Esta é uma tradução autorizada de um artigo publicado por Tomáš Vlasatý, colega historiador e recriacionista histórico da República Tcheca, mentor do projeto Forlǫg e membro do grupo Marobud. Você pode apoiar o autor através de seu perfil no site Patreon.
Em 30 de março de 1943, a Universidade de Oldsaksamling, em Oslo, obteve informações de que um fazendeiro chamado Lars Gjermundbu havia encontrado e escavado um grande monte de terra perto de sua fazenda Gjermundbu na comuna de Ringerike, no condado de Buskerud, sul da Noruega. No mês seguinte o lugar foi examinado por arqueólogos (Sverre Marstrander e Charlotte Blindheim) e o resultado foi realmente fascinante.
Planta do monte. Retirada de Grieg 1947: Pl. I.
O monte tinha 25 metros de comprimento, 8 metros de largura no ponto mais largo, 1,8 metros de altura na parte central e era predominantemente formado por solo pedregoso; no entanto, o interior da parte central era pavimentado com pedras grandes. Na parte central, cerca de um metro abaixo da superfície e sob a camada de pedra, foi descoberta a primeira sepultura, denominada “Grav I”. A 8 metros de Grav I, na parte ocidental do monte, foi encontrada a segunda sepultura, denominada “Grav II”. Ambas as sepulturas representam enterros de cremações da segunda metade do século X e são catalogadas sob a marca C27317. Ambas as sepulturas foram documentadas por Sigurd Grieg em Gjermundbufunnet : en høvdingegrav fra 900-årene fra Ringerike em 1947.
Grav I consistia em dezenas de objetos ligados à propriedade pessoal e várias atividades, incluindo lutas, arquearia, equitação, jogos de lazer e culinária. Entre outros, os mais interessantes são os objetos únicos como a cota de malha e o elmo, que se tornaram muito famosos e são mencionados ou retratados em quaisquer publicações relevantes.
Possível reconstrução do equipamento que foi encontrado em Grav I, Gjermundbu. Tirado de Hjardar – Vike 2011: 155. O formato da coifa é o ponto fraco da reconstrução.
O elmo é frequentemente descrito como “o único elmo completo da Era Viking que se tem conhecimento”. Infelizmente isso não é verdade por pelo menos duas razões. Em primeiro lugar, o elmo não é de modo algum completo – ele demonstra danos pesados e consiste em cerca de 10 fragmentos no estado em que se encontra atualmente, o que representa um quarto ou pouco mais de um terço do elmo. Para ser honesto, esses fragmentos do elmo são fixados sobre uma matriz de gesso que tem a forma aproximada do elmo original; alguns deles de maneira especulativa, podem até estar na posição errada. Membros negligentes da academia apresentam essa versão como uma reconstrução nos museus e nos livros, então essa tendência é copiada e reproduzida por recriacionistas e pelo público geral. Tenho de concordar com Elisabeth Munksgaard (Munksgaard 1984: 87), que escreveu: “O elmo de Gjermundbu não está bem preservado nem bem restaurado“.
Uma antiga reconstrução do elmo, feita por Erling Færgestad. Retirada de Grieg 1947: Pl. VI.
Em segundo lugar, há publicações sobre fragmentos de pelo menos 5 outros elmos espalhados pela Escandinávia e também em áreas com forte influência escandinava (veja o artigo Elmos Escandinavos do Século X [em inglês]). Estou ciente de vários achados e interpretações não publicadas cujas autenticidades não podem ser comprovadas, especialmente os fragmentos de elmos encontrados em Tjele, na Dinamarca, que são muito próximos ao elmo de Gjermundbu, uma vez que consistem em uma máscara e oito faixas estreitas de metal de 1 cm de largura (veja o artigo O Elmo de Tjele [em tcheco]). Baseado nos fragmentos do elmo de Gjermundbu, nos fragmentos do elmo de Tjele e na máscara de Kyiv (o formato original do fragmento de Lokrume é desconhecido), podemos dizer que o tipo de elmo “spectacle helmet” (algo como elmo com máscara ocular em português) claramente evoluiu dos elmos da Era Vendel e foi o tipo predominante de elmo escandinavo até próximo de 1000 A.D., quando os elmos cônicos com nasais tornaram-se populares.
