Typology of Spearhead Wings

When I wrote an article called “On Viking Age spearhead wings“ a few years back, I did not expect returning back to the topic and revising the content due to heavy new evidence. Wings on spearheads are often debated by fighting reenactors, while experts only give it little attention. In general, the feature is both time and geographically widely spread phenomenon, surrounded by several mystifications. This article aims to describe the anatomy of Early Middle Ages spearhead wings and attempt to categorise them.

The term “wings” describes an intentional protrusion attached to socket of the spear, which can serve several functions. In the first place, wings work as a cross-guard by widening the socket and preventing the spearhead from penetrating deeper into the body of animal or human. Increasing the surface of socket was achieved in various ways during the Early Middle Ages, such as installation of a ball moulding, a cross, a row of rivets or animal figures (see Fig. 1); sometimes the blade alone is shaped to prevent the penetration. Nevetherless, the wings are specifically formed in order to serve other functions of combat nature too – hooking, weapon deflection, cover etc. Some wings have a pointy tip and can be thus used as an extension of the harmful part of the spear while cutting, or they could had been provided support to additional blades that were attached to the spearhead, increasing the attack surface of the spear, such as in the case of Holy spear from Vienna (Paulsen 1969).

The wings were undoubtedly also used for easier sheath fixation. It is simply a practical feature, which increases the weapon’s effectiveness and which also gained a symbolic value (Hjardar – Vike 2011: 177). Winged spears are usually used in the context of hunting, for which they were certainly used since the Roman Era up to Modern history (Fuglesang 1980: 136-140; Oehrl 2013: Attachment), although it is certain that at least during the Early medieval period, they also found use in military conflicts, as supported by various relevant iconography.

Viking spear sockets shapes
Fig. 1: Early Middle Ages ways of widening the spearhead socket: wings, ball moulding, cross, a row of rivets, animal figures.
Source of graphics: Tomáš Cajthaml.

In this article, we will only analyse wings that are an integral part of the socket. We will omit wooden wings that could had been tied to the shaft, as was sometimes the case in Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period. As for the material used, the wings were in vast majority made of iron metals, rarely also from ironless metals, usually copper alloy. Wings made of iron metals were almost always welded on, non-iron wings could had been cast together with the socket.

Archaeological material shows a variety of possibilities when it comes to spearhead wings, which corresponds with local trends and even customisation to personal needs. Archaeological research (eg. Solberg 1984Westphal 2002: p. 254-266) focused solely on standard types which were present in higher amounts. We shall attempt to fix and improve this approach by including even other wings types that have not been considered before, thus increasing the possibilities. With that in mind, we kindly ask our readers and users of the schemas provided to be considerate, and we will gladly accept any suggestions and constructive criticism you might have. Should this new spearhead wings typology come into wider usage, we ought to figure out several issues, such as bad state of many wings, which can be an obstacle to categorise the wings or change their typology entirely.

Fig. 2: Spearhead anatomy, as used in the text.
Source of graphics: Tomáš Cajthaml.

Feature 1: Wing’s upper side placement
Represents an orientation of the wing’s upper side placement in relation to axis of the spear. By placement, we mean the initial touch point of the wing (as shown in Fig. 3), which we categorise as follows:

A. perpendicular placement (the wing is perpendicular to spear’s axis)
B. placement incurved towards spearhead (the angle between spear’s axis and wing’s placement is lesser than 90°)

placement incurved towards shaft (the angle between spear’s axis and wing’s placement is greater than 90°)

Fig. 3: Feature 1: Wing’s upper side placement.
Source of graphics: Tomáš Cajthaml.

Feature 2: Upper side curvature in relation to wing’s placement
Represents an angle of the wing’s upper side in relation to the angle of their placement (as shown in Fig. 4), which we categorise as follows:

A. straight (the wing’s upper side is parallel with the wing placement)
B. c
oncave (the wing’s upper side is concavely curved in relation to the wing placement)
C. convex (the wing’s upper side is convexly curved in relation to the wing placement)

Fig. 4: Feature 2: Upper side curvature in relation to wing’s placement.
Source of graphics: Tomáš Cajthaml.

Feature 3: placement and curvature of the bottom side
Represents the style of placement and curvature of the wing’s bottom side in relation to the wing (as shown in Fig. 5), which we categorise as follows:

A. straight (the bottom side is perpendicular to spear axis)
continuously concave curvature (bottom side of the wing is continuously concavely curved from the placement to the terminal)
continuously concave curvature with a step (bottom side of the wing is indented with [sometimes pointed] step, then continues with concave curve to the terminal)
slant (bottom side of the wing is straight and slanted in relation to spear axis)
E. continuously convex curvature (bottom side of the wing is continuously convexly curved from the placement to the terminal)
F. continuously convex curvature with extended tips (convex bottom side of the wing is extended to two tips exceeding the socket; tips that are integral parts of the socket are not included)
G. angled (bottom side of the wings consists of two lines that intersect in an angle greater than 90°)

Fig. 5: Feature 3: Placement and curvature of the bottom side.
Source of graphics: Tomáš Cajthaml.

Feature 4: frontal look of the terminal
Represents the style in which the wing is ended from frontal view (as shown in Fig. 6), which we categorise as follows:

A. tipped terminal (upper and bottom sides of the wing meet in a tipped point)
flat terminal (upper and bottom sides of the wing meet in a plain)
flat terminal with a barb (the upper and bottom side of the wing meet in a plain with a barb)
terminal with a separated barb (upper side of the wing is ended with a curve or flat pad, bottom side of the wing is ended with a barb, and these two are separated with a notch)
curved terminal (upper and bottom side of the wing meet in a curved terminal)
F. curved terminal with a barb (upper and bottom sides of the wing meet in a curved terminal with a barb)
globular terminal (upper and bottom sides of the wing meet in a ball)
animal head terminal (upper and bottom sides of the wing end in an animal head)

Fig. 6: Feature 4: frontal look of the terminal
Source of graphics: Tomáš Cajthaml.

Feature 5: side look of the terminal
Represents the style in which the wing is ended from side view (as shown in Fig. 7), which we categorise as follows:

A. spike (the terminal has a sharp, single-point profile from the side view)
sharp edge (the terminal has a sharp or very narrow profile of up to 3 mm from the side view)
blunt edge (the terminal has a blunt profile from the side view)
D. s
quare or rectangular profile (the terminal has a wide square or rectangular profile from the side view)
E. c
ircular or oval profile (the terminal has a circular or oval profile from the side view)
animal head (the terminal is shaped in an animal head)


Fig. 7: Feature 5: side look of the terminal
Source of graphics: Tomáš Cajthaml.

Feature 6: the look from below

Represents the style of the winged socket from the bottom view (as shown in Fig. 8), which we categorise as follows:

A. straight with constant width (the wings are straight and of constant width, whether narrow or wide)
B. constant width with bent terminals (the wings are straight and of constant width with bent terminals)
C. tapering into a spike (tapering wings ending in a spike)
D. tapering but ending with a flat terminal (tapering wings ending in a flat edge)
E. tapering in a wavy line (tapering, wave-shaped wings)
F. tapering with an enlarged terminal (tapering wings that are enlarged at the terminal, such as with an animal head)
G. straight with constant width, with globular ending (straight wings of constant width with globular or otherwise similar ending)
H. stepped (the wings are narrowing in a stepped manner)
I. tapering and curved (the wings are tapering and curved to one side)

Fig. 8: Feature 6: the look from below.
Source of graphics: Tomáš Cajthaml.

In the following practical section, we have so far categorised a total of 23 different types of Early Middle Ages winged spears. The categorisation of the wings will be based on the more complete or better preserved of the two. In some cases, there are spears with wings where each could be categorised differently, but these are rather an exception as the craftsmen usually attempted to achieve symmetry.

Fig. 9: 1A.2A.3A.4B.5C.6A; Niederstotzingen, Germany; grave 6, dated 650-680 AD.
Westphal 2002: 246-247, cat. no. 3.3.8.


Fig. 10: 1A.2A.3B.4B.5C.6A; Walsum, Germany; grave 6, dated to 2nd quarter of 8th century.
Westphal 2002: 242-243, cat. no. 3.3.4.


Fig. 11: 1A.2A.3B.4A.5A.6C; Hage, Norway; Solberg type VI 1B, belonging to approx. 750-850 AD.
Cat. no. B11315.


Fig. 12: 1A.2A.3C.4B.5C.6A; Straume, Norway; Solberg type IX 1B, belonging to approx. 950-1050 AD.
Cat. no. C24488.


Fig. 13: 1A.2A.3G.4B.5C.6A; Lutomiersk, Poland; dated to 11th century. Nadolski 1954: Tab. XXVII:4.


Fig. 14: 1A.2A.3B.4B.5D.6B; Dugo Selo, Croatia; dated around 800 AD. Demo 2010: Fig. 1.


 Fig. 15: 1B.2C.3B.4E.5C.6I; Sahlenburg, Germany; grave 68, dated do 750-800 AD.
Westphal 2002: 226-227, cat. no. 3.2.3.


Fig. 16: 1C.2B.3B.4B.5C.6E; Frankish spear, Palatium, Ostrów Tumski, Poznań, Poland.
Exhibition “Kiedy Poznan był grodem… Uzbrojenie“.


Fig: 17: 1C.2B.3C.4B.5C.6A; Kjorstad nedre, Norway; Solberg type VI 2B, belonging to approx. 850-950 AD. Cat. no. C30253.


Fig. 18: 1B.2C.3C.4C.5B.6A; United Kingdom; dated to 9th to 10th century.
British Museum 2019.


Fig. 19: 1A.2A.3B.4C.5C.6A; Østre Toten, Norway; Solberg type VI 2B, belonging to approx. 850-950 AD. Cat. no. C20909.


Fig. 20: 1A.2A.3B.4G.5E.6G; Neckartenzlingen, Germany; dated typologically to 8th century.
Westphal 2002: 248-250, cat. no. 3.3.11.


Fig. 21: 1A.2B.3B.4B.5C.6I; Krefeld-Gellep, Germany; grave 1782, dated to 525 AD.
Reichmann 2013: 269, Fig. 3.


Fig. 22: 1B.2C.3F.4B.5D.6A; Krefeld-Gellep, Germany; grave 6352, dated to 1st half of 4th century. Reichmann 2013: 268, Fig. 2.


Fig. 23: 1B.2C.3C.4B.5B.6D; Frestedt, Germany; dated to 2nd half of 8th century.
Westphal 2002: 239-241, cat. no. 3.3.2.


Fig. 24: 1A.2B.3E.4A.5A.6C; Haugen, Norway; cat. no. C21961. Dated to 840-900 AD.
Nørgård-Jørgensen 1999: 233-235, cat. no. 52:7, Pl. 27.


Fig. 25: 1A.2A.3D.4B.5B.6A; Stade, Germany; dated to 8th century.
Westphal 2002: 228, cat. no. 3.2.5.


Fig. 26: 1C.2B.3B.4B.5A.6E; Hameln, Germany; dated to 2nd half of 8th century.
Westphal 2002: 233, cat. no. 3.2.11.


Fig. 27: 1C.2B.3B.4B.5C.6A; Poznań-Luboń, Poland. Kostrzewski 1947.


Fig. 28: 1A.2C.3C.4H.5C.6A; Farnhem, United Kingdom. Dated to 11th century.
Lang 1981: Pl. XV; Wardell 1849: Fig. 2.


Fig. 29: 1C.2C.3B.4H.5C.6A; Vesilahti-Suomela, Finland.
Kivikoski 1973: Tab. 134, Abb. 1182.


Fig. 30: 1C.2B.3E.4A.5A.6C; Perniö-Paarskylä, Finland.
Kivikoski 1973: Tab. 134, Abb. 1183.


Fig. 31: 1B.2C.3B.4H.5F.6F; Bargen; grave 7, end of 7th century.
Dauber 1955: Abb. 3B.

By the end of the article, I would love to point out that until this day, the researchers evaluated the wings function only in regards with hunting, without any practical knowledge of the possible working with the spear. For that reason, this beneficial feature was mostly overlooked, and the wings were not given any broader attention or systematic elaboration. Fortunately, this is changing thanks to reenactors, who pursue acquisition of accurate replicas, and in some cases even attempt to reconstruct the original fighting techniques as well.

The lack of any serious attempt for practical interpretation of the spear wings limited both researchers and reenactors, distorting its full function and limiting greatly our understanding of Early Middle Ages warfare. In the first place, current common argument is that the spears were purely two-handed weapons. This may be true for some longer or massive pieces (which is also supported by iconography), but vast majority of our sources suggests single-handed use in combination with a shield. This specific combination, which can be found in cultures all around the globe, was purposely used in a specific combat phase. Iconography shows that when it comes to ground combat, single-handed spears were held with the thumb facing away from the spearhead, which can prove practical for four reasons:

  • experiments confirmed better penetrability
  • the ability to quickly throw the spear
  • higher safety of the thumb
  • better ability to pin down the opponent’s spear

Thickness of the preserved shafts and sockets proves that vast majority of shafts were between 20 and 30 mm thick, and that they were tapered. This thickness has experimentally turned out to be universal and that a spear with split shaft of this thickness is both flexible and durable enough to sustain one- and two-handed combat style, while also being well usable for throwing. The total weight of the spear, with some exceptions, was between 500 and 1500 grams.

Fig. 32: Spear combat on the Bayeaux tapestry.

Fig. 33: Examples of winged spear combat.
Left: Corbic Psalter (Amiens Bibliothèque municipale Ms. 18, fol. 123v), circa 800 AD (Paulsen 1969: Fig. 4:2). Right: The Codex Aureus of Echternach (Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Hs. 156142, fol. 78), dated to 1030-1050 AD (Fuglesang 1980: Pl. 110C).

Should we accept this fact, it would allow us to move farther in some theses. During the combat, where the spears were predominant – which was basically common for most, if not all European battlefields in the Early Middle Ages – the wings on spearheads represent an advantage and addition that provides a higher performance. We specifically consider these three cases:

  • There is a correlation between height of the wings, width of the blade and thickness of the shaft. Width of the wings is always equal to or higher than width of the blade – spears with narrow blade will have short wings, spears with wide blade on the other hand have taller wings. Majority of Frankish, Polish and Croatian finds (and possibly even other countries for which we have no corpuses) commonly have inner diameter of the socket between 25 and 36 mm, the wings span 59-90 mm and their height is 17-34 mm (Demo 2010; Westphal 2002; Sankiewicz – Wyrwa 2018: 208). This ratio indicates that the wings span is not random but is on the contrary chosen purposely to prevent the spearhead from penetrating further. It seems likely that almost all the wings (except of type 2C wings, that is with the wing’s upper side being convexly curved in relation to the wing placement) could easily be used to deflecting opponent’s spear towards ground – basically stopping a counterattack by swift and precise stroke to opponent’s spear’s socket or shaft. Especially spears with very tall wings or type 1B wings, plus some of the type 2B wings suggest that they were constructed towards as best manipulation with opponent’s spear or another weapon, as possible.


  • For a long time, there has been an argument amongst the reenactors regarding the possibility of using the wings for hooking, although so far there is no conclusive evidence. There are several wing types (2C, 3C, 4C, 4D, 4F) that could by design be used for hooking, be it a shield or a weapon. This tactic can provide an important practical advantage. It is possible that also the types 6B and 6I could be used similarly. In the Gull-Þóris saga (chapter 10), there is a reference on an attempt of hooking a shield with a spear.


  • Third often discussed question, whether the spear wings can be used for hacking, can be supported. A successful hit by basically any wing type would have a devastating effect, with spears having 4A, 4C, 4G, 5A, 5B, 5E, 6C, 6E and 6G features performing the best.

Used and suggested literature

British Museum (2019). Spear-head, Museum number 1856,0701.1449. Available online: https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=85949&partId=1&from=ad&fromDate=700&to=ad&toDate=1200&object=20259&page=2, accessed on 1.6.2019.

Creutz, Kristina (2003). Tension and tradition: a study of late Iron Age spearheads around the Baltic Sea, Stockholm.

Dauber, Albrecht (1955). Ein fränkisches Grab mit Prunklanze aus Bargen, Ldkr. Sinsheim (Baden). In: Germania, Bd. 33 Nr. 4, 381-390.

Demo, Željko (2010). Ranosrednjovjekovno koplje s krilcima iz okolice Dugog Sela u svjetlu novih saznanja o ovoj vrsti oružja na motki. In: Archaeologia Adriatica, Vol. 4. No. 1., 61-84.

Fuglesang, Signe Horn (1980). Some Aspects of the Ringerike Style : A phase of 11th century Scandinavian art, Odense.

Hjardar, Kim – Vike, Vegard (2011). Vikinger i krig, Oslo.

Kivikoski, Ella (1973). Die Eisenzeit Finnlands: Bildwerk und Text, Helsinki.

Kostrzewski, Józef (1947). Kultura prapolska, Poznań.

Kouřil, Pavel (2005). Frühmittelalterliche Kriegergräber mit Flügellanzen und Sporen des Typs Biskupija-Crkvina auf mährischen Nekropolen. In: Die Frühmittelalterliche Elite bei den Völkern des östlichen Mitteleuropas : (mit einem speziellen Blick auf die großmährische Problematik) : Materialien der internationalen Fachkonferenz : Mikulčice, 25.-26.5.2004, Brno, 67-99.

Kurasiński, Tomasz (2005). Waffen im Zeichenkreis. Über die in den Gräbern auf den Gebieten des frühmittelalterlichen Polen vorgefundenen Flügellanzenspitzen. In: Sprawozdania Archeologiczne, vol. 57, 165-213.

Lang, James T. (1981). A Viking Age Spear-Socket from York. In: Medieval Archaeology, 25, 1981: 157–160, Pl. XV.

Leppäaho, Jorma (1964). Späteisenzeitliche Waffen aus Finnland: Schwertinschriften und Waffenverzierungen des 9. – 12. Jahrhunderts ; ein Tafelwerk, Helsinki.

Nadolski, Andrzej (1954). Studia nad uzbrojeniem polskim w X, XI i XII wieku, Łódź.

Nørgård Jørgensen, Anne (1999). Waffen & Gräber. Typologische und chronologische Studien zu skandinavischen Waffengräbern 520/30 bis 900 n.Chr., København.

Oehrl, Sigmund (2013) Bear hunting and its ideological context (as a background for the interpretation of bear claws and other remains of bears in Germanic graves of the 1st millennium AD). In: Grimm, O. – Schmölcke, U. (eds.). Hunting in Northern Europe until 1500 AD – Old Traditions and Regional Developments, Neumünster, 267-332.

Paulsen, Peter (1969). Flügellanzen: Zum archäologischen Horizont der Wiener Sancta lancea. In: Frühmittelalterliche Studien 3, 289—312.

Petersen, Jan (1919). De Norske Vikingesverd: En Typologisk-Kronologisk Studie Over Vikingetidens Vaaben. Kristiania.

Reichmann, Christoph (2013). Late ancient Germanic hunting in Gaul based on selected archaeological examples. In: Grimm, O. – Schmölcke, U. (eds.). Hunting in Northern Europe until 1500 AD – Old Traditions and Regional Developments, Neumünster, 267-276.

Ruttkay, Alexander (1975). Waffen und Reiterausrüstung des 9. bis zur ersten Hälfte des 14. Jahrhunderts in der Slowakei (I). In: Slovenská Archeológia XXIII / 1, Bratislava, 119-216.

Sankiewicz, Paweł – Wyrwa, Andrzej M. (2018). Broń drzewcowa i uzbrojenie ochronne z Ostrowa Lednickiego, Giecza i Grzybowa, Lednica.

Solberg, Bergljot (1984). Norwegian Spear-Heads from the Merovingian and Viking Periods, Universitetet i Bergen. Dizertační práce.

