Armura lamelară în Scandinavia

vikingerikrig

Reconstituirea războinicului din Birka. Preluat din Hjardar – Vike 2011: 347

Această traducere a fost realizată de către Edwin-Sebastian Marc.

Chestiunea armurii lamelare este un subiect de discuție atât între experți cât și între practicanții de reconstituire istorică. Eu, personal, m-am lovit de câteva ori de subiect și am strâns literatura aferentă. Studiile mele pe acest subiect au ajuns să mă conducă spre vestigiile aproape necunoscute de la Snäckgärde, localitate aflată în apropiere de Visby, pe Insula Gotland. Aceste vestigii nu au supraviețuit până în ziua de astăzi, dar sunt descrise de către Părintele Nils Johan Ekdahl (1799-1870), care este supranumit “primul arheolog științific din Gotland”.

Motivul pentru care vestigiile de la Snäckgärde sunt necunoscute este faptul că au fost descoperite aproximativ acum 200 de ani și apoi pierdute. Literatura în ceea ce le privește este foarte greu accesibilă și în mare parte necunoscută academicienilor de origine non-suedeză. La asta se rezumă tot ceea ce am putut eu găsi: în anul 1826, patru morminte conținând schelete au fost examinate pe situl numit Snäckgärde (Visby, Land Nord, SHM 484), și mormintele cele mai interesante din acestea patru sunt cele numerotate 2 și 4 (Carlson 1988: 245; Thunmark-Nylén 2006: 318):

Mormântul nr. 2: mormânt conținând schelet orientat în direcția sud-nord, tumul sferic înconjurat de pietre. Echipamentul funerar constă dintr-un topor de fier, un inel localizat în jurul taliei, două mărgele opace în zona gâtului și “niște piese de armură pe piept” (något fanns kvar and pansaret på bröstet).

Mormântul nr. 4: mormânt conținând schelet orientat în direcția est-vest, tumul sferic având înălțimea de 0,9 m, cu vârf concav. În interiorul tumulului se afla un sicriu din piatră de var, de dimensiunile 3 m × 3 m (?). Un ac inelat a fost găsit pe umărul drept al mortului. La nivelul talei, un inel făcând parte din curea a fost descoperit. Alte părți componente ale echipamentului erau un topor și “câțiva solzi de armură” (några pansarfjäll) găsiți la nivelul pieptului.

Judecând după vestigiile funerare, se poate presupune că acești doi bărbați au fost înmormântați cu armurile lor. Desigur, nu putem spune cu certitudine ce fel de armuri au fost acestea, dar s-ar părea că este vorba de amuri lamelare, în special datorită analogiilor și mențiunilor solzilor (Thunmark-Nylén 2006: 318). Lena Thunmark- Nylén menționează ambele armuri în publicația ei despre Gotland în perioada vikingă. Fragmentele de ac și curea indică perioada vikingă de asemenea. Totuși, ceea ce este pe departe cel mai important sunt topoarele – conform desenelor lui Ekhdal, toporul din mormântul nr. 2 este un topor lat, în timp ce toporul din mormântul nr. 4 avea mânerul decorat cu alamă. Un topor lat poate fi datat spre sfârșitul secolului al X-lea sau secolul XI timpuriu (Thames, Langeid și alte situri pe insula Gotland vezi articolul meu “Topoare de două mâini”). Ar părea logic să presupunem că ambele morminte ar fi fost construite în același secol, deși există câteva diferențe minore în construcția și orientarea mormintelor.

lamely_birka

Sala din Birka cu vestigiile de inele de zale și lamele. Preluat din Ehlton 2003: 16, Fig. 18. Realizat de Kjell Persson.

În Scandinavia, o singură analogie a unei armuri lamelare (sau mai degrabă fragmente) a fost cunoscută până acum, în Birka (vezi spre exemplu Thordeman 1939: 268; Stjerna 2001; Stjerna 2004; Hedenstierna-Jonson 2006: 55, 58; Hjardar – Vike 2011: 193–195; Dawson 2013 și altele). Lamellele erau răspândite prin așa-numita garnizoană și numărau 720 de piese (cea mai mare bucată era formată din 12 piese). 267 de lamele au putut fi analizate și clasificate în 8 tipuri, care probabil au servit spre protejarea diferitor părți ale corpului. Se estimează că armura din Birka proteja pieptul, spatele, umerii, burta și picioarele până la nivelul genunchilor (Stjerna 2004: 31). Armura a fost datată spre prima parte a secolului al X-lea (Stjerna 2004: 31). Academicienii sunt în consens cu privire la originea nomadic a armurii, aceasta provenind din Asia centrală sau oriental apropiat, și cea mai apropiată paralelă vine din Balkyk-Sook (spre exemplu Dawson 2002; Gorelik 2002: 145; Stjerna 2004: 31). Stjerna (2007: 247) consideră că armura și alte obiecte de calitate excelentă nu erau menite pentru război ci mai degrabă deserveau o funcție simbolică (“Motivul deținerii acestor arme era în mod cert altul decât unul militar sau practic”). Dawson (2013) se opune parțial și susține că armura a fost interpretată greșit, întrucât doar trei tipuri din opt ar fi putut fi lamele, și numărul lamelelor reale nu este suficient pentru o armură pectoral. Concluzia lui este aceea că lamelele din Birka sunt nimic altceva decât resturi reciclate. Având însă amurile din Snäckgärde, care nu sunt incluse în cartea lui Dawson, consider că această concluzie este una repezită.

lamelovka_birka

Reconstituirea armurii din Birka pe baza armurii din Balyk-Sook. Preluat din Hjardar – Vike 2011: 195.

Oamenii cred foarte des că există o grămadă de vestigii din Rusia veche. În realitate însă, nu sunt decât câteva din perioada secolelor IX-XI și pot fi interpretate ca fiind importuri estice, precum exemplul din Birka (conversație personală cu Sergei Kainov; vezi Kirpichnikov 1971: 14-20). Din această perioadă timpurie, vestigiile se găsesc spre exemplu în Gnezdovo și Novgorod. Materialul rusesc datat între secolele XI și XIII este mult mai abundent, incluzând aproximativ 270 de vestigii (vezi Medvedev 1959; Kirpichnikov 1971: 14-20). Totuși, este important să luăm aminte faptul că până în a doua jumătate a secolului al XIII-lea, numărul fragmentelor de zale este de patru ori mai mare decât fragmentele de armură lamelară, indicând faptul că zalele erau tipul de armură predominant în teritoriul Rusiei vechi (Kirpichnikov 1971: 15). Este foarte probabil ca armurile lamelare din Rusia veche să fi fost importate din Bizanț, unde erau dominante datorită design-ului lor mai simplu și ieftin încă din secolul X (Bugarski 2005: 171).

Notă pentru practicanții de reconstituire istorică

Armura lamelară a devenit foarte populară printre cei ce practică reconstituire istorică. La unele festivaluri și evenimente, armurile lamelare reprezintă mai bine de 50% dintre amuri. Argumentele principale pentru uzul acestora sunt:

  • Preț ieftin de producție
  • Protecție sporită
  • Producție mai rapidă
  • Aspect estetic

Deși toate aceste argument sunt de înțeles, trebuie subliniat că armura lamelară nu este în niciun mod potrivită pentru reconstituirea istorică a perioadei vikinge. Argumentul că acest tip de armură era folosit de către ruși poate fi contrazis cu faptul că și în timpul răspândirii cele mai largi al armurilor lamelare în Rusia, numărul zalelor era de patru ori mai mare. Mai mult, armurile lamelare erau importate. Dacă ne ghidăm după idea conform căreia reconstituirea istorică ar trebui bazată pe reconstrucția obiectelor tipice, atunci ar trebui să fie clar că armurile lamelare se potrivesc doar pentru reconstituirea nomazilor și bizantinilor. Același principiu se aplică și armurilor lamelare de piele.

Un exemplu de armură lamelară bine reconstituită. Viktor Kralin.