Para ser justo, o elmo de Gjermundbu é o único elmo do tipo “spectacle helmet” da Era Viking cuja construção é completamente conhecida. Vamos dar uma olhada nisso!
O esquema do elmo. Feito por Tomáš Vlasatý e Tomáš Cajthaml.
Meu colega Tomáš Cajthaml fez um esquema muito legal do elmo, de acordo com minhas instruções. O esquema é baseado na ilustração de Grieg, em fotos salvas no catálogo Unimus e em observações feitas pelo pesquisador Vegard Vike.
A cúpula do elmo é formada por quatro placas triangulares (azul escuro). Sob a abertura entre cada duas placas, há uma tira estreita que é rebitada à outra tira ligeiramente curvada situada acima dessa abertura entre cada duas placas (amarelo). Na direção nuca-testa, a tira é formada por uma única peça, que é estendida no meio (no topo do elmo) e forma a base para o espeto (azul claro). Existem duas tiras planas na direção lateral (verde). As placas triangulares são rebitadas em cada canto da tira nuca-testa. Uma tira larga, com a linha perfilada visível, é rebitada à borda da cúpula (vermelho; não se sabe como as extremidades desta parte de metal conectavam-se). Dois anéis estavam conectados na borda dessa tira larga, prováveis restos de uma coifa em malha de aço. Na parte dianteira, a máscara ocular é rebitada na tira larga.
Uma vez que todas as dimensões conhecidas foram exibidas no esquema, deixe-me acrescentar alguns fatos suplementares. Em primeiro lugar, as quatro tiras ligeiramente curvas são demonstradas de maneira um pouco diferente no esquema – as originais são mais curvas na parte central e se afilam perto das extremidades. Em segundo lugar, embora o espeto seja uma característica importante, estudos nos mostram que sua presença é mais uma questão de uso estético do que de uso prático. Sobre os anéis da possível coifa de malha, o espaçamento entre eles é de aproximadamente 2 cm. Também são muito grossos, ao contrário dos anéis da cota de malha. Provavelmente foram fechados apenas encostando as pontas (butted mail), uma vez que nenhum vestígio de rebite foi encontrado. Não se pode afirmar se eles de fato representam uma coifa, porém, caso tal afirmação seja positiva, o que parece é que a coifa estava pendurada em anéis ou em um fio que atravessava estes anéis (ver meu artigo sobre Dispositivos de Suspensão de Coifas Medievais [em tcheco]).
Falando sobre a máscara, os raios-x revelaram pelo menos 40 linhas que formam cílios, da mesma forma que a máscara do elmo de Lokrume (veja o artigo O Elmo de Lokrume [em inglês]). Apesar das tendências modernas, não foram encontrados vestígios de incrustações metálicas nem gotículas de metal derretido. Existe uma diferença significativa entre a espessura das placas e tiras e a espessura da máscara, mesmo esta demonstrando uma espessura irregular. Inicialmente, a superfície do elmo poderia ser polida, de acordo com Vegard Vike.
Eu acredito que estas notas podem ajudar as novas gerações mais acuradas de recriacionistas. Sem contar anéis, o elmo pode ser formado a partir de 14 peças e pelo menos 33 rebites. Tal construção é um pouco surpreendente e não tão sólida. Em minha opinião, este fato pode levantar a discussão entre recriacionistas sobre o elmo de Gjermundbu representar um elmo de guerra ou um elmo cerimonial/simbólico. Eu, particularmente, penso que não há necessidade de ver essas duas funções como funções separadas. Sou muito grato aos meus amigos Vegard Vike, ao jovem artista e recriacionista Tomáš Cajthaml e ao Samuel Collin-Latour. Espero que vocês gostem deste artigo. Em caso de qualquer pergunta ou observação, por favor contacte-me ou deixe um comentário. Se vocês quiserem saber mais e apoiar meu trabalho, por favor, financie meu projeto no Patreon.
