Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>793 Viking hersir
Subjecthersir sea raider
Culture: Scandinavian / Norse
Setting: Viking Age, northern Europe 8th-10thc
Evolution575 Vendel warrior > 793 Viking hersir


* Haywood 1993 p46
"Traditionally, the Vikings have been regarded by historians as wantonly cruel, violent and destructive pirate hoards [sic].  However, in recent years a new view of the Vikings has gained widespread acceptance.  The Vikings, it is argued, were the victims of a bad press: their numbers, violence and destructiveness were greatly exaggerated by monastic chroniclers who were prejudiced against them because of their paganism and their habit of plundering monasteries.  Rather than destructive raiders, the Vikings should be regarded primarily as traders, settlers and skilled craftsmen.  The level of Viking violence was only worse than that normally prevailing in early medieval Europe in so far as it did not exempt the church.
​   "In fact, these two views of the Vikings are not irreconcilable.  Most Viking-age Scandinavians were indeed peaceful farmers, craftsment [sic] and traders whose lives were probably rarely touched by violence.  However, those Scandinavians who chose warfare or piracy as a profession, that is the warriors who went í viking and participated in the plundering expeditions that so terrified the monks of Christian Europe, must have been prepared to use extreme violence to achieve their ends: viking was by definition a violent occupation."

* Hubbard 2017 p6-7
"This is the popular perception of the Vikings, itself an evocative word that conjures up images of bearded warriors, shield-lined longships and piracy, pillage and slaughter.  It is a description fed to readers in the West by medieval monks who sat scanning the horizon for striped sails and dragon-head prows with their nervous quills at the ready.  For the monks, the Vikings were a thunderbolt from hell: they had appeared without warning and then went on to spread terror and ruin throughout Europe for almost 300 years.
    "Using their formidable longships the Vikings repeatedly raided the coastlines of Britain, France and Ireland; they sailed up river arteries to attack cities such as Paris and London; they murdered, kidnapped and enslaved many thousands of people; and they plundered enough wealth to bring whole kingdoms to their knees.
    [....]  But this is not the whole story of the Vikings, for behind the violence and destruction was a rich and complex culture created over many centuries in their homelands of Scandinavia.  It was this culture that united the modern-day countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and bound them by its customs, art, laws, language, stories and beliefs.  Watching over the Vikings were their gods: the mighty Thor and the mysterious Odin, the king of the gods whose ravens scoured the earth for news and fed on the corpses of the battlefield dead.  It was these pagan deities that inspired the Vikings with their warrior spirit and sense of adventure.  From childhood, Vikings were told to fill their lives with glory and honour, to seek wealth and fortune and to win long-lasting fame."

* Craughwell 2008 p132, 134
"In recent years, it has been popular among historians to rehabilitate the Vikings, emphasizing their genius as shipbuilders and navigators, their importance as the founders of Irish cities such as Dublin and Waterford, their courage as explorers who sailed as far as North America, their contribution to opening up Europe to trade with Asia and the Islamic world.  All of this is true.  But the Vikings who came ashore at Portland and Lindisfarne were not explorers or merchants or the founders of cities -- they were pirates.  They came to loot and pillage and enslave, and they killed anyone who got in their way or tried to resist them.  Just as there is no denying the Vikings' contributions, it would be a distortion of the historical record to downplay the bloodshed and destruction they wrought on the people of the British Isles and western Europe."

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Bell 2001 p13
"The Vikings is a collective noun given to the men from the modern-day Scandinavian countries, who from the late 8th century began to pillage and plunder Christendom.
    "What caused the Vikings (from the Norse nouns viking and vikingr, a pirate raid or pirate) to start their descent upon the West is as yet unclear; some authorities say it was because of the increasing power of the kings and nobles who were squeezing the small men and farmers off the land; others state it was due to the growing land hunger of the population, which, due to the better climatic conditions had increased to a degree which left the current amount of land unable to support them.
    "Whatever the reasons, soon the low-profiled ships, superb engines of travel, would soon be ravaging the whole of Western Christendom.  In 793, the island of Lindisfarne off the Northumbrian coast had been ravaged.  For the next few decades, the raids increased in number and savagery."

* Hubbard 2017 p91
"For over 200 years Viking raiders attacked the coastlines of Europe with such fury and brutality that some Christian monks believed they were being punished by God.  As they prayed to be delivered from the savage Northmen, the Vikings plundered, slaughtered and enslaved local populations wherever they went."

* Hubbard 2017 p94-96
"So why did the raids happen?  Land in Scandinavia was scarce, especially in Norway.  As the population increased, so did warfare, as regional Viking kings competed for the few resources available.  As we have seen, Viking Scandinavia was a warrior society that believed in the necessity of warfare to ensure a place with Odin in the afterlife.  Finding pastures new would not pacify the Vikings, at least to begin with, but it did direct their violence elsewhere.
    "The second factor was the rise of the trading networks across Scandinavia and beyond.  The market towns of Kaupang, Birka and Hedeby introduced the Vikings at home not only to foreign people and cultures, but also to the quality and richness of their goods.  Viking merchants were soon chasing these exotic products in trading emporia across northwestern Europe such as Dorestad in Frisia and Hamwic in southern England.  These trading towns were always a target for pirates, and Dorestad and Hamwic -- along with Kaupang, Birka and Hedeby in Scandinavia -- became heavily fortified and garrisoned as their wealth grew.  But other settlements not far away from the prosperous markets remained unprotected and vulnerable: easy prey for pragmatic Vikings who would happily swap their trading hat for a raiding one.  Monasteries -- the main cultural centres of Medieval Europe -- proved a temptation too far for many unscrupulous Vikings.
    "As we shall see, the inhabitants of these monasteries viewed the raids on their most holy of places as a heinous crime against the faith.  But, for the warriors who made them, the raids were a sensible form of enterprise -- an entrepreneurial opportunity to make some capital that could then be sunk into trade, or a farm, or a ship.  But it was more than that: it was also an adventure, an exciting rite of passage where warriors could sail the high seas, test their sword arms and win loot and glory.  It was their chance to show their quality, forge a reputation and perhaps join Odin in Valhöll -- these things and more were all on offer for a warrior who went 'a Viking' overseas."