Wardell, J. (1849). Antiquities and Works of Art Exhibited. In: Archaeological Journal 6, 401–2.

Westphal, Herbert (2002). Franken oder Sachsen?: Untersuchungen an frühmittelalterlichen Waffen, Oldenburg.

Westphalen, Petra (2002). Die Eisenfunde von Haithabu. Die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu 10, Neumünster.

Soukromá sekera z Kaliningradu

Na konci července roku 2019 mne oslovil dánský sběratel, který chtěl před koupí zkonzultovat několik kusů raně středověkých seker. Sekeru, kterou níže popisujeme, zakoupil na moje doporučení od soukromého sběratele z Německa, neboť u ní dle mého soudu byla nejmenší pravděpodobnost padělku. Pokud by se jednalo o padělek, byl by mimořádně dobře zpracován, a náklady na výrobu by se zřejmě pohybovaly výše, než byla dražební cena. Sekera mi byla v srpnu téhož roku propůjčena na zdokumentování, za což majiteli srdečně děkuji!


Zběžný popis artefaktu

Do rukou se nám dostává mimořádně dobře zachovalá hlava sekery, kterou lze přiřadit k Petersenovu typu M (Petersen 1919: 46-47), konkrétněji k jeho podtypu M1 (Atgāzis 1997: 56), nejpřesněji Kotowiczovu typu IIIA.5.3 (Kotowicz 2018: 85-87), jde tedy o širokou hlavu sekery, která má násadovou část opatřenou trny po obou stranách a která má z vrchního pohledu plochý tlouk, z bočního pohledu rovný tlouk a čepel netvarovanou do brady. Jde o velmi známý a v minulosti oblíbený typ bojové obouruční sekery, rozšířený od Irska po Rusko v období 10.-14. století. Dle slov sběratele artefakt pochází z mnichovské soukromé sbírky, do které se dostal po náhodném objevu v 80. letech 20. století v Kaliningradu. Na základě znalosti původu a analogií lze tuto sekeru datovat do 11. či 12. století (Atgāzis 1997: 56). V baltském prostředí se jedná o populární militárii, kterou známe u Lotyšska (250 exemplářů, Atgāzis 1997: 53), Estonska (nejméně 18 exemplářů, Atgāzis 1997: 1. att), Litvy (nejméně 13 exemplářů, Atgāzis 1997: 1. att) a Kaliningradské oblasti (nejméně 8 exemplářů, Kazakevičius 1996: 234).

Předmět působí kompaktním dojmem, pouze špice trnů jsou zkřehlé a hrozí jejich odlomení. Povrch předmětu, včetně vrchní i spodní strany, je zvrásněný vyrezlými důlky. Plocha čepele a vnitřní strana násadového otvoru vykazuje známky rzi. Na několika místech násadového otvoru se zřejmě nacházejí otisky dřeva, které mělo dlouhá vlákna a jeví se jako pravděpodobné, že se jedná o dřevo listnatého stromu. Je přinejmenším patrné, že na pohledových stranách byla sekera důkladně očištěna, a je možné, že byla ošetřena lakem. Pouhým okem nelze ze současné podoby odvodit proces přesný výroby, je nicméně pravděpodobné, že předmět byl vyroben z železného a lépe kujného ingotu, na jehož přední hranu byl navařen plát oceli, z něhož byl vyformován břit a který je patrný jak díky charakteristickému zvýšenému profilu na čepeli, tak zkorodovanému břitu. Problematickým bodem je proces výroby násadového otvoru, které mohlo být vytvořeno jak rozseknutím, proražením nebo obtočením (Kotowicz 2018 : 25-27). Můj osobní názor, zakládající se na velmi špatně viditelných vrstvách na horní a spodní straně krčku, asymetrické tloušťce stěn násadového oka a slabé tendenci čepele vybíhat mimo osu danou středem tlouku a břitem, je takový, že oko bylo vytvořeno obtočením, tedy Kotowiczovou variantou 5 (Kotowicz 2018: 27).

Hlava sekery v současné chvíli váží 333 (332.84) g. Délka od středu tlouku do středu břitu činí 160 mm (délka od středu tlouku po horní roh břitu 173 mm; délka od středu tlouku po spodní roh břitu 160 mm), šířka břitu je 175 mm, délka břitu 181 mm. Minimální výška krčku je 23 mm, tloušťka krčku na hranici násadového otvoru je 16.5 mm. Maximální tloušťka sekery na úrovni násadového otvoru činí 28 mm, odkud se svažuje na 25.5 mm na tlouku. Výška násadového otvoru s trny je 39-41 mm. Výška tlouku činí 20.5 mm. Velikost násadového otvoru, který je zhruba kapkovitého otvoru, je zhruba 25.7 × 21 mm; na vnitřní straně je patrný otisk dřeva. Méně dominantní horní trny se zužují až na tloušťku cca 2.5 mm, výraznější spodní trny se zřejmě zužovaly do ostrých špicí, ze kterých dnes zbývají zakulacené vršky o tloušťce 1.5-2 mm. Nejtenčí bod čepele má tloušťku 2.6 mm, avšak tloušťku pod 3 mm si čepel udržuje na 45 mm z celkové délky čepele 138 mm (délka od hranice násadového otvoru po horní roh). Šířka navařeného břitu je zhruba 17-31 mm (nejméně uprostřed břitu, nejvíce na rozích), maximální tloušťka 7.5 mm, která se plynule snižuje do ostří s plochým výbrusem, které má i dnes tloušťku pod 1 mm.

Přináležitost k podtypu M1 soudíme na základě zařaditelnosti do baltského souboru: podtyp M1 má šířku krčku 20-25 mm, šířku tlouku 20-25 mm a tloušťku tlouku až 7 mm, na rozdíl od podtypu M2 (šířka krčku 25-35 mm) a M3 (šířka krčku 35-50 mm) (Atgāzis 1997: 56). Vložený břit je však typičtější pro sekery podtypu M2, a tak se nabízí možnost širší datace. Svými parametry sekera dobře zapadá mezi baltské protějšky. Baltské sekery jsou dlouhé 125–235 mm a široké 12–22.5 cm (Kazakevičius 1996: 233), zatímco polské sekery jsou dlouhé 136–210 mm a široké 110-206 mm (Kotowicz 2014) a ruské jsou 170-220 mm dlouhé a 130-200 mm široké (Kirpičnikov 1966: 39). Co se týče váhy, 333 gramů neodpovídá původnímu stavu, kdy sekera mohla být i o třetinu těžší. Baltské sekery málokdy váží nad 500-600 gramů, a jsou spíše lehčí, okolo 400 gramů (Atgāzis 1997: 55). Podobně jsou na tom také ruské (200–450 gramů; Kirpičnikov 1966: 39) nebo polské sekery (100–450 gramů; Kotowicz 2014). S toporem, které vzhledem k malým rozměrům násadového otvoru muselo být velmi tenké a tudíž lehké, vážila celá zbraň jistě pod 1 kg. Toporo mohlo být zhruba do 110-120 cm vysoké, a sekera na něj zřejmě nebyla nasazována zespoda, nýbrž svrchu, jak je u seker tohoto typu obvyklé, a tak toporo bylo těsně pod hlavou poněkud širší. Jedná se o skvěle zkonstruovanou zbraň, u které je materiál dokonale a účelně rozprostřen, takže nemá ani jeden přebytečný gram a kvalitní materiál na břitu nesen méně kvalitním zbytkem. Zejména v této konstrukci můžeme spatřovat důvod, proč se zbraň udržela čtyři staletí v užívání.

Baltské analogie z lokalit Palanga, Vilkumuiža, Pasilciems.
Zdroj: Kazakevičius 1996: Rys. 1.

Rentgenové snímky a jejich vyhodnocení

Na počátku září téhož roku byla sekera představena Ing. Jiřímu Hoškovi Ph.D. z Archeologického ústavu AV ČR, který v současné době platí za největší českou kapacitu na poli středověké metalurgie. V rámci našeho setkání jsme provedli zběžné ohledání i rentgenové snímkování. Pan Hošek se v popisu shoduje, a nedomnívá se, že by se jednalo o falzum. Dle jeho slov splňuje parametry taně středověkých seker.

Rentgenové snímky byly pořízeny přístrojem Comet MXR-225HP/11. Zaměřili jsme se na oblast násadového oka a břitu, kde jsme očekávali známky svědčící o svárech. Jedinou známku po sváru jsme však zaznamenali pouze v oblasti násadového otvoru, což potvrzuje předpoklad, že oko bylo vytvořeno obtočením, nikoli probitím. Z boku po tomto sváru nejsou stopy, a žádné další náznaky svárů se neobjevují ani na břitu. Pan Hošek se domnívá, že břit zcela jistě je navařený. Důvodů, proč se sváry neukazují, může být několik – jak pan Hošek poznamenává, sváry samy o sobě nelze rentgenem detekovat, pouze linie příměsí, kterými lépe prostupuje záření. Fakt, že takové linie nejsou u dotyčné sekery patrné, může být dáno kombinací kvalitního zpracování, dobrým stupněm zachovalosti a geometrií sváru, který není veden v linii. Dodává, že pokud by bylo použito výpočetního tomografu či invazivních metod, výsledek by mohl být lépe patrný.

Kromě sváru v oblasti oka jsme si povšimli ještě dvou zajímavostí – v horní části čepele jsme objevili prasklinu, která se táhne od po jamky na horní hraně, vytvořené zřejmě tvrdým úderem. Druhou zajímavostí je fakt, že spodní hrot má oproti ose tvořené prostředkem tlouku a vrchních rohem sklon zahýbat do vrtule. Zdá se rovněž, že násadový otvor je z bočního pohledu mírně kónický.

Za milé přijetí a odbornou konzultaci děkuji Ing. Jiřímu Hoškovi Ph.D.



Atgāzis 1997 = Atgāzis, Māris (1997). Āvas cirvji Latvijā // Archeologija un etnogrāfija XIX. Riga: 53-63.

Atgāzis 1998 = Atgāzis, Māris (1998). Tuvcīņas ieroči senajā Latvijā 10.-13.gadsimtā. Doktorská práce, Latvijas Universitāte.

Kazakevičius 1996 = Kazakevičius, Vytautas (1996). Topory bojowe typu M. Chronologia i pochodzenia na źiemiach Bałtów. In: Słowiańszczyzna w Europie średniowiecznej, Wrocław: 233–241.

Kirpičnikov 1966 Кирпичников А. Н. (1966). Древнерусское оружие. Вып. 2: Копья, сулицы, боевые топоры, булавы, кистени IX – XIII вв, Москва.

Kotowicz 2014 = Kotowicz, Piotr N. (2014). Topory wczesnośredniowieczne z ziem polskich : Katalog źródeł, Rzeszów.

Kotowicz 2018 = Kotowicz, Piotr N. (2018). Early Medieval Axes from Territory of Poland, Kraków.

Petersen 1919 = Petersen, Jan (1919). De Norske Vikingesverd: En Typologisk-Kronologisk Studie Over Vikingetidens Vaaben. Kristiania.

Drinking Vessels of Viking Norway

Thanks to Michael Caralps Robinson,
whose persistence has no limits.



Dear reader,
rather than a complete list of Norwegian drinking vessels of Viking Age, this short article is a summary of types of small personal drinking vessels and the sources we can use for learning more. Before making any step further, I have to stress that we can divide between everyday drinking occassions and highly developed drinking culture of the Viking Age (for example Andersen – Pajung 2014Callmer – Rosengren 1997Rundkvist 2011), that included strict rules about seating plan, the amount of consumed beverage and ceremonies. We have a massive textual evidence for drinking, plus a huge corpus of finds has been preserved. At this place, I will not discuss barrels, buckets, tubes, vats, bowl-shaped ladles, sieves, metal and steatite bowls, jugs, cauldrons, bottles etc, as some of them were already described in a separate article called The Period Transport of Liquids. My primary goal is provide sources for the most popular vessels used by reenactors; the overview is dedicated to anybody who wishes to have accurate personal tableware for both everyday life and feasts – cups, horns and beakers – bearing in mind that these are only a tiny fraction of the living reality that is gone for 1000 years.

Types of drinking vessels

In Early Medieval period, elite circle wanted to be presented as owners of luxurious items made of metal or glass, including the cups. Polish chronicle of Gallus Anonymus refers about golden and silver tableware, a mention that is repeated several times and it is explicitly said that during splendid feasts, there was no wooden tableware (Gallus Anonymus, Deeds of the Princes of the Poles I:6). The same picture is portrayed by Anglo-Saxon iconography, for example manuscript MS Cotton Tiberius C VI (1042-1079). Even though luxurious cups were concentrated in hands of elites, we can understand mentions and pictures as period propaganda. As is obvious from many Early Medieval graves, wooden tableware was also frequently associated with elites.

Feast scene, manuscript MS Cotton Tiberius C VI, 5v, c. 1050.

Lathed cups without handles
Simple wooden cups were probably the most common examples that were used in the Viking Age (Petersen 1951: 402). Due to their organic composition, the majority decayed without any traces. Still, we have some preserved pieces coming from well-known mounds of Oseberg and Gokstad. In Oseberg mound, at least 8 cups or their fragments were found (Grieg 1928: 148-150, 194-196, Fig. 91, 127, 128, 130), but only four are complete. The first one – C55000:167 – is 64 mm high and the maximal diameter is 127 mm (112 mm across the mouth). The second one (C55000:97) is lathed of a piece of hard wood and the diameter is circa 100 mm (80 mm across the mouth); it is also reinforced with an iron band, that goes from inside to outside and is probably a patch. Last two – C55000:84 and C55000:91 – are 40 and 50 mm high and have mouth diameter of 60-70 and 80 mm. These last two were filled with corn in the grave. According to Nicolaysen (1882: 45), there were 4 round cups made of foliferous tree found in Gokstad – besides the fact cups are very shrunk and varying in size, he does not mention any further detail nor picture. The biggest comparable material was found in Haithabu, counting 14 cups that vary between 48-107 mm in height and 76-100 mm in diameter (Westphal 2007: 35, Taf. 10).

The first complete cup from Oseberg mound. Source: Grieg 1928: Fig. 91, UNIMUS C55000:167.

The second complete cup from Oseberg mound. Source: Grieg 1928: Fig. 130, UNIMUS C55000:97.

The third complete cup from Oseberg mound. Source: Grieg 1928: Fig. 127, UNIMUS C55000:84.

The fourth complete cup from Oseberg mound. Source: Grieg 1928: Fig. 128, UNIMUS C55000:91.

Cups from Haithabu. Source: Westphal 2007: 35, Taf. 10.

Cups with handles
In Norwegian graves of Voll and Oseberg, 6 wooden scoops were found (Grieg 1928: 142–146). However, there are also some smaller kuksa-like cups with more decent handles in Oseberg and Gokstad, which could be interpreted as cups – especially because of presence of flat bottom and absence of a hook at the end of the handle. In Gokstad, two examples of the same design were found – C10413 (Nicolaysen 1882: 45, Pl. IX:7), while there was only one fragmentary piece in Oseberg (Grieg 1928: 149-150; Petersen 1951: 405-406). According to Petersen (1951: 406), the cup from Gokstad is circa 16 cm long. There are many similar examples in Haithabu, showing we are dealing with a widespread group of items (Westphal 2007: 34-36, Taf. 3-11).

An illustration of cups from Gokstad. Source: Nicolaysen 1882: Pl. IX:7.

Cups with handles from Haithabu. Source: Westphal 2007: 35, Taf. 3, 4, 7, 10, 11.

Ceramic cups
After the Migration Period, pottery finds are on decline in Norway (Petersen 1951: 380); Petersen mapped only 48 pottery finds from Late Iron Age. Some scholars even claim that Norway did not have their own production of ceramic in the period (Lüdtke  – Schietzel 2001: 25) and it was replaced by steatite and iron on a massive scale (Petersen 1951: 380). The biggest ceramic material in Norway was found in the trading center of Kaupang (Hougen 1993). Complete ceramic cups from Viking Age Norway are rather rare and they are almost always undecorated (Hougen 1993: 9).

A selection of ceramic cups. Source: Petersen 1951: 383.

Steatite cups
According to Petersen (1951: 354-356), there are at least 12 steatite vessels with less than 15 cm and more than 5-6 cm in diameter and are without traces of usual iron fitting for hanging. Smaller vessels can be understood as miniatures, crucibles or other tools. It is also possible that these 12 vessels are parts of forging equipment or are storage vessels, but we cannot exclude the possibility they are drinking cups.

Steatite vessel from Gjestad (C17783). Source: Petersen 1951: 355.

Steatite vessel from “Hafsol” (B4622). Source: UNIMUS B4622.

Steatite vessel from an unknown site (B8941). Source: UNIMUS B8941.

Drinking horns
Drinking cow and aurochs horns are probably the most symbolical and the best known vessels of the Viking Age. They also occur in written sources during feasts and ceremonies and are depicted in iconography. It is beyond any doubt that such a vessel had a strict decorum of how, when and by whom it could be used. For example, some feasts could have the rule of drekka tvimenning (a pair of drinkers share a common horn), while the passing and drinking out of the ruler’s horn could be understood as an oath-swearing process, both situations indicate that horns were used at feasts in order to maintain important social bonds. Horns are “thought to have been an important piece of household equipment in societies where feasting and formal entertainment played a major role [(…). In poems, horns are used for drinking mead and wine, while they are used for beer in sagas as well.] A primary function of these prestige items was to enable their owners to demonstrate status by providing unlimited hospitality, an echo of the hospitality obligations mandated by the laws” (Heen-Pettersen 2014).

According to Petersen (1951: 396-400), 24 horns are known in Norway (I was forced to correct Mr. Petersen’s information about the horns from Voll, which is not correct). 5 horns were simple and undecorated, 4 horns were decorated with a mouth fitting, 14 horn were decorated with a terminal and just 2 horns were decorated with both mouth fittings and terminals. The terminals have a form of beast head (8 ex.), ball (4 ex.), ring for hanging (1 ex.) and cylinder (1 ex.). At least one horn (T1184) had two small copper alloy eyelets for hanging mounted on the body of the horn, while some horns are found with suspension chains. Heen-Pettersen (2014) mentions 7 new finds of horns with metal mounts, and she interprets all the decorated horns as Insular imports.

Metal fittings mounted on a modern horn, Gjønnes (C20163). Source: UNIMUS C20163.

Metal fittings of a drinking horn, Venjum (B7731). Source: UNIMUS B7731.

Drinking horn from Voll (T1184). Source: UNIMUS T1184.

Glass beakers
The last big group of vessels are glass beakers, probably the most prestigious and luxurious vessels we can meet in Viking Age Norway. Petersen (1951: 400-402) mentions only 11 glass vessels finds from Late Iron Age, which is not surprising, as they were probably imported from the Continent or Britain; we have only limited traces of local glassworking in Norway (Gaut 2011: 174-175). Some glass vessels were used for a very long time : the beaker from Borre mound (ca. 900) comes from 7th or 8th century (Petersen 1951: 401). Two almost complete beakers were found for example in the grave from Hopperstad (B4511). A lot of variously coloured glass were found in Kaupang, that can be categorized as funnel beakers, reticella-decorated beakers and small jars (Gaut 2007; Gaut 2011).

A reconstruction of the beaker from Borre, C1801. Source: Myhre – Gansum 2003: 20.

Two glass beakers from Hopperstad, B4511. Source: UNIMUS B4511.

Reconstructed beakers found in Kaupang. Source: Gaut 2011: Fig. 9.13, 9.14, 9.16, 9.20, 9.21.

