Scandinavian cloak pins with miniature weathervanes


During my research work, I have long been coming across an unusual type of artefacts, which are being described as miniature weathervanes (Swedish: miniatyrflöjel, miniflöjel, German: Miniaturwetterfahne). After many years, I have decided to take a deep look into these interesting objects and provide the readers with thorough analysis, comments and further references.

Finds description

At the moment, I am aware of eight more or less uniform miniature weathervanes, originating from seven localities. Let us take a detailed look at each of them:

  • Svarta jorden, Birka, Sweden
    At the end of the 19th century, one miniature weathervane was found in the Black Earth (located on Björko) during the excavations led by archaeologist Hjalmar Stolpe. It is 45 mm long and 35 mm wide (Salin 1921: 3, Fig. 4; Sörling 2018: 59). The material is gilded bronze (Lamm 2002: 36, Bild 4a). Currently, the item is stored in The Swedish History Museum under the catalogue number 5208:188; the on-line version of the catalogue also mentions a presence of 85 mm long pole (stång).

    Literature: Salin 1921; Ekberg 2002; Lamm 2002; Lamm 2003; Lamm 2004; Sörling 2018; Thunmark-Nylén 2006; catalogue SHM.

The miniature weathervane from Birka. Source: Salin 1921: Fig. 4; catalogue SHM.

  • Tingsgården, Rangsby, Saltvik, Ålandy
    Most likely in 1881 in Tingsgården, a barrow was found on the land of Ålandian landlord Robert Mattsson, whene he took it apart to use the materials for landscaping. Inside of the barrow, he found a wooden riveted coffin with remnants of coal, bones and an iron object. An archaeological research was conducted in the summer of 1903 by Björn Cederhvarf from The National Museum of Finland, who documented the find and transported it to the museum in Helsinki. The landlord’s son made yet another discovery in the barrow’s ground – a damaged bronze item with stylised animal ornament – a miniature weathervane which was 52 mm long, 37,5 mm wide and weighed 17,6 grams. To this day, the object is stored in The National Museum of Finland, designated by inventory number 4282:13. The Åland Museum only displays a very successful replica (Salin 1921: 20, Fig. 21; Lamm 2002: Bild 4c; Lamm 2004).

    : Salin 1921; Ekberg 2002; Lamm 2002; Lamm 2003; Lamm 2004; Thunmark-Nylén 2006.

A miniature weathervane from Tingsgården. Source: Lamm 2002: Bild 4c; Lamm 2004: Fig. 1.

  • Gropstad, Syrholen, Dala-Floda, Dalarna, Sweden
    Supposedly in 1971, a highly damaged cremation burial was uncovered near Gropstad at Dala-Floda, containing only two fragmentary casts of miniature weathervanes (Frykberg 1977: 25-30). Both were made of bronze and vary in shape, level of conservation and decoration. One of them does not retain pole sockets, has more significant tassels and is of Borre design. The other has pole sockets, but lacks the tassels – instead, it has perforation, which could had been used for tassel attachment – and is decorated with simple concentric circles. Currently, the weathervanes are stored in Dalarnas Museum in Falun, Sweden.

    Literature: Frykberg 1977; Ekberg 2002; Lamm 2002; Lamm 2003; Lamm 2004; Thunmark-Nylén 2006.

Gropstad weathervanes. Source: Lamm 2002: Bild 4e-f.

  • Häffinds, Burs, Bandlunde, Gotland
    Another miniature weathervane was found during excavation of a Viking age marketplace near Häffinds on the eastern coast of Gotland (Thunmark-Nylén 2006: 366-367, Abb. III:40:7:I). The excavation was then led by Göran Burenhult from the Stockholm University and the weathervane was the most interesting item found during the work. The object is made of bronze, measures 53 mm × 42 mm (Thunmark-Nylén 2000: 92) or 54 mm × 43 mm (Lamm 2002: 39, Bild 4g; Lamm 2003: 60). It weighs 26 grams (Lamm 2002: 39). During that time, this particular weathervane brought interest mainly due to having been the first one differentiating from the Birka and Tingsgården finds: it has three pole sockets, the yard ends with animal head terminal and the tassels are pointed.