Pe de altă parte, vestigiile din Birka și Snäckgärde sugerează că acest tip de armură poate fi întâlnit în partea estică a Scandinaviei. Înainte de a trage orice concluzie, trebuie să luăm în considerare faptul că Birka și insula Gotland erau teritorii cu influențe puternice est-europene și bizantine. Acesta este și motivul pentru acumularea artefactelor de proveniență estică, altfel necunoscute în Scandinavia. Oarecum ar fi fost straniu să nu fi avut aceste vestigii, în special din perioada în care erau populare în Bizanț. Totuși, asta nu înseamnă că armurile lamelare erau comune în acel areal. Armura lamelară este izolată de tradiția războinică nordică și armurile de acest tip se mai găsesc uneori în zona baltică până în secolul XIV (Thordeman 1939: 268–269) Armura de zale poate fi identificată ca fiind forma predominantă de armură în Scandinavia perioadei vikinge, precum în Rusia veche. Această afirmație poate fi verificată prin faptul că inele de zale au fost descoperite chiar în Birka (Ehlton 2003). Cu privire la producția armurii lamelare în teritoriul scandinav și rusesc, nu există nici o dovadă pentru a susține că acest lucru s-ar fi întâmplat, și o astfel de producție ar fi fost foarte improbabilă.

Dacă ar fi ca armura lamelară să fie tolerată în reconstituirea istorică a perioadei vikinge, atunci

  • Persoana trebuie să reconstruiască zona baltică sau ruseasc.
  • Trebuie să fie utilizată în număr limitat (o armură lamelară per grup, sau o armură lamelară la fiecare patru armuri de zale).
  • Doar armurile lamelare cu lamele metalice sunt permise, fără lamele de piele sau lamele vizibil tăiate cu laserul.
  • Trebuie să corespundă cu vestigiile din Birka (sau Gnezdovo sau Novgorod), și nu Visby.
  • Nu poate fi combinată cu componente scandinave precum catarame.

Armura trebuie să arate precum originalul și trebuie să fie suplimentată cu echipamentul potrivit, precum coifurile rusești. Dacă ne aflăm într-o dezbatere între pozițiile “Da armurilor lamelare” și “Nu armurilor lamelare”, ignorând posibilitatea “Da armurilor lamelare (fără a se avea în vedere argumentele anterioare)”, eu aleg opțiunea “Nu armurilor lamelare”. Care este opinia voastră?


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Literatură

Bugarski, Ivan (2005). A contribution to the study of lamellar armors. In: Starinar 55, 161—179. Online: http://www.doiserbia.nb.rs/img/doi/0350-0241/2005/0350-02410555161B.pdf.

Carlsson, Anders (1988). Penannular brooches from Viking Period Gotland, Stockholm.

Ehlton, Fredrik (2003). Ringväv från Birkas garnison, Stockholm. Online: http://www.erikds.com/pdf/tmrs_pdf_19.pdf.

Dawson, Timothy (2002). Suntagma Hoplôn: The Equipment of Regular Byzantine Troops, c. 950 to c. 1204. In: D. Nicolle (ed.). Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour, Woodbridge, 81–90.

Dawson, Timothy (2013). Armour Never Wearies : Scale and Lamellar Armour in the West, from the Bronze Age to the 19th Century, Stroud.

Gorelik, Michael (2002). Arms and armour in south-eastern Europe in the second half of the first millennium AD. In: D. Nicolle (ed.). Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour, Woodbridge, 127–147.

Hedenstierna-Jonson, Charlotte (2006). The Birka Warrior – the material culture of a martial society, Stockholm. Online: http://su.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:189759/FULLTEXT01.pdf.

Kirpichnikov, Anatolij N. (1971). Древнерусское оружие. Вып. 3. Доспех, комплекс боевых средств IX—XIII вв, Moskva.

Medvedev, Аlexandr F. (1959) К истории пластинчатого доспеха на Руси //Советская археология, № 2, 119—134. Online: http://swordmaster.org/2010/05/10/a-f-medvedev-k-istorii-plastinchatogo-dospexa-na.html.

Stjerna, Niklas (2001). Birkas krigare och deras utrustning. In: Michael Olausson (ed.). Birkas krigare, Stockholm, 39–45.

Stjerna, Niklas (2004). En stäppnomadisk rustning från Birka. In: Fornvännen 99:1, 28–32. Online: http://samla.raa.se/xmlui/bitstream/handle/raa/3065/2004_027.pdf?sequence=1.

Stjerna, Niklas (2007). Viking-age seaxes in Uppland and Västmanland : craft production and eastern connections. In: U. Fransson (ed). Cultural interaction between east and west, Stockholm, 243–249.

Thordeman, Bengt (1939). Armour from the Battle of Wisby: 1361. Vol. 1 – Text, Stockholm.

Thunmark-Nylén, Lena (2006). Die Wikingerzeit Gotlands III: 1–2 : Text, Stockholm.

Armature Lamellari di epoca vichinga in Scandinavia

vikingerikrig

Ricostruzione di un guerriero di Birka, tratto da Hjardar – Vike 2011: 347.

Le domande relative all’uso dell’armatura lamellare sono frequenti sia tra gli esperti che tra i rievocatori. Io stesso ho voluto affrontare l’argomento in più di un’occasione ed ho raccolto diverse documentazioni a riguardo. Le mie ricerche mi hanno portato fino a reperti pressoché sconosciuti trovati a Snäckgärde, vicino a Visby, Gotland, che, nonostante non siano stati conservati, vennero descritti da Nils Johan Ekdahl Nils Johan Ekdahl (1799-1870), un sacerdote considerato “il primo archeologo scientifico di Gotland”.

I resti di Snäckgärde vennero trovati meno di 200 anni fa e poco dopo furono smarriti, perciò la letteratura che ne parla non è facilmente accessibile ed è, per lo più, sconosciuta ai ricercatori non svedesi. Ciò che sono riuscito a scoprire fu che, nel 1826, quattro tombe vennero aperte e gli scheletri al loro interno furono esaminati direttamente sul sito di Snäckgärde (Visby, Land Nord, SHM 484), e i dettagli più interessanti riguardano le tombe numero 2 e 4 (Carlson 1988: 245; Thunmark-Nylén 2006: 318):

Tomba 2: scheletro orientato in direzione Nord- Sud, tumulo sferico con pietre allineate. Il corredo funerario consisteva in un ascia di ferro, un anello situato ad altezza vita, due perle opache nella zona del collo e “alcuni pezzi di armatura sul petto” (något fanns kvar and pansaret på bröstet).

Tomba 4: scheletro orientato in direzione Est- Ovest, tumulo sferico alto 0.9 m con sommità incavata. Al suo interno si trovava una bara di calcare di dimensione 3m x 3m (?). Sulla spalla del defunto venne trovata una fibula ad anello, mentre ad altezza vita venne trovato un anello per cintura. Altri ritrovamenti furono: un’ascia e “alcune scaglie di un’ armatura” (några pansarfjäll) trovate sul petto.

A giudicare dai resti funerari, si può supporre che questi due uomini siano stati sepolti con le loro armature. Naturalmente, non possiamo dire con certezza che tipo di armatura fosse, ma apparentemente potrebbero sembrare armature lamellari, come sembrano dimostrare l’analogia e le scaglie menzionate (Thunmark-Nylén 2006: 318). Datarle risulta complesso. Lena Thunmark-Nylén menzionò entrambe le armature nelle sue pubblicazioni, datandole come appartenenti all’era vichinga, per via delle caratteristiche della fibula e dell’anello trovato in prossimità della vita. Tuttavia, ciò che ritengo importante sono le asce – secondo i disegni di Ekhdal, l’ascia della tomba n. 2 è un’ascia ampia mentre quella della tomba n.4 aveva l’impugnatura decorata in ottone. L’ascia ampia potrebbe essere datata tra la fine del X e l’inizio del XI secolo, mentre il manico rivestito di ottone è una caratteristica di alcune asce dei primi anni del XI sec. (vedi il mio articolo Two-handed axes“). Sembra logico supporre che entrambe le tombe siano state edificate nel medesimo periodo, anche se sono presenti alcune piccole differenze tra le costruzioni e l’orientamento delle sepolture.

lamely_birka

La sala di Birka con reperti di anelli di cotta di maglia e lamelle. Tratto da Ehlton 2003: 16, fig. 18. Creato da Kjell Persson.

