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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jul, 2004 11:26 am    Post subject: Viking sword grip length.         Reply with quote

Since receiving Albions Jarl I've been doing a bit of study in preparation for its review.
(Although it seems to be distracting me from finishing the Regents review *g*)

While going through Ian Peirces invaluable book Swords of the Viking Age I've noticed something interesting.

The Jarls grip measures 3.75 inches, or 9.5 centimeters. Traditionally Viking sword grips have been considered to be relatively short, as such the Jarls grip might be considered a bit longer than the historic norm. Perhaps made to fit a modern hand? Thanks to Mr. Peirce I believe that we may need to revise our belief on this subject.

One of the things that Peirce does in his book is to give grip length measurements. Most grip lengths fall within the range of 8.0 to 9.5 centimeters, with the shortest example measuring 7.4 centimeters (3.1 inches), and the longest measuring 11.0 centimeters (4.33 inches). The average seems to be somewhere between 9.0-9.2 centimeters.

So it seems like the average Viking grip length wasn't as short as we commonly believe. It also seems that Viking swords have one thing in common with swords of any other age, infinite variety.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jul, 2004 12:13 pm    Post subject: Re: Viking sword grip length.         Reply with quote

Patrick Kelly wrote:
It also seems that Viking swords have one thing in common with swords of any other age, infinite variety.


Great find! I think your last point addresses much of the silliness over whose replica swords cut best, etc. We too often try to compare modern replicas to some generic and uniform (and thus mythical) historical quality or design standard. I hope we all can focus increasingly on evaluating modern replicas against specific historical specimens of the same type, as you've done here. That advances scholarship, crowds out assumptions, creates a more informed market for replicas and drives improvements in replica arms and armour.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Kirk Lee Spencer




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jul, 2004 12:35 pm    Post subject: Re: Viking sword grip length.         Reply with quote

Patrick Kelly wrote:
Since receiving Albions Jarl I've been doing a bit of study in preparation for its review.
(Although it seems to be distracting me from finishing the Regents review *g*)

While going through Ian Peirces invaluable book Swords of the Viking Age I've noticed something interesting.

The Jarls grip measures 3.75 inches, or 9.5 centimeters. Traditionally Viking sword grips have been considered to be relatively short, as such the Jarls grip might be considered a bit longer than the historic norm. Perhaps made to fit a modern hand? Thanks to Mr. Peirce I believe that we may need to revise our belief on this subject.

One of the things that Peirce does in his book is to give grip length measurements. Most grip lengths fall within the range of 8.0 to 9.5 centimeters, with the shortest example measuring 7.4 centimeters (3.1 inches), and the longest measuring 11.0 centimeters (4.33 inches). The average seems to be somewhere between 9.0-9.2 centimeters.

So it seems like the average Viking grip length wasn't as short as we commonly believe. It also seems that Viking swords have one thing in common with swords of any other age, infinite variety.



Hi Patrick...

I saw the same thing... This is a post on another forum that gives some numbers.

(Full discussion here... http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=65)


Out of curiosity I took all of the grip lengths given in Ian Peirce's "Swords of the Viking Age" and crunched some numbers.
The average of all the grip lengths was 9.14 centimeters.

I am 6'2" tall and this (9.1 cm) is almost exactly the width of my palm. If the average size of Viking Age Europeans was 5'9" I think that the grip lengths recorded in Peirce would not be too small (on average). The larger grips would be for larger men and the smaller grips for the more fierce among them:-)


While I was at it, I found averages for the swords in each of the time divisions assigned by Peirce. Here is the results:

8th century (3 swords) avg. 9.87 cm
Early 9th (1 sword) avg. 10.5 cm
9th century (11 swords)avg. 9.1 cm
Late 9th (5 swords) avg. 9.3 cm
Early 10th (8 swords) avg. 9.21 cm
10th century(14 swords) avg. 9.13 cm
Late 10th (3 swords) avg. 9.1 cm
Early 11th (8 swords) avg. 9.1 cm
11th century(3 swords) avg. 8.4 cm
Late 11th (1 sword) avg. 8.4 cm
Early 12th (1 sword) avg. 8 cm

From Peirce's data, there seems to be a difference in the grip length between the 8th and 9th centuries. Lengths remain relatively stable through the 9th and 10th centuries and then seem to decrease in the 11th century. The decrease in the 11th century could be explained by the larger number of swords which have downward curving lower guards and upward curving upper guards (& base of pommel).