    : Brandt 1986; Edgren 1988; Thunmark-Nylén 2000; Brandt 2002; Ekberg 2002; Lamm 2002; Lamm 2003; Lamm 2004; Thunmark-Nylén 2006.

Häffinds weathervane. Source: Thunmark-Nylén 2006: Abb. III:40:7:I; Lamm 2002: Bild 4g.

  • Söderby, Lovö, Uppland, Sweden
    A completely shape-identical bronze weathervane was found in spring of 2002 during excavation in Söderby, Sweden, lead by Bo Petré. It was unearthed in a particularly interesting cremation grave A 37 – it seems the grave was deliberately dug within a Bronze Age barrow, and the dead (presumed male) was laid on a bear fur along with dogs, a horse, a chest, a long knife, a silver-posament decorated clothing, two oriental silver coins from 9th century, a comb, a whetstone, two ceramic cups and an iron necklace with a hammer pendant and then cremated (Petré 2011: 60-61). The weathervane is 48 mm long, 37 mm wide and weighs 19,9 grams. Three pole sockets hold a bronze circular shaft, which is broken on both ends (Lamm 2002: 39). The grave has been dated to 10th century (Lamm 2002: 39). Currently, the item is stored in The Swedish History Museum under catalogue number 26192 (F2).

    : Ekberg 2002; Lamm 2002; Lamm 2003; Lamm 2004; Thunmark-Nylén 2006; Petré 2011; catalogue SHM.

Söderby weathervane. Source: catalogue SHM.

  • Novoselki, Smolensk, Russia
    After the Söderby weathervane find, Jan Peder Lamm, the author of an article about miniature weathervanes, received a message of yet another object from Russian archaeologist Kirill Michailov of the IIMK Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences. The miniature weathervane was excavated in Novoselki village in Smolensk area. The message also included a drawing, produced by Mr. Michailov himself after the find in 1996. The drawing shows that the item is the same type like the Häffinds and Söderby finds, though differentiating in the number of pole sockets – having only two instead of three and mounted with an iron shaft. Dr. Lamm stated (Lamm 2002: 40; Lamm 2003: 61) that the find originates from the grave nr. 4, which was marked as incorrect after the publication of E. A. Schmidt’s find in 2005. Schmidt (Schmidt 2005: 196, Il. 11:2) claims that the miniature weathervane was found in the grave nr. 6, along with a spearhead, a knife and a ceramic cup. The object was depicted with a long needle pin and a ring in the form of clothing pin. Personal interviews conducted with archaeologists Sergei Kainov (State Historical Museum of Russia), Kirill Mikhailov (Institute for the History of Material Culture, Russia) and jeweller Vasily Maisky indicate that Schmidt’s drawing is a reconstruction and that the weathervane (which is now stored in The Smolensk State Museum-Preserve under inventory number 23656/1-9) is broken to pieces and lacks the central part with the ring. Despite that, there is no reason not to trust in Schmidt’s reconstruction; it only means that not all of the pieces of the original find are on display.

    Literature: Ekberg 2002; Lamm 2002; Lamm 2003; Lamm 2004; Schmidt 2005; Thunmark-Nylén 2006.

A drawing of the Novoselki weathervane. Source: Kirill Michailov; Lamm 2004: Fig. 7.

The miniature weathervane from Novoselki. Source: Vasilij “Gudred” Maiskij.

A drawing of the weathervane from Novoselki. Source: Schmidt 2005: 196, Il. 11:2.

  • Menzlin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany
    During the autumn of 2002, the International Sachsensymposion (Internationales Sachsensymposion 2002) was organised at the Schwerin castle, where Dr. Lamm held a speech on then newly excavated Söderby and Novoselki weathervanes. After the presentation, he was informed by Friedrich Lüth about yet another, similar object found nearby, at the Viking age trading centre Menzlin. The very same day, Mr. Lamm went to see the find that was deposited in a special showcase in Menzlin, which is used for displaying newly excavated items from the area. He acknowledged that the item is in fact a miniature weathervane and is very similar to the Birka and Tingsgården finds (Lamm 2003). The weathervane was probably excavated in 1999 and published the next year (Schirren 2000: 472, Abb. 136:1). As far as we can tell from the detailed photos, it is about 50 mm long and 38 mm wide.