O Vestanspjǫr agradece ao amigo Tomáš Vlasatý pela oportunidade de trazermos este trabalho à língua portuguesa. A bibliografia utilizada pelo autor pode ser consultada no artigo original, no link abaixo.
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.
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.
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.
The helmet is often described as the only complete helmet known from the Viking Age. 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.
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!
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 asomewhat 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 blue; the 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.
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, rings have the spacing of at least 2 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). 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). In spite of modern tendencies, neither traces of metal inlay nor droplets of melted metal were found. 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.
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.
For all my reenactment career (ca. 10 years), I encounter so-called Dane axes, two-handed axes used in second lines on the battlefields. These weapons are very popular and terrifying and the same time. What the most problematic part of fighting with this kind of weapon is the fact that modern warriors tend to implement their own ideas of what works on modern battlefields and they avoid of those ideas, which are, in their opinion, not functional. Historical background of this weapon is put aside, when the weapon is replicated and used; simply because modern rules of fighting are different and historical background is unknown or unattractive to many warriors.
There are many kinds of early medieval axes that could be considered as two-handed; however, there is no strict line between one-handed and two-handed axes and we can only judge by our common sense. This short overview will discuss two main types of two-handed axes that were used in Scandinavia; this time, we disregard Byzantian axes, Baltic axes of Kirpičnikov type IV etc., however, they can be added in the case of interest. I am absolutely aware of the fact that some reenactors and modern warriors will disagree with the result of this article. In such a case, please feel free to write your comments below and to bring your evidence.
A replica of the type M, made by Petr Floriánek, carried by Petr Váka. Courtesy: Radka Opočenská.
In this chapter, axeheads, shafts and methods of fixing will be discussed.
Petersen’s axe typology.
Axehead (Petersen type M)
When talking about a “Dane axe”, we actually refer to axeheads of Petersen type M. The type M was introduced around ca. 950 and it was so popular it was used from England to Russia until 13th century (Petersen 1919: 46–47). The type was developed from older types of Scandinavian axes (like F, G, H), due to the need for bigger war axes that occured in 10th century in big part of Europe. One of the reasons can be associated with the fact that protective parts of war gear were used more often; Petersen type M should be seen as a reaction to usage of maille and helmets, or better, to the centralisation of power.
Petersen type M is defined as an iron broad axehead with expanded, wedge-shaped and very thin (usually 2–5 mm) blade and projecting lugs on either side of the head. Axes of type M from Birka are 20–22 cm long, 16–18 cm broad and they weigh 385–770 grams (Vlasatý 2016). 12 axes of type M from Danish graves are ca. 13–24.6 cm long and ca. 10–21.7 cm broad (Pedersen 2014: 131–134, Find list 2). Three Icelandic Petersen type M axes are 16–24 cm long and ca. 13–22 cm broad (Eldjárn 2000: 69, 346). Russian axes belonging to the type M are 17–22 cm long, 13–20 cm broad and they weigh 200–450 grams (Kirpičnikov 1966: 39). Baltic axes of the same type are 12.5–23.5 cm long and 12–22.5 cm broad (Kazakevičius 1996: 233). 13 Polish axes of type M (IIIA.5.1 and IIIA.5.3 according to Kotowicz) are 13.6–21 cm long, 11–20.6 cm broad and they weigh 200–450 grams (Kotowicz 2014). The given weight of axes is only partial; many axes are rusted, but the original weight can be counted from the amount of iron material that remained in axes to the present days. Vike (2016: 96–97) speaks about six Norwegian axes (13.2–21.3 cm long and 15.3–25.3 cm broad) that weigh 273–603 grams in current state, and the author calculates that original axes could weigh 600–800 grams.
