves contain birds of prey within the boat inhumations which would suggest that the exchange of such birds was very much a part of the social elite gift/exchange system.

best
Dave

and he who stands and sheds blood with us, shall be as a brother.
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Baard H




Location: Norway
Joined: 13 Mar 2013

Posts: 99

PostPosted: Thu 19 Sep, 2013 1:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mikko Kuusirati wrote:
Bjorn Hagstrom wrote:
Hunting during the viking age (as probably before, and definitely after) has been an activity for the rich and wealthy. It takes time, specialized equipment and manpower. Think hounds, falcons, driving/herding teams and so on.

That really depends on what you mean by "hunting" - a High Medieval hunting party, really a social gathering more akin to a modern sporting event, was an entirely different ballgame from a Norse farmer or three going out to bring in some game to supplement their larder. In the feudal system, hunting was strictly the prerogative of the nobility because the lands and game were owned by the crown (and tended by its vassals), but e.g. in Finland there were entire cultures that subsisted largely on hunting long before and even after the Viking times - and Scandinavia, it must be said, was never all that seriously feudalistic to begin with...


I have to add my voice to his. I can't speak for the other scandinavian country's - but as far as I know - hunting in Norway has never been subject to any major laws until hunting seasons and (eventually) modern hunting licences was required.
In the viking age there wouldn't be a sentral institution of nobility to enforce such laws. In the middle ages I'm not really sure what laws existed, but after the Plague struck the nobility were all but vanished so again there weren't anyone able or interested in enforcing such laws.
Plus the geography of Scandinavia and the abundance of wild game that existed at the time would have made it hard and unnecessary to have such laws in the first place I think.

At kveldi skal dag leyfa,
konu, er brennd er,
mki, er reyndr er,
mey, er gefin er,
s, er yfir kemr,
l, er drukkit er.
-Hvaml, vsa 81
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Baard H




Location: Norway
Joined: 13 Mar 2013

Posts: 99

PostPosted: Thu 19 Sep, 2013 1:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

By the way, I saw this the other day, It's from 2012:

http://sciencenordic.com/legendary-viking-town-unearthed

In the article they mention one of the longhouses they excavated. Apparently it was burned to the ground during the 10th century:

Quote:
"The house was more than 30 metres long and nine metres wide, and in the remains of the pillars that once stood by the wall and the entrance, we found arrowheads and caltrops. This suggests that the house was attacked in a military conflict and burned down.

At kveldi skal dag leyfa,
konu, er brennd er,
mki, er reyndr er,
mey, er gefin er,
s, er yfir kemr,
l, er drukkit er.
-Hvaml, vsa 81
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Tjarand Matre




Location: Nttery, Norway
Joined: 19 Sep 2010

Posts: 158

PostPosted: Thu 19 Sep, 2013 1:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think Baard H is quite right. The feudal system was never properly implemented in Norway / Sweden so the bow was a utility tool for hunting. Archery equipment was probably not looked upon as a social status marker as opposed to the sword and axe. Norwegian arrow heads finds are typically broadheads that could be implemented for both hunting and war. A few bodkins have been found but they are attributed to late medieval times.
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Martin Wallgren




Location: Bjsta, Sweden
Joined: 01 Mar 2004

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PostPosted: Thu 19 Sep, 2013 4:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is 36 arrows found in the Hgom Grave outside Sundsvall in sweden. The look like needlebodkins and are from the 5th Century. Here is a drawing of the finds from hgom. you find the arrows up in the left corner!


Swordsman, Archer and Dad
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Neal Matheson




Location: sussex UK
Joined: 08 Feb 2009
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PostPosted: Thu 19 Sep, 2013 10:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies they are great. I too would have thought that hunting in Scandinavia would not have followed the mainstream European model. That said it was only specific beasts (in England at least) that were protected. Wolves, Roe deer and others could be hunted by ordinary folks.
It was this line that really stood out; "suggesting that bows were not thought of as tools for warriors". It would seem to me that this might be more valid for other cultures in the early medieval world such as the Irish or Anglo saxons but not Nordic culutres which seem to have had a particulalrly strong martial archery tradition. Interestingly in the List of Rig it is the Jarl at the top of the Nordic social structure (excepting kings of course) who sits making bows; .

