Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Scandinavian Armor Reply to topic
This is a standard topic Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3 
Author Message
Sebastian Goriesky




Usergroups: None

Location: Vinland
Posts: 7
PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2017 6:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Quote:
The word 'spangabrynja' could thus be a reference to limb armour in the Vendel style. This kind of splint armour was used by the Byzanties during the Viking period and there is a strong possibility that it was still in use during the Viking period:


No it couldn't. The saga, Grænlendinga þáttur, makes it pretty clear that a spangabyrnja is a cuirass of some kind, not limb armour.. In the saga of Harkon Herdabried, Gregorius Dagsson was hit in the waist with a boat hook but was saved by his spangabyrnja - more evidence that it was not limb armour. Scale armour is a better translation for spangabyrnja given that it was more prevalent than lamellar in north-western Europe.


Dan, could you link a source for the presence of scale armour in Viking Age Scandanavia? I'm part of a reenactment group (thread-counting level) and I'd love to have a new rabbit hole to explore to share with my group.

Away from his arms in the open field
A man should fare not a foot;
For never he knows when the need for a spear
Shall arise on the distant road.
-Havamal, Stanza 38
View user's profile Send private message
Niels Just Rasmussen




Usergroups: None

Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 739
PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2017 8:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kristjan Runarsson wrote:

As for Spangabrynja there are also three theories that I am aware of to explain that. But before we dive into that it is worth diving into what the word 'spangabrynja' actually means. The word 'brynja' is the generic norse word for armour even though many people think it means chain mail or maille to appease the purists (curiously enough it is also a female name). The word 'spöng' basically means an elongated plate so 'spangabrynja' literally translates as 'armour made of elongated plates'. Interpret that as you wish.


If we take the word Icelandic "spöng" it actually is cognate with Danish Spang, Swedish Spång and Old English Spang.

So it seems it has a modern meaning in Icelandic of being a metallic plate, but can also mean an frozen ice passage over a river (Danish description: Isbælte over en elv).
Geir Zoega (1910) originally translated Spangabrynja to plate mail likely based an Spöng having a meaning of metal plate.

In Old English a spang is a metal buckle or a clasp.

Yet in Danish a spang is a primitive bridge -> a "gangbræt" = "walking board" over a stream. That would most likely be of wood and not metal.
See picture of spang: https://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spang

This kind of simple walking bridge is called Spång in Swedish (again the same cognate).
Strangely enough it is Klopp in Norwegian (bokmål). Low German or dutch loanword?

So it seems that the "metal" meaning is perhaps secondary to the function of something connected two separate things.
A frozen ice passage connects two banks of a river, a clasp connects elements of dress/armour and a danish spang connects two shores of a stream.
The connector would likely be of metal in an armour, so perhaps spangabrynje has the names because how the brynja is assembled??
View user's profile Send private message
Kristjan Runarsson




Usergroups: None


Posts: 94
PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2017 9:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sebastian Goriesky wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
Quote:
The word 'spangabrynja' could thus be a reference to limb armour in the Vendel style. This kind of splint armour was used by the Byzanties during the Viking period and there is a strong possibility that it was still in use during the Viking period:


No it couldn't. The saga, Grænlendinga þáttur, makes it pretty clear that a spangabyrnja is a cuirass of some kind, not limb armour.. In the saga of Harkon Herdabried, Gregorius Dagsson was hit in the waist with a boat hook but was saved by his spangabyrnja - more evidence that it was not limb armour. Scale armour is a better translation for spangabyrnja given that it was more prevalent than lamellar in north-western Europe.


Dan, could you link a source for the presence of scale armour in Viking Age Scandanavia? I'm part of a reenactment group (thread-counting level) and I'd love to have a new rabbit hole to explore to share with my group.