* Royal Armouries Museum > War
"Raiding warbands of Vikings sailed in their longships from Denmark, Norway and Sweden to attack former Roman provinces in western Europe from the 7th century.  These fierce warriors included leaders equipped with shield, axe or sword and wearing helmets and mail shirts.  Poorer soldiers were just armed with a spear and shield."

* Harrison/Embleton 1993 p4
"When Norwegian Vikings first raided the European coast in the 8th century AD, their leaders were not kings, princes, or jarls, but a middle rank of warrior known as the hersir.  At this time the hersir was typically an independent landowner or local chieftain.  His equipment was usually superior to that of his followers.  By the end of the 10th century, the independence of the hersir was gone, and he was now typically a regional servant of the Norwegian king."

* Nurmann/Schulze/Verhülsdonk 1997 p23
"At the beginning of the Viking age the hersirs were the organisers and leaders of raiding parties and settlements, but their influence decreased with the late 10th century, when effective national monarchies evolved in Scandinavia.  Thereafter the hersir became a local representative of royal power."


* Hjardar/Vike 2016 p190
"Helmets used in the early Viking Age consisted of several iron plates nailed together.  They usually had a round top, but there was a trend towards more frequent use of spike-topped helmets, eventually forged as a whole from a single piece of iron.  The Old Norse phrase hvassan hjalm ('sharp/spike helmet') refers to a helmet with a spiked top, or more precisely with a sharp ridge on the top.  Helmets made up of four parts and topped with a spike are also mentioned.  These are referred to as fjórðungar ('quarters').  There are several examples of these four-part helmets from Hungary, Russia and the Kazakh territories.  Many of them had a spiked top, to which a horse-hair plume or other such adornment could possibly be attached.  We can deduce that such helmets came to be used by Vikings who traveled east."

* Konstam 2018 p57
"Surviving helmets from the Viking age are extremely rare.  More actually survive from the pre-Viking era than from the time when Viking warriors wore them in battle.  This may well be a matter of cost.  A Viking helmet cost the same as a good sword, a spear and a shield -- the classic armament of the Viking warrior.  This meant that not every warrior would wear one and it is likely that the majority of Viking went into battle bareheaded.  Still, according to Swedish and Danish laws governing the mustering of levies for service in the royal army, a warrior was expected to muster with his weapons: a shield and an iron helmet.  It seems that these laws represented an ideal that was not always met.  Today, our evidence of what Viking helmets looked like comes from these rare archaeological finds, from descriptions in the sagas and other documents, and from depictions in them [SIC] in carvings, on coins and in illustrated manuscripts."

* Griffith 1995 p168-169
"Since we have very few surviving helmets -- about one from the Viking world itself (the Gjermundbu helmet, c.880), and only a handful more from its surrounding eras and territories (There are only about eighty, worldwide, for the whole period 500-1100) -- we cannot be sure whether helmets were restricted to a very small privileged elite or spread more widely among the military classes in general.  Obviously no one who went to war would feel entirely safe without one, and no one would pass up the chance of grabbing one if he possibly could.  There is no doubt that possession of a helmet was considered to be a mark of high status for a Viking warrior, showing not only that he was wealthy but also that he was better protected in battle.  Helmets were ostentatious as well as practical, and a very great deal of social envy and one-upmanship tended to be invested in them.  They were often gilded or otherwise decorated; they made particularly suitable gifts for persons whom one wanted to impress, and they often had a place in rich burials.    ... 
    ​   "Nevertheless, there is still considerable doubt about just how widespread helmets may have been when it came to battle.  In the Maldon poem there is no mention of them at all -- and they appear on English coins only after the date of that battle, leading to the view that they were sadly rare in England around 991 and hence that Viking invaders had a decisive technological edge over their opponents.  Against this there are some contemporary pictures in which the entire crews of Viking warships are portrayed as being fully armoured from head to foot; yet in view of the scarcity of surviving helmets we cannot be sure that this reflected anything more than a wistful ideal ...."  [reference omitted]

* Sanmark/Sundman 2008 p62
"Vikingarnas hjälmar var troligen spetsiga och gjorda av läder.  Man har bara funnit en vikingatida metallhjälm och den hittades i Norge.  Hjälmen som är från 900-talet har en rund form med skydd för ögon och näsa."

* Konstam 2002 p120
"Early helmets were simple conical affairs, save the addition of a spectacle-like fixed visor.  Others were formed from four segments, riveted together using bands; some had a flange to protect the wearer's nose.  Almost all were made of iron, although decorative helmets in other metals have also been found.  Most seem to have been simply constructed and unadorned; just domed conical helmets, without any additional form of protection.  It is worth noting that the Vikings never wore the horned helmets so beloved of fiction.  The image stems from several illustrations from the early Viking age, where helmets of this kind may have been used for ceremonial or religious functions, but were almost certainly not widely used, and were never worn in battle."

* Royal Armouries Museum > War
  "A wide variety of helmets survive from early Viking burials. None has horns."

* Hubbard 2017 p148
"Although it has been popular to depict Viking warriors wearing horned helmets, this is a modern anachronism.  Instead, Viking helmets were usually made from a simple bowl-shape with a nose guard riveted to the brow.  Helmets were made from a single piece of hammered iron, or several smaller pieces riveted together and occassionally strengthened with strips of leather.
    "Some helmets were dome-shaped, or had an iron spectacle-shape to protect the top of the face.  A chainmail curtain might hang down from the front of this spectacle-type of helmet or from the back to protect the neck.  Some sort of cap or thick lining must have been worn inside the helmet to protect the wearer from the impact of a blow, although no archaeological evidence of these has survived.
    "Helmets weighed anywhere from 2kg (4.4lb) upwards and were kept in place with a chin strap.  The sagas report that helmets were also marked, possibly with chalk, so that the wearer could be identified in battle as belonging to a particular side.  Helmets feature often in the sagas as valued possessions passed down through the generations.  They were also considered something of a challenge -- an object that warriors liked to cast asunder during their skull-splitting activities."