Within two gazed | in each other's eyes,
Fathir and Mothir, | and played with their fingers;
There sat the house-lord, | wound strings for the bow,
Shafts he fashioned, | and bows he shaped.
(....)
To grow in the house | did Jarl begin,
Shields he brandished, | and bow-strings wound,
Bows he shot, | and shafts he fashioned,
Arrows he loosened, | and lances wielded,
Horses he rode, | and hounds unleashed,
Swords he handled, | and sounds he swam.
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Baard H




Location: Norway
Joined: 13 Mar 2013

Posts: 99

PostPosted: Fri 20 Sep, 2013 1:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There's also some references to sami archers being hired as mercenaries into different Norwegian armies in the viking period. In my oppinion this might show that the military leaders of the time not only valued masses of archers but individual archery skills as well.
According to Snorre, the man who shot the arrow that broke Einar Thambarskelfir's bow might have been of sami origin (or just a man called "Finn"...)

Quote:
Einar Tambarskelver, one of the sharpest of bow-shooters, stood by the mast, and shot with his bow. Einar shot an arrow at Earl Eirik [...] Then said the earl to a man some say was called Fin, but other says he was of sami heritage that was a great archer "Shoot that tall man by the mast." Fin shot; and the arrow hit the middle of Einar's bow just at the moment that Einar was drawing it, and the bow was split in two parts.
"What is that," cried King Olaf, "that broke with such a noise?"
"Norway, king, from your hands," cried Einar.
"No! not quite so much as that," says the king; "take my bow, and shoot," flinging the bow to him.
Einar took the bow, and drew it over the head of the arrow. "Too weak, too weak," said he, "for the bow of a mighty king!" and, throwing the bow aside, he took sword and shield, and fought valiantly.

At kveldi skal dag leyfa,
konu, er brennd er,
mki, er reyndr er,
mey, er gefin er,
s, er yfir kemr,
l, er drukkit er.
-Hvaml, vsa 81
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William R. Short




Location: New England
Joined: 14 May 2007

Posts: 24

PostPosted: Tue 24 Sep, 2013 8:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for your interest in the Hurstwic site. I'm the author of the articles on the site, including the bow and arrow article quoted by Neal Matheson.

I stand behind what I wrote in the article. The majority of arrowhead finds are from house sites, while the majority of the finds of other weapons are grave finds. To me, that suggests that Viking-age people had a different outlook on the use of bow and arrow than, for example, spear or axe or sax or sword.

That does not mean that Viking-age warriors did not use bow and arrow in battle. Such missiles were essential, for example, in nautical battles.

But the sagas also suggest that bow and arrow was not the first choice for resolving conflicts. Short-range weapons, the weapons found in graves, seem to have been the more typical choice.

The fact that arrowheads seem to be more commonly found in house sites suggests a more domestic use of the tool, and hunting comes to mind.
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Baard H




Location: Norway
Joined: 13 Mar 2013

Posts: 99

PostPosted: Tue 24 Sep, 2013 11:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William R. Short wrote:
But the sagas also suggest that bow and arrow was not the first choice for resolving conflicts. Short-range weapons, the weapons found in graves, seem to have been the more typical choice.


Do you mean first choice as in duels or in war?
In duels it would probably have been seen as cowardice to come with a bow to meet a swordsman, just as it would have been deemed cowardice to bring a rifle with 10x zoom to a revolver-duel (plus the obvious disadvantage should your first arrow be blocked by a shield...). But this is just an example of having the right tool for the given situation rather than favouritism of one weapon over another.

In warfare however, bows and other missile weapons are usually the first weapons used if it is present.
The norwegian historian Kim Hjardar recently wrote that the weapons were widely used in viking warfare, not only at sea, but on dry land also, and in much greater use than their european adversaries.
In his book he actually describes the viking use of the weapon in large-scale, pitched battles very similar to the tactic the english made famous a century or so after the viking age ended.


The lack of arrows in graves I cannot answer, there are some where they are found as Martin Wallgren already have shown us though.

My overall impression of the viking warriors is that we in modern time often has viewed them as having more rigid codes of honour than what probably were the case. My opinion is that they would use wichever weapon, armour or tactic that would ensure them victory and the bow would not be an exception.