    : Schirren 2000; Ekberg 2002; Lamm 2002; Lamm 2003; Lamm 2004; Thunmark-Nylén 2006.

Menzlin weathervane. Source: Lamm 2003: Abb. 1.

Looking at the finds, we can clearly define two standardized types of the miniature weathervanes – the “Birka type” and the “Häffinds type” – along with the unusual and atypic pieces (Gropstad). Next, we will take a closer look at the presumed function of these objects and the symbolism of miniature weathervanes in Old-Norse culture.

Map of the miniature weathervane finds mentioned in the article. Source: Lamm 2004: Fig. 2.

The function of miniature weathervanes

Jan Peder Lamm had three theories on the possible function of miniature weathervanes. According to him, they were mainly a status symbols and pieces of artistic value. At the same time, he held the opinion of the objects being a part of boat-models, similar to ship-shaped candlesticks (Lamm 2002: 40; Lamm 2003: 61; Lamm 2004: 138), which we know from Norwegian church environment of 12th and 13th century (Blindheim 1983: 96, Fig. 7). The third supposed function was in a seafaring naviagion tool – Mr. Lamm suggested the weathervanes could had been used to help with determining angular height of astronomical objects. This theory was pursued before Lamm by Engström and Nykänen (Engström – Nykänen 1996) but was denoted as surreal and inconclusive (Christensen 1998).

As far as we can tell, the theory of boat models does not fit most of the listed finds. The boat-shaped candlestick platforms are at least two centuries younger and we have only one pair-find of the weathervanes from Gropstad. Thus, it is more probable that the Viking-Age miniature weathervanes were a part of clothing pins, as can be seen at the example from Novoselku. It seems that the poles were narrowed on the inserting part, while having the tip widened and flattened. Below the weathervane, there was a eyelet for attaching a string, which was used for fixing the pin. This method was most likely used for cloak fastening. The standardized look can indicate a centralized manufacture and distribution via for example gift-giving.

Cloak pins with miniature weathervanes made by Vasili “Gudred” Maisky.

Weathervane symbolism

The literature on miniature weathervanes was to a major extent focused on symbolism that was presumed the items had. From the era between 1000-1300 AD, we know of at least five complete Scandinavian weathervanes and several of their fragments – all of which were made from gilded high-percentage copper (Blindheim 1983: 104-105). That is in compliance with literary sources, which place gilded weathervanes (oldnorse: veðrviti) at the bow of the war ships of important personas (Blindheim 1983: 93; Lamm 2003: 57). The bow-situated weathervanes can also be found in 11th-13th century iconography, while in the older iconography, the weathervanes can also be found on masts (Blindheim 1983: 94-98; Lamm 2004: 140; Thunmark-Nylén 2006: 367). Aside of that, we also have several instances of the weathervane motive used on metal applications of horse harnesses, pendants and – as discussed above – as clothes pins, which are very faithful miniatures of the genuine ship weathervanes.

Scandinavian weathervanes and their fragments, 1000-1300 AD.

From the upper-left: Källunge weathervane, Heggen weathervane, Söderal weathervane, Tingelstad weathervane, Høyjord weathervane, a horse figurine from the Lolland weathervane. Source: Blindheim 1983: Figs. 1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 20.

Selection of miniature weathervanes depicted in iconography, 800-1300 AD.

From the left: Sparlösa runestone, Stenkyrka runestone, Bergen engraving, engravings from churches in Borgund, Urnes and Kaupanger. Source: Lamm 2004: Fig. 10; Blindheim 1983: Figs. 8, 10, 11, 12.

