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Einar Drønnesund





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PostPosted: Tue 21 Feb, 2012 7:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
Why on earth would you want to hold a seax in two hands?

There is simply no reason for wanting a two handed blade in the viking age. The lack of body armour and prevailence of large shields and spears make any style not including a shield disadvantageous at best.


In battle, yes, but swords werent just used on the battlefield, and people didnt carry a big shield around every day, while you can happily wear a sword or seax in a scabbard.
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Feb, 2012 3:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Einar Drønnesund wrote:

In battle, yes, but swords werent just used on the battlefield, and people didnt carry a big shield around every day, while you can happily wear a sword or seax in a scabbard.


Just what I was going to say.

A shield is cumbersome to walk around with doing everyday chores, while a long handled blade isn't much more in the way than a short handled one.

Also, these thick bladed 2-handed seaxes is a meld between axe and sword and can proably be put to utility use chopping trees and things like that as well as fighting. So if you're only going to buy one thing, instead of both an axe and a broadsword it might even be a way to get away with a lower overall cost.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Feb, 2012 5:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sure, you can carry a seax.
But using it in two hands is wildly unpractical.

For one, it is clumsy. Kind of like trying to drive nails with two hands on a carpenters hammer.
Second, you loose about 30 cm/a foot of range as you have to reach across your body.
Third, you will be unable to hold a propper guard, as you need to stand squared against your foe, and you blade is to short to cover you.

Also, seaxes largely fall from use in the early viking period, and the later fighting knifes are rare, at least in the norwegian finds.

The axe seems to have been the casual weapon and status symbol of choice among the scandinavians.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Peter Messent




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Feb, 2012 7:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've always loved the aesthetic appeal of a two-handed viking; but until I'm making swords myself again (and thus can satisfy my more fantastic sword cravings without spending as much money Wink ) it's a no-go for me.

However, according to Hurstwic:

Quote:
Stories say that sometimes fighters used their swords two-handed


I can't personally recall any such instances, but I generally consider Hurstwic to be a good source of information so I'm prepared to take it at face value. That, and I can't imagine that a Viking has never wielded a sword with two hands. Hurstwic suggests that the later practice of placing the off-hand on the wrist of the sword-hand to lend additional power was employed, though there is no contemporary evidence to support this supposition.

http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manu..._sword.htm

With this in mind, I consider it unimaginable that it never occurred to a Viking-age smith to make a two-handed sword. The fact that no examples survive suggests a lack of demand. To me, the main advantage of longer, two-handed swords is half-swording, which - again, to me - is only a technique that is worth developing when facing truly armored foes.

A great disadvantage to long swords in warfare where most men carried shields would probably be the lack of heft; particularly given what most of us consider make a 'good sword' (balance, weight distribution, etc) I don't think that a longsword would be particularly effective at breaking up a shield wall - the dane axe has both forward weight and the hooking ability on its side, and one-handed swords at least allow even-footing by the use of a shield in the off hand. A well-made spear has a fantastic piercing ability, plus speed and accuracy in the hands of a skilled user - it would probably utilize gaps in the shield wall better than most other weapons.

From the Saga of Gisli the Outlaw:

Quote:
Well, they all thought that good counsel; and after that they went out of their booth to the point of the "ere," and there cut up a sod of turf in such wise that both its ends were still fast to the earth, and propped it up by a spear scored with runes, so tall that a man might lay his hand on the socket of the spear-head


This implies that spears with shafts about 8 feet long (average height in viking-age scandinavia seems to be about 5'8" from memory) did exist but were not so common.

What surprises me much more is the lack of bucklers to accompany viking-age swords - if, in everyday, non-warfare life, somebody carried a sword that was meant to be used with a shield, why should a buckler not be an obvious companion to it? That being said, i have extreme doubts about any significant number of people carrying a sword with them everywhere in everyday, non-warfare life. In the viking age, it seems that it would make more sense - if you wish to arm yourself on a day-to-day basis - to carry a spear and/or a knife and/or axe. Spears function as walking staffs and hunting weapons - knives and axes are multifunctional - and all three are much less valuable than swords.