In Scandinavia solo un’analoga armatura lamellare (o meglio a scaglie) è conosciuta finora, da Birka (vedi per esempio hordeman 1939: 268; Stjerna 2001; Stjerna 2004; Hedenstierna-Jonson 2006: 55, 58; Hjardar – Vike 2011: 193–195; Dawson 2013 ecc.). Le lamelle erano sparse attorno alla cosiddetta guarnigione (Garnison) in un totale di 720 frammenti (il pezzo più grande comprendeva 12 lamelle), di cui solo 267 vennero analizzati e classificati in 8 categorie, le quali probabilmente servivano per proteggere diverse parti del corpo. Si pensa che l’armatura di Birka proteggesse il petto, la schiena, le spalle, l’addome e le gambe fino alle ginocchia (Stjerna 2004: 31). L’armatura è datata alla prima metà del X sec. (Stjerna 2004: 31). I ricercatori concordano sulla sua origine nomade dal Vicino o Medio Oriente e l’esempio più vicino viene da Balyk-Sook ( per es. Dawson 2002; Gorelik 2002: 145; Stjerna 2004: 31). Stjerna (2007: 247) ritiene che le armature e gli altri elementi non siano stati progettati a scopi bellici, bensì simbolici (detenere questi equipaggiamenti, infatti, andava sicuramente oltre allo scopo pratico o militare). Dawson (2013), opposto a questa versione, sostiene che l’armatura sia stata mal interpretata, in quanto solo tre tipi su otto potrebbero essere considerati lamelle, e il loro numero non è sufficiente per coprire la metà del petto. In conclusione sostiene che le lamelle di Birka siano solo scarti riciclati. Tuttavia, questa mi sembra una conclusione affrettata alla luce dell’armatura di Snäckgärde, che l’autore non ha preso in considerazione.

lamelovka_birka

Ricostruzione dell’armatura di Birka sulla base dell’armatura di Balyk-Sook. Tratto da Hjardar – Vike 2011: 195.

Vari reperti di questo tipo, infatti, vennero trovati nei territori appartenenti ai Rus datati tra il IX e l’XI secolo, alcuni dei quali possono essere interpretati come importazione orientale, proprio come l’esempio di Birka (conversazione personale con Sergei Kainov; vedi Kirpichnikov 1971: 14-20). Di recente sono stati trovati alcuni reperti in Russia, in particolare nelle antiche città di Gnezdovo e Novgorod. Il materiale Rus di questo tipo viene datato tra l’XI e il XIII secolo, e i ritrovamenti sono molto più numerosi, includendo circa 270 resti (vedi Medvedev 1959; Kirpichnikov 1971: 14-20). Tuttavia, è importante notare che fino alla seconda metà del XIII sec. il numero di frammenti di cotta di maglia è quattro volte più alto rispetto al numero di frammenti di lamelle, sottolineando il fatto che la cotta fosse il tipo di armatura predominante nei territori Russi (Kirpichnikov 1971: 15). Con molta probabilità, l’antica armatura lamellare Rus di epoca vichinga proveniva da Bisanzio dove, già nel X secolo, era il modello più usato in virtù del design più semplice e del costo inferiore(Bugarski 2005: 171).

Nota per i Rievocatori

L’armatura lamellare è diventata popolare tra i rievocatori. In alcuni eventi, queste protezioni rappresentano il 50% delle armature utilizzate. I motivi principali sono:

  • Basso costo di produzione
  • Maggiore protezione
  • Produzione più rapida
  • Estetica

Sebbene questi motivi siano comprensibili, è necessario sottolineare che l’armatura lamellare non sia adatta per la rievocazione d’epoca vichinga. L’argomentazione secondo cui questo tipo di armatura sia stata usata dai Rus può essere contrastata dal fatto che, anche nel periodo della grande espansione delle lamellari in Russia, il numero delle protezioni in cotta era comunque quattro volte superiore. Inoltre, questo tipo di armatura fu importata. Quindi, se teniamo a mente che la rievocazione debba basarsi sulla ricostruzione di oggetti tipici, dev’essere chiaro che l’armatura lamellare sarebbe più adatta per rievocazioni di popoli nomadi e bizantine. Lo stesso vale per l’armatura lamellare in cuoio.

Esempio di armatura lamellare ben ricostruita. Viktor Kralin.

D’altro canto, i resti di Birka e Snäckgärde ci suggeriscono che questo tipo di armatura potrebbe essere stato usato nella regione orientale della Scandinavia. Prima di trarre qualsiasi conclusione, dobbiamo tenere in considerazione che Birka e Gotland erano territori che subirono molte influenze dall’est Europa e da Bisanzio. Questo è il motivo della presenza di molti manufatti provenienti da oriente, altrimenti non conosciuti in Scandinavia. In un certo senso sarebbe strano non avere ritrovato questi reperti, soprattutto nel periodo durante il quale erano diffusi nell’impero bizantino. Ciò non significa che l’armatura lamellare fosse comune in quest’area, anzi, rimase lontana dalla tradizione norrena, e soltanto qualche protezione di questo tipo fu utilizzata nelle regioni baltiche fino il XIV secolo (Thordeman 1939: 268–269). Quindi, non ci sono prove a sostegno del fatto che le armature lamellari potessero essere utilizzate, e la produzione ne era altamente improbabile. Per quanto riguarda la cotta di maglia, invece, può essere considerata l’armatura predominante nella Scandinavia dell’epoca vichinga, come nei territori dell’antica Russia, e ciò può essere verificato anche confrontando gli anelli trovati nella stessa Birka (Ehlton 2003).

Per includere l’armatura lamellare nelle rievocazioni vichinghe:

  • Il rievocatore dovrebbe ricostruire l’area baltica o Rus.
  • Dovrebbe essere utilizzata in numero limitato (una lamellare per gruppo, oppure una lamellare ogni quattro cotte di maglia).
  • Dovrebbero essere prese in considerazione soltanto armature lamellari di metallo, non di cuoio e, nel caso in cui venisse eseguito il taglio al laser, non dovrebbe essere visibile.
  • Deve corrispondere ai reperti di Birka (o Gnezdovo o Novgorod), non a quelli di Visby.
  • Non possono essere associate ad altri elementi di origine scandinava, come le fibbie.

L’armatura deve, inoltre, assomigliare all’originale ed essere accompagnata da un equipaggiamento adeguato, come elmi russi. Se fossimo in dibattito tra le due posizioni “sì alle lamellari” o “no alle lamellari”, personalmente opterei per l’opzione “no alle lamellari”. Voi cosa ne pensate?


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Bibliografia

Bugarski, Ivan (2005). A contribution to the study of lamellar armors. In: Starinar 55, 161—179. Online: http://www.doiserbia.nb.rs/img/doi/0350-0241/2005/0350-02410555161B.pdf.

Carlsson, Anders (1988). Penannular brooches from Viking Period Gotland, Stockholm.

Ehlton, Fredrik (2003). Ringväv från Birkas garnison, Stockholm. Online: http://www.erikds.com/pdf/tmrs_pdf_19.pdf.

Dawson, Timothy (2002). Suntagma Hoplôn: The Equipment of Regular Byzantine Troops, c. 950 to c. 1204. In: D. Nicolle (ed.). Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour, Woodbridge, 81–90.

Dawson, Timothy (2013). Armour Never Wearies : Scale and Lamellar Armour in the West, from the Bronze Age to the 19th Century, Stroud.

Gorelik, Michael (2002). Arms and armour in south-eastern Europe in the second half of the first millennium AD. In: D. Nicolle (ed.). Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour, Woodbridge, 127–147.