I have not done a detailed study but as far as I can remember the saga authors did not usually have special names for different items of armour like, hauberk, chausses, coif, etc. although they often mentioned specially if a person was wearing a helmet. In Norse the construction of armour tends to be indicated by a prefixing 'hringa-' (ring) or 'spanga-' (elongated plate) to the word 'brynja' (generic word for armour) and the exact nature of the item of armour (leg, head, torso armour) depends on the context. In Grænlendingasaga 'Spangabrynja' is referred to in the singular so one can safely assume in this case it was probably a plate cuirass. The cuirass could have been lamellar but the word 'spangabrynja' also covers a 13th century coat of plates and since the sagas were written in the 13th century there is no way of knowing which, the author could be describing 11th century lamellar or plate armour from his own time. However, there is no reason you can't wear 'Spangabrynja' shin covers on your legs just like you can wear a set of mail 'hose' (chausses). In old and modern Norse 'hringabrynja' can be assumed to be torso armour made of mail if there is no further description on part of the author but you can get descriptions like 'he wore a brynja/hringabrynja on his legs' it does not mean that they guy took a hauberk and wore it like trousers, it means he wore chausses. In the sagas the authors often skipped the type descriptor 'hringa-' or 'spanga-' altogether and simply stated that somebody was 'klæddur brynju'. People usually assume 'hann klæddist brynju' means 'he wore mail torso armour' but the words literally mean only that 'he wore an item of armour' and all that it is safe to assume is that he wore torso armour of some description because the word 'brynja' means a single generic item of armour. In the absence of a descriptive prefix the construction of the armour is open to question. For all we know it could have been mail, scale, lamellar or something else altogether. You can also get the description that 'hann var brynjaður'. To be 'brynjaður' is even more ambiguous because 'brynjaður' means 'he was armoured'. That term covers not just torso armour but multiple items of armour. Somebody who is 'brynjaður' could be wearing a helmet, chausses, coif, mittens/gauntlets, etc... all at the same time. The main reason why the word 'brynja' has become synonymous with 'mail hauberk' is that mail is the most common armour find in Norse graves and other archaeological sites, not because 'brynja' is the Norse word for hauberk. Now that there is evidence for the use of lamellar armour, all we can really say is that somebody who was 'klæddur brynju' most likely wore a mail hauberk but we can't really rule out lamellar.
View user's profile Send private message
Mark Moore




Usergroups: None

Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
Likes: 6 pages
Reading list: 1 book
Posts: 1,604
PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2017 9:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hate to butt into you fellows convo here, but I have a question: Is there any evidence that lamellar plates were ever put directly onto mail...either riveted on or laced on? Seems to me like that would make for some pretty substantial armor. Reason for my asking is I have a riveted hauberk that I'm considering doing this to. I just read through this whole thread, and didn't see it mentioned anywhere, but I might have missed it. So......Yes? No? WTF?! .....McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
View user's profile Send private message
Kristjan Runarsson




Usergroups: None


Posts: 94
PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2017 10:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Moore wrote:
Hate to butt into you fellows convo here, but I have a question: Is there any evidence that lamellar plates were ever put directly onto mail...either riveted on or laced on? Seems to me like that would make for some pretty substantial armor. Reason for my asking is I have a riveted hauberk that I'm considering doing this to. I just read through this whole thread, and didn't see it mentioned anywhere, but I might have missed it. So......Yes? No? WTF?! .....McM


None that I am aware of. The most common armour in Scandinavia during the viking age and well into the 13th century was bog standard riveted mail armour. There is some evidence of lamellar but how common it was is debated. No mixing of mail and plate other than at some time during the mid to late 13th century you might have seen people wearing Visby style coats of plate on top of a mail shirt but I can't see that as being very common since it would be extremely heavy for a foot soldier to wear and Scandinavians, being primarily infantry, were better off being relatively mobile.
View user's profile Send private message
Mark Moore




Usergroups: None

Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
Likes: 6 pages
Reading list: 1 book
Posts: 1,604
PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2017 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Okay....Thanks! I may try lacing some on to see how I like it, just for giggles. My mail is fairly light, and I will be using leather, so maybe the weight won't go overboard. And, I can always undo it. Happy Something different for the Fests. Big Grin .....McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
View user's profile Send private message
Dan Howard




Usergroups: 
Donating Members

Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 2,928
PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2017 2:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Moore wrote:
Hate to butt into you fellows convo here, but I have a question: Is there any evidence that lamellar plates were ever put directly onto mail...either riveted on or laced on? Seems to me like that would make for some pretty substantial armor. Reason for my asking is I have a riveted hauberk that I'm considering doing this to. I just read through this whole thread, and didn't see it mentioned anywhere, but I might have missed it. So......Yes? No? WTF?! .....McM


It is called "mail and plates" or "plated mail". It was mainly used in Asia and the Middle East as a replacement for the lamellar that was previously used but it doesn't seem to have developed until around the 15th C.

Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
View user's profile Send private message
Dan Howard




Usergroups: 
Donating Members

Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 2,928
PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2017 2:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kristjan Runarsson wrote:
Mark Moore wrote:
Hate to butt into you fellows convo here, but I have a question: Is there any evidence that lamellar plates were ever put directly onto mail...either riveted on or laced on? Seems to me like that would make for some pretty substantial armor. Reason for my asking is I have a riveted hauberk that I'm considering doing this to. I just read through this whole thread, and didn't see it mentioned anywhere, but I might have missed it. So......Yes? No? WTF?! .....McM


None that I am aware of. The most common armour in Scandinavia during the viking age and well into the 13th century was bog standard riveted mail armour. There is some evidence of lamellar but how common it was is debated. No mixing of mail and plate other than at some time during the mid to late 13th century you might have seen people wearing Visby style coats of plate on top of a mail shirt but I can't see that as being very common since it would be extremely heavy for a foot soldier to wear and Scandinavians, being primarily infantry, were better off being relatively mobile.


There is a good reason for that. Mail is superior to lamellar in every way that matters. We've covered this before; lamellar is a particularly poor armour in cold or wet weather.

Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
View user's profile Send private message
Kristjan Runarsson




Usergroups: None


Posts: 94
PostPosted: Wed 01 Feb, 2017 4:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Kristjan Runarsson wrote:
Mark Moore wrote:
Hate to butt into you fellows convo here, but I have a question: Is there any evidence that lamellar plates were ever put directly onto mail...either riveted on or laced on? Seems to me like that would make for some pretty substantial armor. Reason for my asking is I have a riveted hauberk that I'm considering doing this to. I just read through this whole thread, and didn't see it mentioned anywhere, but I might have missed it. So......Yes? No? WTF?! .....McM


None that I am aware of. The most common armour in Scandinavia during the viking age and well into the 13th century was bog standard riveted mail armour. There is some evidence of lamellar but how common it was is debated. No mixing of mail and plate other than at some time during the mid to late 13th century you might have seen people wearing Visby style coats of plate on top of a mail shirt but I can't see that as being very common since it would be extremely heavy for a foot soldier to wear and Scandinavians, being primarily infantry, were better off being relatively mobile.


There is a good reason for that. Mail is superior to lamellar in every way that matters. We've covered this before; lamellar is a particularly poor armour in cold or wet weather.


Why? I own a chain mail hauberk and I also just got through making a lamellar cuirass. I have now worn both in freezing cold temperatures and other than the weight, and the way armour makes you sweat because of the weight which can give you pneumonia if you are not careful, my chief complaint with both of them is that armour is cold as hell if you do not wear a good amount of warm protective clothing underneath. If you are wearing some form of padding under the armour, even if it only takes the form of multiple woollen tunics, cooling would not be a factor. For me the difference between mail and lamellar lies in maintenance. If the mail rusts you have to wash it in vinegar and then stuff it in a bag full of sand, roll it around for ages, repeat as necessary and then oil the thing up. If you lose rings you need to have a riveting tool in your baggage. I find the lamellar plates are easier to de-rust and clean and quicker to replace if you lace the armour up with ease of maintenance in mind. All you need to have in your baggage are some spare plates and leather chord so lamellar is a damn sight less labour intensive to maintain than mail. My chief gripe with lamellar is weather independent, namely that it does not give protection to the arms like mail does. If I could pick my armour it would be lamellar or a Visby type coat of plates with stand alone mail sleeves ('voiders' I think they are called).
View user's profile Send private message
Lafayette C Curtis




Usergroups: None

Location: Indonesia
Reading list: 7 books
Posts: 2,589
PostPosted: Mon 17 Apr, 2017 7:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's mostly from Japanese experience; they found that the laces on their lamellar armour soaked up rain, mud, and sweat (not to mention dirty water from wading through rice fields) and either became breeding grounds for parasites in summer or froze solid in winter. This was why they developed a sparser lacing method at first and gradually shifted to banded/laminar armour, then bands riveted to each other to make a rigid cuirass, and then finally a solid cuirass altogether with minimal lacing.
View user's profile Send private message
Lafayette C Curtis




