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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2015 7:22 am    Post subject: The Iron Age Vimose & Hedegaard mail and origins.         Reply with quote

Mail from Iron Age and Viking Age Scandinavia is quite rare. The Norwegian Viking Age Gjermundbu mail is well known, but from the Danish Iron Age Bog sacrifices you have also the fairly complete Vimose Mail [~200 AD]:


For better picture see: http://en.natmus.dk/historical-knowledge/denm...om-vimose/

The Vimose mail consists of around 20000 rings and weights around 8kg.
Studies done by Arne Jouttijärvi [Early Iron: http://www.gnom.dk/projekter/ringbrynjehistorie.pdf] on the Vimose find and other mail fragments in Denmark [Hedegaard, Brokær & Thorsbjerg] shows varying ring sizes. (Mail fragment has also been found from Kastenskov.)
"In the four types of chain-mail studied, ring size varies greatly. The finest were found at Hedegaard, the rings of which had a diameter of around 5 mm and a wire thickness of around 0.95 mm. Somewhat poorer is the Brokbaer [Brokær] shirt, with a ring diameter of around 7.2 mm and a wire thickness of around 1.0 mm. A shirt with very similar rings was found at Vimose
(Engelhardt 1869:12). The biggest mail rings were discovered at Vimose and Thorsbjerg: 10.5 mm and 12.5 mm respectively, with wire thicknesses of approx. 1.5 and 1.7 mm
."

The fine mail from Hedegaard had been generally thought to be Celtic [See for instance: Iron and steel in ancient times / by Vagn Fabritius Buchwald 2005] but metallurgic & slag studies have brought in some surprising results, so to quote from Jouttijärvi:
A slag inclusion analysis of the rings in the Hedegaard mail shirt shows that they contain so much phosphor that the
Scandinavian peninsular and the south of Germany can be ruled out. The low CaO content also rules out the eastern part of
Denmark and the Baltic Sea coastline, The analyses match best the north of Germany (VII), but the west of Jutland [Area 3 comprising Mid-Jutland, where the find is from] cannot be excluded. It can seem surprising the rings in this shirt originate from Germany and not the Celtic areas. The Germanic peoples are traditionally regarded as not being in possession of sufficiently advanced technology and organization to be able to produce such specialized handiwork of this type. But it could be that our view of the somewhat technologically-backward Germans should be revised
."
Slag map from his paper:


The Hedegaard mail (Mid Jutland) is from from “Grave A 4137“. The Vimose shown in the picture is the best preserved, but not the best in quality. So apparently you see a development from mail shirt in the Iron Age, towards a more full mail heuberk in the Viking Age?

PS: If interested I can post other threads about Danish weapons and armour, that might not be generally known.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2015 7:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting. Germanic tribes of this period seem to be far more advanced than tribes described by 1st century BC to 1st AD by Romans and it doesn't really surprise me that they were able to make their own mail. After all, they were in close contact with Celts, Romans and eastern tribes for centuries. Please do post anything else you have about Danish a&a of this period. Happy
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2015 9:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
Interesting. Germanic tribes of this period seem to be far more advanced than tribes described by 1st century BC to 1st AD by Romans and it doesn't really surprise me that they were able to make their own mail. After all, they were in close contact with Celts, Romans and eastern tribes for centuries. Please do post anything else you have about Danish a&a of this period. Happy


Then I will elaborate some more Big Grin

The Hedegård graves are from two periods, but continuous in occupation. Some cremation graves from 50 BC - 50 AD (so called Celtic Iron Age) and then followed by inhumation graves from the Roman Iron Age 50 - 150 AD.
It seems that the grave with the mail fragment is from the Celtic Iron Age (but not Celtic in production, but Germanic) and is thus perhaps the oldest mail fragment in Denmark.


Last edited by Niels Just Rasmussen on Sat 31 Jan, 2015 9:34 am; edited 2 times in total
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2015 9:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Luka Borscak wrote:
Interesting. Germanic tribes of this period seem to be far more advanced than tribes described by 1st century BC to 1st AD by Romans and it doesn't really surprise me that they were able to make their own mail. After all, they were in close contact with Celts, Romans and eastern tribes for centuries. Please do post anything else you have about Danish a&a of this period. Happy


The Hedegård graves are from two periods. Some cremation graves from 50 BC - 50 AD (so called Celtic Iron Age) and then some later inhumation graves from the Roman Iron Age.
It seems that the grave with the mail fragment is from the Celtic Iron Age (but not Celtic in production, but Germanic) and is thus perhaps the oldest mail fragment in Denmark.


Thanks, I thought it's all from the 200AD find. Well, than it really is a unique find.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2015 9:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:


Thanks, I thought it's all from the 200AD find. Well, than it really is a unique find.