Hypothetic cup types
To make the list complete, we have to mention various metal and organic materials that could be used for cups. While there are number of copper alloy vessels in Norway (Petersen 1951: 384-396), they were used as cauldrons, scoops, hanging and table bowls and handwashing basins. As far as I know, there is no Norwegian copper alloy vessel that could be interpreted as cup. On the other hand, Continental or Insular silver cups could be rarely used in Norway in the same way they were used in Denmark (Wamers 1985: Taf. 47:4; Wamers 2005: Kat. 43-44).

As was told above, organic cups were definitely the most common, but they occur rarely because of decomposition. They could include some extraordinary materials like birch bark, antler or fungus. In the grave from Kyrkhus, four double-layered birch bark fragments were found (S2584n). They are interpreted as remnants of a cup or a bowl. Based on the size of the preserved fragments – 34×34 mm, 37×33 mm, 35×31 mm and 52×44 mm – both options are possible. We cannot exclude a box as a possible function. Birch bark had wide scale of application, so the presence of birch bark cups would not be surprising. In the same grave, there are fragments of what was interpreted as antler or bone cup; unfortunately we do not know any closer detail. Cups made of polypore could be also possible, as we know polypore bowl from Voll (T1185).

Human superficialities by the feet of Devil, manuscript MS Cotton Tiberius C VI, 10v, c. 1050.

Final remarks

In this short overview, I tried to mention the most important find types and literature that describes them. At the end of it, I would like to give some recommendations. As you can notice, ceramic cups were somethig special in Norway, and I hope this article will help to get rid of their dominance in recent reenactment. Moreover, all the wooden, steatite, horn and glass pieces are aesthetic to an extent – some are richly decorated, others have just a simple decorating line in the center or at the mouth level. The period tableware was not as crude as we usually see at the events. Cups were owned by civilized people of advanced culture; a culture that should be reconstructed as well. Usage of cups was nuanced, and it is our goal to represent it in a most colourful and accurate way.



Gallus Anonymus: Deeds of the Princes of the Poles = Gallus Anonymus: Kronika a činy polských knížat a vládců. Traslated: Josef Förster, Praha 2009.

Andersen, Kasper H. – Pajung, Stefan (2014) (eds.). Drikkekultur i middelalderen, Århus.

Callmer, Johan – Rosengren, Erik (1997) (eds). ”…gick Grendel att söka det höga huset…” Arkeologiska källor till aristokratiska miljöer i Skandinavien under yngre järnålder. Rapport från ett seminarium i Falkenberg 16–17 november 1995, Halmstad.

Gaut, Bjarne (2007). Vessel Glass from Kaupang: A Contextual and Social Analysis. In: Norwegian Archaeological Review 40:1, 26-41.

Gaut, Bjarne (2011). Vessel Glass and Evidence of Glasswoking. In: Skre, Dagfinn (ed.). Things from the Town. Artefacts and Inhabitants in Viking-age Kaupang. Kaupang Excavation Project Publication series, vol. 3., Århus, 169-261.

Grieg, Sigurd (1928). Osebergfunnet II : Kongsgaarden, Oslo.

Heen-Pettersen, A. M. (2014). Insular artefacts from Viking-Age burials from mid-Norway. A review of contact between Trøndelag and Britain and Ireland, Internet Archaeology 38.
Available at: http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue38/heenpettersen_index.html

Hougen , Ellen-Karine (1993). Kaupangfunnene bind IIIB. Bosetningsområdets keramikk, Oslo.

Lüdtke, Hartwig – Schietzel, Kurt (2001) (eds.). Handbuch zur mittelalterlichen Keramik in Nordeuropa (Vol. 1-3), Neumünster.

Rundkvist, Martin (2011). Mead-halls of the Eastern Geats: Elite Settlements and Political Geography AD 375-1000 in Ösergötland, Sweden, Stockholm.

Myhre, Bjørn – Gansum, Terje (2003). Skipshaugen 900 e. Kr. : Borrefunnet 1852-2002, Borre.

Nicolaysen, Nicolay (1882). Langskibet fra Gokstad ved Sandefjord = The Viking-ship discovered at Gokstad in Norway, Kristiania.

Petersen, Jan (1951). Vikingetidens redskaper, Oslo.

Wamers, Egon (1985). Insularer Metallschmuck in wikingerzeitlichen Gräbern Nordeuropa, Neumünster.

Wamers, Egon (2005). Die Macht des Silbers. Karolingische Schätze im Norden, Regensburg.

Possible function of the “Perun Axes”

In this article we shall focus on Early Middle Ages axe miniatures, so called “Perun’s Axe”, which have recently come to a great attention from reenactors and neo-Pagans. We will attempt to outline key sources of information and will reflect upon possible function of the symbol, which sure will bring a lot of controversy.

It is important to say right in the beginning that at least in 9th – 12th century, axe miniatures were used ranging from Ireland to Russia, and are thus not bound solely to Slavic lands as is often presented. Apparently, real-size local axe types were copied, and in the case when we find an axe miniature that does not follow a shape of local weapon, we can speculate about movement of people or import of goods. In general, the miniatures were made of copper alloy (“bronze”), amber, silver, iron, tin alloys, lead and bone. The label “Perun’s Axe” is, as will be described, based on interpretation from 1960s, which does not reflect the current research. For that reason, we will stick to the term “axe miniature.”

Axe miniatures research has gone through a century of interpretations, which brought various views on the topic. The whole issue suffers from insufficient cataloging and lack of cooperation between East European, Scandinavian and West European researchers, which caused creation of detached catalogues, which do not reflect one another. Currently, the best source for East European axe miniatures are catalogues by P. Kucypera, P. Pranke a S. Wadyl (Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2010Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2011), which count 154 specimens from 10th – 13th century. Scandinavian and West European miniatures were collected by Bo Jensen (Jensen 2010), with 44 items in total. Since publication of these catalogues, there were many new finds, some of which were made public on this website (Vlasatý 2018aVlasatý 2018b).

Axe miniatures finds in Eastern, Northern and Western Europe.
Source: Jensen 2010: 44; Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2011: 33, Map nr. 3.

East European axe miniatures, which we will reference in this article, can be divided into the following categories (Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2011: 11–26, 29):

  • Makarov type I miniatures (74 specimen), dated to turn of 11th century – end of 12th century
  • Miniatures similar to Makarov type I (21 specimen), dated to 2nd half of 11th century – turn of 13th century
  • Makarov type II miniatures (30 specimen), dated to beginning of 11th century – 1st half of 12th century
  • Atypical miniatures (29 specimen)


A major group of similar items brought the interest of several researchers towards interpretation. There are already a number of conclusions, of which the most used are:

  • amulets meant to be worn discretely by their owner (Jensen 2010: 43–45; Koktvedgaard Zeitzen 1997: 3, 17; Beck – Jahnkuhn 1973: 567–568)
  • items connected to deity of thunder (Darkevič 1961Kulakov 1993)
  • gifts to boys during the ritual of first haircut (Paulsen 1939: 159; Panasiewicz – Wołoszyn 2002: 261)
  • items connected to members of Old-Russian druzhina (Makarov 1992: 48–51; Wołoszyn 2006: 591–593)
  • items connected to cult of St. Olav (Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2010: 116)
  • child toys (Shetelig 1912aPaulsen 1939: 159; Nadolski 1953: 390)

There is no doubt of the pendant function of some of the miniatures, as they are provided with rings or whole chains – though this is only the case of three miniatures (Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2010: 36). It is evident that even some other axe miniatures had that function as they are very small and have a tiny eyelet. Axe-shaped pendants are known in Europe from as far as antiquity (eg. Tejral 1982: 131). At least in one case, an Early Middle Ages axe miniature is hung on a small clothing pin (Paulsen 1956: Abb. 98g) – this is very interesting detail in connection to a clothing pin from Daugmale, which also has an axe-shaped formation attached (Paulsen 1956: Abb. 99d). At least two axes without eyelets, found in female graves, were placed on chests along with other amulets and beads, forming necklaces.

Source: Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2010: Tabl. VII:9, VIII:3, XIV:6; Paulsen 1956: Abb. 98g

The ties to Thunder deity, most often Perun, is mostly based on an ornament that can be found on the miniatures. This interpretation is problematic nonetheless and even has its critics, who call for caution (Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2011: 43). The decoration basically only suggests that the miniatures might have had a decorative purpose, which is also indicated by the chosen material. Many a time it seems that the decoration only copies an ornament used on real-size axes.

Real-size axes (upper row) in comparison with their miniatures, 10th – 12th century.
Source: Atgāzis 1998; Paulsen 1956; Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2011.
See higher resolution.

But the similarities to the real-size axes are way farther than just in decoration. The edge of these miniatures has an extensive sharpness, like the real axes would. At least in 10 cases (that is around 7%), the miniatures were mounted on wooden hafts, of which only fragments survived (Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2010: cat. 13, 21, 48, 51, 57, 65, 120, 124, 135, 152). Another two detector finds from Belarus and Ukraine were published by Koršun (Koršun 2012: cat. D-6, D-44). One find is currently for sale on eBay (eBay 2019), the other on Mešok (Mešok 2019) and Violity (Violity 2019) portals. Three questionable items can be found on Arkaim server (Arkaim 2019). At least in one case, the axehead is secured by an iron wedge (Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2010: cat. 21, tabl. III: 3). It seems possible that a higher number of the axe miniatures had a wooden haft, but only a few survived to present day.

Fragments of wooden hafts.
Source: Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2010: Tabl. II:1, III:3, IV:8, V:1,6, VI:3, XI:1,5, XIV:3; Koršun 2012: 152, 160, kat. D-6, D-44; eBay 2019; Mešok 2019; Violity 2019Arkaim 2019.

More than half of all miniatures were found in hillforts, in hillfort areas or settlements. Quite a large number comes from situations without any context. It is important to note that 11 miniatures come from graves (male graves in 5 cases, female graves in 2 cases). In total, 7 are from child graves. Most often the miniature was placed at right hip, on legs, and in the case of women, also on chest (Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2011: 30).

Axe miniatures found in graves.
Source: Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2011.

Based on the presence of axe hafts, the authors of newest catalogue suggest that such items were not meant to be worn as necklaces and were rather worn at belt (Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2011: 37). In the case of some child graves, we would not be far from truth if we suggested that the miniature played a role of symbolic representation of a real axe. Miniature axes with hafts can also be found in other European regions – some were meant for wearing as a necklace, some lacked the loophole and were more suitable for carrying in a pouch.

Miniature axes with hafts.

From left: iron axe miniature from Estonia (source: Edvards Puciriuss), soapstone form from Ribe, Denmark (source: The Northern Emporium project), amber axes from Ribe, Denmark (found in 2018 and 1990/1, source: The Northern Emporium project), bronze miniature from Haithabu, Germany (Elsner 2004: 79), bronze miniature from Mülheim, Germany (Koch 1970), bronze miniature from Menzlin, Germany (Schoknecht 1977).

As one can see, the listed axe miniatures make a disparate group – they are made of various materials, in a different way and are also of different shape. East European miniatures on the other hand form quite unified groups and only vary in detail. If we consider the detector finds as well, we have hundreds of miniature axes to deal with and can speak of a spread phenomenon in terms of quantity, time and geography. The idea of majority of these axes serving as offering to the dead or as a necklace is not supported in the case of grave finds, which only represent less than 10% of all officially researched specimen. We would thus like to add a few interpretations to the already listed ones, in order to attempt to make sense of the axe miniature’s purpose.

Other interpretations suggested by the author

The fact that the miniatures can be found all over Eastern Europe in the span of several centuries is a warning sign suggesting the axe could be a favoured item with practical and decorative function. We attempt to explain the frequency of finds by three additional interpretations other than a pendant or symbolic offering.

Selection of cloak pins from Western, Northern and Eastern Europe.
Source of graphics: Tomáš Cajthaml, 


Cloak pins
The axe miniatures with hafts can be compared to 30 bone and 5 bronze cloak/hair pins from Western and Northern Europe. Lets examine this analogy further. From Netherlands we know of over 20 finds of axe-shaped bone pins (Roes 1963: 67–69, Pl. LIV: 1–9). From UK, we know of at least 6 other Early Middle Ages bone pins (MacGregor 1985: 118, Fig. 64). Haithabu in Germany provided us with yet another 3 bone pins (Schwarz-Mackensen 1976: 27, Abb. 7: 2–3; Schietzel 2014: 355). One specimen is also known from Århus, Denmark (Roesdahl et al. 2014: 285).

Axe-shaped bone pins.
Source: Roes 1963: Pl. LIV: 1–9; MacGregor 1985: Fig. 64: 15–17, 22; Schwarz-Mackensen 1976: Abb. 7: 2–3.

Metal variants of axe-shaped pins are quite rare, yet they do exist. One piece was found in Aggersborg, Denmark (Roesdahl et al. 2014: 283–285). Also from Denmark we know of another pin, found in Avnsøgård (Pedersen 2014: 239, Fig. 7.5). Third find is an axe from Islandbridge, Ireland (Harrison – Ó Floinn 2014: 157–158, III. 90). Fourth specimen was found in Svingesæter, Norway (Shetelig 1912b: 206, Fig. 482). Fifth axe miniature comes from Bjåland, Norway (Petersen 1951: 338, Fig. 184).

Axe-shaped metal pins.
Source: Roesdahl et al. 2014: 283; Pedersen 2014: Fig. 7.5; Harrison – Ó Floinn 2014: 158, III. 90; Shetelig 1912b: Fig. 482; Petersen 1951: Fig. 184.

Despite the lack of valid proofs due to incompleteness of East European axe miniatures with hafts, there are several arguments supporting this interpretation:

  • almost 40 analogies from Europe and the use of axe-like formations or miniatures on some cloak pins of Eastern Europe
  • practical and useful construction which has been experimentally proved
  • aesthetical badge showing a social status
  • the pins do not deviate by either shape or material from other Early Middle Ages cloak pins with long needle
  • a tradition of using Scandinavian pins with a ring and pins with miniature weathervane in Eastern Europe (Chvoščinskaja 2004Schmidt 2005)
  • specifically broken hafts right below the miniature axe head
  • placement in graves on the right side of the body does not rule out usage as a cloak pin, as many of North- and East European pins were worn this way (Thunmark-Nylén 1984: 11, Abb. 2.3; Lehtosalo-Hilander 2000: 206–207; Stepanova 2009: Rys. 19, 194) and the whole axe miniature from Nikolskoje III was “wrapped in cloth” (Kucypera – Pranke – Wadyl 2011: 88, kat. 56).

Experiment: bronze cast of miniature axe (production: Wulflund) with a wooden pin, which fixates the cloth. We tried several ways of fastening the strap, where two-point fixation on the pin proved to be the most useful.

I have presented this theory to Pawel Kucypera, author of an East European axe miniatures catalogue, who commented the experiment as follows: „I cannot rule out this possibility. The idea to compare axe miniatures with the cloak pins is interesting, but it is not possible to research this concept any further.” We thus have to wait for more miniature finds, that might confirm or dismiss this interpretation.

Reconstruction of axe-head sheath found in Schleswig, Germany. Author: Stephan Meinhardt.


Wedge fixating a sheath to an axe-head
While this is improbable due to lack of relevant excavation situation, it cannot be ruled out that some of the miniatures with a haft could had functioned as a wedge for fixating a sheath to the axe-head. From Early Middle Ages Europe, we only know of a single such wedge, specifically from Haithabu, Germany (HbH.432.002; Westphal 2007: 55, Taf. 30:3), which was inserted to the inner side of sheath from the axe-side. Though there are even other sheaths suggesting the usage of a wedge. Specifically, we speak of sheath from Novgorod, which has holes on its tongue-like protrusions corresponding with holes of East European axes (Kainov – Singh 2016). We can thus assume that the holes found in axe heads served as a simple way of fastening the sheath, which was then plugged from side. Such an uniform solution would require a vast number of wedges, which would explain the presence of miniature axes throughout time and place. The axe-miniature shape is also appropriate for this purpose. Furthermore, as the sheath from Schleswig suggests, which is decorated by two axe engravings, it was not perceived as an issue in the past mentality if the sheath was decorated by another axe (Saggau 2006: 264; Abb. 44:13, Abb. 45). It was suggested in past that the miniatures might have had a sheath of their own, which would then be fastened to the miniature axe thanks to the hole (Makarov 1992: 37; Panasiewicz – Wołoszyn 2002: 251). This suggestion has not yet been confirmed though.

Early Middle Ages axe sheathes with suggested ways of fastening.
Source: Westphal 2007: Taf. 30:3; Kainov – Singh 2016: Rys. 2.
Source of graphics: Tomáš Cajthaml, grafikacajthaml.cz.

Votive gift during colonisation
In 11th century we have witnessed major changes in Old Russian settlement towards previously uncolonized areas. Old settlements ceased to exist, resulting in creation of dense network of small cities and villages in castle areas. Thanks to their newly gained economical and political potential, these aimed for independence and attempted to break out of the Kievan rule (Kotyčev 2016: 246–248). The epoch is sometimes called as “era of small cities” (эпоха малых городов) copies the usage of axe miniatures in Eastern Europe.

From other parts of Europe, we know that the Early Middle Ages axe as a tool played a major symbolic role in the cultivation of land, and it was not uncommon that when a new land was being settled, the settlers would light a bonfire or would bury an axe in the ground as a symbolism for bringing order (Starý – Kozák 2010: 44–45). Furthermore, axes had been buried as early as late Neolithic era to define estate boundaries with the purpose of protecting it from disruption (Rønne 2008).

We should not forget that majority of the axes were found around small cities, settlements or villages. The phenomenon of miniature axes in Eastern Europe can thus be connected to inner colonisation and the transformation of estate structure of 11th – 13th century.


In this article we took a deeper look into the phenomenon of miniature East European axes, in order to bring it closer to re-enactment community. We have discussed a great deal on the possible functions of the item. Our suggestion is that the geographical and time-related expansion reflects its practical use. We assume the following functions:

  1. Female necklaces, cloak pins
  2. Symbolic offering from the parent to her/his deceased child
  3. Votive placement in ground during colonisation of new land

These functions can thus suggest that the miniature axes played important roles in the life of their owner, a role that could change in the time and contect:

  • Demarcation of cultural space, bringing an order to chaotic environment
  • Bringing luck and good faith (preservation of good health and mental condition, protection from danger)
  • Decoration
  • Representation of a real axe

Let us conclude the article here. Thank you for your time spent reading it and we look forward any and all feedback.


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Petersen type M sword

Many Viking Age sword are richly decorated, which makes quality reconstruction very expensive. That is why I was asked by my colleagues to provide an overview of undecorated swords that would be more affordable to reconstruct. I chose Petersen’s type M for its simplicity and major representation among Scandinavian sword finds. Because this type is often overlooked these days, it certainly deserves our attention.


The type M (also known as R. 489) describes a sword variant standing between types F and Q. It is characterised by a simple hilt in the shape of the letter I. Sharply cut cross-guard and upper guard are usually straight and of similar height. From the front view, both the upper and cross-guard are of rectangle shape, with the cross-guard slightly bent in rare cases. The upper guard is of simple shape similar to cross-guard, and the tang is held in place by hammering it into a rivet shape; the upper guard is never ended by a pommel. Sides of the guards are usually straight, less often rounded. An important feature of type M swords is undecorated hilt. Blades are usually double-edged (single-edged variants make up to 15% of finds according to Petersen) and simple, although we also know of some Norse and Swedish blades made of patern welded steel (Androščuk 2014: 386–7; Petersen 1919: 118). Petersen notes that none of Norse blades carries an inscription, which according to our information is still actual. That said, there is a variant of ULFBERHT inscription on a blade from Eura, Finland (Kazakevičius 1996: 39). While the swords are of simple design, they are made of quality materials.

Type M sword from area of Framdalir, Iceland.
Source: Androščuk 2014: 68, Fig. 23.