These are trends from the data in Peirce... It would be interesting to get a larger sample...

When I heard of a sword with a 3 inch grip I thought for sure any adult person would have to have some particular grip to use it... then I saw this picture of a Viking sword by Vince Evans in its owners hand... It has a 3 inch grip!

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=791&start=44


Here is the link to a similar discussion

http://netsword.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/002209.html


ks

Two swords
Lit in Edenís flame
One of iron and one of ink
To place within a bloody hand
One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
Two eternities
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Steve Ouellette




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jul, 2004 12:57 pm    Post subject: Really reaching here         Reply with quote

I found the grip lengths interesting and I noticed they go to 9cnt and then back to 8cnt.
My understanding is that from 1100ad to 1350ad things were very good in Europe and then from 1350 to 1400 a series to calamities hits Europe. The two big ones are the black death that reduces the population by at least 1/3 and a mini ice age that froze the Baltic and made Greenland unfarmable. Lots of other problems followed and I guess I'm wondering if this mini dark age resulted in generally smaller people.
Not an idea you can begin to prove in one paragraph of course. For anyone who doesn't believe this was a terrible time generally for Europe there are many studies comparing population records of 1300s with 1400s that paint a pretty grim picture.
That's a bueat of a sword Pat.
Steve

In times of peace, the wise gentleman sharpens his sword.
Sun Tzu
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Kirk Lee Spencer




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jul, 2004 1:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting insight Steve...

Keep in mind that 11th and 12th century grip length averages from Peirce are based upon the measurement of one sword... so that trend may not even exist... would be nice to have more data.

ks

Two swords
Lit in Edenís flame
One of iron and one of ink
To place within a bloody hand
One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
Two eternities
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jul, 2004 5:32 pm    Post subject: Re: Viking sword grip length.         Reply with quote

Sean Flynt wrote:
Patrick Kelly wrote:
It also seems that Viking swords have one thing in common with swords of any other age, infinite variety.


Great find! I think your last point addresses much of the silliness over whose replica swords cut best, etc. We too often try to compare modern replicas to some generic and uniform (and thus mythical) historical quality or design standard. I hope we all can focus increasingly on evaluating modern replicas against specific historical specimens of the same type, as you've done here. That advances scholarship, crowds out assumptions, creates a more informed market for replicas and drives improvements in replica arms and armour.


Very true Sean, and thanks. On the other hand we need to remember that the oldtimers did indeed work to a uniform standard of some kind. Things weren't completely haphazard. Most swords of any given time period will show a certain uniformity of proportion and design. There was an obvious understanding of mathematics and geometeric shape among the craftsman of those periods. After all these are the same people who built the Longships we still marvel at, and their ancestors peppered europe and much of the middle east with very impressive castles and cathedrals. They knew a lot more than we generally give them credit for, but they didn't live in the automated close tolerance world that we occupy.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jul, 2004 5:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for crunching the numbers for us Kirk.

I don't know if I'd go so far as to make a correlation between hieght/handsize and grip length, I think we'd need a much larger range of test samples to be definitive on that. On the other hand, there seems to be a definite trend doesn't there?

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus


Last edited by Patrick Kelly on Fri 23 Jul, 2004 5:46 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Steve Ouellette




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jul, 2004 5:43 pm    Post subject: Too Many variables         Reply with quote

The more I think about it. the weaker the whole idea of linking size of sword to size of people to calamatis events seems. Just the fact that these swords may have been rehilted for hundreds of years and then the difficulty in establishing the real age of swords and then there's the fact that we don't know for sure that what survives is representative of the time-well facts can really mess up a fine idea.
Thanks for the interest though and there has to be some sort of slope from the 3 1/2" grip days to today. By the way, I am 5'6" and my palm is 3 1/2" wide although admitedly my hands are small compared to other mens' of that hieght.
I think I'll make it a rule to think about any brilliant historical theorys I come up with at lunch at least until dinner before I post them.