Sorry - this discussion was so thought provoking that I feel I only helped to push this further off topic Worried
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2012 6:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Messent wrote:
IWhat surprises me much more is the lack of bucklers to accompany viking-age swords - if, in everyday, non-warfare life, somebody carried a sword that was meant to be used with a shield, why should a buckler not be an obvious companion to it?


I agree, but if most evidence of shields that we find in the archeological record are bosses, the who can say anything for sure about the circumference of the complete shield?

There is pictorial evidence for shields that seem to be about 40-50cm in diameter, for instance in this Frisian seal of 1324
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2012 8:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

All the finds from the scandinavian viking age are full size, 80cm+ versions. There are plenty of finds and contemporary references to bucklers from the late 12th c. on, but nothing definite from the earlier period.

Casual sword wear seems to pick up popularity in renaisance cities, where carrying a sword showed you where a soldier or noble. Untill everyone got one to be cool, of course.
This function seems to have been filled by axes in scandinavia, and posibly large, ornate seaxes in the eastern areas or among the saxons.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2012 8:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I can't personally recall any such instances, but I generally consider Hurstwic to be a good source of information so I'm prepared to take it at face value. That, and I can't imagine that a Viking has never wielded a sword with two hands. Hurstwic suggests that the later practice of placing the off-hand on the wrist of the sword-hand to lend additional power was employed, though there is no contemporary evidence to support this supposition.


I don't want to quote this out of context but I do agree, foolish to think no one ever wielded a shorter grip with two hands. I t is easy and comfortable ebough for it to be almost second nature.

Cheers

GC.



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Cashen migration sword
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2012 1:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen, I agree.

The records from the battle of Stamford Bridge mention double hand grip on swords, this is after some time into the battle where Norsemen are throwing shields and double gripping swords to make them bite harder.
This was written down perhaps 100 years after the battle or more like some 86 years off the top of my head... Never mind, it took a while after anyway and some facts may have been embellished or lost by then. But then again this is how it is with almost all of our written history.

I've experimented with two handed cutting with my viking swords too.
The way to go for adding anything in power seems to be the modern pistol shooting overlap grip or the wrist support grip Hurstwic mention on their site. It still doesn't add the kind of power I could get with a real 2-hand grip of course. I did try finger over cross and finger under the pommel to fit two hands like on a longsword. This seemed great in theory but I couldn't make it work effectively as I was gripping the counterweight of the pommel and closer to the COB with the upper hand making the cut dynamics weaker and I seemed to lose rather than gain cutting power with it. Perhaps with more practice it would work, I don't know?

Something I do notice though is that cutting with overlapping hands means that cutting though a heavy target is smoother and less jerky, as well as the risk of having the handle twist in your hand lessens. But then finger over cross with a single hand grip does that too. I'll experiment more with this next time I do cutting.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge


Last edited by Johan Gemvik on Wed 22 Feb, 2012 1:15 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2012 1:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
All the finds from the scandinavian viking age are full size, 80cm+ versions. There are plenty of finds and contemporary references to bucklers from the late 12th c. on, but nothing definite from the earlier period.

The interesting thing about that seal (and other Frisian depictions of similar shields) is that it does show the "old fashioned" (by then) construction of a boss on a round shield, but that the shields shown appear to be considerably smaller.

Elling Polden wrote:
Casual sword wear seems to pick up popularity in renaisance cities, where carrying a sword showed you where a soldier or noble. Untill everyone got one to be cool, of course.
This function seems to have been filled by axes in scandinavia, and posibly large, ornate seaxes in the eastern areas or among the saxons.
Do you have a source for the idea that swords were not generally worn together with civilian dress in the Viking age?
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Peter Messent




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2012 4:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul - very interesting coin, and very good point about the boss. I had planned on making a viking-age-styled buckler from a regular boss and a small ring of wood around it as a piece of experimental archaeology, and think I still will Big Grin

Elling - I tend to agree that civilian sword-wear would be by no means common in the Viking age. However, Gisli's saga says again later on (another reference gleaned from Hurstwic):

Quote:
The young man took it, turned to one side, unfastened the peace straps and drew the sword.


While this was at an assembly of the thing, the presence of peace straps suggests that drawing a sword in anger was a problem - certainly being called 'peace straps' implies that they are to keep the peace, a concept not really applicable in battle. I feel, therefore, that while it was not common, it was not necessarily all too uncommon either.