Type M swords are in general up to one meter long, usually between 80 and 90 cm. The longest sword that we know of is 95 cm long. An average width of Scandinavian blades is 5,5-6 cm, sometimes up to 6,5 cm. Measured swords of average length weigh 1100-1200 grams. The shortest piece we are aware of weighs 409 grams and is 47,7 cm long, with blade having 38,5 cm in length and 0,48 cm in thickness (Peirce 2002: 86). This sword, said to had been found in a boy’s grave, seems to be a miniaturised, yet fully functional version. In order to outline anatomy of this interesting type, we chose six relatively well-preserved swords that we will describe in more detail.

C59045_DovreDovre, Norway (C59045). Well-preserved sword found in a grave in 2013. Total length of 89 cm, blade length is 77 cm and 5,9 cm wide. Fuller is visible 12 cm from cross-guard up to 6 cm from blade point. Length of the hilt is 12 cm, with grip being 9,3 cm long and 3,4 cm wide. Cross-guard’s length, height and width are 9,4 × 1,1 × 2,3 cm. Upper guard has the measurements 7 × 1,3 × 2,2-2,3 cm. Total weight 1141,1 g. Photo source: Vegard Vike, Museum of cultural history, Oslo.

C58919_FlesbergÅsland, Norway (C58919). A preserved sword placed in a grave, found in 2013. Total length 87 cm. Length of grip 8,5 cm. Length, height and thickness of cross-guard is 11,6 × 1,2 × 2,6 cm. Length, height and width of upper guard is 8,1 × 1,2 × 2,7 cm. Photo source: Elin Christine Storbekk, Museum of cultural history, Oslo.

C24244_ArgehovdMogen, Norway (C24244). Well-preserved sword found in a grave before 1937. Total length 85 cm, blade width 5,5 cm. Grip length 9,6 cm. Length of cross-guard 12,9 cm, length of upper guard 8,3 cm. Photo source: Peirce 2002: 86, Museum of cultural history, Oslo.

C53462_TelemarkTelemark, Norway (C53462). Partially corroded sword donated to museum in 2004. Total length 71 cm, damaged blade is 59,5 cm long and 5,8 cm wide. Length of grip 9,7 cm. Length and height of cross-guard is 10,5 × 1 cm, length and width of upper guard 6,8 × 0,8 cm. Photo source: Ellen C. Holte, Museum of cultural history, Oslo.

parisUnknown French location, possibly found in a river (Musée de l’Armée, Paris; J3). Very well-preserved sword found before 1890. Total length 90 cm. Blade is 75 cm long and 5,3 cm wide. Length of cross-guard 10 cm. Length of grip 12 cm. Photo source: Peirce 2002: 86, Musée de l’Armée negativ K23710.

T19391-rorosRøros, Norway (T19391). Well-preserved sword found in 1973. Total length 90 cm, blade is 78 cm long and 5,5 cm wide. Length, height and width of cross-guard 12,2 × 1,3 × 2,3 cm. Measurements of upper guard are 8,1 × 1,3 × 2,1 cm. Photo source: Ole Bjørn Pedersen, Museum of cultural history, Oslo.

We should also pay an attention to organic remnants found on type M swords. In general, we could say that many swords show traces of wooden panelling of the grip and wooden scabbard. Let’s examine several specific examples. The sword find from grave 511 in Repton, England was stored in wooden scabbard, that was inlaid with sheep’s fleece and covered in leather (Biddle – Kjølbye-Biddle 1992: 49). The scabbard was held by a hanging system, of which only a single cast buckle survived. The handle was made of softwood, which was then wrapped with a cloth strip. The sword from Öndverðarnes, Iceland (Kt 47) had a wooden grip wrapped in thin, plaited cord, and a wooden scabbard covered in textile (Eldjárn 2000: 326). Traces of leather cover were found at the tip of the scabbard, with remnants of sword belt slider located 3 cm below the cross-guard. In another Icelandic grave from Sílastaðir (Kt 98) – was found a sword with grip of wooden panels that were retracted below the cross-guard and wrapped with a cord at the upper guard (Eldjárn 2000: 326). This sword’s scabbard is wooden, inlaid with textile and covered in linen and leather; there are still several spots with visible profiled wrappings. There was a metal strip placed 12 cm below cross-guard, most likely used for sword belt attachment. The scabbard had a leather chape at the tip.

Organic components are also often present at type M swords from Norway. One of the Kaupang swords had a wooden grip wrapped with a leather cord or strap, and a wooden scabbard covered in leather (Blindheim – Heyerdahl-Larsen 1995: 61). Fragments of wooden grips and scabbards were simultaneously found with swords from Brekke (B10670), Hogstad (C52343), Kolstad (T12963), Støren (Androščuk 2014: 76, Pl. 111) and Åsland (C58919). The sword from Nedre Øksnavad (S12274) had a wooden grip and scabbard covered in textile. The sword from Eikrem (T12199), which is most likely of type M, had a scabbard made of spruce with parts held together by metal clamps and covered in leather and textile. The sword from Soggebakke (T16395) had a wooden scabbard. Swords from Hallem søndre (T13555), Havstein (T15297) and Holtan (T16280) had fragments of wooden grips. This is only a limited inventory that I was able to list during my short research. Yet it is an immensely valuable source that provides us with a decent idea of what the typical type M sword looked like.


Swords from Öndverðarnes, Iceland and Kaupang, Norway.
Source: Blindheim – Heyerdahl-Larsen 1995: Pl. 48; Eldjárn 2000: 326, 161. mynd.


Distribution and dating

When it comes to distribution of the swords, it seems that type M was mainly a Norwegian domain. In 1919, Petersen noted that that there are at least 198 type M swords known in Norway, of which at least 30 were single-edged (Petersen 1919: 117–121). Nonetheless, in the past 100 years, an immeasurable amount of new swords were excavated, and the number increases every year – such as in Vestfold, which is absent in Petersen’s list, we already have 42 finds (Blindheim et al. 1999: 81). Highest concentration of type M swords is in Eastern Norway and Sogn, where we know of at least 375 swords according to Per Hernæs (1985). Mikael Jakobsson (1992: 210) registers 409 swords in Norway. And current number will undoubtedly be even greater. We will most likely not be far from truth while claiming that type M is together with type H/I one of the most widespread Norwegian swords. The number of sword finds in neighbouring areas is disproportionate. From Sweden, we only know of 10 swords (Androščuk 2014: 69), at least 4 from Iceland (Eldjárn 2000: 330), at least 4 from Great Britain (Biddle – Kjølbye-Biddle 1992: 49; Bjørn – Shetelig 1940: 18, 26), 4 from France (Jakobsson 1992: 211), 2 from Denmark (Pedersen 2014: 80), 3 from Finland, 1 from Ireland and 1 from Germany (Jakobsson 1992: 211; Kazakevičius 1996: 39). Vytautas Kazakevičius (1996: 39) registers at least 9 type M swords from Baltic, at least 2 from Poland and 2 from Czech Republic. Jiří Košta, the Czech sword expert, denies there is a single type M sword find from Czech Republic and according to him, claiming so is but a myth often cited in literature (personal discussion with Jiří Košta). Baltic swords are rather specific – they are shorter and with a narrower single-edged blade, features causing them being interpreted as local product. It is safe to say we know of over 440 pieces, though the real count being much higher.

When it comes to dating the finds, Petersen argues that first type M swords appear in Norway around the half of 9th century and prevail until the beginning of 10th century (Petersen 1919: 121). Recent archaeological finds from Eastern Norway, Kaupang especially, show that they were being placed in graves during first half of 10th century (Blindheim et al. 1999: 81). Two Swedish datable pieces come from the 10th century (Androščuk 2014: 69), which is also the case of two swords from Iceland (Eldjárn 2000: 330). Polish finds can be dated to 9th century (Kazakevičius 1996: 39). Type M swords are thus widely present from both geographical and chronological perspective, and one can only argue if the similarity is just a rather randomness caused by simple design.

Type M sword distribution in Eastern Norway and Sogn.
Source: Blindheim et al. 1999: 81, Fig. 9, according to Hernæs 1985.


Generally speaking, a sword is a clear symbol of elite status and power. It is evident that Old Norse people, like people anywhere else, tended to compare to one another, be it in skills or wealth. This often resulted in quite a heated dialogue, in which men attempted to triumph in greatness of their qualities (so called mannjafnaðr). Swords undoubtedly played a role of wealth and status symbols in such situations. Looking from a broader perspective, one can find the answer in Norway that was multipolar in 9th and 10th century – ruling families were attempting centralisation, which resulted in creation of society with a strong feel for expressing its independence or importance through adopting the elitism model of sword ownership and its placing in graves. This led to Norway providing us with immense amount of sword finds, which is unprecedented. Social tensions affected everyone to a point, but only a few had the wealth to invest large in exclusive weaponry. “Simpler”, yet fully functional type M swords can be perceived as cheaper alternative that provided free men of lesser wealth with ability to improve reputation and identity of their families in times with no clear social stratification. This is supported by their look and amount present in both male and female graves (Kjølen, C22541).

„Simple iron parts without any precious metal decoration make up the hilt of the sword. It is a pragmatic sword, probably worn with pride, but not by the highest strata of society. Such simple and unpretentious swords seem to be the norm in mountain graves, and they were probably made or at least hilted in Norway.“ (Vike 2017)


Type M swords seem to be utility weapons that could had played a representative role to their owners. Two rare Norse swords – a sword from Strande (T1951) and sword from Lesja (C60900) – suggest that they were handed down for at least 50 years and were modified to match the latest fashion. This approach is also the case of other Viking Age swords (Fedrigo et al. 2017: 425). The swords from Strande has type E pommel, which was additionally attached to tang along with typologically younger cross-guard of type M (Petersen 1919: 78, Fig. 66). The sword from Lesja consists of blade with tang, to which a cross-guard of older sword style (type C) was attached together with type M upper guard (Vike 2017). It is also important to add that the sword from Lesja was found on an iceberg, where it most likely served a reindeer hunter 1000 years ago.

Lesja, Norway (C60900). Very well-preserved sword found in 2017 on an iceberg. Type C cross-guard with type M upper guard. Total length 92,8 cm, length and width of blade 79,4 × 6,2 cm. Thickness of blade 0,45 cm. Length of hilt 13,4 cm, grip is 10,1 cm long. Cross-guard measures 7,5 × 1,7 cm. Total weight 1203 g. Photo source: Vegard Vike, Museum of cultural history, Oslo.


Androščuk, Fedir (2014). Viking Swords : Swords and Social aspects of Weaponry in Viking Age Societies, Stockholm.

Biddle, Martin – Kjølbye-Biddle, Birthe (1992). Repton and the Vikings. In: Antiquity, Vol. 66, 38–51.

Bjørn, Anathon – Shetelig, Haakon (1940). Viking Antiquities in Great Britain and Ireland, Part 4 : Viking Antiquities in England, Bergen.

Blindheim, Charlotte – Heyerdahl-Larsen, Birgit (1995). Kaupang-funnene, Bind II. Gravplassene i Bikjholbergene/Lamøya. Undersøkelsene 1950–1957. Del A. Gravskikk, Oslo.

Blindheim, Ch. – Heyerdahl-Larsen, B. – Ingstad, Anne S. (1999). Kaupang-funnene. Bind II. Gravplassene i Bikjholbergene/Lamøya: Undersøkelsene 1950–57. Del B. Oldsaksformer. Del C. Tekstilene, Oslo.

Fedrigo, Anna et al. (2017). Extraction of archaeological information from metallic artefacts—A neutron diffraction study on Viking swords. In: Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 12, 425–436.

Hernæs, Per (1985). De østnorske sverdfunn fra yngre jernalder : en geografisk analyse. Magistergradsavhandling i nordisk arkeologi – Universitetet i Oslo, Oslo.

Jakobsson, Mikael (1992). Krigarideologi och vikingatida svärdstypologi, Stockholm : Stockholms Universitet.

Kazakevičius, Vytautas (1996). IX–XIII a. baltų kalavijai, Vilnius.

Pedersen, Anne (2014). Dead Warriors in Living Memory. A study of weapon and equestrian burials in Viking-age Denmark, AD 800-1000, Publications from the National Museum. Studies in Archaeology & History Vol. 20:1 1. (Text), Copenhagen.

Peirce, I. G. (2002). Catalogue of Examples. In: Oakeshott E. – Peirce, I. G. (eds). Swords of the Viking Age, Woodbridge, 25–144.

Petersen, Jan (1919). De Norske Vikingesverd: En Typologisk-Kronologisk Studie Over Vikingetidens Vaaben. Kristiania.

Vike, Vegard (2017). A Viking sword from Lesja. UiO Museum of Cultural History, Oslo.

Origins of the “St. Wenceslas Helmet”

In December 2016, an extraordinary sword of Petersen’s type S, known for its rich decoration, was found in Lázně Toušeň in Central Bohemia. Although swords of the type were found in locations ranging from Ireland to Russia, this specific piece is the very first example from the Czech Republic. Thanks to my cooperation with Jiří Košta and Jiří Hošek on mapping the analogies, I had the opportunity to examine the weapon by myself. This and other events of the past two years affected me greatly and made me rethink my approach to many topics. Foremost I felt the need to once again review the so-called St. Wenceslas helmet, the nose-guard and browband in particular.

The helmet known as “St. Wenceslas helmet” is very well known and curious item, which has been kept in Bohemia from the Early Middle Ages, with many publications covering the topic (most notably by Hejdová 1964Merhautová 1992Schránil 1934). Along with a chainmail, a mail cloak and other items, it is a part of the crown jewels, playing its symbolic role in the past millennium. The recent research confirmed that the oldest of these artefacts originated in the 10th century (Bernart – Bravermanová – Ledvina 2014). Nowadays, the helmet consists of a dome, a nose-guard and browband, showing many, often low-quality repairs, which suggest the helmet undergone a complicated development. It is obvious that in its current form, the helmet is a compilation was meant for occasional exhibits and was never meant to be used on the actual head. Let’s thoroughly summarise what facts we have about the helmet, and what is just an assumption.

svatovaclavkaCondition of the St. Wenceslas helmet in 1934. Click for higher resolution.
Source: Schránil 1934: Tab. XIII and XIV.

On the helmet’s base, the measurements of the inner oval are 24,4 cm × 20,9 cm, with a circumference of 70 cm. The single-piece conical dome might have been crafted in Czech lands, and due to being dated in 10th century, it could have been around during St. Wenceslas’s reign (†935) (Bernart – Bravermanová – Ledvina 2014: 179). It is thus possibly one of the oldest preserved single-piece conical helmets, of which the closest parallels can be found in the Czech Republic and Poland (Bernart 2010). The helmet dome has height of 16 cm, with the helmet weighing a total of 1 kilogram. A presumption that the helmet dome was of younger date was not confirmed. The material of the helmet is substantially inhomogenous – on the forehead, the thickness is between 1,6 and 1,9 mm, while being 0,6 to 1,9 mm on the sides (personal discussion with Miloš Bernart). In the place where the nose-guard is attached today, there was originally an integral nose-guard that was later cut off and the area surrounding it was adjusted by hammering to fit the now-present part. Hejdová suggested that the original helmet had ear and neck protection prior to the adjustment, leaving holes around the edge (Hejdová 196619671968), but a recent analysis considers these to be a remnant after helmet padding (Bernart – Bravermanová – Ledvina 2014). These two aspects should not be viewed as separated – as is suggested in case of Lednica helmet, the helmet padding could be the base of the ear and neck protection that was attached to it (Sankiewicz – Wyrwa 2018: 217-219). The dome bears signs of several repairs, which had though avoided a rather specific hole on the helmet rear most likely either caused by a weapon blow or was meant to suggest so. Further details on measurements and repairs are summarised by Hejdová and Schránil (Hejdová 1964; Schránil 1934).

jednokusSelection of single-piece helmets from the Czech Republic and Poland.
Source: Bernart 2010.

Some time following the death of St. Wenceslas, but possibly still in 10th century, the helmet received various modifications linked to its exaltation to a sacred relic. The adjustments were possibly initiated either by Duke Boleslav II. (†999), who supported the cult of St. Wenceslas, or his wife, the duchess Emma (Bernart – Bravermanová – Ledvina 2014: 181). The existence of the modified helmet was possibly reflected by author of the so-called “Legend of Kristián”, dated 992-994 AD. The legend speaks of Duke Wenceslas meeting Duke Radslav of Kouřim, who laid down his weapon after seeing a mark of the Holy Cross shining on Wenceslas’s forehead. It is possible that Kristián, being a potential brother of Boleslav II. and therefore well aware of the Přemyslid dynasty affairs at the end of 10th century, meant the shining cross as a reference to the decorated nose-guard, a newly installed decoration on the helmet. According to Merhautová, the helmet could had been unveiled at the occasion of founding the Archdiocese of Prague in 973 AD (Merhautová 2000: 91).

One of lesser modifications done during the 10th century affected the lower edge of helmet dome, where an aventail holder made of folded silver strip was riveted. Today, only fragments of the strip holder on inner and outer edge remain. This type of holder represents a very laborious and highly effective protection; there are grooves cut or sheared into the fold of the strip, to which rings holding the aventail are inserted, held in place by a metal wire. This sophisticated method is known from at least ten other Early Middle Ages helmets and helmet fragments, where the strip is made from iron, brass or gilded bronze (Vlasatý 2015). The St. Wenceslas treasure guarded in Prague also contains a chainmail. It is accompanied by a square-shaped mail cloak, which upper part (a sort of “standing collar” with dimensions 50 × 7,5 cm) is fringed with three lines of almost pure gold rings (Schránil 1934). The uppermost line of rings is again made of iron. A detailed analysis confirmed that the collar is made of identical rings as the chainmail but differs from the rest of the mail cloak. The researchers (Bernart – Bravermanová – Ledvina 2014: 180181) suggest the collar was originally a standing collar of the chainmail, only later to be removed and re-used as an aventail attached to the helmet with iron rings. The aventail was possibly removed from the helmet during reign of Charles IV and became a basis for the mail cloak, later to be expanded to the current shape. Because of the original length of 7,5 cm and use of a silver holder, it seems this part of the helmet was purely decorative.

vaclav-limecDetail of the collar with golden fringe. Source: Bernart 2010: pic. 37.

Another modification, possibly done simultaneously with the previously mentioned improvements, was an installation of the nose-guard and the browband. We shall take a deeper look at this particular change as the nose-guard has been greatly discussed by many Czech researchers, and as I will attempt to show, many of the opinions were completely misleading and based on ignorance of wider context. The nose-guard is cross-shaped with a total height of 14,7 cm, width of 18,5 cm and is thick up to 5 mm. On three of its ends, it is attached to the dome by large iron rivets. The brow part is lobated on the upper edge and represents eye-brows. The nasal itself copies the shape of a nose and is 6,3 cm long and 3,3 cm wide. From the side view, the nasal seems to be slightly bent, which Miloš Bernart claims to be caused by falling on its lower end. There is a small thorn of unknown function coming out of the middle of the lower end of the nose-guard. Due to typological similarity with a helmets from Olomouc and Lednica, we could argue the thorn was expanded to a small hook used for attaching face-protecting aventail (Sankiewicz – Wyrwa 2018: 217-219). Nearest analogy of the cross-shaped nose-guard is known from Bosnian Trnčina, which is dated to 10th-11th century (D’Amato 2015: 67, Pl. 5) and is a second specimen of single-piece helmet with additional nose-guard. Lower part of St. Wenceslas helmet’s dome is edged with a decorative brow band covering the silver aventail holder, ending beneath the nose-guard. It was attached to the helmet by rivets, together with two larger rivets on the nose-guard; the rivets fastening the band were secured by copper pads on the inner side of the helmet. Circa three-quarters of this brow band survived to present day, which got probably damaged in the past to a point where it had to be repaired by additional attachments. Decorative band on a helmet is an uncommon feature, known mostly from Eastern Europe (Holmquist Olausson – Petrovski 2007: 234-236). The nearest analogy of the band is possibly a decoration of helmet from Nemia, Ukraine, dated to 11th century (Kirpičnikov 1971: Tabl. IX).

