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Len Parker





Joined: 15 Apr 2011

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PostPosted: Thu 24 May, 2018 8:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are shield-walls in Beowulf, The Battle Of Brunanburh, Skaldskaparmal, Egil Skallagrimsson and Saxo's History.

The Battle Of Brunanburh: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/ncmh/dna/brunanburh.aspx
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sat 26 May, 2018 6:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The fact that the few Viking era shields are rather different in thickness could indicate that Matt. As well we have no idea what they were faced with. My recent messing about with raw hide makes me thing such thin shields would be much more durable with a layer of it on them.
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Len Parker





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PostPosted: Sat 26 May, 2018 9:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The swine-snout array is what the viking wedge formation is called: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svinfylking

Then there was a great slaughter of the Englishmen because there were many in that battle who were fit for nothing. They fought all day. And about even king Harold Godwin's son fell, but Heming and Helgi and Valtheof threw their men into swine-snout array (10) and nothing could touch them. http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/ice/is3/is323.htm

In Saxo we have Odin? teaching the wedge formation, and also joining in:

For this man, in arranging the system of the columns, used to take special care that the front row consisted of two, the second of four, while the third increased and was made up to eight, and likewise each row was double that in front of it. Also the old man bade the wings of the slingers go back to the extremity of the line, and put with them the ranks of the archers. So when the squadrons were arranged in the wedge, he stood himself behind the warriors, and from the wallet which was slung round his neck drew an arbalist. This seemed small at first, but soon projected with more prolonged tip, and accommodated ten arrows to its string at once, which were shot all at once at the enemy in a brisk volley, and inflicted as many wounds. http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/saxo/saxo01.htm

Tacitus also mentions the Germans fighting in the wedge formation.


Also we have King Ring forming the wings of his army in a curve:

Here Ring disembarked his forces from his fleet, and then massed and prepared to draw up in line both these and the army he had himself conducted overland. When these forces were at first loosely drawn up over the open country, it was found that one wing reached all the way to Werund. The multitude was confused in its places and ranks; but the king rode round it, and posted in the van all the smartest and most excellently-armed men, led by Ole, Regnald, and Wivil; then he massed the rest of the army on the two wings in a kind of curve. Ung, with the sons of Alrek, and Trig, he ordered to protect the right wing, while the left was put under the command of Laesi. Moreover, the wings and the masses were composed mainly of a close squadron of Kurlanders and of Esthonians. Last stood the line of slingers. http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/saxo/saxo081.htm
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Sat 26 May, 2018 7:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Moffett wrote:
The fact that the few Viking era shields are rather different in thickness could indicate that Matt. As well we have no idea what they were faced with. My recent messing about with raw hide makes me thing such thin shields would be much more durable with a layer of it on them.


Fair enough, but they could simply be variations in battle shields. Unless there is some suggestion of different dueling equipment in period literature, I don't think it's safe to assume that it existed.

And yes, agreed that rawhide is amazing! Other facing materials can make a big difference, too.

Matthew
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Mon 28 May, 2018 9:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew,

Absolutely. My point is that we are basing our understanding on a rather small number of fragmentary shields and a ton of rather complex textual examples which leaves us with so many avenues. I really think many of the shields on the ships are dubious. But the variety of thickness is tricky as we are left with some major guesswork as to why they are so different and one of the easiest lines to draw is from textual evidence for what could be specific shields for specific uses. Be either way we have far too much variation in shields to assume they are all the same in make, design and ultimately performance and the question of why such variety is an important question. It could simply be economic but the duel system seems very plausible.

That said even rather light planks perform ten, twenty times better with raw hide. I am working with some stuff now that is incredible to see just how different. It makes the lack of joints along the planks far less of an issue, though I still wonder why they did not use it as it was a known system at the time and seems it would make the connection where it likely will bust much more formidable.