Horse harness fittings in a shape of weathervane, Borre and Gnezdovo.
Source: Myhre – Gansum 2003: 27; Lamm 2004: Fig. 9; catalogue Unimus.

Norwegian church boat-shaped candlesticks with weathervanes, 1100-1300 AD.

The weathervanes first started to appear on bow of the ships as early as 11th century, when they began to replace the wooden heads. Their function did not change though – the weathervanes were also removable, and the animals depicted on them were meant to frighten any chaotic agents dwelling along the journey. At the same time, the weathervane posed as a revering representation of the ship’s owner and thus presented a clearly distinguishable symbol. It is often stated that the function of weathervanes changed throughout the following ages, finding the usage on church buildings. However, according to Martin Blindheim (1983: 107-108), the old Norwegian military service laws mention that important ship equipment was stored in churches, and while the rest of the equipment (sails, ropes) fell victim to the passing of time, the weathervanes survived and became a permanent property of the churches. The connection of a church and a ship in naval-oriented Scandinavia is also backed up by the church boat-shaped candlesticks.

At the very least we can say that during the Viking Age, the weathervane was perceived as a property of the ship’s owner and as a precious symbol referring to naval activity and personal reputation. Not every ship owner could afford such an accessory though – the weathervane was undoubtedly limited only to a very small group of the richest, who owned huge and top-grade equipped vessels. The tradition of using weathervanes was so anchored in Scandinavian culture, that it had a substantial effect on weathervane usage even in different parts of Europe – e.g. France where the French word for “weathervane” (girouette) originates from Old Norse (Lindgrén – Neumann 1984).


Blindheim 1983 = Blindheim, Martin (1983). De gyldne skipsfløyer fra sen vikingtid. Bruk og teknikk. Viking XLVI, Oslo, 85-111.

Brandt 1986 = Brandt, Bengt (1986). Bandlundeviken. En vikingatida handelsplats på Gotland. Grävningsrapport och utvärdering, Stockholm.

Brandt 2002 = Brandt, Bengt (2002). Bandlundeviken – a Viking trading centre on Gotland. In: Burenhult, G. (ed). Remote Sensing, vol. 2, Theses and Papers in North-European Archaeology 13:b, Stockholm, 243-311.

Edgren 1988 = Edgren, Torsten (1988). Om leksaksbåtar från vikingatid och tidig medeltid. In: Steen Jensen, J. (ed.), Festskrift til Olaf Olsen på 60-års dagen den 7. juni 1988, København, 157-164.

Ekberg 2002 = Ekberg, Veronica (2002). På resa till en annan värld. Vikingatida miniatyrflöjlar. C-uppsats i arkeologi, Stockholms universitet, Stockholm.

Engström – Nykänen 1996 = Engström, Jan – Nykänen, Panu (1996). New interpretations of Viking Age weathervanes. In: Fornvännen 91:3, 137-142.

Frykberg 1977 = Frykberg, Yvonne (1977). Syrholen i Dala-Floda socken. Seminarieuppsats i arkeologi, Stockholms universitet, Stockholm.

Christensen 1998 = Christensen, Arne Emil (1998). The Viking weathervanes were not navigation instruments! In: Fornvännen 93, 202-203.

Lamm 2002 = Lamm, Jan Peder (2002). De havdjärvas märke – om vikingatidens skeppsflöjlar. In: Gotländskt arkiv 74, 33-42.

Lamm 2003 = Lamm, Jan Peder (2003). Die wikingerzeitliche Miniaturwetterfahne aus Menzlin, Lkr. Ostvorpommern, und verwandte Funde. In: Bodendenkmalpflege in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Jahrbuch, 50, 57-63.

Lamm 2004 = Lamm, Jan Peder (2004). Vindflöjlar : liten klenod med stort förflutet : den vikingatida flöjeln från Saltvik aktualiserad av nya fynd. In: Åländsk odling 61, 129-143.

Lindgrén – Neumann 1984 = Lindgrén, Susanne – Neumann, Jehuda (1984). Viking weather-vane practices in medieval France. In: Fornvännen 78, 197-203.