Hedenstierna-Jonson, Charlotte (2006). The Birka Warrior – the material culture of a martial society, Stockholm. Online: http://su.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:189759/FULLTEXT01.pdf.

Kirpichnikov, Anatolij N. (1971). Древнерусское оружие. Вып. 3. Доспех, комплекс боевых средств IX—XIII вв, Moskva.

Medvedev, Аlexandr F. (1959) К истории пластинчатого доспеха на Руси //Советская археология, № 2, 119—134. Online: http://swordmaster.org/2010/05/10/a-f-medvedev-k-istorii-plastinchatogo-dospexa-na.html.

Stjerna, Niklas (2001). Birkas krigare och deras utrustning. In: Michael Olausson (ed.). Birkas krigare, Stockholm, 39–45.

Stjerna, Niklas (2004). En stäppnomadisk rustning från Birka. In: Fornvännen 99:1, 28–32. Online: http://samla.raa.se/xmlui/bitstream/handle/raa/3065/2004_027.pdf?sequence=1.

Stjerna, Niklas (2007). Viking-age seaxes in Uppland and Västmanland : craft production and eastern connections. In: U. Fransson (ed). Cultural interaction between east and west, Stockholm, 243–249.

Thordeman, Bengt (1939). Armour from the Battle of Wisby: 1361. Vol. 1 – Text, Stockholm.

Thunmark-Nylén, Lena (2006). Die Wikingerzeit Gotlands III: 1–2 : Text, Stockholm.

The helmet from Gjermundbu

On March 30 1943, Universitetets Oldsaksamling in Oslo gained the information that a farmer named Lars Gjermundbo found and dug into a huge mound on his land near the farm of Gjermundbu, Buskerud county, southern Norway. The place was examined by archaeologists (Marstrander and Blindheim) the next month and the result was really fascinating.

gjerm1

The plan of the mound. Taken from Grieg 1947: Pl. I.

The mound was 25 meters long, 8 meters broad in the widest place and 1.8 meters high in the middle part. The most of the mound was formed by stony soil; however, the interior of the middle part was paved with large stones. Some stones were found even on the surface of the mound. In the middle part, about one meter below the surface and under the stone layer, the first grave was discovered, so called Grav I. 8 meters from Grav I, in the western part of the mound, the second grave was found, Grav II. Both graves represent cremation burials from the 2nd half of the 10th century and are catalogized under the mark C27317. Both graves were documented by Sigurd Grieg in Gjermundbufunnet : en høvdingegrav fra 900-årene fra Ringerike in 1947.

Grav I consists of dozens of objects connected to personal ownership and various activities, including fighting, archery, horse riding, playing games and cooking. Among others, the most interesting are unique objects, like the chain-mail and the helmet, which became very famous and are mentioned or depicted in every relevant publication.

Předpokládaná rekonstrukce bojovníka uloženého v Gjermundbu, 10. století. Podle

Possible reconstruction of the gear that was found in Grav I, Gjermundbu. Taken from Hjardar – Vike 2011: 155. The shape of the aventail is the weak point of the reconstruction.

© 2016 Kulturhistorisk museum, UiO

The helmet is often described as being complete and being the only known Viking Age helmet we know. Unfortunately, it is not true, for at least two reasons. Firstly, the helmet is not by any means complete – it shows heavy damage and consists of only 17 fragments in the current state, which means one-fourth or one-third of the helmet. To be honest, fragments of the helmet are glued onto a plaster matrix (some of them in the wrong position) that has the rough form of the original helmet. Careless members of academia present this version as a reconstruction in the museum and in books, and this trend is then copied by reenactors and the general public. I have to agree with Elisabeth Munksgaard (Munksgaard 1984: 87), who wrote: “The Gjermundbu helmet is neither well preserved nor restored.

The current state of the helmet. Picture taken by Vegard Vike.

Secondly, there are at least 5 other published fragments of helmets spread across Scandinavia and areas with strong Scandinavian influence (see the article Scandinavian helmets of the 10th century). I am aware of several unpublished depictions and finds, whose reliability can not be proven. Especially, helmet fragments found in Tjele, Denmark, are very close to Gjermundbu helmet, since they consist of a mask and eight narrow metal bands 1 cm wide (see the article The helmet from Tjele). Based on the Gjermundbu helmet, Tjele helmet fragments and Kyiv mask (the shape of the original form of Lokrume fragment is unknown), we can clearly say that spectacle helmet type with decorated mask evolved from Vendel Period helmets and was the most dominant type of Scandinavian helmet until 1000 AD, when conical helmets with nasals became popular.

gjermbu8

An old reconstruction of the helmet, made by Erling Færgestad. Taken from Grieg 1947: Pl. VI.

To be fair, the helmet from Gjermundbu is the only spectacle type helmet of the Viking Age, whose construction is completely known. Let’s have a look at it!

gjermundbu

The scheme of the helmet. Made by Tomáš Vlasatý and Tomáš Cajthaml.

My mate Tomáš Cajthaml made a very nice scheme of the helmet, according to my instructions. The scheme is based on Grieg´s illustration, photos saved in the Unimus catalogue and observations made by researcher Vegard Vike.

The dome of the helmet is formed by four triangular-shaped plates (dark blue). Under the gap between each two plates, there is a narrow flat band, which is riveted to a somewhat curved band located above the gap between each two plates (yellow). In the nape-forehead direction, the flat band is formed by a single piece, that is extended in the middle (on the top of the helmet) and forms the base for the spike (light bluethe method of attaching the spike is not known to me). There are two flat bands in the lateral direction (green). Triangular-shaped plates are riveted to each corner of the extended part of the nape-forehead band. A broad band, with visible profiled line, is riveted to the rim of the dome (red; it is not known how the ends of this piece of metal connected to each other). Two rings were connected to the very rim of the broad band, probably remnants of the aventail. In the front, the decorated mask is riveted onto the broad band.

© 2016 Kulturhistorisk museum, UiO

Since all known dimensions are shown in the scheme, let me add some supplementary facts. Firstly, four somewhat curved bands are shown a bit differently in the scheme – they are more curved in the middle part and tapering near ends. Secondly, the spike is a very important feature and rather a matter of aesthetic than practical usage. Regarding the aventail, 5 rings were found around the brim, having the spacing of 2,4-2,7 cm. On contrary to chain-mail, rings from the helmet are very thick and probably butted, since no trace of rivets were found. It can not be said whether they represent the aventail, and if so, what it looked like and whether the aventail was hanging on rings or on a wire that was drawn through the rings (see my article about hanging devices of early medieval aventails). The maximum number of rings used around the brim is 17. Talking about the mask, X-ray showed at least 40 lines, which form eyelashes, similarly to Lokrume helmet mask (see the article The helmet from Lokrume). The lines are too shallow for inlayed wires. Instead, lead-tin alloy was applied and melted during the cremation. The mask shows a two-part construction, overlaped and forge-welded at each temple and in the nose area (according to the X-ray picture taken by Vegard Vike). There is a significant difference between the thickness of plates and bands and the mask; even the mask shows uneven thickness. Initially, the surface of the helmet could be polished, according to Vegard Vike.

I believe these notes will help to the new generation of more accurate reenactors. Not counting rings, the helmet could be formed from 14 pieces and at least 33 rivets. Such a construction is a bit surprising and seems not so solid. In my opinion, this fact will lead to the discussion of reenactors whether the helmet represents a war helmet or rather a ceremonial / symbolical helmet. I personally think there is no need to see those two functions as separated.

I am very indebted to my friends Vegard Vike, who answered all my annoying question, young artist and reenactor Tomáš Cajthaml and Samuel Collin-Latour. I hope you liked reading this article. If you have any question or remark, please contact me or leave a comment below. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.


Bibliography

GRIEG, Sigurd (1947). Gjermundbufunnet : en høvdingegrav fra 900-årene fra Ringerike, Oslo.

HJARDAR, Kim – VIKE, Vegard (2011). Vikinger i krig, Oslo.