RPM
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
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PostPosted: Mon 28 May, 2018 10:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Moffett wrote:
Matthew,

Absolutely. My point is that we are basing our understanding on a rather small number of fragmentary shields and a ton of rather complex textual examples which leaves us with so many avenues. I really think many of the shields on the ships are dubious. But the variety of thickness is tricky as we are left with some major guesswork as to why they are so different and one of the easiest lines to draw is from textual evidence for what could be specific shields for specific uses.

RPM

Randall, the new 'Viking fighting' groups (I know of at least five, these Combat Archaeology guys in Denmark, Roland Warzecha's crew in Germany, Sixt Wetzler, Hurstwic in the eastern USA, and another group called Asfolk in the Midwest) seem to have found a lot of information on round shields which was not available to the average shield-wright a few years ago. They have been talking to museum curators, ordering archaeological reports, and examining finds (it seems like a lot of "museum curator" knowledge is spreading to the "maker" and "fighter" worlds). So some of what they are saying is probably based on really cool archaeology which only they know about, but some is probably not so solid.

I have a lot of questions about the tidbits I have seen, but without investing a lot of time to become part of their community and learn their sources, I can just say "good luck, you guys should write a book on this!"
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Wed 30 May, 2018 6:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean,

I've heard a few of these as well, though some of those groups I have not asked about shields specifically. Most when pressed for info have been very slow to give up real usable source info which sets off some alarms to me.

There is some info coming out from some reputable sources and I am keeping an eye on them but so far I am only getting prepublication hints on things. In this case I have some hope it is true as I have seen pictures of fragments of shields that are new to me. Perhaps this is the same source these groups are using and that is why no one has much to go in? I don't really know.

Best,

RPM
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Paul M. Bardunias




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Jun, 2018 7:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:

I hope that there is more communication between the people rethinking ancient Greek warfare, and the people rethinking Viking fighting.


Hey all, Sean sent me a heads up on the thread. Much of what I would have said has been posted already. I am of course a big proponent of experimentation, but there has to be a clear logical link between the findings and the interpretation of the hypothesis. If we look at this experiment, it boils down to two components: 1) Static shields, hit on the rim, take more damage from sword strikes than shields that are actively moved so that the blow strikes the boss and/or face obliquely. 2) The greater damage done to static shields reduce their effectiveness to a point that they do not provide enough protection to warrant standing in a shield-wall.

There are some huge assumptions here that I find questionable. For the first point above:
1) It has been said, but spears and missile weapons are more likely the weapons for which a shield-wall is formed.
2) The receiver in their tests held out his shield, but kept it stationary to receive the blow. Had he held it in the fashion of a man in a shield-wall, he would have taken the sword blow to the face as it hit the top rim of his shield- which leads to:
3) A shield-bearer in a shield-wall would never accept such a blow unparried. He has a weapon in his hand and that weapon would have been used to deflect the incoming strike.
Thus the whole experimental set up is highy unlikely.

For the second part:
1) The results are unsurprising. I would have accepted a general statement that this would happen, but I am glad they did actual testing because you never know. The big problem I have is that they, seemingly arbitrarily, decide that the level of damage is too much damage. Just how many such strikes do they imagine an opponent could land on the receiver's shield? I would turn the whole thing on its head: thin linden planks and some rawhide withstood a full force blow of a chopping sword with really minimal damage.

As to the notion that there is no evidence of Norse shield-walls, I cannot say, for I am not a medieval scholar and I am a slave to translations. That said, there seems to be quite a bit of mention of shield-walls/ boars snouts, etc., as has been already noted. The evidence for contemporary Saxon warfare is even clearer- including the Bayeaux tapestry. I wish as clear an image existed for Greek shield-walls. Shield walls are an ancient tactic and really quite common in warfare. In the Germanic sphere we see this in Rome's early battles with Germanic peoples. To the point where the later Roman army adopted a shield-wall, the Fulcum, which is probably a Germanic loan word. We have excellent evidence for this from Maurice, who clearly describes men standing shield boss to rim. An important note here is that the multiple-tiered wall was only needed he tells us if the front rank lacked greaves.