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

Petré 2011 = Petré, Bo (2011). Fornlämning RAÄ 28, Söderby, Lovö sn, Up. Gravfält från vendeltid och vikingatid samt några gravar och boplatslämningar från bronsålder. Lovö Archaeological Reports and Studies Nr 10 År 2011, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University.

Salin 1921 = Salin, Bernhard (1921). Förgylld flöjel från Söderala kyrka. In: Fornvännen 16, 1-22.

Schirren 2000 = Schirren, Michael C. (2000). Menzlin, Lkr. Ostvorpommern. In: Bodendenkmalpflege in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Bd. 47, Jahrbuch 1999, Lübstorf, 472.

Schmidt 2005 = Шмидт, Е.А. (2005). Курганный могильнику пос. Новоселки // Смоленские древности, Вып. 4, Смоленск, 146–218.

Sörling 2018 = Sörling, Erik (2018). Fynden från ”Svarta jorden” på Björkö : från Hjalmar Stolpes undersökningar, Katalog, Uppsala.

Thunmark-Nylén 2000 =Thunmark-Nylén, Lena (2000). Die Wikingerzeit Gotlands IV:1–3. Katalog. Stockholm.

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

Viking Age crampons

For my entire reenactment career, I have encountered the problem of slippery shoe soles. Some reenactors solve the problem with rubber soles or metal hobnails, but these are not period solutions. Leather soles are extremely slippery on the wet or frozen surfaces, especially when they are a bit used and scuffed, which means the problem has to be solved in a way.

In Sagas of Icelanders and some other sagas, two terms skóbroddr (“shoe spike”; Eyrbyggja saga, Sturlunga sagaSverris saga) and mannbroddr (literally “man’s spike”; Þorsteins saga hvíta, Vápnfirðinga saga) occur and they represent spikes that are used when saga heroes travel over the ice or as a cheating device mounted to horse forehead during horse fights. Spikes were not permanently attached to shoes; one could put them on and take them off as needed.

Crampons designed for horse hooves. Taken from Rybakov 1985: 362, Tab. 148, 26-29.

Crampons from sagas have many counterparts in the archaeological material in the whole of Scandinavia and beyond. The term mannbroddr suggests there were also crampons designed for horse hooves (see here). In some cases, it is difficult to determine which crampons were designed for men and which for horses. In this article, we will focus mainly on crampons that were meant to be attached to shoes. We will look at finds from Birka and Haithabu and some other analogies. Their function is to help to get stability on slippery surfaces, mainly ice. Etnographical mentions even attest the usage of crampons by whalers on the ocean, where whales were butchered (Goubitz 2007: 305). It is important to add that some of the graves with crampons from Birka were interpreted as winter graves; crampons and skates could play a symbolic role in this case (Gräslund 1980: 7576). Fox example, during the exhibition We call them Vikings, The Swedish History Museum in Stockholm described crampons with these words: “The road to Hel is icy and leads north and downwards. Ice spikes ensured a safe arrival.

Here are links to downloadable documents I prepared for you:
Swedish crampons (including Birka type 1, 2 and 3)
Crampons from Haithabu

Generally speaking, crampons of the Viking Age had no more than four spikes. Spikes are positioned in the way to maximize the friction of the shoe. Crampons can be divided into four basic categories:

  • Type A, “1-point crampons”. These were made of separate bent bands with only one spike. Bent bands, with no more than three pieces at the same time, were attached to leather or wooden bases. The length of these bases corresponded with the width of the shoes and were connected by straps to the shoe. Birka types 1 and 2 belong to this type (Arwidsson 1986: 111; however, Birka type 2 crampons could be horse crampons; discussion with Sergey Kainov). This type occurs also in Norway (Petersen 1951: 62–63), Latvia, Slovakia (my personal observations) and on territories of the Old Rus (Kainov–Spasov 2005),


    The method of attachment according to Kainov–Spasov 2005.