Usergroups: None

Location: Indonesia
Reading list: 7 books
Posts: 2,589
PostPosted: Mon 17 Apr, 2017 8:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Here directly follows Ibn Fadlan's description that are simply at odds with all other indications about viking people being clean (even having a weekday called washing-day): So it's likely a religious/cultural bias we are observing here, like when Greek and Roman writers expects according to their worldview people far away to be primitive and filthy (like descriptions of the Aesti).

"They are the filthiest of God’s creatures. They neither cleanse themselves after either defecation or urination, nor do they perform the necessary ablutions after major ritual impurity, nor do they wash their hands after eating. Indeed they are like stray asses.


I wouldn't quite call it bias, more like a pretty significant cultural difference. Islamic hygiene rules call for Muslims to wash their nether regions with water after urination or defecation, and to this day it remains one of the major difficulties for people from Muslim countries when they visit or move to European or North American countries with dry bathrooms that don't provide some kind of sprinkler or pail or some other means to access cleansing water within arm's reach of the toilet. Another important rule for observant Muslims is that they must do a minor ablution (washing the face, the hands and arms up to the elbow, and the feet up to the ankle, and rubbing some water upon the hair and ears) before each prayer and a major ablution (a complete bath/shower, including washing the hair) after sex. It probably wouldn't be too much to call the Muslims clean freaks by medieval standards.

(This has also been posited as an explanation for why Islam seems to have become popular in warmer countries but had a hard time breaking into colder ones where water-based hygiene practices weren't practical in winter before the advent of smaller and more affordable electric heaters.)
View user's profile Send private message
Niels Just Rasmussen




Usergroups: None

Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 739
PostPosted: Mon 17 Apr, 2017 10:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Here directly follows Ibn Fadlan's description that are simply at odds with all other indications about viking people being clean (even having a weekday called washing-day): So it's likely a religious/cultural bias we are observing here, like when Greek and Roman writers expects according to their worldview people far away to be primitive and filthy (like descriptions of the Aesti).

"They are the filthiest of God’s creatures. They neither cleanse themselves after either defecation or urination, nor do they perform the necessary ablutions after major ritual impurity, nor do they wash their hands after eating. Indeed they are like stray asses.


I wouldn't quite call it bias, more like a pretty significant cultural difference. Islamic hygiene rules call for Muslims to wash their nether regions with water after urination or defecation, and to this day it remains one of the major difficulties for people from Muslim countries when they visit or move to European or North American countries with dry bathrooms that don't provide some kind of sprinkler or pail or some other means to access cleansing water within arm's reach of the toilet. Another important rule for observant Muslims is that they must do a minor ablution (washing the face, the hands and arms up to the elbow, and the feet up to the ankle, and rubbing some water upon the hair and ears) before each prayer and a major ablution (a complete bath/shower, including washing the hair) after sex. It probably wouldn't be too much to call the Muslims clean freaks by medieval standards.

(This has also been posited as an explanation for why Islam seems to have become popular in warmer countries but had a hard time breaking into colder ones where water-based hygiene practices weren't practical in winter before the advent of smaller and more affordable electric heaters.)


You wouldn't call the quotes "filthiest of God’s creatures" & "They are like stray asses" a bias"?? Eek!

My point is just that people have a natural tendency to judge according to their own cultural bias - what you do yourself is certainly "right" and what others do "wrong".
So one has to always be very careful about using sources written by strangers as "truths" - they are much more "perspectives".
Washing yourself with water (if not boiled and also when not using soap) is actually extremely unhygienic as it spreads bacteria even more. People would know that for washing clothes you need hot water, and it is clearly the case also when washing yourself. Everyone will know from personal experience that cold water (without soap) doesn't make you clean, just fresh you up.

That is especially true for Denmark where drinking water was later a punishment for criminals - water caused sickness or death by disease. So you drank beer, even children after they stopped on mothers milk. Many places you simply don't have access to clean water (no mountain streams or deep wells). So water had to be boiled if used.