* Nurmann/Schulze/Verhülsdonk 1997 p25-26
"There is only one well-preserved find of a helmet that is undoubtedly of Viking origin -- that found at Gjermundbu, dated to the late 9th century.  The helmet consists of a brow band to which two curved strips are fixed to make a dome, one running from the front to the back and the other from ear to ear; at their junction is a small spike.  The strips form a frame for four concave triangular plates which fill in the skull of the helmet.  The face is partially covered by a 'visor' shaped like the frame of spectacles or goggles, decorated with inlaid eyebrows; and a mail neckguard was originally attached to the back and sides.  All parts of the helmet were riveted together.
    ​"Although this is a unique survival, documented finds of visor pieces at a number of other Scandinavian sites confirm its widespread use.  It appears to be a simplified development of a much more elaborate helmet construction of the Vendel age, 100-200 years previously."

Costume (Hat, Hair, Tunic, Footwear)

* Konstam 2018 p37-38
"The Viking warrior dressed simply, and were it not for the arms and armour that marked his status then he would look like most of the other adult males in Northern Europe during this period.  Regardless of the Viking's social status, his clothing was made from wool.  The richest might wear clothing made from woollen cloth imported from outside Scandinavia.  The woollen fabrics produced in Frisia (now the northern Netherlands) and Anglo-Saxon England were particularly prized.  The cloth might be dyed in bright colours, thanks to the use of expensive dyes such as indigo.  Other less wealthy Vikings would wear homespun garments made from cloth produced in Scandinavia itself, and often from within their own village or area.  Here, the dyes tended to be limited to what was available from local plants, and was therefore much more limited in its range of brightness, colour and hue.  Richer and more vibrant dyes had to be imported and were much more expensive, as, too, was the cloth that would hold them.  It has been suggested that these colours might include rich reds, bright blues and yellows.  The colours were rendered more permanent by the addition of a mordant, fixing the dye to the cloth.  That, too, was expensive, so while the clothing worn by the more wealthy Vikings might remain vibrant for years, those worn by others would fade with time, weather conditions and washing.  The poorest Vikings and slaves would have worn undying clothing."

* Heath/McBride 1985 p50
"Basic Viking costume comprised a long-sleeved woolen or linen tunic reaching to mid-thigh or just below the knee (often worn over a fine wool or linen shirt), plus trousers which came in an assortment of styles: close-fitting like ski-trousers; untapered; or exceedingly baggy and gathered below the knee.  Some were only knee-length, with separate leggings, often cross-gartered fron knee to ankle.  Stockinged breeches, sometimes of fur or leather, might also be worn.  Shoes were of soft leather, sometimes with wooden soles, winter pairs having the fur left on for warmth.  Rough cowhide or sealskin boots might also be worn, hairy side out. A short cape or a longer cloak, pinned at the right shoulder, or sometimes at the hip, completed the Viking's everyday dress."

* Gabrielsen 2000 p43
"[T]he men wore trousers and hose with a tunic or shirt over the top -- often with a decorative border.  Over this they wore a cloak.  Clothes were woven of wool or flax, and the finest garments were edged with silk or fur. ...
​    "Both men and women wore jewellery and the same items were made in various materials, so that the different groups in society could all be in fashion.  The men took great care of their beards and their hair and it was said that in Hedeby both men and women wore eye make-up.  It is almost symptomatic that in Birka it is in the graves of men that we most often find borders of silk and colourful material on tunics and cloaks." 

* Harrison/Embleton 1993 p32
"Dressing for war was not so much a matter of uniform or camouflage but an expression of wealth and pride.  The warrior would appear in his finest and most conspicuous clothing.  In Njal's Saga, Skarp-Hedin dresses before violent encounters in the most ostentatious fashion.  Participants in feuds are recognized at a distance by characteristic items of apparel.  The intention often appears to be the advertisement rather than concealment of their presence."

* Walkup 1950 p75
"As time went on, the costume came to consist of a tunic of linen or wool (often scarlet in color) with short sleeves.  When inflamed with the frenzy of battle, the Vikings tore off this tunic, or shirt, which they called serk, and went stripped, or berserk.  [CONTRA alia]  The Vikings called the tunic the kyrtil.  "Over this was worn a leather corselet with scales of horn or metal, sometimes gilded. This corselet, called by the Vikings a bryngia, extended below the hips, and was frequently held in by a broad leather belt with bosses of metal.""

* Hubbard 2017 p60
"Men's clothes, mad from the same materials as women's, included long tunics over a softer undershirt, with a heavy cloak fastened with a brooch at the shoulder.  Viking trousers ranged from knee- to ankle-length, sometimes worn with stockings.  Linen armbands were wrapped around the wrists and a cap or headband finished off the ensemble.  While no complete Viking outfit has even been discovered, there are plenty of examples of footwear.  These were leather shoes and boots, crafted by a cobbler and fastened to the foot with straps."


* Hubbard 2017 p142
"Spears were arguably the most popular weapon of the Viking Age.  A spear could be used by a wealthy warrior alongside a sword, or instead of an axe by a Viking of more modest means.  Spearheads were typically between 20 and 70cm (8-27in) long, and once riveted to a shaft the whole spear would be between 2 and 3m (6ft 6in-9ft 3in) long.  The spearhead blade was made from the same pattern-welding technique as a sword.  Iron bars were beaten into a lozenge shape that tapered into a hard cutting edge on either side of the spear and at its tip.  Similar to Viking swords, spearheads were decorated with gold and silver ornamental inlays, usually of patterns or geometric symbols.  The shape of the spearhead ranged from a long spike to a leaf shape and sometimes had wings or barbs attached, making them easy to penetrate and snag opponents, but hard to remove.
    "The sagas are full of examples of Vikings throwing their spears, although in practice this would have been done only as a last resort.  A spear was often a warrior's sole weapon and he would not want to let it go.  Instead of throwing, then, spears were most commonly used for thrusting and jabbing, especially at the vulnerable legs and heads exposed in an enemy's shield wall."