I should note that the primary impetus to forming a shield wall was probably to cut down on your exposure to missiles by having other shields guard your flanks, while you and the other heavies protect other heavies and lighter troops throwing/shooting things over the wall. There is evidence for fighting hand to hand with overlapped shields, but much more wiggle room. In my opinion, it is the inertia of frontage that supports fighting with overlapped shields. Men who are advancing through missile range at something less than a shield width's frontage are not easily able to gain lateral space upon contact and none of these peoples have the tactical flexibility to thin out the front line in an orderly fashion. Let them try this same test with the target with less than 3' of lateral space to work with, and the benefit may well be obvious.

http://hollow-lakedaimon.blogspot.com/
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Jonathan Dean




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Feb, 2019 7:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sorry for reviving this old thread, but I came across this thread while looking at Warming's theory and think there are a few important points that should be made.

First and foremost, none of the references to a "shield wall" in translations of the Icelandic sagas actually refer to what you're all thinking of as a shield wall. The original term is "skjaldborg" (shield fortress), and it's used - so far as I've found - solely for defensive formations. The only time a full army is drawn up in a skjaldborg is in Snorri's account of the Battle of Stamford Bridge, and I think that the lengths he goes to describe the formation, having never described a skjaldborg before, indicate that this was an atypical formation that his readers wouldn't instinctively understand.

In no particular order, here are the usages of skjaldborg that I've found so far:

Quote:
It was the son of lfr called Hugleikr who became king over the Svar after the brothers, because Yngvis sons were still children then. King Hugleikr was no warrior, and he stayed peaceably on his estates. He was very wealthy, and stingy with money. He had in his court a lot of all kinds of players, harpists and fiddlers. He also had with him [43] sorcerers and all kinds of practitioners of magic. There were brothers called Haki and Hagbarr who were very fine men. They were sea-kings and had many followers, travelling sometimes together, sometimes separately. They both had many champions with them. King Haki went with his force to Svj against King Hugleikr, and King Hugleikr assembled a force to meet them. Then two brothers, Svipdagr and Geigar, came to join his company, both outstanding men and great champions. King Haki had twelve champions with him. Starkar gamli (the Old) was with him. King Haki was also a great champion. They met at Frisvellir. A great battle took place there. Hugleikrs company fell quickly. Then the champions Svipdagr and Geigar advanced, but six of Hakis champions went against each of them, and they were taken captive. Then King Haki penetrated the shield wall against King Hugleikr and killed him and his two sons there. After that the Svar fled, and King Haki took power over the lands and made himself king over the Svar. He stayed in the lands for three years, and in this time of peace his champions left him and went raiding and so gained wealth for themselves.


(Ynglinga Saga, Chapter 22)

Quote:
Jarl Eirkr was in the fyrirrm (position in front of the lypting) on his ship and there a shield-wall had been formed. There was then both hand-to-hand fighting and thrusting of spears and throwing of everything available as a weapon, while some were shooting from bows or by hand. Then there was so much wielding of weapons on Ormrinn that they could hardly get their shields in front of themselves when spears and arrows were flying so thick, for warships were attacking Ormrinn from all sides. But King lfrs men were in such a rage that they leapt up on the sides in order to be able to reach the people with sword-blows to kill them, though many did not come so close under Ormrinn that they would be involved in hand-to-hand fighting. But most of lfrs men went overboard and took no more notice than if they had been fighting on level ground and sank under with their weapons.


(lfs saga Tryggvasonar, Chapter 107)

Quote:
The king positioned his ships round where there was a rock that came out into the sea. He went ashore there with his troop, sat down on the rock, but there was level ground on the landward side, and the gathering of farmers was there, while Eilfrs men stood up within a wall of shields in front of him.


(lfs saga Helga, Chapter 61)

Quote:
So it is said, that when King lfr drew up his troops, then he placed some men so as to make a shield wall that was to be kept in front of him in battle, and chose the men for it that were strongest and most agile. Then he called his poets to him and told them to go inside the shield wall.


Quote:
When King lfr stepped forward out of the shield wall and into the van of the formation and the farmers saw into his face, then they became frightened, and their hands failed them.


