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Collin D




Location: Upper Peninsula, MI
Joined: 23 Jun 2013

Posts: 25

PostPosted: Fri 12 Feb, 2016 10:39 pm    Post subject: Irish Arms in the 12th century         Reply with quote

For a very large project that I'm working on (creating historically-based kits from the world of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series), one of the kits that I'll be doing I would like to base on 12th century Irish. However, Ireland is very outside my geographical area of any knowledge, and my Google skills are failing me. My question is basically two-fold. What sort of knife would be in use in Ireland at this point? I know the skean (in its many spelling variations) is the "typical" Irish knife, but all evidence that I can find for it dates to several centuries later. Would they be using seaxes still, or was there some intermediary that we know of? Secondly, javelins. There are a number of well-known depictions of... well, what appear to be basically giant arrows, fletching and all: but once again, all of these that I have found come centuries later. Is there any evidence for a similar weapon earlier on, or was the good ol' regular spear that could be thrown if needed still the standard?
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 12 Feb, 2016 11:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Seaxes are still seen in use during the 12th century, occasionally quite late in some areas; for instance, we have evidence of their use circa 1194-1196 A.D. in the Liber ad Honorem Augusti manuscript from Sicily. Although I do not have specific evidence for Ireland, I would think that they may well have seen use throughout most of the 12th century. Regarding javelins, I would think something similar to the Arms & Armor javelin, http://www.arms-n-armor.com/pole214.html, which is based upon an 11th century design would probably be appropriate. I do not recall seeing illustrations of feathers prior to the 14th century, so to me sans feathers seems the safer bet.

But perhaps someone with better knowledge of Irish arms and armour can correct me!
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Stephen Curtin




Location: Cork, Ireland
Joined: 17 Nov 2007
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PostPosted: Sat 13 Feb, 2016 1:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Collin. Gerald of Wales, a late 12th century writer states that the Irish used slings, javelins (usually two), spears, and Dane axes. The axes were apparently carried everywhere by Irishmen, used as a walking stick. Gerald makes no mention of the Irish using swords, though we know through irish sources and archaeology that swords were used. Gerald also states that the Irish wore no armour, but Irish sources do occasionally mention mail shirts, helmets, and shields. The shields being central gripped round shields, varying in size from small bucklers to larger "viking" shields.

Now to answer your questions. I would agree with Craig, we don't know how early the Irish started using javelins with fletchings, so I'd play it safe and just use the regular unfletched kind. As for seaxes. If memory serves these have been found in a Gaelic Irish context. These look like Scandinavia seaxes, as opposed to Anglo Saxon, so I'd avoid the broken back style.

Éirinn go Brách
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Collin D




Location: Upper Peninsula, MI
Joined: 23 Jun 2013

Posts: 25

PostPosted: Tue 16 Feb, 2016 12:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you both for the replies: it's a bit of a relief to know that their equipment wasn't particularly unique, as then I'm sure tracking some down would be that much more a pain! And Stephen, thank you for the mention of Gerald of Wales: I've started looking through the Topographia Hibernica, and it is quite helpful in getting a bit more flavour than just knowing what they used, disjointed from any context.
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Stephen Curtin




Location: Cork, Ireland
Joined: 17 Nov 2007
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PostPosted: Tue 16 Feb, 2016 1:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glad to be of help Collin. Just keep in mind that Gerald was extremely biased against the Irish, so you can't trust everything that he wrote.
Éirinn go Brách
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