At kveldi skal dag leyfa,
konu, er brennd er,
mki, er reyndr er,
mey, er gefin er,
s, er yfir kemr,
l, er drukkit er.
-Hvaml, vsa 81
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Neal Matheson




Location: sussex UK
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PostPosted: Tue 24 Sep, 2013 12:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="William R. Short"]
I stand behind what I wrote in the article. The majority of arrowhead finds are from house sites, while the majority of the finds of other weapons are grave finds. To me, that suggests that Viking-age people had a different outlook on the use of bow and arrow than, for example, spear or axe or sax or sword.

Hello, I wasn't really being critical but was just interested in what other people thought or if there was a bit more to it. Certainly from what you have written it would seem that bows were possibly/probably seen in a different light to what we might expect. It is a bit odd though.
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William R. Short




Location: New England
Joined: 14 May 2007

Posts: 24

PostPosted: Wed 25 Sep, 2013 9:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Baard H wrote:
My overall impression of the viking warriors is that we in modern time often has viewed them as having more rigid codes of honour than what probably were the case. My opinion is that they would use wichever weapon, armour or tactic that would ensure them victory and the bow would not be an exception.


Here, I think we are in general agreement. I believe that perhaps the best description of Viking-age fighters is that they were clever and improvisational, doing what was necessary to succeed in their struggle, when it was necessary, using whatever tools were available, and that included improvising tools on the spot. The Sagas of Icelanders give example after example.

Additionally, we believe that Viking-age warriors had a warrior code, a set of unwritten beliefs that guided their behavior in battle. Again, the sagas and eddas give a reasonably clear picture of that code. That is not to say that every Viking-age warrior followed the code, but the literary sources distinguish between those who behaved the "right" way (a drengur) and those who behaved the "wrong" way (a ningur).

More information about our combat training at Hurstwic is here:
http://www.hurstwic.com/training/index.htm
and about our approach to researching Viking combat is here:
http://www.hurstwic.com/training/methodology/index.htm
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Bjorn Hagstrom




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PostPosted: Thu 26 Sep, 2013 2:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mikko Kuusirati wrote:

That really depends on what you mean by "hunting" - a High Medieval hunting party, really a social gathering more akin to a modern sporting event, was an entirely different ballgame from a Norse farmer or three going out to bring in some game to supplement their larder. In the feudal system, hunting was strictly the prerogative of the nobility because the lands and game were owned by the crown (and tended by its vassals), but e.g. in Finland there were entire cultures that subsisted largely on hunting long before and even after the Viking times - and Scandinavia, it must be said, was never all that seriously feudalistic to begin with...


Indeed, I might have simplified things a bit. Hunting has always been a part (keyword being part) of life in Scandinavia.
But that being said, if we are talking about settled communities in the iron age/medieval period, hunting seem to be of relatively small importance. I had a chat with an archaeologist I know about what bones they find in refuse heaps they excavate. And it seems that the vast majority of bones found are from domesticated animals. Yes there are bones from wild game, but basically just noise in the steady signal of pig/sheep/cow. I think it is not so much about the feudal system as it being time consuming with uncertain results. And this time competing heavily with other chores around the farm.

Specific communities in some coastal areas is a different story, where fishing, sea-fowl and seal has been important part of making a living. Also the nomadic lifestyle of the Sami would mean hunting (and fishing) was the way to get protein into the diet .

I would assume that most hunting was not done for food, but for fur. We know fur was an export from Scandinavia. In some instances taxes was collected in skins from squirrel and marten. Squirrel we know (at least from 16th century documentation) was hunted with blunt arrows from either bow or crossbow. I don't know if other game was hunted with bow or trapped in this period?

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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Neal Matheson




Location: sussex UK
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PostPosted: Thu 26 Sep, 2013 3:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This bias towards livestock is also shown in Iron Age biritish sites such as Danebury. If you are farming animals then really there is little need to hunt beyond, predator/pest control, recreation or as you say fur. Haplin reckoned that most of the many arrows found in Irish sites from the Viking period were military.
I wonder if the bow was not placed in warrior burials (assuming it wasn't of course as many would not be preserved) because it had another civilian function.
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