(lfs saga Helga, Chapters 206 and 226)

I've put these two together for ease of comparison.

Quote:
Here it says how furious was the shower of missiles. King Magns was to begin with at the beginning of the battle behind a shield wall, but when he found they were not making much progress, then he leapt forward out of the shield wall and so along the ship and shouted loudly, urging his men on and going right forward to the prow into the hand-to-hand fighting. And when his men saw this, then they all urged each other.


(Magnss saga ins Ga, Chapter 20)

Quote:
After that KingHaraldr drew up his troops, making the battle line long and not deep. Then he curved the wings round backwards so that they met. It then formed a wide circle and a thick one, and the same everywhere all round the outside, shield against shield and the same above their heads, but the kings company was within the circle and the standard was there too. It was a picked troop. In a separate place was Jarl Tsti with his company. He had a different standard. It was drawn up in this way, because the king knew that mounted men were accustomed to ride forwards in small detachments and withdraw immediately. So the king says that his company and the jarls company should move forward to where the greatest need was. And our bowmen shall also be there with us, and those that are standing foremost shall set the butts of their spears in the ground, and set the points before the breasts of the riders, if they ride at us, and those that are standing closest, they are to set their spear points before the breasts of the horses.


Quote:
There was at first sporadic fighting as long as the Norwegians kept their formation properly, but the English men charged them hard and immediately withdrew, when they could not achieve anything. So when the Norwegians saw this, and felt the charges had been made weakly, then they attacked them and tried to pursue the rout, but when they had broken from the shield wall, then the English men charged them from all sides and used spears and missiles on them.


(Haralds saga Sigurarsonar, Chapters 89 and 92)

Quote:
Then an army of Irish rushed forward from every forest edge and immediately engaged in battle, but the Norwegians were in scattered order and many soon fell. Then spoke Eyvindr:

King, he says, Our troops are faring unfortunately. Let us now quickly adopt a good plan.

The king spoke: Blow a war trumpet to call all the troops under the standards, but the troop that is here, let it set up a shield wall, and after that let us go away in retreat out across the bogs. After that it will not matter, when we get to the level ground.


(Magnss saga Berftts, Chapter 25)

Quote:
Sigurrs speech was applauded warmly, and everyone made sincere promises to respond to it properly. King Hkon went aboard one of the Baltic merchant ships, and a shield wall was formed round him, but his standard was on the longship that he had previously been on.


(Hkonar saga Heribreis, Chapter 8)

Quote:
Now it must be told of King Brian that he would not fight on the fast-day, and so a shieldburg was thrown round him, and his host was drawn up in array in front of it.

...

Now Brodir saw that King Brian's men were chasing the fleers, and that there were few men by the shieldburg.

Then he rushed out of the wood, and broke through the shieldburg, and hewed at the king.


(Burnt Njal's saga, Chapter 156)

Quote:
First went out Thorolf, then Thorgils Yeller, then the rest one after another. Fierce then was the fight; nor for awhile could it be seen which had the better of it, for the room guarded the rear of Thorolf's force. The king lost many men before the room began to burn; then the fire attacked Thorolf's side, and many of them fell. Now Thorolf bounded forwards and hewed on either hand; small need to bind the wounds of those who encountered him. He made for where the king's standard was, and at this moment fell Thorgils Yeller. But when Thorolf reached the shield-wall, he pierced with a stroke the standard-bearer, crying, 'Now am I but three feet short of my aim.' Then bore at him both sword and spear; but the king himself dealt him his death-wound, and he fell forward at the king's feet. The king called out then, and bade them cease further slaughter; and they did so.


(Egil's Saga, Chapter 22)

Quote:
The freebooters had brought down to the shore much booty and cattle. And when they came to the ships, some slaughtered the cattle, some carried out the plunder to the ships, some stood higher up and formed a shield-burgh; for the Frisians were come down in great force and were shooting at them, being also in battle array. And when Egil came down and saw how matters stood, he ran at full speed right at the throng. His halberd he held before him grasped in both hands, and slung his shield behind his back. He thrust forward his halberd, and all before him started aside, and so gat he a passage right through their ranks. Thus he dashed down to his men, who looked on him as recovered from the dead.