* Konstam 2018 p48-49
"While the sword was a prestigious weapon, and not every Viking warrior might carry one, the spear was pretty much ubiquitous, and the most commonly carried weapon in the Viking arsenal.  It was a versatile weapon, used for both hunting and war, and came in two main varieties.  The throwing spear was designed to be hurled at the enemy from close range, like a javelin in a modern athletics event.  A throwing spear was lighter than other larger spears, and was designed so it could balance perfectly at the optimum point, a little way below the blade.  A warrior might carry several of these into battle, throwing them at the enemy when the two sides were still about 20 yards (18m) apart.  These were effective weapons -- the Anglo-Saxon poem commemorating the Battle of Maldon in AD991 described how a Viking was wounded when a throwing spear pierced his mail shirt.  The blade of these weapons would generally be narrow and sharp-tipped, able to pierce armour if thrown with enough force and accuracy.  This set it apart from throwing spears used for hunting, when tended to have a broader blade, and sometimes a crossguard, to make it easier to recover the weapon from the body of an animal.
    "The other form of spear was the thrusting spear, which tended to be thicker and longer than the throwing type.  These could be used single-handedly, leaving the warrior free to protect himself with his shield using the other hand, or they could be wielded using two hands, which naturally imparted greater force to the spear thrust.  Here, the blade tended to be longer and thicker than that of a throwing spear, and in some cases it ended in projecting lugs or wings, to prevent it sinking to deeply [SIC] into its target."

* Carey/Allfree/Cairns 2006 p59
"Viking spears were of light and heavy varieties: the former were thrown as javelins and had narrow blades and slim shafts, while the latter were used for shock combat and had broad, leaf-shaped blades and thicker, often iron-shod shafts.  Both types of spear blade were socketed and some had short side-lobes jutting out just above the socket.  This last type is often referred to as the Viking 'winged' spear."

* Konstam 2002 p120
"Spears -- cheap and easy to produce -- were ideally suited for arming the leidang (levy).  Viking spears tend to have a broad blade, with cross-guards or lugs extending from the socket.  This prevented them from penetrating too far into the victim's body and making it hard to recover the weapon for further use.  Smaller spears with narrower blades may have been used as javelins by skirmishers, or as hunting weapons."

* Harrison/Embleton 1993 p50
"Many of the spears associated with the Vikings are Carolingian imports identified by a characteristic broad blade and wings projecting from the socket.  The latter feature is analogous to the cross-pieces on later boar-spears which prevent the shaft penetrating too deep into the victim.  Modern experiment shows they could also be used to hook an opponent's shield aside.  Spears with narrower blades may be interpreted as javelins, although a dual purpose is implied in literary sources.  The intricate decoration sometimes found on this type of spear does not rule out their use as throwing weapons.  The thrower might reasonably expect to recover his spear afterwards.  Personalized decoration would allow instant recognition and the thrower's skill would be undeniably shown when his weapon was extracted from a defeated foe."

* Hjardar/Vike 2016 p177
"Almost half of the Frankish spearheads imported to Scandinavia in the last half of the 8th century had wings on the socket.  Winged spearheads are still found from the second half of the 10th century, but by then they were very few.  The protruding wings may have functioned to prevent the spear from penetrating unnecessarily far into the wound, making it easier to pull out and stab again.  The wings were also useful for hooking onto and pushing the edge of an opponent's shield and weapon, opening the way to a strike.
    "Wings originated on spears for the hunting of large animals, where the wing functioned as a barb to hold the spear in the prey and hinder a large, angry animal from coming close enough to attack the hunter.
    "The wings on many weapon spears are shorter than those on hunting spears, often no longer than the breadth of the blade.  Wings which were too short could follow the blade into the wound.  This suggests that that [SIC] wings on weapon spears were possibly just a symbolic reference to the ruling class's manly mastering of dangerous prey."

* Konstam 2018 p111 caption
"The spear was the most commonly-encountered weapon in the Viking arsenal. It was considerably cheaper than a sword, and when used en masse it could be a formidable weapon, capable of being used both offensively and defensively."


* Haywood 1993 p84
"Axes are the weapon with which the Vikings are most often associated, and these were often used as a cheaper alternative to a sword."

* Hubbard 2017 p140-141
"Axes are commonly associated with Vikings warriors [SIC] and they made a cheaper and more available alternative to a sword.  Even the poorest member of Viking society could afford to have an axe for chopping wood, which was a viable weapon if he was called on to fight.
    "Most war axes, however, were lighter, sharper and better balanced than their wood-splitting counterparts.  Warrior axes were single-edged and made from iron with a hard steel cutting edge.  An axe head was between 7 and 45cm (2.7-18in) long and usually featured a wedge shape.  A 'bearded axe' also had a wedge shape but also a prominent bottom hook, as if a crescent-shaped piece of iron had been removed.  The axe haft measured between 70 and 150cm (27-59in) in length, depending on whether the weapon was to be used with one or two hands.  Even a two-handed axe could be light and weigh as little as 800g (28oz).
    "Although of less value than a sword, axes were often a warrior's valued possession and highly crafted with decorative inlays in gold and silver.  Like swords, axes were given names, such as 'Black Legs', 'Heaven Scraper', 'Drip Water' and 'Battle Hag'.
    "There are plenty of references in Viking literature to axes being used to split men's skulls, but their use as a weapon ranged beyond just cutting and hacking.  An axe's blade was also used to deadly effect, especially on bearded axes.  They could hook away a defender's shield or weapon, or reach below a shield wall to pull an opponent over by this ankles.  There are examples of warriors also using their axes to hook onto a defensive wall or palisade and pull themselves up.  The haft of an axe, sometimes protected with a leather or metal wrapping, could also be used to parry blows across its length or deliver a sharp jab from its butt end.  Smaller axes were sometimes thrown, especially from the lines behind a shield wall, which also fired other missiles such as javelins, stones and arrows."

* Konstam 2018 p51
"[T]he skeggöks ... [had] a pronounced curve to the neck.  It was originally designed as a shipbuilding tool, to hew planks, but it also proved itself to be a useful weapon.  For instance, it could be hooked over the back of an enemy's shield to pull it down, and so expose the enemy warrior to attack."

* Nurmann/Schulze/Verhülsdonk 1997 p16-18
"At the beginning of the Viking era both the normal woodcutter's axe and the small 'bearded' axe were commonly used.  Axes would be kept as tools in every Nordic household, so they would be available to even the poorest free-born warrior; but they soon developed into a symbol of the terror the Vikings spread among their enemies.  They had 60cm-90cm (2ft-3ft) hafts and cutting edges 7cm-15cm (3ins-6ins) long.  The fransisca, a small throwing axe probably developed by the Franks, was also used by Anglo-Saxons and Vikings alike."