  • Type B, “3-point crampons”. Crampons of this type are in forms that are roughly trianglar – crampons in the shape of an equilateral triangle with open inner space (Birka type 3), Y-shaped crampons (Haithabu types 1 and 2), T-shaped crampons (Haithabu type 3) and V-shaped crampons (Swedish type 5). Crampons in the shape of an equilateral triangle with open inner space have been found in Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Poland, Latvia and Old Russia (Petersen 1951: 62–63; Arwidsson 1986: 111; Kirpičnikov 1973: 170; Kainov–Spasov 2005; Petrov 2006: 174; Wojtasik 1998: 372, Ryc. 10.27,5). Y-shaped crampons were found not only in Haithabu, but also in Schleswig (Saggau 2000: 99100), in territories of West Slavic tribes and in Lund (Westphalen 2002: 271), in medieval Söderköping (SHM 34183:23), in medieval Riga (Petrov 2005) and Novgorod (Petrov 2006: 173–174); the same pieces were found in the tool chest from Mästermyr, Gotland (Arwidsson–Berg 1999: 16, No. 92–93). Three T-shaped crampons were found in Haithabu (Westphalen 2002: 271). V-shaped crampons were only found in the grave Valsgärde 7, which dates to the 7th century (Arwidsson 1977: 91, No. 1097; Arwidsson 1986: 112). No sure method of attachment is known, but we are aware of several high medieval or early modern methods from Oslo, Tønsberg, Trondheim, Leiden, Riga and Novgorod:

At least eighteen leather stripes designed for crampons, sometimes with shoe soles or with imprinted triangular crampons, were found in medieval and early modern layers of Oslo and Tønsberg in Norway. Examples taken from Johansen – Molaug 2008: 197, Figs. 209–210, Johansen 2008: 127, Fig. 141 and the catalogue of Unimus.


The leather stripe from medieval Tønsberg. The crampon was fixed in the stripe and then covered with round leather piece, which held the crampon in the stable position. Taken from Brendalsmo – Lindh 1982: 27. For more medieval leather stripes designed for crampons, see Ulriksen 1992.


A leather piece with imprinted crampon, found in Gamlebyen, Oslo. Very similar solution as in the previous picture. Dated to the first half of the 14th century. Taken from Færden et al 1990: 263, Fig. 30g, 264.

A very well preserved high medieval crampon from Söderköping, Sweden (SHM 34183:23). Note that holes around the crampon, which are similar to those from Oslo and Tønsberg. Taken from the catalogue of SHM.


Medieval leather stripe and triangular crampon from Trondheim. Taken from Goubitz 2007: 311, Fig. 23b.


Late medieval leather stripe with an imprint of triangular crampon, found in Leiden. Taken from Goubitz 2007: 311, Fig. 23a.


The method used in 13th–14th century in Riga, Latvia. Taken from Petrov 2005.


The method used in 13th–14th century in Novgorod, Russia. The area around the crampon is covered with another layer of leather. Taken from Petrov 2006: 172, 176, Fig. 1, 4.


The method suggested by Kainov–Spasov 2005.


The method suggested by Saggau 2000: Abb. 67:4. The crampon is placed in folded leather stripe. Note that the leather strap is placed on a modern shoe.


This method is etnografically attested from Finland. The crampon is placed in folded leather stripe and fixed by stitching. Taken from Schietzel 2014: 214.


Etnographical methods attested in Finland. Taken from Sirelius 1934: 116, Taf. 55, Abb. 244a-c.


The realization of the method suggested by Spasov-Kainov 2005, group NorraVind.


The attachment method used by Veronica Wik.


The attachment method from Tønsberg replicated by Veronica Wic.


The attachment method used by Amy Pooley when climbing Mr Kosciusko. Credits go to Joshua Button.

  • Type C, “4-point crampons”. Three X-shaped crampons were found in Haithabu (Haithabu type 4Westphalen 2002: 271). In Viking Age and medieval Norway, X-shaped crampon with open inner space were used as well (see C13709C35607C37183 or T2316). Similarly, there is a X-shaped crampon with open inner space and metal holders found in medieval Hovgården, Sweden (SHM 15825:149). The attachment method is not known from the Viking Age and it could be similar to what we have shown in the case of type B.