(Egil's Saga, chapter 72)

Quote:
Now we will take this plan, we will draw up our array and make a battle-wedge. I and my kinsman Thore will be the foremost men, then shall come three and then five, and so on, but the shielded men shall be outside on the shoulders of the host on either side. And this is the counsel I would have us take, to run right upon their array and try if we can get right through them in this way; and I think the Swedes will not stand fast in the field. "And they did so. They ran at the Swedish array and went right through them, and there began a great fight, and many of the Swedes fell. And Sigmund went well forward and hewed away on either hand; and he got up to Beorn's banner-bearer and dealt him his deathblow. Then he egged on his men to break the shield wall that was shut round Beorn, and they did so.


(Freyinga saga, Chapter 19)

Quote:
Og n gera eir svo og leggja a drekanum og veita hara atskn. En er eir hfu fellt viuna drekann hallaist hann eftir en eir drekanum skutu skjaldborg. N fr sem a orsteinn gat a eir gengu anna bor drekans, eim megin sem sknarinnar var a von. Lt skipi eftir. Var n ei of htt a vega.


(Svarfdla saga, Chapter 5)

There's no English translation of this one so far, and Google Translate isn't entirely clear, but from the context it seems like Thorstein placed weight in the rear of his ship, so that it could ride up on the opposing ship, but the men on the other ship shot at his shield wall and he had to go over the other side of the ship in board, and then his own ship withdrew so the fighting could begin.

Of the thirteen examples I've been able to find of a skjaldborg being used so far, 8 are behind the main fighting protecting the leader, 1 is drawn up in front of the leader in a non-battle situation, 1 is an army drawn up in a purely defensive formation, 2 are defensive formations designed to resist attacks and cover another group of warriors for some purpose, and the lack of available translations means that 1 can't be determined. None of these mention the shields being overlapped, and the word "fylking" ("formation"/"array") is used for the main battle. I haven't found Randall Moffett's comparison to a ship's bulwark and a line of shields, but I may well have missed it.

I suppose Saxo needs to be added to this list, though I have serious doubts about his general accuracy with regards to warfare. Never forget his infamous six wedge battle formation:

Quote:
Now he told him, whenever he was going to make war with his land-forces, to divide his whole army into three squadrons, each of which he was to pack into twenty ranks; the centre squadron, however, he was to extend further than the rest by the number of twenty men. This squadron he was also to arrange in the form of the point of a cone or pyramid, and to make the wings on either side slant off obliquely from it. He was to compose the successive ranks of each squadron in the following way: the front should begin with two men, and the number in each succeeding rank should only increase by one; he was, in fact, to post a rank of three in the second line, four in the third, and so on behind. And thus, when the men mustered, all the succeeding ranks were to be manned at the same rate of proportion, until the end of (the edge that made) the junction of men came down to the wings; each wing was to be drawn up in ten lines from that point. Likewise after these squadrons he was to put the young men, equipped with lances, and behind these to set the company of aged men, who would support their comrades with what one might call a veteran valour if they faltered; next, a skilful reckoner should attach wings of slingers to stand behind the ranks of their fellows and attack the enemy from a distance with missiles. After these he was to enroll men of any age or rank indiscriminately, without heed of their estate. Moreover, he was to draw up the rear like the vanguard, in three separated divisions, and arranged in ranks similarly proportioned. The back of this, joining on to the body in front would protect it by facing in the opposite direction.


(Gesta Danorum, Book 1)

His references to what could be taken as a shield wall are:

Quote:
Meantime the design occurred to Frode of a campaign against Friesland; he was desirous to dazzle the eyes of the West with the glory he had won in conquering the East. He put out to ocean, and his first contest was with Witthe, a rover of the Frisians; and in this battle he bade his crews patiently bear the first brunt of the enemy's charge by merely opposing their shields, ordering that they should not use their missiles before they perceived that the shower of the enemy's spears was utterly silent.