In times of peace, the wise gentleman sharpens his sword.
Sun Tzu
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Kirk Lee Spencer




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jul, 2004 7:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steve you're being much too hard on yourself...

I think it is a well documented fact that nutrition has an effect on growth rates (especially the amount of protein in the diet). So if there were a time of famine or decease, growth rates would be slower, fighting men would reach maturity at a smaller size. Everything would be smaller (my wife is reading this as I type and she says "everything?!") including their hands.

I'll bet (if we could find published dimensions) the grips on migration swords are even smaller on average than viking swords. So I think it would be possible to theorize that an increase in decease (from migrating populations, no immunity, the reason we get shot when we travel to other countries) and lack of consistent food sources might cause migration and early viking populations to be smaller in size. As they settle down into the same region for several generations their immune systems can catch up and they can optimize food sources... nutrition and health would increase and warriors would grow to a larger size... or at least their hands would be another quarter inch wider.

It is a reasonable theory... However I think that the quarter inch difference (even if there really is one statistically) is probably due to the fact that on later Viking type swords the upper and lower guards are curved so the hand can overlap them slightly... making for a more comfortable grip when bending the wrist while swinging the sword.

ks

Two swords
Lit in Edenís flame
One of iron and one of ink
To place within a bloody hand
One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
Two eternities


Last edited by Kirk Lee Spencer on Fri 23 Jul, 2004 10:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Steve Ouellette




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jul, 2004 8:19 pm    Post subject: Thanks Kirk         Reply with quote

Your too kind man. Here's a tangent for you. Did you ever see The Thirteenth Warrior? The viking swords are all hand and a half-6 to8 inches I'd guess. The consultant for that movie knew somthing none of us know. Excuse my spelling -I'm a Plano High School graduate.
In times of peace, the wise gentleman sharpens his sword.
Sun Tzu
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Jeremiah Swanger




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jul, 2004 8:32 pm    Post subject: Re: Thanks Kirk         Reply with quote

Steve Ouellette wrote:
Your too kind man. Here's a tangent for you. Did you ever see The Thirteenth Warrior? The viking swords are all hand and a half-6 to8 inches I'd guess. The consultant for that movie knew somthing none of us know. Excuse my spelling -I'm a Plano High School graduate.


The characters were also wearing plate armor, which didn't exist until half a millennium later, and propagated the myth that swords are heavy, especially when Antonio Banderas says "I can't lift this." The 13th Warrior, while I believe the casting was well-done, absolutely sucked in terms of historical accuracy. Whoever did the research for the arms and armor must not have cared about accuracy in the slightest.

"Rhaegar fought nobly.
Rhaegar fought valiantly.
Rhaegar fought honorably.
And Rhaegar died."

- G.R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire
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Kirk Lee Spencer




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jul, 2004 10:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah...
I'm not sure why "Hollyweird" thinks your not a real man unless you have at least a two handed grip on your sword... What's even more rediculus is that they never seem to use two hands because their other hand is busy holding a shield. And so they have to block with the edge of their "bar of iron" swords. And of course the sword is always the primary (or only) weapon. But I like swords so I don't mind too much Wink . Would be torture to watch a movie where they poke at each other with spears and never take their swords out of their scabbards.

ks

Two swords
Lit in Edenís flame
One of iron and one of ink
To place within a bloody hand
One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
Two eternities
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BjŲrn Hellqvist
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PostPosted: Sat 24 Jul, 2004 4:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

FWIW, I'm 172 cms tall (5' 9"), and my palm is 95 mms across. I've handled several original Viking and medieval swords, and seldom found the grips too narrow.
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Daniel Soukup




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Nov, 2004 7:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's interesting because I've also touched an original viking sword-it's grip was also only 9 cms- and after that i've read
Ibn Fadlan's diary, where he wrote about the eastern viking when he met them:

ß 80.
"I have seen the Rus as they came on their merchant journeys and encamped by the Volga. I have never seen more perfect physical specimens, tall as date palms, blonde and ruddy; they wear neither tunics nor caftans, but the men wear a garment which covers one side of the body and leaves a hand free. "

Although Ibn was an Arabian, I don't think he was such a little man, and the vikings were might not as short as the celts or the other medieval people...
So I think we should think about the way of holding the grip, not that ythe vikings were short.

