The Axe is the weapon that is most closely associated with Vikings, in fact they became commonly used in Scandinavia during the Viking age, where before they were rather uncommon. This is in part because of how efficient the axe was, not only could it do plenty of damage, but it was also useful as a general purpose tool (this was a culture that relied fairly heavily upon timber after all). Most warriors preferred the broadax, which could be as long as 30 centimeters, with a wide edge and a thin blade, it would only weigh about half a kilogram. When wielded correctly, the broadax could cut through chain-mail armor easily. Even the butt of the axe could be deadly, as there are many accounts of warriors striking people with the butt of an axe and causing either injury or death.
Two types of spears were typically used by the Vikings, the first was a lighter throwing spear (akin to a javelin) and the second a was a heavier thrusting spear, which could be used in close quarters. The interesting thing about throwing spears is how often they “changed sides” in battle. As both sides would have a limited number of throwing spears, when a spear was thrown to the enemy, the enemy would often simply pick the spear of the ground (or out of a dead body) and throw it back. Spear heads were occasionally pattern welded, with geometric designs, though they were often made of lower quality iron. The blades were leaf shaped, and fixed to the wooden shafts by iron rivets, the shafts themselves were typically made of ash wood and could by up to 2 meters long.
The bow and arrow, like the axe, was an efficient weapon, as it was a useful hunting tool in addition to being a common weapon on the battlefield. Only a few complete longbows have been recovered, but of the surviving artifacts, there was a bow made of yewwood that measured 192 cm long. The arrowheads were iron and many varieties have been recovered, there are signs that the type of arrow varied from region to region as well as varying based on function (warfare vs hunting). During the Viking Age, arrowheads with a square or triangular cross section (for attaching to the shaft) seem to have been introduced specifically for warfare. These arrows would have been bundled together and packed into a leather or wooden quiver.
Shields were a defensive weapon, and were very important to Norse battle strategy. Norse law codes indicate that every Viking aboard a ship was required to have a shield. However despite how important these weapons were, they were often lost and broken in battle, which may be why the Gokstad ship burial was stocked with two shields for every member of the crew buried there. Vikings used circular wooden (typically lime-wood) shields that were up to a meter wide, these shields would then be covered in leather and have a closely fitting metal rim. These shields were often brightly painted, in colors that might signify allegiance to a specific Jarl or King.
The sword was the most prestigious of all Viking weaponry, as well-made swords were prized and expensive, they were closely associated with high status. In the early Viking Age single edge swords were in use, however the most common were double edged blades that measured 90 cm in length. They were typically made of a pattern welded iron core with steel cutting edges and contained a characteristic fuller (groove) running up the middle of the blade, these elements meant that the swords were strong, light, and flexible, a lethal weapon all in all. The blades would be equipped with guards, the grip covered in leather, wood or bone, and fixed to a pommel made of either iron or a copper alloy. The best blades of the Viking Age were made in Frankia, and illegally imported into Scandinavia (selling Frankish swords to the Vikings was prohibited by Frankish rulers for obvious reasons), as they were highly prized by Vikings, in fact the famed Ulfberht swords were most likely imported from the Rhineland.
Many of the surviving Viking weapons were found in Viking burials, and while these weapons are often functional, plenty of ceremonial weaponry has also been uncovered. There have been highly engraved sword and axe blades, arrow and spear heads inlaid with precious metals, sword hilts made of gold and grips wrapped with silver thread. The most common of ceremonial weaponry were highly decorative swords, due to the weapon already being tied to the idea of high status in Norse culture. [x] [x] [x]
World of VIKINGS ✦ Viking Weaponry
Three hundred and fifty ships into the mouth of the Thames; the crew of which went upon land, and stormed Canterbury and London; putting to flight Bertulf, king of the Mercians, with his army; and then marched southward over the Thames into Surrey. Here Aethelwulf and his son Aethelbald, at the head of the West-Saxon army, fought with them at Aclea, and made the greatest slaughter of the heathen army that we have ever heard reported to this present day. There also they obtained the victory. ~The Anglo Saxon Chronicle
The West Saxons and Mercians were both shaken by the increased threat of the Vikings (beyond that of simple raiding parties) in 851. The actions of Aethelwulf (at the time King of Wessex) and Aethelbald (who served his father as an Ealderman) in crushing the Viking army at Aclea would have reinforced the West Saxon rulers’ position as the natural protectors of the south-eastern territories. The Battle of Aclea gave Aethelwulf enhanced prestige in both his home country as well as France and Rome and helped reinforce his power as a military leader. ~ paraphrased from the Earliest English Kings by D. P. Kirby
True love never dies.
A King. A legend.
May we meet again. Continue to raid with the Vikings tonight at 9/8c on HISTORY.