The islamic rules are based on ritual observance, that actually will spread germs even more (only rich people can afford to takes baths in boiled water on a regular basis).
So the bias is one of "religious cleanliness" and not actual hygiene.

Inuits in Greenland washed their hair in urine - from their point of view it is actually the most hygienic thing to do based on their available resources. Washing yourself in cold areas in wintertime with water is actually a way to kill yourself as also german veterans learned in WW2. Without the protective grease layer you get frostbites and hypothermia much easier.

In Scandinavian Viking Age people probably washed themselves and clothes every saturday (Lørdag actually means "washing day"), so they would use hot water for wash and baths and that would use fuel (wood).
Unless you were very rich it was not economically possible to do this every day, especially in wintertime when you needed the wood for heating and cooking.
Yet in the cities in the middle ages in Scandinavia you had public bathing houses, where men and women (rich and poor) bathed together. People actually often left their home naked when walking back and forth to the baths. You also had bathing rooms in the cloisters and in castles.
From 1295 in Flensborg we know that men and women were separated because of the naughtiness going on in them, but other places all over Scandinavia bath for both sexes continued. Starting from around ~1500 the public bathing houses came under attack because of the syphilis fear. You actually thought it was the warm water and soap that caused plague and syphilis by opening up the pores in the skin making it easier for the diseases to enter the body (the prevalent miasma theory of the time). Yet even in Olaus Magnus (1555) described the great cleanliness of Scandinavian and it was viewed as a basic necessity equal to food and drink. A frenchman visiting Stockholm in 1635 still found public hot-water bathing houses for both sexes and Finns still have their sauna culture (which actually is a Nordic culture before the moralism).
Other places in Europe it was the result of the Black Death that caused the closing of bathing houses - so already in the 1350's.
Bad cleanliness in Scandinavia is a result of the moralistic closing of the bathing houses. So from the closing of the bathing houses Denmark was a cesspool at least in the cities, probably not so much in the country side.
But that was something entirely new, it was not the way it was before, but you are likely correct that the modern trend back to cleanliness (starting in ~1850 when the miasma theory became challenged) became more easy with electric heaters.

But John of Wallingford actually totally contradicts Ibn Fadlan - his description of Scandinavians (probably mostly Danes) are the following:
"caused much trouble to the natives of the land; for they were wont, after the fashion of their country, to comb their hair every day, to bathe every Saturday, to change their garments often, and set off their persons by many frivolous devices. In this matter they laid siege to the virtue of the married woman, and persuaded the daughters even of the noble to be their concubines."
Source: http://www.historyofyork.org.uk/themes/viking...e-grooming


Last edited by Niels Just Rasmussen on Mon 17 Apr, 2017 10:21 am; edited 1 time in total
View user's profile Send private message
Lafayette C Curtis




Usergroups: None

Location: Indonesia
Reading list: 7 books
Posts: 2,589
PostPosted: Tue 18 Apr, 2017 11:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Washing yourself with water (if not boiled and also when not using soap) is actually extremely unhygienic as it spreads bacteria even more.


At least in this respect I don't see how it's going to be any less clean than wiping with toilet paper.


Quote:
People would know that for washing clothes you need hot water, and it is clearly the case also when washing yourself. Everyone will know from personal experience that cold water (without soap) doesn't make you clean, just fresh you up.


Not everywhere! Here in Indonesia showering with hot water is reserved for small children who aren't old enough to stand the cold in the early morning. Everybody else gets laughed at if they need hot water just for a shower (except for rich people who really couldn't care less about what other people think). Similarly, laundry is done almost exclusively with cold water except for heavily soiled clothes. But then maybe cold water here would seem lukewarm for Danes, so....