Bigy
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Risto Rautiainen




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Nov, 2004 8:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree about not emphasizing the relation between heights and grip width. I think that how you have used your hands is what matters. Have you seen the hands of construction workers, like bricklayers? With no exception they have these, not necessarily long, but sausage like thick fingers and huge hands, no matter what size the rest of their body is. So I really think that the size of their hands depends largely on what they do for most of their time. I would think that rowing viking boats, making them and other hard labour of the day would have produced some mighty bruiser hands.
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Kirk Lee Spencer




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Nov, 2004 9:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Risto...

Excellent point... thanks for the input.

ks

Two swords
Lit in Edenís flame
One of iron and one of ink
To place within a bloody hand
One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
Two eternities
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Alex Oster




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Nov, 2004 10:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Remember that the movie was a fantasy movie and not a viking movie. Where they tried to be somewhat historical in looks (historical not accurate), they definitely didn't try to make a documentary. It was horrible, yes, but I hate it when its attacked for its historical accuracy. No one attacks conan. Nobody attacks GLADIATOR!?! But, everyone hates the 13 warrior. Personally I didn't care that much for the movie, and if I see it... its only the sword swinging parts! Big Grin

This is not an attack.

I also rather thought that the scene with the sword being too heavy was a sign of him being just a wee little nancy boy. I never saw it as the sword being to heavy... just for his girly arms. Big Grin

now to keep it on topic:

I don't think I have ever seen a celtic or viking sword with a two handed grip Confused ... I think its interesting, but not an impossibility. Personally I like hand and 1/2 swords. If I can use it one handed great, but two hands is more comfortable ~for me~. your results will vary. I think a (tight) two handed grip on a viking style sword would be great... ~for me~. but I definitely doubt that they will be any popping up in excavations to legitamize the theory.

Just my ~just woke up and had a thought~ post, forgive my spelling and possibly garbled thought process...

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Last edited by Alex Oster on Thu 11 Nov, 2004 9:47 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Steve Grisetti




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Nov, 2004 5:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

An interesting thread that I missed the first time around. I have dabbled in statistics a little bit, so I have some comments that I hope won't bore you all to tears.

Hand size vs height - I am 5'8" tall, 185lb, and my palm is 10cm across. My brother-in-law is about 5'4", and his palm is way bigger than mine. There is a lot of variation in human populations. Statistically, we tend to find the dimensions follow the normal distribution ("bell-shaped curve") when considering an entire population. The key parameter is not just the average (or mean) but also standard deviation - how 'fat' is that bell-shaped curve?

Similarly, it is fun to talk of average grip lengths, but to reach any conclusions, we really need to know something about the variability. (A common illustration that many of you have probably heard: You are on one side of a wide stream, and want to get to the other side. You can't see the bottom, but you know that the average depth is 3 feet. How comfortable are you with trying to walk across?) Perhaps the grip lengths for the sample swords we have from a particular time period are all very tightly grouped. And, of course, the larger the sample population, the more confidence we can have in our speculations.

Another question is whether the sample data are representative of the overall Viking population. For those time periods where there are only a few (or even just 1) data point(s), it is possible that you are looking at an "outlier", something really unusual. Like an Andre the Giant, or maybe Mini-me.

Whatever. Just my 2 cents worth.
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Anders Linnard




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Nov, 2004 8:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

People working with their hands also tend to have larger hands. Hands also bild muscles and bone.
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Don Stanko




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Nov, 2004 4:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I find this topic very interesting. I own 6 viking swords now and had owned three others. Looking back I can remember three of the swords having much smaller grips than a typical medieval sword. The smaller varieties measure around 7.1 to 7.9 cm. The largest example was 10.2 cm. So maybe the sword was custom made for the person and not just mass produced.

Don
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