(Book 2)

Quote:
When Gelder, the King of Saxony, heard that Hother had gained these things, he kept constantly urging his soldiers to go and carry off such glorious booty; and the warriors speedily equipped a fleet in obedience to their king. Gewar, being very learned in divining and an expert in the knowledge of omens, foresaw this; and summoning Hother, told him, when Gelder should join battle with him, to receive his spears with patience, and not let his own fly until he saw the enemy's missiles exhausted; and further, to bring up the curved scythes wherewith the vessels could be rent and the helmets and shields plucked from the soldiers. Hother followed his advice and found its result fortunate. For he bade his men, when Gelder began to charge, to stand their ground and defend their bodies with their shields, affirming that the victory in that battle must be won by patience. But the enemy nowhere kept back their missiles, spending them all in their extreme eagerness to fight; and the more patiently they found Hother bear himself in his reception of their spears and lances, the more furiously they began to hurl them. Some of these stuck in the shields and some in the ships, and few were the wounds they inflicted; many of them were seen to be shaken off idly and to do no hurt. For the soldiers of Hother performed the bidding of their king, and kept off the attack of the spears by a penthouse of interlocked shields; while not a few of the spears smote lightly on the bosses and fell into the waves.


(Book 3)

Quote:
After Frode was killed, HALFDAN reigned over his country about three years, and then, handing over his sovereignty to his brother Harald as deputy, went roving, and attacked and ravaged Oland and the neighbouring isles, which are severed from contact with Sweden by a winding sound. Here in the winter he beached and entrenched his ships, and spent three years on the expedition. After this he attacked Sweden, and destroyed its king in the field. Afterwards he prepared to meet the king's grandson Erik, the son of his own uncle Frode, in battle; and when he heard that Erik's champion, Hakon, was skillful in blunting swords with his spells, he fashioned, to use for clubbing, a huge mace studded with iron knobs, as if he would prevail by the strength of wood over the power of sorcery. Then for he was conspicuous beyond all others for his bravery amid the hottest charges of the enemy, he covered his head with his helmet, and, without a shield, poised his club, and with the help of both hands whirled it against the bulwark of shields before him. No obstacle was so stout but it was crushed to pieces by the blow of the mass that smote it. Thus he overthrew the champion, who ran against him in the battle, with a violent stroke of his weapon.


(Book 7)

Only in Book 3 do we see mention of locked shields, and this is onboard a ship, not a field formation, and may refer to the shields lining the sides of the ship as opposed to a shield wall formed on the deck of the ship.

Similarly, nothing in the Anglo-Saxon texts I've examined so far indicates that shields were overlapped and, in the case of Judith (296-304), "scildburh" is used to refer to a routed enemy! A lot of the objections to Warming's belief that a static shield wall didn't exist seem to come from dogma: a shield wall is overlapping, therefore shield wall means that the shields were overlapping.

As for artwork, the Bayeux Tapestry cannot be reasonably considered the front rank of a shield wall. Kite shields are consistently depicted as being shoulder width or slightly larger across mediums (manuscript illuminations, sculptures, tapestries, carvings, etc) and regions (England, France, Germany, Italy, Byzantium, etc). Some may well have reached 70cm or so in width, but I can't see this being the norm based on the visual evidence. Bayeux Tapestry depicts massive overlaps, and even with a large shield this would still give the warrior 50cm of space or less, well under the 60cm theoretical minimum space needed to fight that Paul notes in his book. If the shields were smaller, say 50-60cm in width, the warriors would need to be standing side on the enemy in order to fit.

As an aside, the 60cm minimum suggested by Paul finds support in the 10th century text Sylloge Tacticorum, which states that the heavy infantry should occupy a space of two feet during actual fighting (p90). This isn't locked shields - that's the spacing of 1 cubit (1.5 feet) - and this is one of the first mentions of kite shields, so this is probably the minimum effective spacing. The 60cm spacing is described as "synaspismos" ("shield to shield"), so that's probably also roughly the width of the kite shields used.