The crampon from medieval Hovgården (SHM 15825:149). Taken from the catalogue of SHM.


The attachment method used by Karel Sýkora, Marobud.

  • Other types, “atypical crampons”. We have to mention crampons of the Swedish type 4, that were found in graves Tuna Alsike X and Bengtsarvet 2. They were made of an iron bands, whose length corresponded to the width of the shoe. They had bent ends with loops for attachment and three spikes on the bottom side. Analogical methods with two spikes were found in late medieval or early modern sites from Germany (Heiligenberg, Tannenberg, Dossenheim, Gaisberg; Gross 2012: 448–9) and Russia (Staraya Ladoga). Besides the find from Staraya Ladoga, Kirpichnikov (1973) shows yet another interesting form medieval.

2-point iron band crampon with loops for attachment. Taken from Gross 2012: 544, Taf. 60.11.


Crampons found in Staraya Ladoga (Number. 3; 17th century) and Kniazha Hora (Number. 4, 1150–1240 AD). Taken from Kirpichnikov 1973: 170, Fig. 47.

Viking Age crampons could seem as old-fashioned or primitive pieces of metal. However, in Europe, simple crampons like all those aforementioned were used until the 20th century. Their simple and effective construction uses only a limited number of variants. Therefore, we can see very similar pieces in space and time.


Crampons from the 19th and 20th century with similar designs.


Firsthand experience

My first chance to use crampons took place in 2015, during the festival of Libušín, in the Czech Republic. I chose crampons of type B (Haithabu type 2, Y-shaped). I am very indebted to Jiří “Link” Novák, who gave them to me as a gift. The attachment method was copied from Danish reenactors, since I had not the sources I have now. This was my first try and I would like to inform you about all pros and cons of this piece of gear.

The most important discovery of this experience was that crampons make shoes a very useful thing. When a crampon is used with leather soled shoes, the result is comparable with rubber sole or hobnails. I have not had a chance to use crampons on an icy surface, but they worked perfectly on the wet or dry grass and were very useful during climbing a hill. I used crampons with thick felt insoles, but I think that woolen insoles and crampons fixed with the second layer of leather can lead to the same comfortable feeling. When the user is careful and slow, crampons can be even used on hard surfaces for short distances (all you feel is the pressure). In battle, crampons are also useful for stability, but rather dangerous and therefore not recommended. I personally think they were used mainly in winter, while they had no benefit in summer. They should be used mainly during winter events (for example hikes), whereas to a limited extent during summer events.

The first try showed that a crampon should be fixed into two layers of leather, because the crampon has a tendency to move and to tear the leather.For the same reason, it is necessary to place the crampon the middle of the leather band, not near the edge. The stitching can be very useful. It is always better have two fixed points on the shoe; my attachment method took advantage of leather straps, which hold the leather band in place. Below, you can have a look at photos of my experience.

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.

Used bibliography:

Arwidsson 1977 = Arwidsson, Greta (1977). Valsgärde 7, Lund.

Arwidsson 1986 = Arwidsson, Greta (1986). Die Eissporen. In: ARWIDSSON, Greta (ed.) Birka II: 2. Systematische Analysen der Gräberfunde, Stockholm: 111–112.

Arwidsson–Berg 1999 = Arwidsson, Greta – Berg, Gösta (1999). The Mästermyr find : a Viking age tool chest from Gotland, Lompoc.

Brendalsmo – Lindh 1982 = Brendalsmo, Jan – Lindh, Jan (1982). Funn fra en utgravning, Øvre Ervik.

Færden et al 1990 = Færden, G., Schia, E., Molaug, P. B. (1990). De Arkeologiske utgravninger i Gamlebyen, Oslo. 7-8, Dagliglivets gjenstander, Øvre Ervik.

Goubitz 2007 = Goubitz, Olaf (2007). Stepping through time : archaeological footwear from prehistoric times until 1800, Zwolle.

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