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11.01.2020

Chain Mail

Once again, a single fragmented but possibly complete mail shirt has been excavated in Scandinavia, from the same site as the helmet—Gjermundbu in Haugsbygd. Scandinavian Viking Age burial customs seems to not favour burial with helmet or mail armour, in contrast to earlier extensive armour burials in Sweden Valsgärde or possibly only a small amount of Vikings could afford it. Probably worn over thick clothing, a mail shirt protected the wearer from being cut, but offered little protection from blunt trauma and stabbing attacks from a sharp point such as that of a spear. The difficulty of obtaining mail armour resided in the fact that it required thousands of interlinked iron rings, each one of which had to be individually riveted together by hand. As a result, mail was very expensive in early medieval Europe, and would likely have been worn by men of status and wealth.

Hjortspring boat contained several incomplete suits of mail.

The mail worn by Vikings was almost certainly the "four-on-one" type, where four solid (punched or riveted) rings are connected by a single riveted ring. Mail of this type is known as a byrnie from Old Norse brynja. Given scarcity of archeological evidence for Viking armor and the fact that Vikings on a raid tried to avoid pitched battles, it's possible that mail was primarily worn only by the professional warriors going into battle, such as the Great Heathen Army of the mid-9th century in England or at Harald Hardrada's invasion of Northumbria at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, and wealthy nobles.

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