I think another pretty major difference is the cultural perception of what constitutes a "bath." Islamic religious rules prescribe running/flowing water for hygiene activities -- including full-body washing in the major ritual ablution -- so the concept of "bathing" in a tub sounds quite alien in most Muslim-majority countries. Ladling water out of a tub for dousing oneself is normal, but getting into a tub and soaking in it is viewed as a mere indulgence (and again, a rather decadent one reserved for rich people) rather than an actual cleansing activity. There's some reason to suspect that this convention developed after Islam began to spread out of Arabia into the water-rich countries of South and Southeast Asia (arguably the places with the largest Muslim populations in the world -- today there are more Muslims in Indonesia alone than in the whole of the Middle East!) but there are indications that there was a feedback process whereby this new perception also affected Arab ideas of cleanliness (especially considering that Ibn Fadlan probably originated in the relatively wetter lands of Mesopotamia -- where the marshes south of Baghdad were not drained until the 1970s or so -- rather than peninsular Arabia, which had gone back to being a backwater in the Islamic world not long after the end of the early conquests).
View user's profile Send private message
Niels Just Rasmussen




Usergroups: None

Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 739
PostPosted: Tue 18 Apr, 2017 3:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Washing yourself with water (if not boiled and also when not using soap) is actually extremely unhygienic as it spreads bacteria even more.


At least in this respect I don't see how it's going to be any less clean than wiping with toilet paper.


Quote:
People would know that for washing clothes you need hot water, and it is clearly the case also when washing yourself. Everyone will know from personal experience that cold water (without soap) doesn't make you clean, just fresh you up.


Not everywhere! Here in Indonesia showering with hot water is reserved for small children who aren't old enough to stand the cold in the early morning. Everybody else gets laughed at if they need hot water just for a shower (except for rich people who really couldn't care less about what other people think). Similarly, laundry is done almost exclusively with cold water except for heavily soiled clothes. But then maybe cold water here would seem lukewarm for Danes, so....

I think another pretty major difference is the cultural perception of what constitutes a "bath." Islamic religious rules prescribe running/flowing water for hygiene activities -- including full-body washing in the major ritual ablution -- so the concept of "bathing" in a tub sounds quite alien in most Muslim-majority countries. Ladling water out of a tub for dousing oneself is normal, but getting into a tub and soaking in it is viewed as a mere indulgence (and again, a rather decadent one reserved for rich people) rather than an actual cleansing activity. There's some reason to suspect that this convention developed after Islam began to spread out of Arabia into the water-rich countries of South and Southeast Asia (arguably the places with the largest Muslim populations in the world -- today there are more Muslims in Indonesia alone than in the whole of the Middle East!) but there are indications that there was a feedback process whereby this new perception also affected Arab ideas of cleanliness (especially considering that Ibn Fadlan probably originated in the relatively wetter lands of Mesopotamia -- where the marshes south of Baghdad were not drained until the 1970s or so -- rather than peninsular Arabia, which had gone back to being a backwater in the Islamic world not long after the end of the early conquests).


Wiping things dry doesn't spread bacteria as much as rinsing in cold water does.
You have warnings of rinsing chicken meat for instance in cold water nowadays!

Thats a good point with the cultural differences of what constituted a bath!
Bathing in running water in most of Denmark with mean laying down in (most of the time) slow moving small streams full of clay/silt particles, algae and plants, so not at all hygienic at all; so you simply would need a bathing house, tub or barrel to clean people and clothes in.

You had apparently two types of bath in the viking ages and middle ages:
"Laug" is washing = wet baths -> (origin of Lørdag = washing day).
"Bad" is sweating baths in dry air with short intervals of steam introduced.

Bath of the sweating type have probably been identified from Slesvig (Rantrum) already from the 1st century BC.
So perhaps Tacicus description of the cleanliness of the Germanic tribes are not empty rhetorics to underline the decadence of romans, but something that anyone who had seen Germanic people would recognize.
A viking age example of "grubehuse" (pithouses with heating stones) is from Lindholm Høje in Jutland and one from Hviítárholt in Iceland.
Source: MIKAEL MANØE BJERREGAARD Badstuer i middelalderen.

So my point is that Ibn Fadlan observations is totally against all other evidences we have, but it does seem that running water was not used in Scandinavia for washing/bathing.
View user's profile Send private message
Niels Just Rasmussen




Usergroups: None

Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 739
PostPosted: Tue 18 Apr, 2017 3:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Washing yourself with water (if not boiled and also when not using soap) is actually extremely unhygienic as it spreads bacteria even more.


At least in this respect I don't see how it's going to be any less clean than wiping with toilet paper.