MUNKSGAARD, Elisabeth (1984). A Viking Age smith, his tools and his stock-in-trade. In: Offa 41, Neumünster, 85–89.

Lamellar Armours of the Viking Age

This article is a translation of my Czech article “Lamelové zbroje ze Snäckgärde?” (Lamellar Armour from Snäckgärde?). The article was well accepted and was later translated to Spanish (“Armadura lamellar en la Escandinavia vikinga“), German (“Lamellenrüstungen der Wikingerzeit“), Polish (“Pancerze lamelkowe w Skandynawii“), Hungarian (“Lamellás vértek Skandináviában“), Russian (“Ламеллярные доспехи эпохи викингов“), Italian (“Armature Lamellari di epoca vichinga in Scandinavia“) and Portuguese (“Armadura lamelar na Escandinávia Viking“).

Lamellar armours in Scandinavia
vikingerikrig

The reconstruction of the Birka warrior. Taken from Hjardar – Vike 2011: 347.

The question of lamellar armour is popular among both experts and reenactors. I myself have dealt with this issue several times and I have collected the literature. My research led me to virtually unknown finds from Snäckgärde, which lies near Visby on Gotland. These finds did not survive, but are described by priest Nils Johan Ekdahl (1799–1870), which is called “the first scientific Gotlandic archaeologist.”

The reason why finds from Snäckgärde are unknown is that they were discovered almost 200 years ago and were lost. The literature about them is hardly accessible and mostly unknown for scholars of non-Swedish origin.  All I managed to find is this: in the year 1826, four graves with skeletons were examined in the site called Snäckgärde (Visby, Land Nord, SHM 484), and the most interesting of these four graves are those with number 2 and 4 (Carlson 1988: 245; Thunmark-Nylén 2006: 318):

Grave no. 2: grave with skeleton oriented in the south-north direction, spherical mound lined with stones. The funeral equipment consisted of an iron axe, a ring located at the waist, two opaque beads in the neck area and “some pieces of armour on the chest” (något fanns kvar and pansaret på bröstet).

Grave no. 4: grave with skeleton in east-west direction, spherical mound, 0.9 meter high, with sunken top. Inside the mound, there was a coffin of limestone, with dimensions of 3 m × 3 m (?). A ringed-pin was found the right shoulder of the dead. At waist level, a ring from the belt was discovered. Another parts of the equipment were an axe and “several scales of armour” (några pansarfjäll), found at the chest.

Judging by the funerary remains, it can be assumed that two men were laid in these mounds with their armours. Of course, we can not say for sure what kind of armours they were, but they seem to be lamellar armour, especially because of analogies and the mention of scales (Thunmark-Nylén 2006: 318). Dating is problematic. Lena Thunmark-Nylén mantioned both armours in her publications about Viking Age Gotland. Pins and belt fragments also points to the Viking Age. However, what is the most important are axes – according to Ekhdal´s drawings, the axe from the grave no. 2 is a broad axe, while the axe from the grave no. 4 had the handle decorated with brass. A broad axe could be dated from the end of the 10th or from early 11th century, and the brass coated handle is a feature of some axes from the early 11th century (Thames, Langeid and another sites on Gotland, see my article “Two-handed axes). It seems logical to suppose that both graves were constructed in the same century, although there are some minor differences in the construction and the orientation of graves.

lamely_birka

The hall of Birka with finds of chainmail rings and lamellae. Taken from Ehlton 2003: 16, Fig. 18. Made by Kjell Persson.

In Scandinavia, only one analogy of lamellar armour (or rather fragments) has been known so far, from Birka (see for example Thordeman 1939: 268; Stjerna 2001; Stjerna 2004Hedenstierna-Jonson 2006: 55, 58; Hjardar – Vike 2011: 193–195; Dawson 2013 and others). Lamellae were scattered around the so called Garrison (Garnison) and they number 720 pieces (the biggest piece consisted of 12 pieces). 267 lamellae could be analyzed and classified into 8 types, which probably served to protect different parts of the body. It is estimated that the armour from Birka protected the chest, back, shoulders, belly and legs down to knees (Stjerna 2004: 31). The armour was dated to the first part of 10th century (Stjerna 2004: 31). Scholars agree on it´s nomadic origin from Near or Middle East and it´s closest paralel comes from Balyk-Sook (for example Dawson 2002; Gorelik 2002: 145; Stjerna 2004: 31). Stjerna (2007: 247) thinks that armour and other excelent objects were not designed for war and were rather symbolic („The reason for having these weapons was certainly other than military or practical“). Dawson (2013) stands partially in opposition and claims that the armour was wrongly interepreted, because only three types from eight could be lamellae and the number of real lamellae is not enough for a half of chest armour. His conclusion is that lamellae from Birka are only pieces of recycled scrap. In the light of armours from Snäckgärde, which are not included in Dawson´s book, I consider this statement to be hasty.

lamelovka_birka

The reconstruction of the Birka armour on the basis of Balyk-Sook armour. Taken from Hjardar – Vike 2011: 195.

People often think that there are many finds from the area of Old Russia. In fact, there are only a few finds from the period of 9th-11th century and they can be interpreted as eastern import, just like the example from Birka (personal conversation with Sergei Kainov; see Kirpichnikov 1971: 14-20). From this early period, finds come for example from Gnezdovo and Novgorod. The Russian material dated between 11th-13th is much more abundant, including about 270 finds (see Medvedev 1959; Kirpichnikov 1971: 14-20). However, it is important to note that until the second half of the 13th century, the number chainmail fragments is four times higher than fragments of lamellar armour, pointing out that the chainmail was the predominant type of armour in the territory of Old Russia (Kirpichnikov 1971: 15). With high probability, Old Russian lamellar armour from the Viking Age came from Byzantium, where they were dominant thanks to their simpler design and lower cost already in the 10th century (Bugarski 2005: 171).

A Note for Reenactors

The lamellar armour has become very popular among reenactors. At some festivals and events, lamellar armours count more than 50% of armours. The main arguments for usage are:

  • Low production price
  • More protection
  • Faster production
  • Great look

While these arguments are understandable, it has to be stressed that lamellar armour is in no way suitable for Viking Age reenactment. The argument that this type of armour was used by Rus can be counteracted by the fact that even in the time of the greatest expansion of lamellar armours in Russia, the number of chainmail armours was four times higher. What is more, lamellar armours were imported. If we keep the basic idea that the reenactment should be based on the reconstruction of typical objects, then it must be clear that the lamellar armour is only suitable for Nomad and Byzantine reenactment. The same applies to leather lamellar armour.

An example of well reconstructed lamellar armour. Viktor Kralin.

On the other hand, the finds from Birka and Snäckgärde suggest that this type of armour could occur in the eastern part of Scandinavia. Before any conclusion, we have to take into consideration that Birka and Gotland were territories of strong influences of Eastern Europe and Byzantium. This is also the reason for accumulation of artifacts of Eastern provenance, otherwise not known from Scandinavia. In a way, it would be strange if we had not these finds, especially from the period when they were popular in Byzantium. However, this does not mean that the lamellar armours were common in this area. Lamellar armour stands isolated from Norse warrior tradition and armours of this type sometimes occured in Baltic region until the 14th century (Thordeman 1939: 268269). Chainmail armour can be identified as the predominant form of armour in Viking Age Scandinavia, like in Old Russia. This statement can be verified by the fact that the chainmail rings were found in Birka itself (Ehlton 2003). Regarding the production of lamellar armour in the Scandinavian and Russian territory, there is no evidence to support that this was happening and such a production is highly improbable.

If lamellar armour should be tolerated in Viking reenactment, then

  • the reenactor has to reenact Baltic area or Rus area.
  • it has to be used in limited number (1 lamellar armour per group or 1 lamellar armour per 4 chainmail armours).
  • only metal lamellar armours are allowed, not leather ones or visibly lasered ones.
  • it has to correspond to finds from Birka (or Gnezdovo or Novgorod), not Visby.
  • it can not be combined with Scandinavian components like buckles.