Schematic reconstruction of the helmet circa 1000 AD.
Source: Taken from Czech Radio website.

The silver surface of both the nose-guard and browband is decorated by overlay. This method is based on cutting into the base material in various directions, to which a more expensive metal is then hammered (Fuglesang 1980: 125–126; Moilanen 2015: 276–277). In the case of the nose-guard, the base metal is cut in three directions; this fact is apparent on X-ray photos, on some spots even with naked eye. The browband is most likely decorated the same way. Silver wire or plate was used for overlay, and analysis also shows traces of copper, gold, lead and corroded zinc, though not used for decoration (personal discussion with Miloš Bernart). According to Vegard Vike, the material used for decoration was silver wire mechanically hammered to the cuts, while a copper-alloy wire might had been used for outlines which are now missing. Miloš Bernart, Petr Floriánek and Jeff Pringle agree that the outlines were originally filled with niello, which fell out over time. The nearest analogical helmets with masks decorated by overlay are from Lokrume, Gotland, and Kiev, Ukraine (Vlasatý 2016Vlasatý 2018). Furthermore, a fragment from Lokrume is decorated by identical motifs as the St. Wenceslas helmet’s browband. Overlay decoration is also commonly used on weapons and riding equipment from 950 AD to beginning of 12th century in England and Scandinavia, from where this method could had expanded to neighbour countries together with motifs achieved by this method. Like in the case of the sword find from Lázně Toušeň, it is extremely difficult to determine the point of origin, because spread of fashion also included manufacturing processes, not only the final product. Overlay method thus only indicates that the item most likely originated in Northern or Eastern Europe.

Wenceslas_noseguard-ChristDetail of the St. Wenceslas helmet’s nose-guard. Source: Vegard Vike.

I believe that motifs achieved by this method on the nose-guard can help us narrow down the place of manufacturing. To displeasure of all Czech researchers who would love to deem the character depicted on the nose-guard as Norse god Oðinn (eg. Merhautová 1992Merhautová 2000Sommer 2001: 32), it is necessary to reject this theory once and for all. In fact, it is an early depiction of crucified Jesus Christ (as was suggested by Benda, Hejdová and Schránil), that has many parallels in European area up to 12th century (Fuglesang 1981Staecker 1999). Its function on the nose-guard is clear – to represent a Christian owner, depicts a formula of Christ’s redemption and his second coming, to induce fear and awe in the enemy. If Merhautová (2000: 91) writes that „cruficied Christ neither was, nor as a winner over death could not be depicted hairless, with shouting mouth and untreated moustache (…)“, it is only a proof of ignoring archaeological material, which we need to present on the example of finds of crosses, wood carvings and militaria.

jellingEarly Scandinavian depictions of Christ. Click for higher resolution.
A stone from Jelling, cast figure from Haithabu, wooden figure from Jelling mound, pendant from Birka grave Bj 660.

krizkyDepiction of Christ from Northern and Western Europe. 9th-12th century. Click for higher resolution.
Source: Staecker 1999: Abb. 59, 61, 68, 79; Kat. Nr. 14, 43, 46, 49, 51a, 53a, 54, 60, 65, 74, 81, 86, 100, 116a.

jezis_meceFigures on sword pommels interpreted as Jesus, 11th century.
Swords from Pada, Estonia and Ålu, Norway. Source: Ebert 1914: 121 and Unimus.no catalogue.

Let us take a closer look at separate parts of the nose-guard’s decoration. Most attention was paid to head of the figure which – although not being entirely preserved – has two staring eyes, open mouth with bared teeth, untreated moustache forked in many directions and a crown of unspecifiable shape. Such features were in the past perceived as a reason why this character can not be considered crucified Jesus Christ. All of them can be though found on early Christian art of Western, Central, Northern and Eastern Europe in 9th-12th century. The closest similarity can be seen on the face of Crucified on a cross found in Stora Uppakrå, Sweden (11th century; Staecker 1999: Kat. Nr. 51). Also from 11th century, a sword found in Ålu, Norway (C36640) has pommel depicting Christ with bared teeth, moustache, stare and tri-tipped crown on head (discussion with Vegard Vike). If we attempted to specify shape of the crown, we can then point out to analogies, in which crosses, rhombuses with cross motif, Hand of God, halos or hats are depicted above head of the Crucified, with the rhombus and Hand of God seem to be the closest. Depicted features belong to angry God, which one should be afraid of – this is common for era up to 1000 AD, when Christian Europe was under constant attacks. In newly Christianised lands, Jesus Christ was just one god of the local pantheon at first (Bednaříková 2009: 94), and had to achieve his preference by force, not by gestures of friendship and humility.

hlavaHeads of the Crucified in European art, 9th-12th century.
Click for higher resolution. Source: Staecker 1999.

Also, arms wound with two pair of bracelets similar with rings were in the past considered a reason why a figure cannot be considered crucified Jesus Christ. But the period iconography is in direct contradiction – on the contrary, it seems that early depictions of Jesus Christ often show Jesus bound, not only nailed to cross (Fuglesang 1981). The rings therefore represent loops binding arms, or pleated sleeve of tunic that the figure is wearing. Position of thumbs pointing upwards is then a feature undoubtedly pointing to Jesus on cross. An X-ray screening and detailed photos also seem to show a stigma or nails. Arms appear to be broken, to which we also find analogies on a crucifix from Hungarian Peceszentmárton (12th century; Jakab 2006).

rukaHands of the Cruficied in European and Turkish art, 9th-12th century.
Click for higher resolution. Source: Staecker 1999 and the Jelling stone.

Body of the figure seems to be dressed in a tunic or coat, which is tied in the waistline area with a massive belt or rope. The coat is also decorated with opposite lines creating a herringbone motif. It is also possible to find many parallels to these details in period iconography, with a bound belt being widely used in Scandinavian art. As for the legs, their decoration is mostly fallen out, which makes any reconstruction near to impossible; it is though obvious that the figure stands with legs apart. That might seem as an uncommon feature, but still we know some analogies.

hrud-pasBody of the Crucified in European art, 9th-12th century.
Click for higher resolution. Source: Staecker 1999 and Jelling finds.

Legs of the Crucified in European art, 9th-12th century.
Click for higher resolution. Source: Staecker 1999.

Above the crown of the crucified character, there is a non-completely preserved plaited ornament, filling the area where the nose-guard narrows. This motif closely resembles a filling plait found on hilts of Petersen type L, R, S and T swords (Petersen 1919) and on spear sockets (eg. Fuglesang 1980). The plaits on the swords originating in 2nd half of 10th century are the nearest analogy, while the spear decorations evolving into more complicated forms categorised as Ringerike style can be dated between the end of 10th century and third quarter of 11th century (Fuglesang 1980: 18; Wilson – Klindt-Jensen 1966: 146).

strelka Plaited ornament on Scandinavian and Estonian weapons, 10th-11th century.
Source: Jets 2012: Fig. 1 and Unimus.no catalogue.

Above the arms and next to them are simple tri-tipped ornaments and intertwined loops. Their position on the nose-guard is symmetrical. It seems that this decoration was meant to fill in empty space that would otherwise remain there. As an analogy to tri-tipped decoration, one can mention triquetras on Jelling stone, located above arms and next to face of the Crucified. But there are more parallels: tri-tipped ornaments can also be found above arms of figure depicted on pommel of Pada sword and on Ålu sword pommel where there are two crosses next to a face of the character. Loops depicted between hands and large rivets have an analogy in a loop on sword guard from Telšiai, Latvia (Tomsons 2008: 94, 5. att), in wavy lines located beneath arms of the Cruficied on cross from Gullunge, Sweden (turn of 12th century) and Finnish Halikko (12th century). In the case of Halikko cross, the wavy lines possibly represent clouds or wind currents, as the area above the head is also filled with heavenly bodies (Moon and Sun). The whole composition might therefore depict Jesus as the lord of heavens. Some crosses in Byzantium tradition depict winged angels next to hands of the Crucified. In other cases, the area below arms is filled with text or heads of figures, and so one cannot rule out that the ornament might have a similar apotropaic meaning.

vlnovka A simple ornament: St. Wenceslas helmet, Gullunge, Halikko.
Source: Staecker 1999: Kat. Nr. 112, Abb. 96.

We can evaluate the decoration on helmet’s browband as a typical plaited ornament of Borre style, which has rich analogies in lands under Scandinavian influence – circa from Great Britain to Russia. In Scandinavia, the Borre style is dated between 1st half of 9th century and 2nd half of 10th century. In Poland, the Borre style found a wide use and became favoured and was still used during 11th century (Jaworski et al. 2013: 302). Ornaments of this kind can also be found on Lokrume helmet fragment, on several Petersen type R and type S swords, and we could possibly find it on other militaria as well. Although of different shape, intertwined loops are also present on decorative band on helmet from Nemia, Ukraine.

Emblems_1-5 Plaited ornaments used on Petersen type R and type S swords from Northern, Central and Eastern Europe.
Created by Tomáš Cajthaml.

obrouckaDecorative bands on St. Wenceslas helmet and on helmet from Nemia, Ukraine.
Source: Schránil 1934: Tab. XIII; Kirpičnikov 1971: Tab. IX.

If we were to suggest a place of manufacture of these decorated components, Scandinavia, or rather the island of Gotland definitely is the most probable (Schránil 1934Benda 1972Merhautová 2000Bravermannová 2012Bernart – Bravermanová – Ledvina 2014), although there are more possibilities. Potential candidates can also be Poland, Baltic lands, Finland, Russia or Ukraine, but definitely not Rhineland, as some suggested (Hejdová 1964196619671968). The components could have gotten to Central Europe via the Polish route, which was widely open up to 70s of 10th century thanks to a marriage of Mieszko I of Poland and Czech princess Doubrava, sister of Boleslav II. But we cannot either rule out even a later import, because as proven by Ethelred’s denarii, which were copied in Bohemia and transported back to Baltic sea, the route was also open in 80s and 90s of 10th century as well (Lutovský – Petráň 2004: 95; Petráň 2006: 168).

The St. Wenceslas helmet is a compilation of several, originally unrelated components, which was most likely put together of the initiative of Boleslav II. in order to support the growing cult of St. Wenceslas and therefore his own position. The helmet was modified and repeatedly repaired throughout the ages. Historical and cultural value of this item is incalculable. Currently, the helmet is on exhibition at Prague castle, where it receives a major attention both local and foreign visitors.

St. Wenceslas helmet with shining nose-guard.
Source: Jan Gloc, Prague castle administration.


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Bravermanová, Milena (2012). The so-called armour of St. Wenceslaus – a historical introduction. In: Acta Militaria Mediaevalia, VIII, Kraków – Rzeszów – Sanok 2011, 213–220.

D’Amato, Raffaele (2015). Old and new evidence on the East-Roman helmets from the 9th to the 12th centuries. In: Acta Militaria Mediaevalia, tom XI, red. Piotr N. Kotowicz, Kraków – Wrocław – Sanok, 27–157.

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Fuglesang, Signe Horn (1980). Some Aspects of the Ringerike Style : A phase of 11th century Scandinavian art, Odense.

Fuglesang, Signe Horn (1981). Crucifixion iconography in Viking Scandinavia. In: Hans Bekker-Nielsen – Peter Foote – Olaf Olsen (eds.). Proceedings of the Eighth Viking Congress. Århus 24-31 August 1977, Odense, 73–94.

Hejdová, Dagmar (1964). Přilba zvaná „svatováclavská“.In: Sborník Národního muzea v Praze, A 18, no. 1–2, 1–106.

Hejdová Dagmar (1966). Der sogenannte St.-Wenzels-Helm (1. Teil). In: Waffen und Kostümkunde 8/2, 95–110.

Hejdová Dagmar (1967). Der sogenannte St.-Wenzels-Helm (Fortsetzung). In: Waffen und Kostümkunde 9/1, 28–54.

Hejdová Dagmar (1968). Der sogenannte St.-Wenzels-Helm (Fortsetzung und Schluß). In: Waffen und Kostümkunde 10/1, 15–30.

Holmquist Olausson, Lena – Petrovski, Slavica (2007). Curious birds – two helmet (?) mounts with a christian motif from Birka’s Garrison. In: FRANSSON, Ulf (ed). Cultural interaction between east and west, Stockholm, 231-238.

Jakab, Attila (2006). Bronzkorpuszok a nyíregyházi Jósa András Múzeum gyűjteményében (Bronze crucifixes in the collection of the Jósa András Musem). In: JAMÉ 48, 261–280.

Jaworski, Krzysztof et al. (2013). Artefacts of Scandinavian origin from the Cathedral Island (Ostrow Tumski) in Wroclaw. In: Scandinavian culture in medieval Poland, Wroclaw, 279–314.

Jets, Indrek (2012). Scandinavian late Viking Age art styles as a part of the visual display of warriors in 11th century Estonia. In: Estonian Journal of Archaeology, 2012, 16/2, 118–139.

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Lutovský, Michal – Petráň, Zdeněk (2004). Slavníkovci, Praha.

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Merhautová, Anežka (2000). Vznik a význam svatováclavské přilby. In: Přemyslovský stát kolem roku 1000 : na paměť knížete Boleslava II. (+ 7. února 999), Praha, 85–92.

Petersen, Jan (1919). De Norske Vikingesverd: En Typologisk-Kronologisk Studie Over Vikingetidens Vaaben, Kristiania.

Petráň, Zdeněk (2006). České mincovnictví 10. století. In: České země v raném středověku, Praha, 161–174.

Sankiewicz, Paweł – Wyrwa, Andrzej M. (2018). Broń drzewcowa i uzbrojenie ochronne z Ostrowa Lednickiego, Giecza i Grzybowa, Lednica.

Schránil, Josef (1934). O zbroji sv. Václava. In: Svatováclavský sborník na památku 1000. výročí smrti knížete Václava svatého. I – Kníže Václav svatý a jeho doba, Praha, 159172.

Sommer, Petr (2001). Začátky křesťanství v Čechách: kapitoly z dějin raně středověké duchovní kultury, Praha.

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Kombinační typologie křidélek kopí

Když jsem před pěti lety napsal článek “O křidélkách na vikinských kopích“, netušil jsem, že se k problematice posléze vrátím a pod tíhou evidence své závěry opravím. Otázka křidélek je mezi bojujícími reenactory poměrně často probírána, zatímco odborníky je povšimnuta pouze okrajově. Obecně lze říci, že se jedná o časově i geograficky velmi rozšířený fenomén, který obklopuje řada mystifikací. Tento článek si klade za cíl popsat základní anatomii raně středověkých křidélek kopí a navrhnout jejich kategorizaci.

Jako křidélka nazýváme záměrně vytvořené velkoplošné výstupky připevněné na tulejku kopí, kde mohou plnit několik funkcí. V první řadě představují záštitu, která zvyšuje plochu tulejky a zabraňuje penetraci tulejky do těla zvířete či člověka. Zvýšení plochy tulejky bylo v raném středověku docíleno i dalšími způsoby, například instalací kuličky, kříže, řady nýtků či figurek zvířat. Křidélka jsou však tvarována i pro plnění dalších funkcí bojového charakteru – hákování, odklonu zbraní, krytům a podobně. Některá křidélka jsou zašpičatělá, a je možné jich tedy využít k prodloužení útočné části kopí při seku, anebo o ně mohly být výjimečně opřeny navazované čepelky, které přiléhaly k ostří hrotu a prodlužovaly tak útočnou plochu, jak tomu je u vídeňského Svatého kopí (Paulsen 1969). Křidélka jistě byla využita také ke snadnějšímu fixování pouzder. Jedná se zkrátka o praktický doplněk, který zvyšuje efektivitu zbraně a který použitím získal i symbolickou rovinu (Hjardar – Vike 2011: 177). Obvykle se kopí s křidélky dávají do souvislosti s lovem, k čemuž byla kopí tohoto typu určitě využívána od doby římské až do novověku (Fuglesang 1980: 136-140; Oehrl 2013: Příloha), nicméně je nepochybné, že přinejmenším v raném středověku našla uplatnění také ve válečných střetech, jak ukazuje četná ikonografie z tohoto období.

Viking spear sockets shapes
Raně středověké způsoby zvětšení plochy tulejky kopí : křidélka, kulička, kříž, řada nýtků a figurky zvířat.
Grafika: Tomáš Cajthaml.

V tomto článku nás budou zajímat pouze křidélka, která jsou integrální součástí tulejky. Pomineme dřevěná křidélka, která mohla být navazována na ratiště, jako tomu bylo v období pozdního středověku a raného novověku. Materiálem křidélek byly v drtivé většině železné, raritně také neželezné kovy, zpravidla slitiny mědi. Křidélka z železných kovů jsou takřka vždy navařena, neželezná křidélka mohla být odlita spolu s tulejkou.

Archeologický materiál vykazuje v oblasti křidélek velkou škálu možností, která odpovídá lokálním trendům či dokonce přizpůsobování potřebám jednotlivce. Archeologické bádání (např. Solberg 1984Westphal 2002: 254-266) se soustředil pouze na standardní typy, které se objevují ve větších množstvích. Tento stav se níže pokusíme napravit definováním variujících prvků. S narůstající pozorností, která bude věnována křidélkům, bude přibývat i počet variant, které nejsou zahrnuty. Tímto prosíme čtenáře a uživatele našich schémat o shovívavost a budeme rádi za jakékoli podněty a upozornění na nedostatky. Pokud by se tento nástroj určování křidélek kopí prosadil, bude zapotřebí vyřešit především problém špatného stavu křidélek, který může znemožňovat nebo pozměňovat zařazení.

Popis částí křidélek, které jsou zmíněné v textu.
Grafika: Tomáš Cajthaml.

Prvek 1: usazení vrchní strany křidélek
Vyjadřuje se k orientaci usazení vrchní strany křidélek vůči ose kopí. Usazením nazýváme počáteční bod křidélek.

Podle tohoto dělíme dělíme na:

A. usazení kolmé (usazení křidélek je kolmé vůči ose kopí)
usazení přihnuté směrem k hrotu (úhel mezi osou kopí a usazením křidélka je menší než 90°)
usazení přihnuté směrem k ratišti (úhel mezi osou kopí a usazením křidélka je větší než 90°)

Prvek 1: usazení vrchní strany křidélek.
Grafika: Tomáš Cajthaml.


Prvek 2: zakřivení vrchní strany vůči usazení
Vyjadřuje se ke vztahu vrchní strany křidélek vůči úhlu jejich usazení.

Podle tohoto dělíme dělíme na:

A. žádné (vrchní strana křidélek probíhá v přímce od usazení po vrcholek)
konkávní (vrchní strana křidélek má tendenci probíhat od usazení po vrcholek ve vyduté křivce)
konvexní (vrchní strana křidélek má tendenci probíhat od usazení po vrcholek ve vypuklé křivce)

Prvek 2: zakřivení vrchní strany vůči usazení.
Grafika: Tomáš Cajthaml.


Prvek 3: usazení a zakřivení spodní strany
Vyjadřuje se k podobě náběhu na spodní straně křidélek z tulejky kopí.