Quote:
People would know that for washing clothes you need hot water, and it is clearly the case also when washing yourself. Everyone will know from personal experience that cold water (without soap) doesn't make you clean, just fresh you up.


Not everywhere! Here in Indonesia showering with hot water is reserved for small children who aren't old enough to stand the cold in the early morning. Everybody else gets laughed at if they need hot water just for a shower (except for rich people who really couldn't care less about what other people think). Similarly, laundry is done almost exclusively with cold water except for heavily soiled clothes. But then maybe cold water here would seem lukewarm for Danes, so....

I think another pretty major difference is the cultural perception of what constitutes a "bath." Islamic religious rules prescribe running/flowing water for hygiene activities -- including full-body washing in the major ritual ablution -- so the concept of "bathing" in a tub sounds quite alien in most Muslim-majority countries. Ladling water out of a tub for dousing oneself is normal, but getting into a tub and soaking in it is viewed as a mere indulgence (and again, a rather decadent one reserved for rich people) rather than an actual cleansing activity. There's some reason to suspect that this convention developed after Islam began to spread out of Arabia into the water-rich countries of South and Southeast Asia (arguably the places with the largest Muslim populations in the world -- today there are more Muslims in Indonesia alone than in the whole of the Middle East!) but there are indications that there was a feedback process whereby this new perception also affected Arab ideas of cleanliness (especially considering that Ibn Fadlan probably originated in the relatively wetter lands of Mesopotamia -- where the marshes south of Baghdad were not drained until the 1970s or so -- rather than peninsular Arabia, which had gone back to being a backwater in the Islamic world not long after the end of the early conquests).


Wiping things dry doesn't spread bacteria as much as rinsing in cold water does.
You have warnings of rinsing chicken meat for instance in cold water nowadays!

Thats a good point with the cultural differences of what constituted a bath!
Bathing in running water in most of Denmark with mean laying down in (most of the time) slow moving small streams full of clay/silt particles, algae and plants, so not at all hygienic at all; so you simply would need a bathing house, tub or barrel to clean people and clothes in.

You had apparently two types of bath in the viking ages and middle ages:
"Laug" is washing = wet baths -> (origin of Lørdag = washing day).
"Bad" is sweating baths in dry air with short intervals of steam introduced.

Bath of the sweating type have probably been identified from Slesvig (Rantrum) already from the 1st century BC.
So perhaps Tacicus description of the cleanliness of the Germanic tribes are not empty rhetorics to underline the decadence of romans, but something that anyone who had seen Germanic people would recognize.
A viking age example of "grubehuse" (pithouses with heating stones) is from Lindholm Høje in Jutland and one from Hviítárholt in Iceland.
Source: MIKAEL MANØE BJERREGAARD Badstuer i middelalderen.

So my point is that Ibn Fadlan observations is totally against all other evidences we have, but it does seem that running water was not used in Scandinavia for washing/bathing.
View user's profile Send private message
Dan Howard




Usergroups: 
Donating Members

Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 2,928
PostPosted: Tue 18 Apr, 2017 4:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Wiping things dry doesn't spread bacteria as much as rinsing in cold water does.
You have warnings of rinsing chicken meat for instance in cold water nowadays! .



Only relevant if you can show that Scandinavians knew about bacteria at the time. Most people believed that diseases were spread through bad humors in the air. Bathing was mainly done to remove stink, not to stop the spread of disease.

Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
View user's profile Send private message
Niels Just Rasmussen




Usergroups: None

Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 739
PostPosted: Wed 19 Apr, 2017 11:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Wiping things dry doesn't spread bacteria as much as rinsing in cold water does.
You have warnings of rinsing chicken meat for instance in cold water nowadays! .



Only relevant if you can show that Scandinavians knew about bacteria at the time. Most people believed that diseases were spread through bad humors in the air. Bathing was mainly done to remove stink, not to stop the spread of disease.


Not really if we talk about "actual hygiene". Then cultures which thinks cold water "cleanses" actually risk spread diseases even more.
I totally agree that bathing was not done to remove disease, but stink -> but maybe I was unclear between the "perceived hygiene" (cultural bias) and "actual hygiene" (scientific, what will actually risk making you sick).