Glen - thanks for the pic, glad to see I'm not alone!

Johan - Interesting that texts suggest it as well!

Does anyone happen to have access to videos of cut tests with a viking sword wielded two-handed? I would be most interested in seeing how it compares, I'll perhaps experiment myself as well.
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Thu 23 Feb, 2012 1:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Messent wrote:
Paul - very interesting coin, and very good point about the boss. I had planned on making a viking-age-styled buckler from a regular boss and a small ring of wood around it as a piece of experimental archaeology, and think I still will Big Grin
It is the seal of the Upstalboom alliance of the Frisian territories.

I have attached a picture of a medieval fresco in the church of Westerwijdwert, Groningen. Apparently it is dated to the early 13th. C, but may be slightly anachronistic since the warrior on the left is wearing a sax in his belt. The shields seem to be similar to the ones depicted on the seal. The warrior on the left is in a ward that can also be seen in the I.33, so that further indicates a link to buckler fencing. The spear of the warrior on the left has a small trident that was apparently used to jump over canals as in the modern Frisian sport of fierljeppen:
http://www.davinckie.nl/wp-content/uploads/20...yslan2.jpg
http://blog.holland.com/default_www/wp-conten...00x225.jpg

If you understand German, this series of videos is worth watching:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sW2RtMUf2X0&am...n&NR=1
According to the narrator, the Westerwijdwert fresco depicts judicial combat as indicated by the colored belts.



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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Thu 23 Feb, 2012 3:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Messent wrote:
Does anyone happen to have access to videos of cut tests with a viking sword wielded two-handed? I would be most interested in seeing how it compares, I'll perhaps experiment myself as well.


I could make one I suppose... But I'm not set up for any test cutting anytime soon. Too much wet and ice outside and I don't want accidents from poor footing in my usual spot.
I know some lucky buggers on this forum have indoors studios to practice cutting in all year long. Would be easy for them to give it a try. Any broad blade single hand sword should work for this, not just what we think of as the typical viking styles. Anyway, I could ask them, but I'm not part of that group so no promises.

Anyway, I can google around a bit too. It seems like something someone somewhere would post on Youtube.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Fri 24 Feb, 2012 10:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul: The knife in the belt could be a medevial single edged dagger or knife.

There are large bucklers/small round shields around in the high middle ages. A number of these are preserved in Norway. They do however appear to be "civilian" weapons, as the majority of "warriors™" are depicted with heater or kite shields.
And since they are definitely high medevial in origin, the say little about the presence or absence of such shields in the viking age.

As for two handed cutting with a one handed sword, it can definitely be done with good effect. However, it makes little tactical sense, as you loose range and flexibility.
"Attacking with both hands" is a tem used in the sagas to describe someone who is attacking all out with no regard for defence. Quite often right before they die heroicaly.
It is also not uncommon to mention that the person doing this is grabbing shields and pulling them from his enemies.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Fri 24 Feb, 2012 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
Paul: The knife in the belt could be a medevial single edged dagger or knife.

There are large bucklers/small round shields around in the high middle ages. A number of these are preserved in Norway. They do however appear to be "civilian" weapons, as the majority of "warriors™" are depicted with heater or kite shields.
And since they are definitely high medevial in origin, the say little about the presence or absence of such shields in the viking age.


Thanks for the input Elling. I would like to see some pictures of these shields, if you have them.
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Peter Messent




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PostPosted: Fri 24 Feb, 2012 3:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul - those do certainly look more like bucklers than full-sized shields. I can't help but wonder if a buckler wouldn't be deemed more appropriate for a duel than a full sized shield - if it is to be assumed that a viking-age shield wall was to operate like a phalanx, the shield is to protect the man next to you as much as it protects you. Large shields were not just beneficial, but an absolute necessity to maintain the integrity of that shield wall. The suggestion that there were supposedly laws governing the construction of a shield (I can't remember the source for this, can anyone confirm/deny this?) shows how important the individual shield was to the wall as a whole. But in instances of organized one-on-one fighting such as the holmgang, would a smaller, faster shield perhaps be used to better effect? Just a thought with no practical example to back it up Confused

Johan - I'll join you in your googling. if I can get set up for cutting before this topic dies I'll try it myself - summer starts early in Texas Sad
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Nils Anderssen




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PostPosted: Fri 24 Feb, 2012 3:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You can find more information on the Norwegian bucklers in my post in this thread http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=2830&highlight=

and in this gallery:

http://www.vikverir.no/ressurser/hist_mus_osl...amp;page=3

As Elling says, these bucklers have nothing to do with Viking shields. If you look at viking age art, you can sometime see fairly small shields, but this is probably to do with the art style (wanting to show the person behind it...), rather than a good representation of their size.