Podle tohoto dělíme dělíme na:

A. žádný náběh (spodní strana je kolmá vůči ose kopí)
plynule konkávní náběh (spodní strana křidélek probíhá od usazení po vrcholek ve vyduté křivce)
plynule konkávní náběh se schodem (spodní strana křidélek je odsazena schodem, někdy též zašpičatělým, následně probíhá po vrcholek ve vyduté křivce)
přímý náběh (spodní strana křidélek probíhá od usazení po vrcholek v přímce a není kolmá vůči ose kopí)
E. plynule konvexní náběh (spodní strana křidélek probíhá od usazení po vrcholek ve vypuklé křivce)
F. plynule konkávní náběh s protaženými špicemi (vydutá spodní strana křidélek je protažena do dvou špicí přesahujících tulejku; mezi tyto nejsou počítány špice vytažené přímo z tulejky)
G. lomený náběh (spodní stranu křidélek tvoří dvě přímky, které se setkávají pod úhlem větším než 90°)

Prvek 3: usazení a zakřivení spodní strany.
Grafika: Tomáš Cajthaml.


Prvek 4: zakončení křidélek z čelního pohledu
Popisuje, jak vypadá vrchol křidélek při čelním pohledu.

Podle tohoto dělíme dělíme na:

A. zašpičatělý vrcholek (vrchní a spodní strana křidélek se setkávají v zašpičatělém bodu)
plochý vrcholek (vrchní a spodní strana křidélek se setkávají v přímé plošce)
plochý vrcholek se zpětnými háčky (vrchní a spodní strana křidélek se setkávají v přímé plošce se zpětnými háčky)
vrcholek s oddělenými zpětnými háčky (vrchní strana křidélek je zakončena křivkou anebo přímou ploškou, spodní strana křidélek je zakončena zpětnými háčky, a mezi těmito se nachází jamka)
zaoblený vrcholek (vrchní a spodní strana křidélek se setkávají v zaobleném vrcholku)
F. zaoblený vrcholek se zpětnými háčky (vrchní a spodní strana křidélek se setkávají v zaobleném vrcholku se zpětnými háčky)
vrcholek s kuličkou (vrchní a spodní strana křidélek jsou zakončeny kuličkou)
vrcholek se zvířecí hlavou (vrchní a spodní strana křidélek jsou zakončeny zvířecí hlavou)

Prvek 4: zakončení křidélek z čelního pohledu.
Grafika: Tomáš Cajthaml.

Prvek 5: zakončení křidélek z bočního pohledu
Popisuje, jak vypadá vrchol křidélek při bočním pohledu.

Podle tohoto dělíme dělíme na:

A. špice (vrcholek má z bočního pohledu ostrý, jednobodový profil)
ostrá hrana (vrcholek má z bočního pohledu profil ostré či velmi úzké hrany do 3 mm)
tupá hrana (vrcholek má z bočního pohledu tupou hranu)
čtvercový či obdélníkový profil (vrcholek má z bočního pohledu profil ve tvaru širokého čtverce či obdélníku)
kruhový či oválný profil (vrcholek má z bočního pohledu kruhový či oválný profil)
zvířecí hlava (vrcholek má z bočního pohledu vymodelovanou zvířecí hlavou)

Prvek 5: zakončení křidélek z bočního pohledu.
Grafika: Tomáš Cajthaml.


Prvek 6: profil křidélek při pohledu zespodu
Popisuje, jaký průřez má tulejka s křidélky při pohledu zespodu.

Podle tohoto dělíme dělíme na:

A. nezužovaný, rovný (z tulejky vystupují rovná a nezužovaná křidélka, ať úzká či tlustá)
B. nezužovaný a s ohnutými vrcholky (z tulejky vystupují rovná a nezužovaná křidélka, jejíž vrcholky jsou ohnuty)
C. zužovaný do špice (z tulejky vystupují křidélka, která se zužují do špice)
D. zužovaný do tupé hrany na vrcholku (z tulejky vystupují křidélka, která se zužují do tupé hrany)
E. zužovaný ve vlnovce (z tulejky vystupují vlnitá křidélka, která se zužují)
F. zužovaný, před vrcholkem rozšířený do útvaru (z tulejky vystupují zužovaná křidélka, která se následně rozšiřují do útvaru, např. zvířecí hlavy, tvořícího vrcholek)
G. nezužovanýrovný, na vrcholku rozšířený do kuličky (z tulejky vystupují rovná a nezužovaná křidélka, jejíž vrcholky tvoří kuličky či podobné útvary)
H. schodovitý (z tulejky vystupují schodovitě zužovaná křidélka)
I. zužovaný a zahnutý (z tulejky vystupují křidélka zahnutá na jednu stranu, která se zužují)

Prvek 6: profil křidélek při pohledu zespodu
Grafika: Tomáš Cajthaml.

Nyní je na čase, abychom postoupili k praktické části, do které jsme prozatím zařadili 23 kusů raně středověkých kopí s křidélky. Zařazení křidélek bude probíhat podle kompletnějšího či zachovalejšího křidélka. Je možné se setkat s kopími, jejichž každé křidélko lze zařadit různě, jedná se však spíše o výjimky, neboť výrobci se většinou snažili dosáhnout symetrie.

Niederstotzingen, hrob 6, datované do 650-680. Westphal 2002: 246-247, kat. č. 3.3.8.


Walsum, hrob 6, datované do 2. čtvrt. 8. století. Westphal 2002: 242-243, kat. č. 3.3.4.


Hage, Norsko, Solberg typ VI 1B, spadající do let cca 750-850. Kat č. B11315.


Straume, Norsko, Solberg typ IX 1B, spadající do let cca 950-1050. Kat č. C24488.


Lutomiersk, datováno do 11. století. Nadolski 1954: Tab. XXVII:4.


Dugo Selo, Chorvatsko, datováno kolem roku 800. Demo 2010: Fig. 1.


Sahlenburg, hrob 68, datované do 750-800. Westphal 2002: 226-227, kat. č. 3.2.3.


Franské kopí, Palatium, Ostrów Tumski, Poznaň. Výstava “Kiedy Poznan był grodem… Uzbrojenie“.


Kjorstad nedre, Norsko, Solberg typ VI 2B, spadající do let cca 850-950. Kat č. C30253.


Velká Británie, datované do 9.-10. století. British Museum 2019.


Østre Toten, Norsko, Solberg typ VI 2B, spadající do let cca 850-950. Kat č. C20909.


Neckartenzlingen, datováno typologicky do 8. století. Westphal 2002: 248-250, kat. č. 3.3.11.


Krefeld-Gellep, hrob 1782, datováno k roku 525. Reichmann 2013: 269, Fig. 3.


Krefeld-Gellep, hrob 6352, datováno do 1. pol. 4. století. Reichmann 2013: 268, Fig. 2.


Frestedt, datované do druhé poloviny 8. století. Westphal 2002: 239-241, kat. č. 3.3.2.


Haugen, Norsko, kat. č. C21961. Datováno mezi roky 840-900.
Nørgård-Jørgensen 1999: 233-235, kat. č. 52:7, Pl. 27.


Stade, datované do 8. století. Westphal 2002: 228, kat. č. 3.2.5.


Hemeln, datované do druhé poloviny 8. století. Westphal 2002: 233, kat. č. 3.2.11.


Poznań-Luboń, Polsko. Kostrzewski 1947.


Farnhem, Anglie. Datováno do 11. století. Lang 1981: Pl. XV; Wardell 1849: Fig. 2.


Vesilahti-Suomela, Finsko. Kivikoski 1973: Taf. 134, Abb. 1182.


Perniö-Paarskylä, Finsko. Kivikoski 1973: Taf. 134, Abb. 1183.


Bargen, hrob 7, konec 7. století. Dauber 1955: Abb. 3B.

V závěru bychom měli určitě zmínit, že badatelé se dosud koukali na funkci křidélek pouze loveckou optikou, bez jakékoli praktické zkušenosti s prací kopím. Kvůli tomu byla problematika přehlížena a křidélkům se nedostalo systematičtějšího zpracování. To se nyní mění díky reenactorům, kteří si nechávají vyrábět přesné repliky a v některých případech se i snaží o rekonstrukci původních bojových technik.

Absence jakéhokoli serióznějšího pokusu o praktický výklad křidélek zaslepovala badatele i reenactory a znemožňovala představu o komplexnosti raně středověkého válečnictví. V první řadě je nyní obvyklým tvrzením, že kopí byla využívána za použití obou rukou. Pro některé masivnější či delší kusy toto samozřejmě platí, což ukazuje i ikonografie, avšak drtivá většina našich zdrojů směřuje k obsluhovatelnosti jednou rukou v kombinaci se štítem. Tato specifická kombinace, kterou lze najít v mnoha kulturách na světě, byla záměrně využívána v určité fázi střetu. Ikonografie ukazuje, že jednoručně svíraná kopí v pozemním boji byla třímána s palcem směrem od hrotu – toto může být praktické hned ze čtyř důvodů:

  • experimenty potvrdily větší průraznost
  • možnost kopí rychle vrhnout
  • větší bezpečí palce
  • lepší schopnost “zabodnout” nepřátelské kopí směrem k zemi

Tloušťka dochovaných ratišť a tulejek ukazuje, že drtivá většina ratišť se pohybovala okolo tloušťky 20-30 mm a byly zužované. Tato tloušťka se experimentálně ukázala jako univerzální a kopí se štípaným ratištěm o tomto průměru je dostatečně flexibilní a pevné, aby dobře snášelo jednoruční a obouruční použití a současně i vrhání coby oštěpu. Celková váha kopí tak mohla být až na výjimky v rozmezí 0,5-1,5 kg.

Boj kopím na výšivce z Bayeux.

Příklady boje kopím s křidélky.
Vlevo: Corbijský žaltář (Amiens Bibliothèque municipale Ms. 18, fol. 123v), kolem roku 800 (Paulsen 1969: Fig.4:2). Vpravo: Zlatý kodex z Echternachu (Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Hs. 156142, fol. 78), 1030-1050 (Fuglesang 1980: Pl. 110C).

Přijmeme-li tento fakt, může nás to posunout dále v některých myšlenkách. Při střetu, ve kterém měla kopí převahu – tedy zřejmě všechna evropská bojiště raného středověku – představují křidélka výhodu a nadstavbu, jež zajišťuje vyšší výkon. Máme na mysli především tři praktické skutečnosti:

  • existuje korelace mezi výškou křidélek, šířkou břitu a tloušťkou ratiště. Rozpětí křidélek je zásadně stejné nebo větší než šířka břitu – kopí s úzkým břitem mají zpravidla nízká křidélka, kopí s širším břitem mají zpravidla vyšší křidélka. Pro výraznou většinu franského, polského a chorvatského materiálu (a zřejmě i dalšího, pro které neexistují podklady) platí, že při vnějším průměru tulejky 25-36 mm je rozpětí křidélek 59-90 mm a výška křidélek 17-34 mm (Demo 2010Westphal 2002Sankiewicz – Wyrwa 2018: 208). Tento poměr svědčí o tom, že rozpětí křidélek není náhodné, nýbrž je záměrně voleno tak, aby bylo schopno zastavit hrot v případě penetrace. Zdá se nám pravděpodobné, že téměř všechna křidélka s výjimkou křidélek s prvkem 2C mohla dobře posloužit k “odbodávání” nepřátelských kopí směrem k zemi – v podstatě jde o zastavení protiútoku rychlým a přesně mířeným úderem křidélky do oblasti tulejky nebo ratiště. Zejména kopí s velmi vysokými křidélky nebo křidélky s prvky 1B a některá křidélka s prvky 2B naznačují, že jsou konstruována pro co nejlepší manipulaci s protivníkovým kopím, případně též další zbraní.


  • Dlouhou dobu se mezi reenactory spekuluje o hákování pomocí křidélek, ale nakolik víme, prozatím nikdo nepřinesl přesvědčivé důkazy. Zejména křidélka s prvky 2C, 3C, 4C, 4D, 4F jsou dobře uzpůsobena k hákování objektů. Můžeme si představit, že mezi hákované předměty mohl být okraj štítu a zbraň nepřítele. Zahákování může mít velký praktický význam. Je možné, že s hákováním souvisí také prvky 6B a 6I. V Sáze o Þórim Zlatém (Gull-Þóris saga, kap. 10) se nachází zmínka o pokusu hákovat štít kopím.


  • Třetí často diskutovanou otázku, zda je možné křidélka prakticky využít k sekání kopím, je možné podpořit. Zásah víceméně všemi typy křidélek bude mít pozitivní ničivý účinek. Mezi nejlépe vybavená kopí můžeme počítat ta, která mají prvky 4A, 4C, 4G, 5A, 5B, 5E, 6C, 6E, 6G.

Použitá a doporučená literatura

British Museum (2019). Spear-head, Museum number 1856,0701.1449. Elektronický zdroj: https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=85949&partId=1&from=ad&fromDate=700&to=ad&toDate=1200&object=20259&page=2, navštíveno 1.6.2019.

Creutz, Kristina (2003). Tension and tradition: a study of late Iron Age spearheads around the Baltic Sea, Stockholm.

Dauber, Albrecht (1955). Ein fränkisches Grab mit Prunklanze aus Bargen, Ldkr. Sinsheim (Baden). In: Germania, Bd. 33 Nr. 4, 381-390.

Demo, Željko (2010). Ranosrednjovjekovno koplje s krilcima iz okolice Dugog Sela u svjetlu novih saznanja o ovoj vrsti oružja na motki. In: Archaeologia Adriatica, Vol. 4. No. 1., 61-84.

Fuglesang, Signe Horn (1980). Some Aspects of the Ringerike Style : A phase of 11th century Scandinavian art, Odense.

Hjardar, Kim – Vike, Vegard (2011). Vikinger i krig, Oslo.

Kivikoski, Ella (1973). Die Eisenzeit Finnlands: Bildwerk und Text, Helsinki.

Kostrzewski, Józef (1947). Kultura prapolska, Poznań.

Kouřil, Pavel (2005). Frühmittelalterliche Kriegergräber mit Flügellanzen und Sporen des Typs Biskupija-Crkvina auf mährischen Nekropolen. In: Die Frühmittelalterliche Elite bei den Völkern des östlichen Mitteleuropas : (mit einem speziellen Blick auf die großmährische Problematik) : Materialien der internationalen Fachkonferenz : Mikulčice, 25.-26.5.2004Brno, 67-99.

Kurasiński, Tomasz (2005). Waffen im Zeichenkreis. Über die in den Gräbern auf den Gebieten des frühmittelalterlichen Polen vorgefundenen Flügellanzenspitzen. In: Sprawozdania Archeologiczne, vol. 57, 165-213.

Lang, James T. (1981). A Viking Age Spear-Socket from York. In: Medieval Archaeology, 25, 1981: 157–160, Pl. XV.

Leppäaho, Jorma (1964). Späteisenzeitliche Waffen aus Finnland: Schwertinschriften und Waffenverzierungen des 9. – 12. Jahrhunderts ; ein Tafelwerk, Helsinki.

Nadolski, Andrzej (1954). Studia nad uzbrojeniem polskim w X, XI i XII wieku, Łódź.

Nørgård Jørgensen, Anne (1999). Waffen & Gräber. Typologische und chronologische Studien zu skandinavischen Waffengräbern 520/30 bis 900 n.Chr., København.

Oehrl, Sigmund (2013) Bear hunting and its ideological context (as a background for the interpretation of bear claws and other remains of bears in Germanic graves of the 1st millennium AD). In: Grimm, O. – Schmölcke, U. (eds.). Hunting in Northern Europe until 1500 AD – Old Traditions and Regional Developments, Neumünster, 267-332.

Paulsen, Peter (1969). Flügellanzen: Zum archäologischen Horizont der Wiener Sancta lancea. In: Frühmittelalterliche Studien 3, 289—312.

Petersen, Jan (1919). De Norske Vikingesverd: En Typologisk-Kronologisk Studie Over Vikingetidens Vaaben. Kristiania.

Reichmann, Christoph (2013). Late ancient Germanic hunting in Gaul based on selected archaeological examples. In: Grimm, O. – Schmölcke, U. (eds.). Hunting in Northern Europe until 1500 AD – Old Traditions and Regional Developments, Neumünster, 267-276.

Ruttkay, Alexander (1975). Waffen und Reiterausrüstung des 9. bis zur ersten Hälfte des 14. Jahrhunderts in der Slowakei (I). In: Slovenská Archeológia XXIII / 1, Bratislava, 119-216.

Sankiewicz, Paweł – Wyrwa, Andrzej M. (2018). Broń drzewcowa i uzbrojenie ochronne z Ostrowa Lednickiego, Giecza i Grzybowa, Lednica.

Solberg, Bergljot (1984). Norwegian Spear-Heads from the Merovingian and Viking Periods, Universitetet i Bergen. Dizertační práce.

Wardell, J. (1849). Antiquities and Works of Art Exhibited. In: Archaeological Journal 6, 401–2.

Westphal, Herbert (2002). Franken oder Sachsen?: Untersuchungen an frühmittelalterlichen Waffen, Oldenburg.

Westphalen, Petra (2002). Die Eisenfunde von Haithabu. Die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu 10, Neumünster.

The Period Transport of Liquids

The transport and the storage of liquids are one of the biggest problems in the reenactment of any time period. Archaeological finds are only a few and making a keg or flask needs skill. For a person living in 21st century, it is much easier and cheaper to load a barrel of beer and some bottles of water to a car and after that hide everything in a tent. On historical events, there are principles of hiding modern bottles, however we would be lying, if we said that it is a generally valid and strictly followed convention.

If we move from a camp to a march, there is a necessity to have a field bottle, because in our luggage there is a limited space for equipment. In such a case, we are going to plan our way close to the springs and streams. Scandinavian streams (Old Norse lœkr) and mountain rivers have stayed drinkable even up till now, so if the Old Norse people made a good journey plan, they had no thirst. In the corpus of Old Norse dictionary, there is a term rǫst (“mile”), which literally means “distance between two halts”. Literary sources show existence of route with some fixed halts, which were located near the water streams.

Reconstruction of the farmstead Stöng, Iceland.

Even buildings and farmsteads were built near to the water streams. Water is necessary for a household, and people settled there not only because of water, but also because of fish. In some sources, the connection of a farm and a stream more than obvious:

Next to Ásólf’s hall, there was a river. Winter started and the river was full of fish. Þorgeir claimed that they settled on his fishing grounds, so Ásólf moved and built the second hall on west near to another river.
(The book of settlement, chap. 21, Hauskbók version)

The same situation was during the settlement of Iceland. Settlers often took up land, surrounded by two water streams. In addition, there was the law that the settler could take more land than she or he could walk around in one day. The farmstead Stöng, which was built in 11th century and covered by volcano ash in 1104, follows the same logic – it was built on a hill approximately one kilometer above the Fossá river. In densely built-up areas, water drained from wells. The most of farms did not need wells, because they had access to water streams (Short 2003: 74).

The containers for a water transportation can be divided to big volume containers and small volume containers. Among the big volume containers belong barrels, buckets and bigger ceramic vessels. Their volume can be between ones and hundreds of litres and they served for crowds, e.g. farm residents, merchants or soldiers on war expeditions. However, the dimension limits mobility, as can be shown by the quote from the Eyrbyggja saga (chap. 39):

Then too was it the custom of all the shipmen to have their drink in common, and a bucket should stand by the mast with the drink therein, and a locked lid was over it. But some of the drink was in barrels, and was added to the bucket thence as soon as it was drunk out.

The transport of barrels at the Bayeux tapestry.

The small volume containers were using for needs of individuals and they were parts of personal equipment. We are talking about different kinds of flasks, bags and bottles, which had limited volume – only up to several litres, but it was not difficult to carry them. It is necessary to add, that there are almost no preserved containers from Scandinavian area, so we have to use the written sources or look for the analogic finds from the period Europe.

The barrel from Haithabu.

The biggest container from the Viking period is a barrel (Old Norse: tunni, verpill). The barrels are well preserved in archeological, written and iconographic sources. In the previous written example, we can see the barrels were used for long-term storage of water on ships. Barrels also served for fermentation and storage of beverages in the halls. A big barrel with the volume of approximately 800 litres was found in Haithabu, Germany. Similar finds are known also from the Rome Empire period. Barrels of this kind are also depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry, where they are loaded on both carts and shoulders and carried to the ships. The Tapestry comments this depiction with these words: “These men carry arms to the ships and here they drag a cart laden with wine and arms.

A slightly smaller container is represented by a bucket, a tub and a vat (Old Norse: ker). The main advantage is a handle for the easier transport. It could be the most frequent big volume container of the period. A bucket was not provided with a permanent lid, because the liquid was meant for an immediate consumption. If it was necessary, the bucket could be covered by a removable lid (Old Norse: hlemmr or lok, see the quote from Eyrbyggja saga). The finds of buckets are well preserved in Oseberg and Haithabu. In Haithabu, they found imported big volume ceramics (so called Reliefbandamphoren) as well, which could be used for similar purpose thanks to transportation eyelets.

Opening of a bottle.  Made by Jakub Zbránek and Zdeněk Kubík.

We know only a few finds of flasks and bottles (Old Norse: flaska) made of leather, ceramics, wood, metal and glass in Early medieval Europe. Absence of local anorganic bottles in Scandinavia is a sign of the fact that organic materials were mainly used. From the following list, it is evident that ceramic, metal and glass bottles were imported to Scandinavia.

There are only a few written mentions about bottles from Scandinavia and they all are of the late date. It is interesting that some mentions are connected with bynames of people living in the Viking Age. We can find Þorsteinn flǫskuskegg (“bottle beard“) and Þorgeirr flǫskubak (“bottle back“) among the Icelandic settlers.

  • Leather bottle, made by Petr Ospálek.

    Leather bottles – it is the only kind mentioned in Old Norse sources. In Grettis saga (chap. 11), there is a funny story of Þorgeirr flǫskubak who is attacked by an assassin to his back, but he manages to survive, because the axe of the assassin hits a leather flask:

“That morning, Þorgeirr got ready to row out to sea, and two men with him, one called Hámundr, the other Brandr. Þorgeirr went first, and had on his back a leather bottle [leðrflaska] and drink therein. It was very dark, and as he walked down from the boat-stand Þorfinn ran at him, and smote him with an axe betwixt the shoulders, and the axe sank in, and the bottle squeaked, but he let go the axe, for he deemed that there would be little need of binding up, and would save himself as swiftly as might be. [Now it is to be said of Þorgeirr, that he turned from the blow as the axe smote the bottle, nor had he any wound. [Thereat folk made much mocking, and called Þorgeirr Bottleback, and that was his by-name ever after.”

This part continues with a stanza with this meaning: “Earlier the famous men cut their swords into enemies’ bodies, but now a coward hit a flask with whey by an axe. Even though it is a nice example of an Old Norse perception of society decline, but we can notice the mention about whey (Old Norse sýra). The whey was mixed with water in a ratio 1:11 and created a popular Icelandic drink, the so-called blanda (for the exactl mixture, see here, page 26). The saga suggests that Þorgeirr has got such a drink in his flask.

The leather flasks are mentioned in Anglo-Saxon sources and are archaeologically documented in Ireland, where were found some decorated pieces from 12th century. They are lightweight and ideal for long hikes. They are resistant against damage too. But sometimes water is running through, whis is a disadvantage. Summary, I recommend to reconstruct of leather variants.

A replica of a wooden bottle, made by CEA.


  • Ceramics bottles – ceramics bottles were popular for the whole Early medieval period. They were used in the the Roman times (Roman ceramics amphoras for a wine transporting are known from Rhineland), in the Migration period, as well as in the period of 9th to 11th century. One piece was found in Winchester, England (11th century, photos here, here, here), another one in Gnezdovo, Russia (10th century, photo here) and yet another in Great Moravian Staré Město (9th century, photos here and here). In Belgian Ertvelde-Zelzate (9th century, here), a painted flask was found. Analogies of this bottle were found in Dorestad and in Norwegian Kaupang too. The find from Kaupang is represented by nine orange painted shards – the only proof of ceramics flasks in Scandinavia (Skre 2011: 293). The similar shape to Roman amphoras remained popular in the Rhineland, and it devepoled into so-called Reliefbandamphoren that are up to 70 cm high. Some pieces were found in Haithabu as well. Ceramic bottles seem to be popular in Eastern Europe as well.

    The pottery industry of Viking Age Scandinavia was not very developed, so we can presume that all the ceramic bottles in Scandinavia were imported. Me and my colleagues were using this type for years and it proved to be very practical. On the other hand, the use is very questionable in Scandinavia.

  • Bronze bottle from Aska.

    Metal bottles – an unique copper-alloy bottle was found in the woman’s grave in Aska, Sweden. According to works, which I found on the internet (here and here), the grave dated to 10th century and the container is considered a Persian import, because of the inscription. The origin limits the usage in reenactment. A similar bottle was found in FölhagenGotland, and it is dated to the of 10th century (the picture on demand).

  • Glass bottles – I am aware of two Scandinavian bottle necks made of glass, they are very rare finds. The first one was found in Haithabu and is dated to the 9th century (Schiezel 1998: 62, Taf. 13:1–2). The second one was found in a rich female grave from Trå, Norway, dated to the 10th century. Pictures on demand.

All the mentioned bottles except the glass and metal examples do have the eyelets. So, we can suppose that they had got a strap for a hanging. To my knowledge, stoppers are never preserved, so they probably were made of wood. The experiments showed that oaken lathed or hand-made mushroom or cylinder-shaped stoppers are functional. While a simple wooden stopper works for wooden and leather bottles, in case of other materials, it is useful if the stopper is a bit smaller and wrapped in a textile, so the neck is not destroyed by the harder material of the stopper. 

I believe that the article provided a brief summary of Early medieval liquid containers. For reenactment purposes, I recommend to use the barrels and buckets for camp life and the bottles for a march. This can also lead to reconstructing proper banquet tools, like spoons, scoop and ladles, that are present in the sources. If needed, write your feedback into the comments, the problem of a liquid transportation is still opened. Many thanks to Roman Král, Zdeněk Kubík, Jan Zajíc and Jakub Zbránek, who helped me with this article and answered my questions. 


The book of settlement – Landnamabók I-III: Hauksbók, Sturlubók, Melabók. Ed. Finnur Jónsson, København 1900.

Grettis saga – Saga o Grettim. Přel. Ladislav Heger, Praha 1957. Originál online.

Eyrbyggja saga – Sága o lidech z Eyru. Přel. Ladislav Heger. In: Staroislandské ságy, Praha 1965: 35–131.

Cleasby, Richard  Vigfússon, Gudbrand (1874). An Icelandic-English dictionary, Toronto.

Schietzel, Kurt (1998). Die Glasfunde von Haithabu, Berichte über die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu 32, Neumünster.

Short, William R. (2010). Icelanders in the Viking Age: The People of the Sagas, Jefferson.

Skre, Dagfinn (ed.) (2011). Things from the Town. Artefacts and Inhabitants in Viking-age Kaupang. Kaupang Excavation Project Publication series, vol. 3., Århus.


For those interested in wooden barrels, buckets and ceramic vessels, I recommend these books:

Hübener, Wolfgang (1959). Die Keramik von Haithabu, Neumünster.

Janssen, Walter (1987). Die Importkeramik von Haithabu, Neumünster.

Wesphal, Florian (2006). Die Holzfunde von Haithabu, Neumünster.

Amputace dolních končetin raného středověku a jejich protézy

Kolskegg s sebou prudce trhl a sekl po Kolovi mečem s takovou silou, že mu usekl nohu nad kolenem.
‚Dobrá rána, což?’ zeptal se Kolskegg.
‚Doplatil jsem na to, že jsem se nechránil štítem,’ odpověděl Kol a nějakou chvíli stál na jedné noze a díval se na pahýl druhé své nohy.
‚Nepotřebuješ se moc dívat. Je to, jak vidíš: noha je pryč,’ smál se Kolskegg.
Kol se pak zvrátil mrtev k zemi.
(Sága o Njálovi 63)

Díky životu v jedné z nebezpečnější zemi této planety, dlouhému období míru a funkční medicíně jsme zapomněli na hrůzy války a metly lidstva, díky čemuž se nám obtížně hodnotí kvalita života v minulosti. Současně nejsme schopni plně docenit jistoty, v nichž žijeme, a nesnáze, kterými naši předci museli projít. V následujícím článku se zaměříme na opomíjenou problematiku amputovaných končetin v důsledku nemocí a válečných zranění i protéz těchto tělesných částí v období raného středověku. Doufáme, že čtenáři z řad reenactorů a zájemců o historii naleznou v článku málo reflektovanou nadstavbu.

Nemoci a zranění dolních končetin, amputace

Staroseverská literatura zachovává více než pět desítek příjmí, která mají souvislost s nohama (Jónsson 1908: 219-223). Řada z nich reaguje na nemoci nohou, nohy podivně tvarované či zmrzačení nohou v bojovém konfliktu, které mělo za následek doživotní kulhání, a reflektují tak odlišnost nebo handicap (Sexton 2010). Mezi běžné nemoci postihující nohy rozhodně patřily ischemie, aterosklerózy, diabetická noha a infekce. Stěží si již dnes představíme taková onemocnění, jako je lepra nebo obrna, které byly ve středověku rozšířené (Hernigou 2014aHernigou 2014b). Mezi středověké úrazy museli patřit zlomeniny a amputační zranění. Nejčastější formou amputačních zraněních v klinikách v neindustrializovaných zemích je ztráta končetiny nebo jejího části, způsobená nehodami při práci se stroji, zvířaty, dopravními prostředky a při pádech z výšky (Binder 2016: 30). Jak se tedy zdá, dolní končetiny pod kolenem patřily společně s prsty na rukou mezi nejvíce amputované části lidského těla i v období středověku.

Rekonstrukce fixace zlomeniny dolní končetiny kolem roku 1350.
Zdroj: van der Mark 2016.

Jakákoli zranění byla velmi náchylná na infekce, které představovaly v předantibiotické éře vážnou medicínskou výzvu (Erdem et al 2011Runcie 2015) a které zřejmě někdy ústily v amputace; zranění utržená na britské straně v 1. světové válce měla míru infekce vyšší než 90%. Lékaři raného středověku sice ovládali jednoduché chirurgické úkony (nařezávání, vypalování a vyplachování ran, narovnávání kostí) a byli schopni poskytnout základní péči (ovazování, podávání bylinných výluhů, přikládání kamenů a bylin, rytí run a zaříkávání), avšak neměli možnost pracovat ve sterilním prostředí, neměli znalost prevence bakteriální infekce a jejich diagnostika byla na poměry dnešní medicíny na žalostně nízké úrovni (Vlasatý 2017). Kvůli tomu byla pooperační úmrtnost po vážných chirurgických zákrocích circa 60-80 % (Smith et al 2012: 36). Kvůli vysoké úmrtnosti se amputace před zavedením moderních anestezie a antiseptik příliš nerozmohly (Van Cant 2018: 199). Amputacím se zřejmě také vyhýbalo z toho důvodu, že “nekompletní lidé” mohli být považováni za nekompetentní k vládě či poznamenáni v posmrtném světě (Sellegren 1982: 13), případně muži z důvodu své pýchy nedovolili amputovat nebo ošetřující odmítli amputaci s tím, že neponesou zodpovědnost za pacientovo zmrzačení (Friedmann 1972: 117).

Simon Mays (1996) shromáždil celkem 27 archeologických amputací, přičemž 5 z nich pochází z předmoderní doby. Ve třech případech se jedná o amputace pravých dolních končetin, které se objevují i v nálezech, které Mays nezahrnul (Van Cant 2018: 196). Mays uvádí tři hlavní důvody amputací ve středověku (Mays 1996: 107):

  • chirurgický zákrok spojený s nemocí či zraněním
  • vykonání trestu podle zákona
  • chirurgický zákrok spojený s válečným zraněním

Naproti tomu Friedmann (1972: 120) vyčleňuje poněkud jiné spektrum historických amputací:

  • chirurgický zákrok spojený se závažným onemocněním
  • oddělení končetiny v ozbrojeném střetu
  • vykonání trestu podle zákona
  • chirurgický zákrok spojený s válečným zraněním
  • chirurgický zákrok spojený s omrzlinami

Amputace prováděné z důvodu chronické nemoci lze předpokládat ve velké míře. Zmiňují je písemné zmínky z období křížových výprav (Mitchell 2004) a lze je předpokládat také v případě některých mnichů, jejichž pohřbená těla byla nalezena u kláštera ve švýcarském St. Petersinsel (Van Cant 2018: 196). Amputace napadených končetin jsou zmíněny nejméně ve dvou pramenech z období 11. a 12. století. V obou případech se jedná o gilotinové amputace, od kterých se již postupně upouští na úkor amputací lalokových (Janoušek 2015: 18-21). První ze zdrojů nám zanechal nejlepší arabský lékař Al-Zahráví, též zvaný Albucasis (Friedmann 1972: 126-127):

Neustupuje-li sněť předloktí či nohou léčbě, je potřeba je odříznout nad loktem či nad kolenem, aby se nešířila a nestala se smrtelnou. Končetina by měla být nad i pod úrovní řezu slabě obvázaná, zatímco pomocník vytváří tlak na vrchní obvaz, aby se kůže a maso mohly zatáhnout. Provádí se kruhový řez až ke kosti, z obou stran se přikládají lněné podušky, aby se zabránilo tvorbě vředů, a následně se seká nebo řeže kost. Pokud se během zákroku objeví krvácení, rychle vypaluj nebo užij prášku zastavující krvácení, užij vhodného zábalu a ošetřuj do uzdravení.

Druhým zdrojem je lombardský překladatel arabských a antických textů Gerard z Cremony (Bennion 1980: 51):

Pokud má nemoc navrch nad naší léčbou, úd musí být uříznut (…). Na prvním místě je potřeba zvážit míru nápravy, prospěšnosti a nebezpečnosti. Z toho důvodu činíme řez nožem mezi zdravými a chorobnými částmi až ke kosti, s tím předpokladem, že nikdy neřežeme do opačné části a vždy zahrneme kus zdravé, než bychom ponechali kus nemocné. Jakmile dospějeme ke kosti, zdravé maso je třeba zatáhnout do té míry, že se kost obnaží. Tehdy ji musíme přeříznout pilou hned u zdravého masa. V místě, kde pila zanechala jakékoli otřepy na konci kosti, je třeba je zabrousit, a překryjeme celý pahýl volnou kůží.

Tyto zmínky musíme brát jako vrchol tehdejší chirurgie, nicméně můžeme z nich získat základní informace o tom, jak probíhal zákrok. Můžeme vidět, že amputace byla rychlou záležitostí, trvající několik málo minut, a byla týmovou prací, která zahrnovala chirurga a jednoho či více asistentů, kteří pacienta drželi, podávali vybavení a podobně. Často si myslíme, že operace probíhaly bez anestezie, ale přinejmenším Peršané a Arabové již v raném středověku používali anestezii podávanou orálně nebo inhalačně (Meri 2005: 784). Přinejmenším ve vikinské Skandinávii známe tři látky, které k těmto účelům mohly posloužit – alkohol, konopí a blín (Price 2002: 205-206). Zdá se, že rány byly často vypalovány, aby bylo zastaveno silné krvácení, což ústilo v těžké popáleniny, které se obtížně hojily.

Můžeme dát za pravdu Williamsové (1920: 358), když říká, že raně středověký chirurg zřejmě nejčastěji vlastnil pilku, nůž, pinzetu, jehlu a nit. Můžeme se domnívat, že nožů zřejmě vlastnil několik, a měl rovněž nůžky, pinzety, rašple, svorky na uzavření ran a množství čistého textilu (Frölich 2011).

Výběr pilek raného středověku z různých evropských lokalit.

Výběr pinzet raného středověku z různých evropských lokalit.

Výběr raně středověkých nůžek. Zdroj: Westphalen 2002: Abb. 32.

Výběr raně středověkých nožů. Zdroj: Westphalen 2002: Abb. 62.

Je nutné zmínit, že i v moderních nemocnicích je míra zasažení pahýlu amputovaných končetin infekcí kolem 13-40 % (de Godoy et al 2010). Úspěšné zotavení však nezávisí pouze na zahojení rány – významnou část pacientů s úspěšnými amputacemi trápí psychické problémy (Sahu et al 2016), které je potřeba řešit stejnou měrou jako obtíže fyzické. Důležitá je rovněž intenzivní fyzioterapická rehabilitace, která postiženého pacienta navrátí do normálního života (např. Rau et al 2007);  zejména u starších osob je amputace dolních končetin problémová, protože ztrátu nejsou schopni nahradit svými fyzickými fondy, a často dochází k brzkému úmrtí (Klaphake et al 2017). Asi 90 % lidí s dolní končetinou amputovanou pod kolenem se naučí chodit s protézou (Pavlačková 2012: 13). Lze říci, že pokud byl zraněný člověk ošetřen kvalitně, rychle a dostatečně sterilně, a byl v dobré fyzické kondici, měl šanci na zotavení a pokračování v normálním životě. Obecně vzato se zdá, že lidé s protézami jedné dolní končetiny mají větší úspěšnost navázat manželství, mít děti a získat práci, než lidé s protézami obou dolních končetin (Claspe – Ramasamy 2013: 71-72). Na vině může být kromě jiného fakt, že výška nohou v porovnání s celkovou výškou je důležitá pro atraktivní a zdravý vzhled (Bogin – Varela-Silva 2010).

Zranění hlavy a dolních končetin se zdají být nejčastějšími válečnými traumaty středověku (Matzke 2011: 62-73; Thordeman 1939: 160-178). V rodových ságách bojovníci běžně přicházejí o paže, ruce, prsty nebo nohy (Sexton 2010: 152). Pokud se zaměříme na raně středověká zranění dolních končetin, zmínit můžeme zranění nohy muže pohřbeného v gokstadské mohyle v Norsku (Holck 2009: 44-46), zranění holeně u raně středověké kostry z Maastrichtu (Woosnam-Savage – DeVries 2015: 35) či zhojenou ránu na holeni u člena zmasakrované posádky Budče (Štefan et al 2016: 766, Table 2). Cílení na dolní končetiny, zejména holeně, je logické z řady důvodů. Nohy tvoří zhruba polovinu výšky dospělého člověka (Bogin – Varela-Silva 2010: 1052-1053), a experimenty ukázaly, že i když nositel disponuje štítem, může pro něj být efektivní obrana dolních končetin obtížná (Matzke 2011: 67 a vlastní mnohaletá zkušenost). Přinejmenším v raném středověku evidujeme pouze málo dokladů o používání ochranných prostředků dolních končetin v boji. Pokud cílem nebyla fyzická likvidace oponenta, mohlo být úderů na spodní končetiny záměrně využíváno. Oblast hlavy je totiž třikrát náchylnější na smrtelné úrazy než zbytek těla (Gennarelli et al 1989). Holenní kost patří mezi nejpevnější kosti v lidském těle a jen zřídkakdy dochází k jejímu přeseknutí (Thordeman 1939: 171). Ačkoli tržná zranění končetin provází bolestivá agonie, smrt nastává až po dlouhé době, a je tedy možná záchrana (Rhyne et al 1995).

Extrémní příklad středověké chirurgie: kost pažní nalezená u kláštera ve švédském Varnhemu (SHM 18393:1090), která vykazuje zhojenou zlomeninu způsobenou sekerou. Chirurg se pokusil o osteosyntézu měděným plechem.