* Royal Armouries Museum > War
"The battle-axe appeared as an important weapon in Scandinavia in about the 8th century, in the form of the 'bearded' axe, with a curved edge dropping towards the shaft." ....

* Harrison/Embleton 1993 p50
"Axes of the period are ... decorated according to the owner's status.  The splendid Mammen axe without its inlaid silver design would be no more than a common wood-chopping tool.  The shape of axe-heads differed according to purpose, although it should be noted that a wood-axe might make a serviceable weapon."

* Konstam 2002 p120
"Smaller axes serves [SIC] as single-handed weapons, or even as throwing-axes."


* Sanmark/Sundman 2008 p60
"Vikingarnas vapen var en viktig faktor för deras framgångar.  Svärden var mycket kraftiga och hade dubbeleggade blad men kunde ändå svingas med bara en hand.  Svärden och handtagen var ibland omsorgsfullt dekorerade, i vissa fall med runinskrifter."

* Hjardar/Vike 2016 p169-171
"For several hundred years before the Viking Age, double-edged sword blades were relatively heavy towards the tip, with parallel edges and a flat blade without a fuller groove along the middle.  By the beginning of the Viking Age, development of better balanced and more easily handled swords was already well under way.  Viking sword blades could be wider than before, but with the total weight reduced by the groove along the middle.  Combined with narrowing and thinning of the blade towards the tip, this moved the centre of gravity towards the hilt, making swords easier to handle and enabling them to be made with longer blades.  Viking swords usually weigh slightly over 1 kg.
    "From the middle of the 8th century, the number of double-edged swords in Scandinavia increased, and new, rather massive types of iron hilt began to appear.  Only one fifth of Viking swords found in Norway are single-bladed, and these are from the earlier part of the Viking Age.  A lot of evidence suggests that the single-bladed sword was the last phase in the development of knives as weapons.  Straight-backed knives evolved into sword-length knives during the 8th century.  At the start of the 9th century these single-edged knife-swords evolved from having a simple wooden knife-handle to being mounted on a metal hilt like the double-edged swords.  Single-edged swords have been found mostly in Norway, especially west Norway, and this may have been where they developed."

* Carey/Allfree/Cairns 2006 p59
"Vikings, like their Germanic forebears, preferred the sword as their primary offensive arm, though the expense of this weapon often forced warriors to use axes and spears.  The very best swords were imported from Frankish lands (despite Carolingian capitularies threatening capital punishment if arms sellers were caught), though Scandinavian craftsmen usually fitted them with ornate hilts and grips of precious metal, bone, horn and walrus ivory.  Viking sword blades were usually pattern-welded and double-edged, averaging 32 inches in length, with a shallow fuller on each side to reduce the weight of these hefty blades."

* Konstam 2018 p45
"The most prestigious weapon in the Viking world was the sword.  Sagas are filled with stories of mythical weapons, forged by gods, giants or dwarves, or with descriptions of the swords of Viking heroes, with names such as Legbiter, Limb Biter, Wolf's Tooth or Blood Letter.  These were valuable items -- a sword and scabbard would cost the same to buy as a good horse, or several cows.  This was because a good sword was complicated to make, involving quite complex forging techniques where hardened steel and a more pliable variety were combined to make the perfect blade -- strong without being brittle.  In the most prestigious swords, ivory and precious metals were worked into the hilts, to produce a weapon that became a symbol of power and wealth.
    "The Vikings reckoned that the best swords were made in Frankia -- weapons like the swords from the Rhineland found in 9th and 10th century graves, bearing the name of their maker Ulfbehrt on their blades.  This showed and appreciation of craftsmanship, which in turn led to the import of blades into Scandinavia, which were then finished off by local swordsmiths.  Other swords found in Scandinavian grave sites were the spoils of raiding and war -- blades that were forged in Frankia or Anglo-Saxon England, and kept by their Viking possessors.  These swords were often notably different from conventional Viking weapons -- some had curved guards for instance, or pommels decorated with evidently non-Scandinavian carvings.  However, the majority of Viking swords fell into a standard pattern, and were practical weapons, regardless of their quality, designed purely to suit the fighting style of the Viking warrior."

* Hubbard 2017 p137-139
"A Viking sword was typically around 1kg (2.2lb) in weight and had a single-handed grip so a warrior could hold his shield in the other hand.  The blade was tapered, double-edged and measured between 60 and 90cm (24-36in) long and 4 to 6cm (1.5-2.3in) wide.  To give the blade its light weight it was given a 'fuller', a central depression often decorated with inlays such as letters or symbols that the smith chiselled into the blade.
    "A Viking blade was forged using a process known as 'pattern welding'.  This involved twisting and hammering together several red-hot iron bars.  Soft, low-carbon iron was used in the centre of the sword for flexibility, and hard, high-carbon steel for a strong cutting edge.  The blade was then fitted with a hilt -- consisting of a pommel, grip and cross guard -- and then polished to give it a mirror finish.  Grips were often made from wrapped leather, but the remains of grips created from wood, wire, ivory and bone have also been discovered.
    "Despite the care and attention devoted to the making of a sword, not all swords were created equal.  In Olaf's Saga, the king notices that his men's swords are not making the desired cuts, to which they explain: 'The swords are blunt and full of notches.'  A smaller sword called a 'sax'. a single-edged blade of between 30 and 60cm (12-24in), was often crudely crafted and likely to fail.  The sagas also record the blades of lesser swords as both bending and breaking in battle and having to be bent back into shape before combat could continue.
    "Similar trouble seems have been [SIC] had with scabbards: the sagas recall bewitched swords sticking fast in their scabbards and scabbards falling to pieces so the sword falls out and is lost.  A Viking scabbard was made from wood, wrapped in leather, with an inner layer of fleece to protect the blade.  The scabbard was often slung over the left shoulder or hung from the waist."