The shields of the Bayeux Tapestry are probably portrayed as overlapping because it's, as Clifford Rogers has suggested, a cross section through the English lines and shields are commonly shown as overlapping in profile. See, for instance, the synagogue mural at Dura Europos of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, the funeral procession in the Osberg Tapestry, the overlapping shields of the cavalry and infantry atop the wall in UBL Cod. Perizoni F.17 Leiden I Maccabees f. 009r, the soldiers on board a boat in BNF Nouvelle acquisition latine 1390 f. 007 or the overlapped shields of fleeing warriors in BNE MSS Graecus Vitr. 26-2 Codex Grcus Matritensis Ioannis Skyllitzes f. 097v and 099v-1. I think it's also worthwhile looking at Dijon BM MS.14 Bible of Stephen Harding f. 191r-1 and BBB Cod. 120.II Liber ad honorem Augusti sive de rebus Siculis f. 00h and considering what the first might look if drawn the other way around or if the second had been drawn with larger shields or less care to include the upper arms and elbows.

And, going back to the Bayeux Tapestry, a cross-sectional depiction makes far more sense, given the missile troops at the back of the formation, than does a shield wall interpretation, as the missile troops would be in the front lines in that scenario.

Finally, there's plenty of evidence that armies were able to fight successfully without ultra-dense formations. The Romans did quite well with their six feet per man (Polybius 18.30.6-8 (but c.f. Michael J. Taylor's ROMAN INFANTRY TACTICS IN THE MID-REPUBLIC: A REASSESSMENT for an argument that the file width was 4.5 feet, with a 6 foot tactical space that partially overlapped with that of their neighbours), Vegetius recommends 3 feet which, given what evidence we have of shields at the time, would be essentially rim to rim rather than overlapping, 16th century pike formations required the files to be at least three feet in width (Roger Barret, Theorike and Practike, p86), and even in Ancient Greek warfare it seems that the predominant view remains that each hoplite occupied 3 feet of frontage. Why should overlapping shields be considered necessary for Early Medieval warfare given that others didn't find it necessary?

Regarding the fulcum specifically, it's worth noting that a literal interpretation of "shield-boss to shield-boss" is not necessarily the only one you can take. Rance notes that it's unlikely that the infantry closed "shield-boss to shield-boss" at two to three bowshots and then closed even further "shield-boss to shield-boss" just outside of bowshot in order to form the fulcum. He also notes that the first instance of closing is described with a word that traditionally means a spacing of two cubits (three feet) and argues that the formation Maurice was describing had the same spacing, even when described as "shield-boss to shield-boss". I'd add that the offensive fulcum (as opposed to the defensive anti-cavalry fulcum also described) was only used unarmoured troops period, rather than the second layer of shields only being added to the fulcum under these circumstances:

Quote:
They advance in a fulcum, whenever, as the battle lines are coming close together, both ours and the enemys, the archery is about to commence, and those arrayed in the front line are not wearing mail coats or greaves.


Having said all this, I am not necessarily against the traditional notion of the shield wall. At the moment I'm playing devil's advocate while I go through the Old Norse poetry with the help of a friend. Not only is the poetry a much more reliable source than the later sagas, but there are some stanzas which could indicate the use of overlapping shields. The problem is interpreting them correctly, and that's something I'm trying to do very carefully.
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Feb, 2019 12:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting post Jonathan. Thanks for sharing.
irinn go Brch
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Feb, 2019 2:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My definition of a shield wall is the same as Matt's. It is just a group of guys with shields lined up in formation. Whether the shields are "locked" doesn't matter IMO.
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Jonathan Dean




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Feb, 2019 11:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glad you found it interesting, Stephen.

Dan, I agree, that's probably the best definition of a shield wall, but it's not the one most commonly used. Both pop-culture and academics such as Kim Hjardar and Gareth Williams treat the overlapping shields as a defining feature of the shield wall. That particular picture seems to be what Warming is primarily arguing against, and in this he may well be right.
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