The armour has to look like the original and has to be supplemented by appropriate gear, like Russian helmets. If we are in a debate between two positions “Yes to lamellar armours” or “No to lamellar armours“, ignoring the possibility “Yes to lamellar armours (without taking aforementioned arguments in account)“, I choose the option “No to lamellar armours”. And what is your opinion?


I hope you liked reading this article. If you have any question or remark, please contact me or leave a comment below. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.


Literature

Bugarski, Ivan (2005). A contribution to the study of lamellar armors. In: Starinar 55, 161—179. Online: http://www.doiserbia.nb.rs/img/doi/0350-0241/2005/0350-02410555161B.pdf.

Carlsson, Anders (1988). Penannular brooches from Viking Period Gotland, Stockholm.

Ehlton, Fredrik (2003). Ringväv från Birkas garnison, Stockholm. Online: http://www.erikds.com/pdf/tmrs_pdf_19.pdf.

Dawson, Timothy (2002). Suntagma Hoplôn: The Equipment of Regular Byzantine Troops, c. 950 to c. 1204. In: D. Nicolle (ed.). Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour, Woodbridge, 81–90.

Dawson, Timothy (2013). Armour Never Wearies : Scale and Lamellar Armour in the West, from the Bronze Age to the 19th Century, Stroud.

Gorelik, Michael (2002). Arms and armour in south-eastern Europe in the second half of the first millennium AD. In: D. Nicolle (ed.). Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour, Woodbridge, 127–147.

Hedenstierna-Jonson, Charlotte (2006). The Birka Warrior – the material culture of a martial society, Stockholm. Online: http://su.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:189759/FULLTEXT01.pdf.

Kirpichnikov, Anatolij N. (1971). Древнерусское оружие. Вып. 3. Доспех, комплекс боевых средств IX—XIII вв, Moskva.

Medvedev, Аlexandr F. (1959) К истории пластинчатого доспеха на Руси //Советская археология, № 2, 119—134. Online: http://swordmaster.org/2010/05/10/a-f-medvedev-k-istorii-plastinchatogo-dospexa-na.html.

Stjerna, Niklas (2001). Birkas krigare och deras utrustning. In: Michael Olausson (ed.). Birkas krigare, Stockholm, 39–45.

Stjerna, Niklas (2004). En stäppnomadisk rustning från Birka. In: Fornvännen 99:1, 28–32. Online: http://samla.raa.se/xmlui/bitstream/handle/raa/3065/2004_027.pdf?sequence=1.

Stjerna, Niklas (2007). Viking-age seaxes in Uppland and Västmanland : craft production and eastern connections. In: U. Fransson (ed). Cultural interaction between east and west, Stockholm, 243–249.

Thordeman, Bengt (1939). Armour from the Battle of Wisby: 1361. Vol. 1 – Text, Stockholm.

Thunmark-Nylén, Lena (2006). Die Wikingerzeit Gotlands III: 1–2 : Text, Stockholm.

The sword from Sarskoe Gorodishche

ANALYSIS
mec_leontiev

A drawing of the sword. Taken from Leontiev 1996 : 120, Fig 47:7.

Sarskoe Gorodishche (Hillfort on the bank of the Sara River) is one of the few settlements on the territory of ancient Russia, where a large amount of Scandinavian material culture occured. Both quality and quantity bears witness of not only trade contacts, but also of direct Scandinavian presence on the site. The most representative collection of Scandinavian objects is weaponry, mainly arrow tips, sword and seax chapes and a sword. The sword will be the topic of this article.

According to some sources, the sword was discovered on the slope of Sarskoe Gorodishche by D. N. Eding and D. A. Ushakov in 1930. However, the sword was firstly published A. N. Kirpichnikov in 1966, as a find from a mound (Kirpichnikov 1966: 80, No. 49). The sword was studied several times (Kirpichnikov 1992: 79, Leontiev 1996: 121; Kainov 2000: 252-256); nevetherless, in 2003, the sword was studied again and some new decoration was discovered. At the present time, the weapon is deposited in Architecture and Art Museum in Rostov (Ростовское архитектурно-художественное музей; catalogue number Р 10335, А- 92).

The lenght of the sword is 94.6 cm, the blade is 78.4 cm long. The blade has the width of 55 mm by the crossguard and 30 mm by the tip (30 mm far from the tip, respectively). The thickness of the blade by the crossguard is 5 mm. The fuller is 23 mm wide and 1 mm deep in the upper part of the blade. The crossguard (lower guard) is 90 mm wide and 20 mm high, while the upper guard (base of the pommel) is 80 mm wide and 20 mm high. The pommel has the height of 46 mm.

description_sword

Description of sword parts, according to Peirce – Oakenshott 2002.

mec_kainov

The sword from Sarskoe Gorodishche. Taken from Kainov 2011: 152, Fig. 10.

Both hilt and blade are very well preserved. The shape of the hilt belongs to the Petersen type E, which was very popular type with at least 130 examples in whole Europe (39 from Sweden, 38 from Norway, 20 from Finland, 15 from the Ancient Rus, 6 from Estonia, 6 from the former Prussia, 4 from Ireland, 1 from Poland and 1 from Denmark; Kainov 2012: 19-21 and my personal observations). More correctly, the shape of the hilt should be classified as the subtype E3. This subtype is “represented by hilts decorated with oval pits arranged in trefoil or quatrefoil compositions” (Androshchuk 2014: 53; Kainov 2001: 57). To compare, Androshchuk lists at least 5 Swedish swords of the subtype E3 (ibid.). Until 2003, all studies had been pointing out that the sword from Sarskoe Gorodishche had been a typical example of this subtype, but after the examination, the sword showed to be rather unique. The reason is its decoration, which is not typical for any subtype of the type E. The decoration is why we should thing the sword forms “a separate variant of the E-type swords” (Kainov 2011: 149).

mec_kainov2

Four main types of pit decoration on swords of the type E (E1, E2, E3, E4). After Kainov 2001: 57, Fig. 4, taken from Androshchuk 2014: 52, Fig. 14.

In 2003, a diagonal grid of inlayed yellow metal wire was discovered on both sides of the pommel. The wire is about 1 mm thick. Such a decoration is very rare and the closest analogies – two swords from Gotland (SHM 16905, GF C 4778) – belong to the Mannheim sword type (special type 2), with not less than 20 examples dating from the second half of the 8th century to the beginning of the 9th century (Kainov 2011: 148).

What is more, the examination discovered the fact that pits situated on the central part of the pommel, upper and lower guards are not oval nor round, but square. To my knowledge, no other sword shows this type of pit decoration. These pits are arranged in a checkerboard pattern, sometimes quite uneven. Corners of pits are connected with grooves, which were probably empty and were punched after applying inlayed stripes from yellow metal. Inlayed stripes always occur in paires or threesomes between pits; they are uneven, with spaces ranging from 0.2 to 1.5 mm.

The upper guard and the pommel were separated with a helix from twisted wires of yellow metal. By the same method, the central part of the pommel was separated from side parts. The helix is stamped in order to form pearl-like balls (so called beaded wire). This method is rare on Viking Age swords, with only several known examples from Norway (C8598 – type E, B6685a – type H), Sweden (SHM 34000:942 – special type, SHM 34000:850 – type H/I), Denmark (C3118 – special type 1), Ireland (WK-5 – type K, WK-33 – type D) or France (JPO 2249 – type H). Ends of wire helix is hidden under the pommel.

Details of the hilt of the sword. Taken from Kainov 2011: Fig. 2-9.

mec_geibig

Geibig’s typology of blades. Taken from Geibig 1991: 84, Abb. 22.

The blade belongs to the Geibig’s type 3, which is dated to period between 750 and 975 AD and is characterised by gently tapering blade with tapering fuller, blade lenght between 74 and 85 cm and blade width between 5.2 and 5.7 cm (Geibig 1991: 86, 154; Jones 2002: 22-23). On one side of the blade, there is an unique Latin inscription +LVNVECIT+, on the other side can be found the sign IᛞI (horizontally situated hourglass with two vertical bars before and after). These inscriptions are made by welding of simple iron rod on the surface. The method of welded inscriptions can be attested on dozens of European swords; the raw material varied from iron and steel rods to pattern welded material (see Moilanen 2006).