* Griffith 1995 p173
"If helmets and mail were prestigious items, the same was also true of swords, although they were generally more widely available and many more have come down to us as grave goods or deposits in rivers and lakes (some 2000 from Scandinavia).  They were made by quite sophisticated forging techniques to give hard, carbon-steel blades (the process known as 'pattern-welding', which was also sometimes used for spearheads), although individual hardened blades were sometimes welded onto softer but more pliable steel cores.  Swords tended to have a better finish and decoration than spearheads, with ivory or precious metals being incorporated in the hilts of the richer examples.  They were also more likely to be named, as a symbolic or mystical dedication of both the sword itself and its relationship to its owner, and they seem to have gone out of fashion rather less quickly than did helmets.  They may therefore have had a longer 'shelf life' than some other arms, and so it may not have been at all an unusual case when Grettir's great grandfather's sword was handed down to him as a highly useful family heirloom." [references omitted]

* Harrison/Embleton 1993 p49
"The commonest form of Viking sword (of which over 2,000 have been found in Scandinavia alone) is the long, straight, two-edged type.  These were usually about three feet long with a simple cross-guard and some form of pommel.  The blade was generally fullered for lightness and strength.  The points of such swords were comparatively blunt as they were intended more for cutting than stabbing.  Such weapons could be purely functional or highly decorative.  Fittings of copper alloy were more common in Scandinavia than Europe, but even so pommels and cross guards of ferrous metal were the norm.  When not in use the sword was carried in a scabbard of wood, usually covered in leather with a metal chape.  The interior of the scabbard was ideally lined with sheepskin, the wool side inwards, the natural greases protecting the metal of the blade.  Scabbards were usually suspended from a waist belt but could be worn over the shoulder on a baldric."

* Konstam 2002 p120
"The typical Viking long-sword was a straight, double-edged blade made of iron and counterbalanced by a large semi-circular pommel, with the grip protected by a small straight cross-guard.  Blades were usually fullered (grooved; a fuller is a tool blacksmiths use to make grooves in iron).  Fullering increased lightness and strength as well as leaving a channel along which blood could flow (disputed by some historians).
​   "From over 2,000 surviving examples, we can see that while the edges were sharpened, the points of the swords were quite blunt.  This means that they were used to hack, not stab.  Sword finds range from the strictly functional to the highly decorative."

* Griffith 1995 p174
"The basic sword was straight, single-handed but double-edged, and about 35 inches (90 cm) long.  It was normally kept in a sheepskin-lined, leather-covered scabbard held on a belt or slung at the hip on a baldric and, because it was intended for chopping rather than thrusting, it often lacked a sharp point.  The impression we get of Viking 'fencing' is therefore that they must have used their swords in rather the same way that they used their axes -- in a series of heroic great swings with the full weight of the whole man and his weapon behind each.  The weapons' edges were kept sharp, but they would probably not have had very much less effect even if they had been blunt.  They were for cleaving shields, or skulls, or arms, or legs rather than for any delicate finesse of rapier-play.  The tempo of action would therefore have been slow and deliberate -- a forester's 'chop ... chop ... chop' rather than a chef's rapid and fluid 'swish-wish-wish ...' as he sharpens his carving knife.  In these circumstances it is not surprising that the saga literature contains many examples of warriors who meet their end as a result of swinging their weapon so hard that it misses its mark but embeds itself into the ground or into the woodwork of a boat ..., so that they are effectively disarmed and present a helpless target to their enemy's next blow."  [CONTRA Amberger 1999 p198: "Even without the unfortunate home-ec analogy and the over-used cliché of 'finesse', Griffith's observations are valid only for the initial phases of combat.  In mêlée and life-and-death scenarios, it is of course ludicrous to assume that each fighter paused after the cut to give his opponent the opportunity to pay him back in kind.  (Apart from the fact that real-life fights with the rapier probably comprised more time of observant inactivity than the rapid-motion 'finesse' of Errol Flynn may suggest.)"]

* Hjardar/Vike 2016 p168
"... [I]n Old Norse the word ​sverð also means 'penis'.  The person who was pierced by the sword was therefore by implication a female, a vagina, a sheath for the sword.  The sword is the weapon which is most often given extraordinary qualities and special names in the sagas."

* Capwell 2012 p11
[T]he early medieval swords of the Vikings ... were imbued with a ritual significance as well as physical lethality. This duality made the sword a symbol of power, one that is found everywhere in poems, sagas and chronicles and reflected in the plethora of words used to describe them. ... In the Norse sagas the killing power and graceful elegance of the sword are often fused by means of shockingly evocative phrases such as 'Ice of Battle', 'Serpent of the Wound', 'Torch of Blood' and Destroyer of the Mail-shirt'. "


* Konstam 2018 p54-56
"Not every Viking warrior owned a mail shirt, or even a helmet, but virtually all of them carried a shield.  While surviving examples are rare, the Gokstad ship burial includes rows of shields lining each gunwale.  Elsewhere in Scandinavia, apart from a nearly intact 10th-century shield recovered at Trelleborg in Denmark, only fragments of their wooden surfaces have been found.  Another intact shield thought to have been of Viking origin was found at Tirksom in Latvia.  In most cases, the wood and lining has rotted away.  Fortunately, a number of metal shield-rims have survived, while the circular iron boss that formed the centre of a shield is frequently found in Viking burials.  This, combined with the evidence provided by contemporary depictions, provide us with enough information to understand what a Viking shield looked like, ​and how it was made.  The majority of them were circular, about 3ft 90cm) in diameter, although this could vary by up to 5in (12.5cm) either way.  They evidently followed a long-established pattern, as these surviving examples are similar to shields recovered from a bog in Thorsberg in Denmark, which date from the 3rd century.  Shields were made from flat wooden planks about 6in (15cm) wide, although the exact width could vary.  The Gokstad shiels were made up of either seven or eight narrow planks, all glued together.  These were only 1/4in (7mm) thick, and while it has been suggested these were purely decorative shields, for what was clearly a ceremonial vessel, other finds suggest that most shields were only marginally thicker, and also that they were thicker at the centre than at their outer edges.  The majority were made from pine or spruce.
    "A small circular hole at the centre of the shield was spanned by a wooden carrying handle, which was nailed across the gap.  This was then covered by a circular iron boss, which was dome-shaped to leave room for the warrior's hand.  The boss had a rim, and holes around its edge allowed it to be nailed to the surface of the shield, with the ends flattened on the shield's inside surface.  The shield boss averaged 6in (15cm) in diameter, including the flange.  Its design of varied [SIC] according to fashion and local influence, although for the most part it was a simple semi-circular dome, although earlier examples favoured a small neck too.  In the late 10th century a more pointed variant also made an appearance.  The shield was strengthened by a rim, either of metal or rawhide, which ran all the way round its outer edge.  In some examples, holes were pierced in the wood of the shield to accommodate the stitching used to bind these rawhide bands.
    "The outer surface of the shield was covered by another layer of rawhide, sometimes with a cloth layer glued between the wood and the hide, to help bind the two more closely.  Often the same was done to the back surface of the shield.  This rawhide covering gave the shield strength -- without it, the wooden planking alone wouldn't have been able to withstand the impact of blades or arrows.  In some cases the handle extended across the full span of the shield, acting as a reinforcing batten, while in other examples iron straps were used to bind the back of the shield together.  The result was a light yet reasonably robust shield, well suited to the style of fighting favoured by Viking warriors."