Protézy dolních končetin

Pokud se budeme chtít podívat na příklady raně středověkých protéz, můžeme použít tří různých pramenů – archeologie, ikonografie a písemných zdrojů.

Dějiny protéz dolních končetin jsou poměrně dlouhé. Archeologie zná dvě funkční egyptské dřevěné protézy palců, které byly vyrobeny zhruba v letech 1065-600 př. n. l. (Finch 2018), jakož i dřevěnou holeň pokrytou bronzovým plechem z italského hrobu v Santa Maria di Capua Vetere (cca 300 př. n. l.) či dřevěnou holeň přivazovanou ke stehnu, zakončenou koňským kopytem s rohovým bodcem z čínského Shengjindianu ze stejného období (Binder 2016: 30). Z období raného středověku fakticky známe tři nálezy, a je zajímavé, že z období pozdějšího středověku je prakticky neznáme. Prvním je hrob ze švýcarského Bonaduzu (5.-7. století), který ukrýval muže s uříznutým chodidlem v kotníku, místo něhož měl kožený vak vyplněný senu podobným materiálem s dřevěnou podrážkou podbitou železnými hřeby (Baumgartner 1982). Druhý nález představuje dřevěná protéza levé holeně z rakouského Hemmabergu (6. století), která měla kovovou objímku uchycenou dvěma hřeby (Binder 2016). Třetím nálezem je dřevěno-bronzová protéza levé holeně z německého Griesheimu (7.-8. století), u níž bronz tvořil lůžko pro pahýl, které bylo vystlané kůží, zatímco směrem nahoru vybíhala dřevěná vidlice až po úroveň stehna, kde byla upevněna řemínky (Czarnetzki et al 1983: 91-92). Protézu dolní končetiny lze předpokládat také u muže ze švýcarské lokality Aesch (7. století), který žil zhruba 1-2 roky po amputaci (Cueni 2009: 115-118). Z tohoto výčtu je patrné, že každá protéza byla unikátní, a proto existovala variabilita tvarů i materiálů. Můžeme si povšimnout, že důležitá je kromě funkčnosti také pohodlnost a estetická kvalita protéz.

Co se týče ikonografie, nejstaršími doklady používání protéz dolních končetin jsou výjevy na římských vázách, z nichž nejstarší pochází ze 4. století př. n. l. (Binder 2016: 30; Sellegren 1982: 13). Další obrazové doklady máme až z vrcholného středověku, kdy se nezřídka objevují v iluminacích a mozaikách 12.-14. století. Zejména se jedná o výjevy z rukopisů, jako je Bible z Bury (Corpus Christi MS 002, 1v, 1135-1138, Anglie), Žaltář sv. Alžběty (Cividale del Friuli, Sign. Ms CXXXVII, 173r, 1201-1207, Itálie), Franko-vlámský antifonál (Ms. 44/Ludwig VI 5, f. 202, 1260–1270, Francie nebo Belgie), Artušovské romance (Beinecke MS 229, 257v, 1275-1300, Francie) a Saské zrcadlo (HAB Cod. Guelf. 3.1 Aug. 2°, 20v, 1350-1375, Německo), ale také mozaiky, jakou je např. mozaika z katedrály v Lescar (1120-1141, Francie). Nakolik lze z tohoto vzorku soudit, amputace nad koleny prakticky nevyužívají protézy a pacienti se pohybují pomocí holí, zatímco amputace pod kolenem bylo možné nahradit jednoduchou a tvarově uniformní nohou s okem na konci. Protézy se zdají být dřevěné nebo kovové a pahýl je zasunut do otvoru, který je na straně směřující k zemi vypolstrován. Stejný druh protéz (angl. bent-knee prosthesis) se užíval do poměrně nedávné doby a stále se doporučuje dětem v rozvojových zemích, ovšem jako dočasné a nouzové řešení, které způsobuje dystrofii svalu, a proto je potřeba po použití protézy sval důkladně procvičit (Werner 1987: 625). Nad protézy a hole můžeme ve středověké ikonografii nalézt řadu dřevěných chodítek a připevňovacích platforem, bez výstupků i s výstupky suplujícími končetinu, pro postižené leprou a obrnou (Hernigou 2014aHernigou 2014b).

Výběr amputovaných nohou a protéz středověku.

Zleva: mozaika z katedrály v Lescar (1120-1141, Francie), Bible z Bury (Corpus Christi MS 002, 1v, 1135-1138, Anglie), Žaltář sv. Alžběty (Cividale del Friuli, Sign. Ms CXXXVII, 173r, 1201-1207, Itálie), Franko-vlámský antifonál (Ms. 44/Ludwig VI 5, f. 202, 1260–1270, Francie nebo Belgie), Artušovské romance (Beinecke MS 229, 257v, 1275-1300, Francie), Saské zrcadlo (HAB Cod. Guelf. 3.1 Aug. 2°, 20v, 1350-1375, Německo).

Písemné zdroje jsou rovněž dobrými prameny. Nejvýraznějšími důkazy existence protéz tvoří charakteristická příjmí, která reflektují vzhled majitele. Ze severského prostředí známe příjmí viðleggr (“dřevěná noha”) a hned tři muže s příjmím tréfótr (“dřevěná noha”), kteří žili období 9.-13. století. Známe rovněž příjmí spýtuleggr, které se může vztahovat k dřevěné či tenké noze (Jónsson 1908: 220, 222). Staroseverština zná frázi ganga á tréfótum (“kráčet o dřevěných nohách”), která znamená tolik co “být na tom špatně” (Baetke 2006: 662). Příjmí vztahující se k používání dřevěných protéz známe rovněž ze střední horní němčiny: stelzære, stelzner, uf dir stelzen, râvôt (Keil 2012: 372).

Zřejmě nejlepší písemné zprávy o dřevěné protéze raného středověku obestírají Nora jménem Ǫnund, který žil na přelomu 9. a 10. století. Zatímco Kniha o záboru země (verze Sturlubók, kap. 161) hovoří pouze o tom, že Ǫnund “(…) bojoval proti králi Haraldovi v Hafrsfjordu a přišel zde o nohu. Poté odplul na Island a zabral zemi (…)”, Sága o Grettim (kap. 2-11) představuje barvitější popis – Ǫnund je vykreslen jako viking, který se náhodně dozvídá o námořní bitvě v Hafrsfjordu, a rozhoduje se jí zúčastnit. Muži krále Haralda mu utínají při špatném střehu takřka celou nohu pod kolenem, ale Ǫnunda zachraňují jeho spolubojovníci, kteří se odpojují z bitvy a prchají. “Ǫnund se uzdravil, ale celý svůj život chodil s dřevěnou nohou. Říkali mu proto, dokud žil, Ǫnund Dřevěná noha” (Sága o Grettim 2). Po zahojení rány se Ǫnund odebral na Hebridy, ale trpí psychickými problémy – je tichý, uvědomuje si svoji špatnou pohyblivost, chybí mu noha a opouští ho radost z boje, což svému příteli také prozrazuje. Přítel mu doporučuje, aby se usadil a našel si ženu, avšak otec, kterého společně požádají o ruku jeho dcery, se zdráhá provdat svou dceru za mrzáka bez nemovitostí. Je však ujištěn, že Ǫnund se může pohybovat bez obtíží a že má dostatek movitého majetku a dobrý původ, což Ǫnundovi zvedne sebevědomí a vydává se na další nájezdy. V následující bitvě mu přátelé postaví pod nohu špalek, aby se mohl také zapojit, a zbraň jeho oponenta se do špalku zasekne, čehož Ǫnund využije a protivníka porazí. Nato Ǫnund pluje do Irska, kde se věnuje dalším válečným akcím, a po zastávce na Hebridách, kde se žení, se následně vydává do Norska, kde se mstí uchvatitelům svého pozemku. Poté se vydává na Island, kde shromažďuje majetek a buduje rod. V době své smrti je považovaný za nejudatnějšího a nejzručnějšího člověka s protézou v kolektivním povědomí – “Na Islandě nežil nikdy muž o jedné noze, který by byl nad něho odvážnější a zručnější” (Sága o Grettim 11). Dalším Islanďanem s protézou, o kterém víme ze Ságy o lidech z Eyru (18), byl Þóri Dřevěná noha – byl údajně zasažen do stehna, avšak zranění přežil a po zbytek života chodil se dřevěnou nohou, přičemž se dodává, že měl manželství, ze kterého vzešlo potomstvo.

Ačkoli tyto příběhy mohou být upraveny orální a posléze literární tradicí, pro nás relevantní informace vyznívají realisticky. Třebaže bylo zřejmě běžné, že o postižené bylo pečováno doma (Sága o Grettim 4), někteří jedinci z dobrého rodu, kteří byly v kondici, pokračovali přes úpadek sebevědomí ve svém každodenním, náročném životě. V sázce bylo mnoho : pouze skrze riskantní podniky mohli nezadaní mladíci zvýšit své bohatství a status, a tím se uplatnit na sňatkovém trhu, založit rodinu a začít budovat svůj vlastní statek (Raffield et al. 2017). Na Ǫnundově příkladě můžeme pozorovat, že zásahy do spodní části nohou byly běžné. O protézách samotných se zdroje takřka nevyjadřují, víme však, že byly dřevěné.

Poděkování a věnování

Článek, který jsme zde předložili, byl konzultován s chirurgem a reenactorem Zbyňkem Buchtelou, kterému děkujeme za podnětné připomínky. Poděkování zaslouží také švédský reenactor Erik Hörnsten, který nás upozornil na zajímavý nález z varnhemského kláštera. Tento článek bychom rádi věnovali Vojtěchu Šlapákovi a Michaelu Kahnovi.


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Jakobsson’s Hilt Typology

Jan Petersen’s revolutionary thesis De Norske Vikingesverd (1919) became a basis for many authors, who attempted to adjust or complete the work, or replace it with a typology of their own. Such an example is Mikael Jakobsson, who chose a different approach in his thesis Krigarideologi och vikingatida svärdstypologi (Stockholm, 1992), which we analyse in the text below.


The book Krigarideologi och vikingatida svärdstypologi [Warrior ideology and typology of Viking Age swords], which is a published doctoral thesis of the author, is a reputable and very thorough work. Personally, I see its main benefit in advanced analysis using data collected from majority of Europe. His goal is not a revision of Petersen’s hilt typology – with which he basically agrees – but a categorisation of broader hilt groups based on similarities in construction. Jakobsson labels these categories as “design principles”. While Petersen worked with three principles (a group with multi-lobed pommel, a group with simplified pommel, a group of unclassifiable types), Jakobsson expanded the list to six, respectively seven types:

  1. Triangle pommel
  2. Three-lobed pommel
  3. Five or more-lobed pommel
  4. Absenting pommel
  5. Curved guard
  6. Single-pieced pommel
  7. Unclassifiable


Design principle 1 : triangular pommel

Jakobsson’s triangular pommel corresponds to Petersen’s main sword types A, B, C, H and I, plus his special types 3, 6, 8 and 15. The swords using this design principle comprise a substantial part of swords finds portfolio – at least 884 pieces (48%) according to Jakobsson. This equals to 529 swords in Norway (60%), 147 in Sweden (17%), 81 in Finland (9%), 4 in Denmark (0,5%), 94 in Western Europe (11%) and 29 in Eastern Europe (3%). Their origin can be traced to continental swords with pyramid-shaped pommels. This principle emerged in Scandinavia sometime between the half and end of 8th century under the influence of Carolingian swords and remained there until the end of 10th century.

princip1-typyPetersen’s sword types corresponding with Jakobsson‘s design principle 1.

princip1-rozsireniDistribution of design principle 1 pommels, areas of archaeological finds marked with black.

Design principle 2 : three-lobed pommel

The design principle 2 includes variants of type A, types D, E, L, Mannheim, Mannheim/Speyer, R, S, T, U V and Z, older variant of type X and special types 1, 2, 6, 13, 14 and 19. This principle is present at least on 492 swords (26%). This corresponds with 188 swords in Norway (37%), 58 in Sweden (12%), 43 in Finland (9%), 18 in Denmark (4%), 75 in Western Europe (15%) and 110 in Eastern Europe (23%). The origin can be traced to Merovingian swords, with the three-lobed pommel being based on a pommel with animal heads on the sides. This principle appeared in Scandinavia at the end of 8th century under the influence of Early-Carolingian swords, and supported by English influence in 9th century, it remained there until the beginning of 11th century.

princip2-typyPetersen’s sword types corresponding with Jakobsson‘s design principle 2.

Distribution of design principle 2 pommels, areas of archaeological finds marked with black.

Design principle 3 : five and more-lobed pommel

Jakobsson’s design principle 3 includes Petersen’s sword types O, K and the five-lobed variant of type S. This principle is the least numerous with only over 88 swords (5%) and is tighly connected to the design principle 2. In Norway, there are 44 swords (49%), 4 in Sweden (5%), none in Finland, 1 in Denmark (1%), 26 in Western Europe (30%) and 13 in Eastern Europe (15%). Like design principle 2, also the design principle 3 is based on Merovingian pommels with animal heads on pommel sides. It arrived in Scandinavia at the beginning of 9th century and remained until the half of 10th century. The topic five and more-lobed pommels is vaguely analyzed, as there are more than fifty cast bronze pommels that are not included.

princip3-typyPetersen’s sword types corresponding with Jakobsson‘s design principle 3.

Distribution of design principle 3 pommels, areas of archaeological finds marked with black.

Design principle 4 : absenting pommel

With its distinctive upper guard instead of a traditional pommel, design principle 4 includes main types M, P, Q, Y, Æ and special types 5, 17 and 18. We know of at least 712 swords (39%) belonging to this design principle. It is notable that the type M alone is the most numerous of all sword types with more than 432 finds (17%). As for the principle 4, we know of 631 swords in Norway (89%), 23 in Sweden (3%), 14 in Finland (2%), 2 in Denmark (0,3%), 28 in Western Europe (4%) and 14 in Eastern Europe (2%). Design principle 4 was in use from 9th century to sometime during 11th century.

princip4-typyPetersen’s sword types corresponding with Jakobsson‘s design principle 4.

Distribution of design principle 3, areas of archaeological finds marked with black.

Design principle 5 : curved guard

This design principle of swords consists of main type L, Q, T, Y, Z and Æ, variants of types O, K and X, plus special types 7, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19. The number of swords belonging to design principle 5 is somewhere over 482 pieces (26%). In Norway, we know of 312 finds (71%), 32 in Sweden (7%), 23 in Finland (5%), 3 at maximum in Denmark (1%), 45 in Western Europe (10%) and 70 in Eastern Europe (6%). Design principle 5 was in use during the same period as design principle 4 – from the beginning of 9th century till the end of 11th century.

princip5-typyPetersen’s sword types corresponding with Jakobsson‘s design principle 5.

Distribution of design principle 5, areas of archaeological finds marked with black.

Design principle 6 : single-pieced pommel

The distinguishing attribute for design principle 6, containing sword types X and W, is a single-pieced pommel with absenting upper guard. There are over 211 swords (11%) of this kind, with 69 found in Norway (33%), 25 in Sweden (12%), 46 in Finland (22%), 8 in Denmark (4%), 51 in Western Europe (24%) and 12 in Eastern Europe (6%). While Jakobsson suggested design principle 6 coming into use at the end of 9th century or the beginning of 10th century, Jiří Košta proved on a set of type X swords from Moravia area of Mikulčice that this principle could had been in use in Central Europe as early as 9th century. This principle turned out to be dominant and substantial for following medieval weapons.

princip6-typyPetersen’s sword types corresponding with Jakobsson‘s design principle 5.

Distribution of design principle 6, areas of archaeological finds marked with black.


Out of the total of 1900 included swords, as much as 97% can be classified into one or more of the previous six design principles. The remaining 3% (around 60 swords) cannot be categorised as such, because they are either a combination of some of two principles or represent a completely standalone category.

nezaraditelnePetersen’s sword types corresponding with Jakobsson‘s unclassifiable category.

As the research shows, it is possible to see a certain evolution of the individual sword types, with a new type of sword per circa each new generation. On contrary, if we categorise the swords by Jakobsson’s design principles – thus working a wider group of sword types based on clearly defined attributes – the length of usage increases to over 100 years, in some cases even up to 200-250 years, i.e. 6-8 generations. Such a prolonged usage of similar manufacturing process undoubtedly must have a deeper meaning. At least in 10th century, all principles were used simultaneously, so it is not possible to connect different manufacturing processes with different chronology. The same goes with geographical distribution, as all principles were used in the similar area, and with practical features – design principle 1 has no connection between the pommel type and blade type, so we can come across both single- and two-edged swords. Jakobsson therefore suggests the popularity of six different principles being tied to something else entirely – to different strategies for reproducing a symbolical value tied to a physical form.

The symbolical value of swords goes hand to hand with their ownership and usage. The fact that the sword principles emerged in such volatile times filled with war, and that the swords are often found in graves suggests that their owners were perceived as sovereigns and combat capable figures. A sword is therefore a multi-layered expression of independence and legitimate membership of higher society (see The sword biography). This value was undoubtedly reflected by the visage of the sword, with some types or even whole principles being more suitable for such a presentation than others. Individual principles might have held a meaning we are not able to grasp anymore nowadays.

More traditional constructions (most of the principle 1, 2 and 3 swords) consist of heavier, usually decorated multi-pieced pommels and short guards, which are good especially for footed combat. In contrast to this conservative construction with deep roots in previous generations of Germanic weapons, there are lighter, less decorated swords with simple pommels, longer guards and better usage in mounted combat (principle 6, especially the type X). Their owners could had expressed their allegiance to continental aristocracy and fashion which the local elite promoted. This could also be the case of principle 5, which seems to be of Anglo-Saxon origin, with its features being widely replicated at least in Viking-Age Scandinavia. Principle 4 might had been more suitable for a part of population wishing to show their identity of sword owners but could not afford the previously mentioned principles. That is why Petersen‘s type M is the most common sword of the Early Middle-Ages (see Petersens type M swords).

Last but not least, it is important to mention that the weapon distribution throughout Scandinavia was not uniform, and that there were notable differences between rich centres and less important peripheries. In closed communities, such as Iceland and some Scandinavian regions, the weapons were widespread among the population, but swords were held by only the richest and in small numbers. In major centres such as Uppland, Central Sweden (also known as society dividing model), the weapons were mainly owned by warrior nobility, circa in ratio 14 Petersen’s types per 100 swords. In this societal model, the presence and absence of weapons among the wider population is crucial. In contrast to this model stand the peripheries settled by seldom stratified population attempting to demonstrate its power. Such a demonstration usually takes form of cumulation of vast number of weapons (also known as society uniting model), which is based on quantity and quality. This can be seen both in number of swords found in Norway, counting over several thousands, and relatively high diversity of sword types, being 10-13 Petersen‘s types per 100 swords in some areas. The vacuum created by absence of a central ruler is filled by number of lesser chieftains who represent their sovereignty by possession of exclusive equipment. Such a type of society, which uses more swords, preserves this trend and puts even more swords into circulation. Other reasons for the creation of Norwegian model could be interpreted by well-equipped militia, but also in other ways. According to Jakobsson, all the models are as a matter of fact a reflection of the same reality.

Jakobsson‘s work is a semiotic approach to material culture. He attempts to outline a complex relation between a symbol and a context and does not resort only to a single explanation. His approach to the subject is by both analysing the sword categories from broader historical perspective and by considering each of the specific weapons by the local and minor relevance. Despite its useful analyses and extensive appendixes, the book does not receive enough attention after more than 25 years. Nevetherless, Jakobsson‘s research should be revised in order to confirm or disprove its up-to-dateness.

Tomáš Vlasatý
Slaný, Bohemia, 2nd May 2019