The most common welded Latin names on blades are Vlfberht, Ingelrii and Hiltipreht, while the less known are AbboAtalbald, Banto, Benno, (C)erolt, Gecelin, HartolfrInno, (L)eofri(c), LeutlritNisoPulfbrii or Ulen. These names probably denote makers or workshops, since some names have the addition (me)fecit, “made (me)”. Among others, magical formulas occur sometimes (their shortcuts respectively), like SOOSO (“S[ALVATOR] O[MNIPOTENS] O[MNIPOTENS] S[ALVATOR] O[MNIPOTENS]) or INIOINI (I[N] N[OMINE] I[ESU] O[MNIPOTENS] …). As the result, the inscription +LVNVECIT+ (“Lun made”) denote the unknown maker Lun and the sign IᛞI is probably the shortcut for the formula In nomine Iesu (“In the name of Jesus”).

mec_napis

The inscription on the blade. Taken from Kainov 2011: 151, Fig. 4.

Regarding the dating of the sword, it is very complicated to date an untypical object like this one. Besides some exceptions, Scandinavian swords of the type E are dated to the 9th century, while Russian examples are dated to the 10th century (Kainov 2011: 149). So, the shape of the hilt can be dated to the 9th or 10th century. The diagonal inlayed grid on the sides of the pommel has analogies in the 8th and 9th century. The beaded wire was used in the same period, in the 8th and 9th century. The shape of the blade can be dated to the period between 750 and 975 AD. Mentioned Latin names were used from the 9th to 11th century. It seems logic to think that the sword from Sarskoe Gorodishche belongs to the transitional type between the Mannheim type (special type 2) and the type E (Kainov 2011: 149). The sword, or at least the blade, was probably made in the 9th century on the Continent and used until the 10th century by a man with strong connections with Scandinavia.

mec_komplet

The complete sword. Taken from Kainov 2011: 150, Fig. 1.

 

REPRODUCTION

The sword from Sarskoe Gorodishche has been recently (winter 2015 – spring 2016) replicated by famous Belorussian swordmaker, skillful crafter and my friend Dmitry Khramtsov (aka Truin Stenja). Even though I think the sword is the best copy of the found, I hold the opinion that the Dmitry’s version needs a short comment.

mec_arendt

The method of “container” with inner parts braided with silver wire. Taken from Kainov 2011: 24, 28, Fig. 12, 15; Arendt 1936: 314, Fig. 2.

Regarding the sizes, the sword is true copy. The weight of the sword is 1370 grams, an average weight for a type E sword. The inscription was correctly done from iron rods. The handle was made from bog oak, which seems to be a good choice, as no traces of the organic handle survived. The upper guard and the pommel are hollowed, which is characteristic for the type E. Inlayed motives on the hilt (stripes and the diagonal grid) are made from copper alloy wire in the right manner. What is striking on this copy is the usage of silver wire grid in pits and grooves. This decoration is not known from any sword find and it seems like misunderstanding of a rare method used on several swords of types E and T from Sweden (Gräfsta [SHM 19464:6]; Birka grave 524 [SHM 34000:524]), Russia (Gnezdovo mound L-13; Ust-Ribezgno mound XIX and a sword deposited in Kazan museum) and Ukraine (Gulbishche) (see Androshchuk 2014: 53; Arendt 1936; Kainov 2012: 19-25). The method is described by Arendt (1936: 314):

“Both guard and the pommel form a kind of containers or coverings, which contain smaller but equally shaped parts. These latter [inner parts] were braided with silver wires and placed in the way that their crossings were just under the pits in containers.”

It seems that Dmitry based his version on some pictures of destroyed hilts, where the wire jutted out through damaged pits to the surface. However, I still think that Dmitry’s copy is the best version of the sword ever made and that Dmitry took the chance to fill rather illogical (and pattern destroying) grooves with more decoration. We should understand the version as a combination of outstanding replica and a free interpretation of the author.

If you wish to write to the author, please, use this email adress:
truin.dimastai@mail.ru

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

This article would never existed without the spectacular work of Dmitry Khramtsov, who inspired me and kindly send me photos in original resolution. All my thanks and respect also go to Sergey Kainov, who helped me with his best advices and answered all my bothering questions.


I hope you liked reading this article. If you have any question or remark, please contact me or leave a comment below. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Androshchuk 2014 = Androshchuk, F. (2014). Viking swords : swords and social aspects of weaponry in Viking Age societies. Stockholm.

Arendt 1936 = Arendt, W. W. (1936). Ett svärdsfäste från vikingatiden. In: Fornvännen 31, pp. 313-315. Online.

Geibig 1991 = Geibig, A. (1991). Beiträge zur morphologischen Entwicklung des Schwertes im Mittelalter : eine Analyse des Fundmaterials vom ausgehenden 8. bis zum 12. Jahrhundert aus Sammlungen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Neumünster.

Jones 2002 = Jones, L. A. (2002). Overview of Hilt and Blade Classifications. In. Oakeshott E. – Peirce I. G. Swords of the Viking Age, pp. 15-24.

Kainov 2000 = Kainov, S. Yu. (2000). Меч с Сарского городища. / Сообщения Ростовского музея. Вып.Х. pp. 252-256. Online.

Kainov 2001 = Kainov, S. Yu. (2001). Еще раз о датировке гнёздовского кургана с мечом из раскопок М.Ф.Кусцинского (К вопросу о нижней дате Гнёздовского могильника) // Гнёздово. 125 лет исследования памятника. Труды Государственного Исторического музея. Вып. 124, pp. 54-63. Online.

Kainov 2011 = Kainov, S. Yu. (2011). Новые данные о мече с Сарского городища // Военная археология. Вып.2. Сборник материалов Проблемного Совета “Военная археология” при Государственном Историческом музее, pp. 147-152. Online.

Kainov 2012 = Kainov, S. Yu. (2012). Swords from Gnёzdovo. In: Acta Militaria Mediaevalia VIII, pp. 7-68. Online.

Kirpichnikov 1966 = Kirpichnikov, A. N. (1966). Древнерусское оружие: Вып. 1. Мечи и сабли IX– XIII вв.// АН СССР, Москва.

Kirpichnikov 1992 = Kirpichnikov, A. N. (1992). Новообнаруженные клейма раннесредневековых мечей // Fasciculi Archaeologiae Historicae. Fasc. V, pp. 61-81.

Leontiev 1996 = Leontiev А. Е. (1996). Археология мери. К предыстории Северо-Восточной Руси // Археология эпохи великого переселения народов и раннего средневековья. Выпуск 4, Москва.

Moilanen 2009 = Moilanen, M. (2009). On the manufacture of iron inlays on sword blades: an experimental study. In: Fennoscandia archaeologica XXVI: pp. 23-38. Online.

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Scandinavian helmets of the 10th century

In this article, we will have a short look at evidences of helmets used in Scandinavia during the 10th century. Pictures of modern replicas are added as well.

Spectacle helmets:

Nasal helmets:

Unknown types:

Russian helmets in Scandinavia:

Conclusion

Bibliography


Spectacle helmets

Gnëzdovo

Object, context A head on the sacrificial (or weaving?) knife from Gnëzdovo, Russia, mound number 74. 2nd half of the 10th century.
Description The head is rather schematic. Fechner writes, that the head is covered with a helmet that has typical hemisphere shape with spectacle mask. No visible spike on the top, no visible decoration. Sizov´s picture shows rather a head with beard.
Literature Fechner 1965; Sizov 1902: 91, Fig. 59, 60.