Hedegård area is the largest “central-village“ of it's time in Denmark and contain 200 graves (it lies near Horsens by the way).

You have also a roman dagger (pugio) of 35 cm in length from grave A 4103: It is a unique find in Denmark. This dagger likely was in use between 1-50 AD and could be spoils from the battle 9 AD or a gift from the Roman expedition under Tiberius or Germanicus in 5 AD, that also gave the magnificant silver cups found at Hoby on Lolland (that has the name Silius inscribed = Silius the Imperial Legate of Germania Superior).

From Horsens Museum.


Drawing with details:


Hoby cups from Lolland:


Silius:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaius_Silius

If interested in more information about the Roman knowledge of Scandinavia and the possible expedition up into Denmark read this article from 2012 by Thomas Grane: “Pliny and the wandering mountain. A new interpretation of Pliny’s account of the northern Barbaricum with an archaeological comment.
Source: http://www.acdan.it/analecta/37_2012/grane.pdf
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2015 9:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have found out that Hedegård is not the first find of mail in Denmark.

Already the Hjortspring Bog Sacrifice with the famous war canoe had apparently trace-remains of mail and that is from 350 BC.
Haven't yet found any more detailed examination (or pictures) of that mail-find. There should have been between 10-20 mail shits, but reduced to mere rust stains. Could explain why no work has been done on it - just a corrosion imprint in the mud.
So it is not even certain if it was mail!

Hjortspring war canoe:


Last edited by Niels Just Rasmussen on Sat 31 Jan, 2015 10:06 am; edited 2 times in total
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J. Nicolaysen




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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2015 10:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yay more Denmark!

It amazes me how many quality things have survived from there.

If you can find them, please do show more pictures of the earlier find. Also, I have never seen any images about the Gjermundbu mail. Perhaps you could start a new thread on it. Thank you Niels, this is very interesting.

What is the approximate length of these pieces? I had thought that later examples such as Gjermundbu, and much later, would be shorter for those Vikings to row easier. Is this supported by evidence?

Edited to add: Gee I guess I could have done a search here for "Gjermundbu mail" Eek!

http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=222...aille+mail

With a picture of the mail. Very long thread with many links, hopefully they still all go through.


Last edited by J. Nicolaysen on Sat 31 Jan, 2015 10:22 am; edited 1 time in total
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
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Posts: 800

PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2015 10:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J. Nicolaysen wrote:
Yay more Denmark!

It amazes me how many quality things have survived from there.

If you can find them, please do show more pictures of the earlier find. Also, I have never seen any images about the Gjermundbu mail. Perhaps you could start a new thread on it. Thank you Niels, this is very interesting.

What is the approximate length of these pieces? I had thought that later examples such as Gjermundbu, and much later, would be shorter for those Vikings to row easier. Is this supported by evidence?


Yeah it helps that Denmark was around 25% bog in the Iron Ages.
Sadly with modern drainage and plowing paired with extensive peat diggings during WW2 a lot is lost forever.
Also since archaeology was basically invented in Denmark and we have an old law of Danefæ (that old things found in the ground belongs to the King, later the state) means that a lot of old finds have been preserved in museums.

There are already a long thread on myArmoury on the Gjermundbu mail with pictures (and other threads on the Gjermundbu helmet); but not on the Vimose find, so thats why I made it.
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=22224

For Norwegian viking mails see this article by Vegård Vike: Ring Weave.
http://folk.uio.no/vegardav/brynje/Ring_Weave...fsson).pdf

The Gjermundbu mail is not so well preserved as the Vimose find. So it's hard to know it's original size. Could have been a mail shirt or a real heuberk.
When sailing any sensible man would pack the mail away and stove it within waterproof materials - you don't want salt water on it. So when getting ready for combat you would put it on (preferable getting ashore first and then put it on as running though water in it would mean hells afterwards of cleaning off the rust). At home you could have thralls doing that, but on raids it means that after a some hours of rusting the armour would be stiff as a board.

For more information on the Hedegård mail - its apparently this article (not online sadly and in Danish): So the mail from Hedegård - technique-of-manufacture and method.
Malfilåtre, Michel Kalsbøll (1993)
Ringbrynjen fra Hedegård - fremstillingsteknik og metode
Konservatorskolen, Det Kongelig Danske Kunstakademi


The Hedegård archaeological digs were reported (not online either and also in Danish):
Madsen, Orla.
Hedegård - grave og gravplads fra ældre romersk jernalder
(Hedegård [Jylland] - graves and cemetery from the Early Roman Iron Age)
Horsens museum. Årsskrift 1986 (1987), pp 13-22. 16 figs.
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