* Griffith 1995 p166
"By far the cheapest and commonest item in the Viking armoury was the shield, which was also the most useful item in battle.  Rich or poor, young or old, no warrior could afford to be without a shield -- and sometimes he might have more than one -- regardless of whatever else he took with him.  The shield was his main line of defence against all forms of attack, and if used correctly it could make helmets and mail shirts almost entirely superfluous.
​   "The traditional Viking shield was circular, around a yard in diameter, with a metal boss at the centre to cover the hand grip.  It would be made of relatively narrow strips of wood, possibly laminated and preferably lime, with some iron struts as its frame at the rear and a leather (rarely metal) reinforcement around the rim or even all over its face."

* Hubbard 2017 p144-146
"Every Viking had at least one large, round wooden shield for protection in battle.  Made from wooden planks covered in leather or linen, and sometimes painted in bright stripes, shields would accompany Vikings across the seas and be attached to the side of longships to give them their menacing battle-ready appearance.  The straps that held a shield to the ship was also used to sling it onto a warrior's back for long marches or to free both hands in battle.  At the centre of the shield was a domed iron boss, which protected the hand and could be used to punch at an opponent.  A handgrip on the inside of the dome allowed the shield to be rotated, and iron bars sometimes lined the back of the shield for added reinforcement.
    "Shields were between 70 and 100cm (27-39in) in diameter, and had a thickness of between 7 and 30mm (0.27-1.18in).  They were almost certainly treated with an oil-based substance to protect against water, which in some cases was paint -- black and white stripes were both used and skaldic poems describe shields being decorated with pictures of gods and heroes.  The last line of a shiel's protection was a rawhide edging, which helped to hold it together after it had been split in battle."

* Sanmark/Sundman 2008 p62
"Sköldar skyddade krigarna i striden.  De byggdes av trä och var runda.  Skålformade järnbeslag skyddade krigarnas händar."

* Hjardar/Vike 2016 p183
"The Vikings appear nearly always to have used round shields.  The wooden shield-plate was flat with a hole in the middle where a wooden carrying handle was mounted crossways on the inside.  A dome of plate iron, the shield-boss, was nailed securely over the hole on the outside, to protect the hand.  In the Viking graves, this iron boss is the most important and often the only evidence of a shield."

* Konstam 2002 p120-121
"Sadly, no reliable archaeological examples of shields have been found.  Those from the Gokstad ship-burial may well have been specially commissioned designs for use in the burial mound, but pictorial evidence suggests that round circular shields were the norm.  A central metal boss protected the wood and hide shield, and the outer surface frequently appears to have been painted, either with quartered patterns of solid color or, more usually, simple artistic devices."

* Heath/McBride 1985 p52-54
"Shields were circular, constructed of wood, and might be leather-covered.  They were bound round the edges with iron, or leather in the Gokstad examples, while one found at Birka in Sweden was bound with small bronze plates.  In the centre was a prominent hemispherical or conical iron boss, behind which was the hand-grip.  The shield itself was usually between 30 and 40 ins. in diameter and made of limewood, only about one-fifth of an inch thick and consequently very light.  If the Gotland picture stones are accurate some shields may have been smaller.  they were generally painted, the colours most often referred to in the sources being red (by far the most popular), yellow, black, white, and to a lesser extent green and blue; the 64 shields found with the Gokstad ship were painted alternately in yellow and black.  The orb could also be divided up into halves and quarters painted in contrasting colours, and there are some references to shields painted with mythical scenes, dragons and other creatures."


* Konstam 2018 p51-52
"Knives came in a variety of sizes, although effectively they can be grouped into two types.  Smaller domestic or agricultural knives with a blade length of less than 14in (35cm) could dispatch a fallen warrior as easily as they could slaughter an animal, and on a raid or a campaign they would have proved extremely useful.  These though, weren't really regarded as weapons.  The second type consisted of long knives -- those with a blade length of between 20-30in (50-75cm).  The Norse word for a long knife of this kind was sax, a word similar to the Anglo-Saxon seax.  ​While these could be used for everyday tasks such as chopping wood or stripping branches, they were primarily designed to be used as weapons.  Some saxes recovered from a Viking burial in Ireland even had sword-like handles.  Usually though, all these knives had a simple, straight wooden grip and pommel, and either no crossguard at all, or a small one, little wider than the blade itself.
    "The blade itself was always single edged, and the sax was characterised by a straight blade but a back, either curved or straight, which, two-thirds of the way between the hilt and the tip the edge would bend in an angle, as the blade narrowed into a point.  Most of these angle-backed blades seem either to have been weapons captured from the Anglo-Saxons, or to have been influenced by this English design.  The majority of the few Scandinavian sax finds from Viking graves had a gently sloping or curving back.  Many also had a groove or fuller running along the blade, just below its back edge.  The handles were usually made from wood, although bone examples have also been found, and while most were undecorated, more elaborate examples have been discovered.  The grip itself was around 6-8in (15-20cm) long on a sax, and 4-6in (10-15 cm) on a shorter knife.  The blades were pattern-forged, in a manner similar to swords.
    "It appears that while similar long knives were used in Frankish and Saxon lands on mainland Europe, they seem to have fallen out of use during the 8th century.  The Scandinavians and Anglo-Saxons continued to use them throughout the Viking age, even though they produced different styles of long knives, one angle-backed and the other with a more gently sloping back to the blade.  Despite falling out of favour, however, the remains of three leather slings for angle-backed saxes dating from around AD1000 were found near Trondheim in Norway.  The other scabbard and knife sling finds from Scandinavia have all been associated with slope-backed saxes of local manufacture.  The scabbard was normally hung from a waistbelt, and worn either behind the warrior, resting on his rump, or at his right hip.  In these scabbards, the knife sat blade uppermost, and was usually attached to the waistband by means of rings and leather straps."

* Hjardar/Vike 2016 p165
"Like the axe, the knife was a slaughtering tool, used for the necessary trick of cutting throats and draining away life-blood.  The knife used as a weapon represents liberation from dominance: a son's liberation from his father; a slave's liberation from his master; a people's liberation from a dominant race.  This can also be seen as a cultural expression of the idea of the newborn infant being liberated from the mother through birth and the cutting of the umbilical cord.  The slave was not allowed to own more than a small working knife, and so a large knife designed as a weapon was a symbol of liberation.  One type of long knife used as a weapon was known in Old Norse as a sax, and in Old English as a seax.  The etymological origins of this word have meanings such as 'to split in two, to separate, to divide, to cut[']."

* Nurmann/Schulze/Verhülsdonk 1997 p18
"As indicated by the name, the origin of the sax lies with the Saxons, and the Vikings most probably adopted it from these peoples who were as often their neighbours as their enemies."The sax is a single-edged knife of a length which can range from about 7.5cm to 75cm (3-30 inches).  We can distinguish between two groups: short ones with a length of 35cm (14ins) or less, and long ones of between 50cm and 75cm (20-30 inches).  Originally the shorter knives were probably everyday domestic tools, carried to war for camp use but also ready to hand if a fallen enemy had to be finished off.  The long saxes were developed specifically as weapons, but they could equally be used for more peaceful chores, in the manner of a machete.  Some long saxes fitted with sword-type handles were found in the Irish Viking burials of Kilmainham-Islandbridge."

* Hjardar/Vike 2016 p167
"The medium-length knives used as weapons hung horizontally from the belt, across the front of the lower abdomen.  The cutting edge faced upward, with the handle of the knife conveniently placed for the warrior's right hand.  The sheath had two hanging straps going up to a belt which appears to have been a specialised weapon-belt with fixed fastening points so that the knife would stay in the correct position.  Long knives were too long to hang horizontally in this way, and contemporary pictures show that they hung diagonally across the left hip, more like a sword."


* Nurmann/Schulze/Verhülsdonk 1997 p45 caption
"Purses ..., both decorated and undecorated and in many sizes, have been found in all areas of Viking settlement." 

Jewelry (Pendant, Bracelets, Belt)

* Haywood 2000 p108
"As it still is today, jewelry was at once an adornment and a way of displaying wealth, but it also served a practical purpose, as a convenient way of carrying wealth, as a means of exchange, for sealing a friendship or alliance, and, at a more mundane level, as fastenings for cloaks, dresses, and belts."

* Allan 2002 p110
"Living in spartan times, the Viking peoples expressed their love of ostentation through jewelry.  Men and women alike wore arm- and neckrings as well as shoulder brooches that held their outer garments in place; in addition, women wore necklaces, pendants, and occasionally finger-rings.  Plain silver neck- and armrings were made in standard weights so that they could double up as currency; to settle small amounts they were often cut into fragments known as 'hack-silver.'  Most of the metal used was melted down from Middle Eastern coins brought back to Scandinavia by Rus traders."

* Konstam 2018 p42
"In Viking society, status was emphasised by appearance, especially when it came to the quality of clothes and weapons.  However, just as important were more ostentatious forms of personal decoration.  Viking-age jewellery has survived from burial sites, and from uncovered hordes.  We know more from contemporary depictions of Vikings, and from descriptions of their appearance.  Viking metalworkers were able to draw on long-held Scandinavian artistic tradition to produce the intricate designs we find in Viking-age weapons and jewellery.  Many examples are decorated with the complex interlaced 'gripping beast' pattern that has come to characterise Viking-age ornamentation.  However, styles changed throughout the period.  Many Vikings wore silver or bronze amulets around their necks, which often bore religious images.  From grave site finds we also know that torques were also popular, worn around the neck or arm.  For the Viking warrior, jewellery also served a practical purpose.  While most Vikings owned cloaks to protect them from the rain and cold, high-status warriors would have worn ornately decorated cloak pins or brooches, cast in silver or bronze.  Those Vikings who couldn't afford or plunder such high-quality metalwork would wear simpler pieces, cast in pewter or carved from bone."

* Hubbard 2017 p61-62
"Viking jewellery was lavish, ornate and intricately styled to show off the wearer's wealth and social position.  Bespoke jewellery made by Viking craftsmen from the most desirable materials of the time -- silver and gold.  ...
    "[....]  Other common pieces of jewellery were finger rings, neck rings, necklaces, pins and pendants, sometimes featuring pagan symbols such as Thor's hammer Mjöllnir and, later, crucifixes.  Necklaces were ornamented with coloured beads such as cornelians and crystals from abroad or locally-sourced amber and glass.  Neck and arm rings were often fashioned from rods of gold or silver twisted together, while smaller versions were made for the fingers.  Many of the rings found in Scandinavia were made from silver melted down from the thin Arabic coins called 'dirhams'.  Silver was much sought-after during the Viking Age and the currency most commonly used for trading.  Slaves were exchanged for the agreed weight in silver dirhams."

* Jorvik Viking Centre
"Personal Items  Men and women wore personal items for adornment, status and for practical reasons.  They were made from a range of materials including copper, lead, iron, glass, and occasionally silver and gold."  ...

* Yorkshire Museum > Medieval York: Capital of the North
"Strength and skill in battle was [SIC] crucial to being a successful Viking leader. Large pieces of arm, neck and finger-rings were worn as symbols of status; to express power and wealth. Rulers were also expected to give rings to their followers as a reward for loyal service. Gold was a very valuable gift reserved for the best warriors."


* Allan 2002 p133 caption
​"Mead and ale were often passed around at feasts in drinking horns.  Most such vessels came from cattle, but more elaborate artifacts were also put into service."