 

Gjermundbu

Object, context The only complete Viking Age helmet found in Gjermundbu mound 1, Norway. 2nd half of the 10th century.
Description The dome is made from 4 pieces connected with 4 quadrant ribs of semicircular section. There is a spike on the top and a plate connected to the rim of the dome. The mask is from one piece, is decorated with silvar inlay and is riveted to the plate. There are some traces of the rings on the plate, indicating that a kind of neck guard was used.
Literature Grieg 1947; Tweddle 1992: 1125-1128; Vlasatý 2016

 

Tjele

 

Object, context A mask fragment found among the forging equipment in Tjele, Denmark 2nd half of the 10th century.
Description Iron mask decorated with bronze plates. The nasal is broken. It is possible there were some rivets on the nasal, indicating the mask was made from several pieces.
Literature Kirpichnikov 1973Tweddle 1992. 1126, 1128; Vlasatý 2015b.

 

Kyiv

Object, context A mask from a helmet found in Desjatinna Church in Kyiv, Ukraine. 2nd half of the 10th century.
Description Iron mask decorated with silver and gold coating and silver inlay. The nasal is broken. It is sure there were some rivets on the nasal, indicating the mask was made from several pieces. Some people suggest reversed position of the mask.
Literature Kirpichnikov 1973Tweddle 1992. 1126, 1129; Vlasaty 2018a.

 

Nasal helmets

Middleton

Object, context A Scandinavian (Anglo-Scandinavian?) warrior depicted on the Middleton Cross B, England. 10th century.
Description The head is rather schematic. The helmet has conical shape with integral nasal. No visible decoration.
Literature Graham-Campbell 1980: cat. no. 537.

 

Prague

Object, context The so-called helmet of Saint Wenceslaus. The nasal and the rim are probably of Gotlandic origin, 2nd half of the 10th century, the dome is later addition (but the original dome might be similar).
Description Both nasal and rim are decorated with silver inlay and coating. The decoration of the rim resembles the piece from Lokrume. The figure on the nasal is important example of mixing pagan religion with Christianity.
Literature Hejdová 1964; Vlasaty 2018b.

 

Unknown types

Lokrume

Object, context A mask fragment from a helmet found in Lokrume, Gotland. 2nd half of the 10th century.
Description Iron fragment richly decorated with silver and copper inlay/overlay. The nasal is broken. It is impossible to claim whether the fragment belonged to spectacle or nasal helmets.
Literature Lindqvist 1925; Vlasatý 2015c.

 

Birka

Object, context A fragment of what could be an aventail holder. Found in the hall in Birka, 950 – 970 AD.
Description Gilded iron plate with teeth on one side. A hole for the rivet is visible. This fragment could be used as an aventail holder that can be seen on some early medieval helmets.
Literature Vlasatý 2015a.

 

Russian helmets in Scandinavia

Birka

Object, context Fragments of what could be a Russian helmet. Found in the hall of Birka. 950-970 AD.
Description Two gilded fragments decorated with birds and a flower and one tinned bronze conus. Rests of silvers and iron rivets are still present. It is impossible to claim whether these fragments belonged to one or two helmets.
Literature Holmquist Olausson – Petrovski 2007; Vlasatý 2014.

 

Conclusion

The number of the evidence is sufficient to claim there were 3 types of helmets in Scandinavia during the 10th century. Spectacle helmet was the most dominant and traditional type, nasal helmets probably represent a new Continental fashion and Russian helmets (like spectacle helmets in Gnëzdovo and Kyiv) form the evidence of close relations between Eastern Europe and Eastern Scandinavia. Spectacle helmets were used until 1000 AD, conical helmets with nasals became widespread in the 11th century (Munksgaard 1984: 88).

It has to be stressed that all examples are richly decorated – we can not find any proof of undecorated examples. Undecorated helmets used in 10th century reenactment are rather a reeenactism. Even the nasal of the Saint Wenceslaus helmet is decorated, even though there is no other proof of decorated conical helmet with a nasal. The tradition of helmet decoration has to be seen as important; it is obvious that decorated masks had been used to terrify oponents and to show exceptional status.

We can not see any cheek guards or chainmail aventails on masks – these devices were used on finds from different centuries and were not used in the 10th century.

Old Norse literature, mainly skaldic poetry, can bring some interesting facts as well. For example, Norwegian king Hákon the Good († 961 AD) was buried with his “gilded” helmet and another pieces of gear and his skald Eyvindr praises his arrival to Valhǫll, where he refuses to hand off his equipment.

Many authors claimed there is almost no evidence because of the weight of helmets. However, the true reason of this is that helmets were very expensive and were worn only by nobles and their retinues. The important note is that helmets were purposely destroyed, so we find mostly their masks.

In case of deeper interest, I recommend my further work, Grafnir hjálmar : A Comment on the Viking Age Helmets, Their Developement and Usage (in Czech).


I hope you liked reading this article. If you have any question or remark, please contact me or leave a comment below. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.


Bibliography

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GRAHAM-CAMPBELL, James (1980). Viking Artefacts: A Select Catalogue, London.

GRIEG, Sigurd (1947). Gjermundbufunnet : en høvdingegrav fra 900-årene fra Ringerike, Oslo.

HEJDOVÁ, Dagmar (1964). Přilba zvaná „svatováclavská“. Sborník Národního muzea v Praze, A 18, č. 1–2, Praha.

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.

KALMRING, Sven (2014). A conical bronze boss and Hedeby´s Eastern connection. In: Fornvännen 109, 1–11, Stockholm. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/6845231/A_conical_bronze_boss_and_Hedebys_Eastern_connection

KIRPIČNIKOV, Anatolij N. (1971). Древнерусское оружие: Вып. 3. Доспех, комплекс боевых средств, IX–XIII вв.// АН СССР, Москва.

LINDQVIST, Sune (1925). Vendelhjälmarnas ursprung. In: Fornvännen 20, Stockholm, 181–207. Available at: http://samla.raa.se/xmlui/bitstream/handle/raa/796/1925_181.pdf?sequence=1

MUNKSGAARD, Elisabeth (1984). A Viking Age smith, his tools and his stock-in-trade. In: Offa 41, Neumünster, 85–89.

SIZOV, Vladimír I. (1902). Курганы Смоленской губернии I. Гнездовский могильник близ Смоленска. Материалы по археологии России 28, Санкт-Петербург.

TWEDDLE, Dominic (1992). The Anglian Helmet from 16-22 Coppergate, The Archaeology of York. The Small Finds AY 17/8, York.

VLASATÝ, Tomáš (2014). Fragmenty přilby z Birky. In: Projekt Forlǫg: Reenactment a věda [online]. [cit. 2016-01-03]. Available at: http://sagy.vikingove.cz/fragmenty-prilby-z-birky/

VLASATÝ, Tomáš (2015a). Další fragment přilby z Birky. In: Projekt Forlǫg: Reenactment a věda [online]. [cit. 2016-01-03]. Available at: http://sagy.vikingove.cz/dalsi-fragment-prilby-z-birky/

VLASATÝ, Tomáš (2015b). The helmet from Tjele. In: Projekt Forlǫg: Reenactment a věda [online]. [cit. 2016-01-03]. Available at: http://sagy.vikingove.cz/the-helmet-from-tjele/

VLASATÝ, Tomáš (2015c). The helmet from Lokrume. In: Projekt Forlǫg: Reenactment a věda [online]. [quoted 2016-11-21]. Available at: http://sagy.vikingove.cz/the-helmet-from-lokrume-gotland/

VLASATÝ, Tomáš (2016). The helmet from Gjermundbu. In: Projekt Forlǫg: Reenactment a věda [online]. [quoted 2016-11-21]. Available at: http://sagy.vikingove.cz/the-helmet-from-gjermundbu/

VLASATÝ, Tomáš (2018a). Přilba z Kyjeva. In: Projekt Forlǫg: Reenactment a věda [online]. [quoted 2018-11-24]. Available at: http://sagy.vikingove.cz/prilba-z-kyjeva/

VLASATÝ, Tomáš (2018b). K původu „svatováclavské přilby“. In: Projekt Forlǫg: Reenactment a věda [online]. [quoted 2018-11-24]. Available at: http://sagy.vikingove.cz/k-puvodu-svatovaclavske-prilby/