What weapons did the Vikings use?
There is not much evidence about what the Vikings used as weapons apart from a few archaelogical finds and some writings in norse sagas from the 14th century. The Havmal, a Viking book which was said to be the word of Odin, stated that Vikings should carry their weapons at all time since they never knew when they might need them.
Contrary to popular belief swords were actually the most sought after weapons for Viking warriors. The problem was that swords were very expensive and difficult to make, therefore only viking nobles would be able to afford them. It was often the case that a sword would be the most expensive thing that a Viking owned and they would often be passed down through families. A number of Viking swords have been found at historical sites throughout Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. They are usually double edged and around 90cm long, designed to be wielded in one hand in conjunction with a shield. This design was fairly typical across europe during the Viking age.
This is probably the weapon that Vikinggs were most famous for. Axes were poopular amoungst Vikings due to the fact that they were readily available and easy to make. In the hands of a skilled Viking warrior axes also have some key advantages over other weapons. Axes can be used to hook weapons or shields and disarmn an opponent, they are also usually much lighter than heavy metal swords and allow for more nimble attacks. Many Viking age axes that were specifically designed for war were long which gave the user a greater range of attack. Shorter axes were also commonly used in battle by ordinary Vikings because they doubled up as tools for other aspects of life.
Spears were also a common weapon throughout europe during the Viking axe. They were easy to make and cheap due to the fact that they used much less iron than other weapons. Spears were usually made from 4 to as much as 10 feet in length. This was a very effective weapon which could be used with a shield and provided good defence against a mounted opponent and could be thrust or thrown at an enemy.
Bow & Arrow
The bow and arrow was the pinicle of military technology in medieval Europe. It allowed long range attacks on the enemy forced to pick them off before they got in range for hand to hand combat. Viking archers had a different approach to many other Europeans at the time. It was often the weapon of poor or low ranking warriors, however in Viking sagas there are mentions of noblemen using bows. The vikings would often rain arrows down upon the enemy from behind their shieldwall formation. There are also accounts of members of Viking armies who would stay near the edge of a battle and use their skills with a bow to pick off enemy soldiers.
The Seax was a single edged knife which was commonly used by many of the Germanic people. Many Viking historical sites have been found with seaxs of varying length. This would have been a useful tool in everyday life which doubled as a great weapon during times of war.
Check out our armoury for some handmade Viking age designs:
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