If we talk about "perceived hygiene", then the cleaning in rinsing water gives the illusion of washing things clean (it does remove dirt particles), and we see that in many cultures. The point was that rinsing/cleaning in running water in Islam is a "religious cleanliness", not a scientific one.
So in their point of view against other cultures not washing in running water is thus a cultural bias and have no basis in "actual hygiene", rather the contrary! In Danish hospitals its paramount in cleaning that everything is wiped dry afterwards as most pathogenic bacteria spreads through water droplets (anthrax is a nasty exception).
You use water to remove the "dirt", but pathogens are combatted with chlorine (or other types) and by removing the water, the pathogens need to spread. So hand washing in cold or lukewarm water (if you don't make sure your hands are carefully dry afterwards before touching anything) is not "actual hygiene", just a perceived one.

It seems Scandinavians in both viking age and middle ages always washed in warm non-running water (or sweat-washing), so muslims would have a strong cultural bias against that; but it doesn't mean their point of view is better when it comes to "actual hygiene".

Islam also have a religious prohibition against eating dead animals (sensible enough; but it's a good question actually if halal slaughtered meat, which had gone rotten later, can be eaten?).
In Northern Europe (Iceland & Faroese Islands especially) you still eat fermented and rotting meat. You also ate black rotten eggs before before the Salmonella problems (which spreads from living chickens to the eggs).
Is that filthy or dangerous? Again that is a cultural bias.

It is a general misunderstanding that rotten meat is dangerous. Bacteria in rotten meat are not a danger to your health, it is only if the meat has become contaminated with pathogenic bacteria that is dangerous (as with all meat, rotten or not). So if you handle the meat - so neither flies spreading pathogens or infected water from sewage infect it - it is not a health danger.
People in Iceland and Faroese Islands don't die like flies even though they have eaten it for hundreds of years.

When people in Scandinavia lived in single farms or small villages, then the risk of pathogenic bacteria spreading was very small. It is generally with sewage-problems in cities with open latrines, that these problems arose. Then the miasma idea spread as a response to the black death among the educated, but we know that Venice actually invented the "quarentina" - the forty days isolation. So some people in power there certainly ignored the "educated" view of bad fumes (miasma) and had an idea of person-to-person contact as the cause of the disease. So ignoring "fumes" people were regarded as non-infected after 40 days.

What people in the vikings age in Scandinavia thought about infectious diseases I really don't know if there are any clues, but its hardly likely they had an educated greco-roman miasma (nebula) view of Vitrivius.
It could be religious punishment, but hardly likely as Norse Æsir didn't "punish" anyone. "Divine punishment" is not at all part of Norse religion, neither were old Germanic laws based on punishment, but on fines (compensation).
It seems that at least from the late viking age and middle ages some inflections were associated with elf-men and elf-women (being elf-shot is also known from England), but the bulk of evidence seems to be general health problems and not infectious diseases. Infectious diseases would perhaps be seen as a magical attack from some human agent, but it is hard to know if sagas simply describe medieval christian conceptions of "witches"?

So this discussion was just my objection to the statement that: Ibn Fadlan was not culturally biased with what he wrote about the Rus.
The Rus were filthy to Ibn Fadlan in his eyes, but not a view seen in other accounts or what archaeology tells us.

I can perhaps come with one speculative explanation: Ibn Fadlan witnessed a burial ritual stretching over many days.
So he observed Rus closely during this time and his opinion then became coloured from what he saw during the ritual.
We know from rituals that normal behavior and rules can be dramatically changed, so this extremely bloody, noisy (and drunken) spectacle was very filthy and violent.
People died during Scandinavian funerals, it was not at all "fun" - it was meant to be truly horrible, also for the people involved.
For people interested in Scandinavian funerals see this lecture (from 27.45 min): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uu2gN8n15_A

What goes on in a ritual is not normal life and behavior -> it's in fact designed to often dramatically change or even inverse behavior from the normal.
But if Ibn Fadlan was shocked over what he witnessed no one should be surprised over that; pagan Scandinavian funerals were shocking, but they are NOT normal behavior.
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Scandinavian Armor
Page 3 of 3 Reply to topic
Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3 All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2017 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum