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07.01.2020

Viking arms and armour

Knowledge about military technology of the Viking Age (end of 8th- to mid-11th-century Europe) is based on relatively sparse archaeological finds, pictorial representation, and to some extent on the accounts in the Norse sagas and laws recorded in the 14th century.

According to custom, all free Norse men were required to own weapons, as well as permitted to carry them at all times. Indeed, the Hávamál, purported to be sage advice given by Odin, states "Don't leave your weapons lying about behind your back in a field; you never know when you may need all of sudden your spear."

As war was the most prestigious activity in Viking Age Scandinavia, beautifully finished weapons were an important way for a warrior to display his wealth and status. A wealthy Viking would likely have a complete ensemble of a spear, a wooden shield, and either a battle axe or a sword. The very richest might have a helmet; other armour (chain mail, lamellar armour) is thought to have been limited to the nobility and their professional warriors (retainers), but padded clothing and/or gambeson may possibly have been used by poorer Vikings. The average farmer was likely limited to a spear, shield, and perhaps a common axe and/or a large knife or seax. Some would also bring their hunting bows (mostly long bow or flat bow) to use in the opening stages of battle.

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