I had promised my self not to get involved with this thread, but here I go...:

Using a Viking sword (or saxes) in two hands has few, if any, advantages.. By having one hand on the weapon and the other free gives you the opportunity to do grappling, controlling the opponents weapon, gripping the blade (yes you can do that...) or controlling the opponent. In other words, this gives you the capabilities of being both offensive and defensive... Taking into account the length of the viking swords and the quality and hardness of the steal used in them (which was poor), using it as a classical medieval longsword has loads of problems. If you do testcutting properly you will see that against unarmed opponents you do not need much force (or a really sharp sword) in order to do a lot of damage. Using it in one hand gives you more than enough force.

Also, as Johan Gemvik says in his post, you actually affects the cutting abilities of the weapon in a way that you don't want it to.

If you, as a unarmed opponent, uses any single handed or longsword sized weapon against a large shield (80cm +) and a one handed sword you have huge problems. The opponent can easily block your attack with the shield and hit you in the head with the sword...
Do any form of practical fighting you will probably find this as well.


If you blindly look for clues of weapons that can be used in two hands you will find them... many of them. This is because you convince yourself that what you seek is what you see. A good example is the picture of saxes on the first page in this tread. If you look at the pictures without looking at the measurements, it might seem like you can use them with two hands, but if you look at the measurements, they are fairly small and clearly made for use in one hand.

If you do research by having high and clear expectations on what to find will will only "enforce" your knowledge (which is for us living today fairly limited) and expectations onto your findings. This is a very bad and will greatly affect your findings and conclusions. You have to look at the objects for what they actually are and let them speak to you.
The people who designed and made them where most probably not stupid, but had a much better idea of what it was going to be used for than we will ever have. Since they are long gone, the only thing we have is their object which will give us clues on why they where made... but this can only be done if we let them speak, and not enforcing our ideas onto them by shouting.

So, if you for example look at viking swords there are found a lot of them... not 3, not 100 but almost 3000... only in Norway. This is a substantial amount by any archaeological standard and gives us a extremely good basis for research. By looking at a many of them you will see that they are have a very consistent design (proportions, weight etc.). They where made this way, not because they did not know any better, but because that was the most efficient design at that particular place in time taking into account how they where going to be used and what they where going to be used against.

The same goes for shields... there are many well documented finds.

If you get good replicas (of any type of object) and try to use them in the most comfortable and practical way as possible, which often is not the most obvious one, it will take you onto an adventure which will teach you a lot...

A good example is this video that shows dueling with large shields: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkhpqAGdZPc
Using the shields in this way makes completely sense, especially when you look at the quality of the steel in the swords. Most of them where simply not in an condition where you want to use them against another sword... so you used the shield instead.

If you use a buckler you have to use the swords in binds against other swords to compensate for the lack of defence.
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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Sat 25 Feb, 2012 11:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:


Problem I see withthis thought is that the two handed sword was not a cavalry weapon - it was an infantry one.



Depends on how you understand it, I guess - in actual 'longsword way' it was obviously being used as an infrantry weapon, in two hands - but in war it was used mostly by knights - so cavalry.

Most probably as one handed sword from the horseback too - and two handed in case of dismounting, and later as personal/civilian weapon, obviously.
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Peter Messent




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PostPosted: Sat 25 Feb, 2012 11:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nils Anderssen wrote:
A good example is this video that shows dueling with large shields: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkhpqAGdZPc
Using the shields in this way makes completely sense, especially when you look at the quality of the steel in the swords. Most of them where simply not in an condition where you want to use them against another sword... so you used the shield instead.

If you use a buckler you have to use the swords in binds against other swords to compensate for the lack of defence.


It's late here so I haven't watched the whole thing yet, but that is the most insightful use of a roundshield I've ever seen and explains many of my qualms with it. Thank you for posting that!
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