The most massive example I am aware of comes from Wetrowo, Kaliningrad Region. The size of the axe, which is now deposited in Berlin, is quite impressive – 23 cm in length and 33 cm in width. Another big axe was found in the River Thames (see here); it is 24.4 cm long, 28 cm broad and it weighs 966 grams. It is needed to point out that such big axes are very rare. It has to be said that there are at least three phases in the evolution of the type M; the older versions are smaller and have narrower necks, while the more recent are bigger and more massive (see the chart). The type M is often mistaken for Petersen type L, which was developed at the same time (Petersen 1919: 45–46). Generally speaking, the type L is shorter (ca. 11–20,5 cm) and narrower (ca. 6.5–17 cm). Nevertheless, some bigger examples of the type L (like B 9694) can be easily mistaken, since they have average sizes of the type M. It is true that the line between types L and M is very narrow sometimes (and artificial!), but both types have their own specific nuances, when it comes to proportions (as well as the symmetry and thickness) of the blade, the neck and the eye.
The scheme of an inhumation grave from Köpingsvik, 11th century. Taken from Svanberg 2003: 75, Fig. 30.
It has to be mentioned that “In the 10th cent. in the northern part of our continent, especially after Christianisation, the number of axes in graves increases signiﬁcantly. They often belonged to persons of lower social position. As a rule, they were the only military equipment of the dead” (Kotowicz 2013: 51-52). Piotr Kotowicz (2011: 52) pointed that axes became “a symbol of the warrior’s profession” by that time. It is true that most of axeheads are found alone in graves; on the other hand, I was able to collect at least 19 Scandinavian graves that contain axehead of type M together with another type of weapon or riding equipment (the list is here) – the spearhead is the most common second weapon (13), as well as shield boss (9), sword (7), the second axe (3), weapon knife (2) and arrows (2). In these graves, riding equipment occur in 11 cases. What is more, two Gotlandic axes of Petersen type M were put to graves with men wearing lamellar armours (Snäckgärde, SHM 484, see this article). That’s why I tend to say that Petersen type M axeheads are indicators of the high status, or at least warrior status.
A considerable number of Petersen type M axeheads are decorated. The decoration (often consisting of a cross) can be distinguished into five types:
engraved ornaments. The axe from Blichowo (Kotowicz 2013: 44, Fig. 4; see here) has the butt carved with a Greek cross.
punched dots and grooves. This type can be seen on one axe from the River Thames (Paulsen 1956: 87, Abb. 32; see here). Vertical pairs of grooves can (or could) be seen on axes from Kongsgården (Rygh 558; C 3210; see here) and Lednica (Sankiewicz – Wyrwa 2013: cat. no. 81; grooves are now invisible, see here).
inlay. The axe from Hultsjö (SHM 737; see here) is inlayed with ornaments (including cross) in silver. The same method can seen on the axe from Skensta (SHM 6814; Paulsen 1956: 112, Abb. 48; see here). This method of decoration seems to be particularly popular in Finland, with at least three examples inlayed with silver found in Posio (KM 24379; Paulsen 1956: 116, Abb. 50, see here), Humikkala (KM 8656:H47:5; Paulsen 1956: 117, Abb. 51; see here) and Köyliö (Kotowicz 2013: 49, Fig. 9; see here).
overlay. The famous axehead from Botnham (Ts 11937; see here) is decorated with Ringerike ornament in gold. The grid to which gold was hammered is still visible.
The last kind of decoration is special and it covers so-called “axes with crosses” – axes with blades decorated in their inner parts with incised Latin crosses (and sometimes with grooves as well). There are 5 Scandinavian finds of the type with open blades, the list can be seen here; all of them are dated to the second half of the 10th century. Another example comes from the vicinity of Plock, Poland (Kotowicz 2013: 51, Fig. 11; see here).
Examples of decoration. From left: the axes from Thames, Skensta, Hultsjö, Bothamn and Närke. Taken from Hjardar – Vike 2011: 163.
There are at least two Swedish axes (Nässja, SHM 5237; Tåby, SHM 6126) that prove the mixing of Scandinavian and Eastern traditions. These two axes have Petersen type M blades, but instead of projecting lugs, they have an egg-shaped or rounded middle piece (sides the eye for the shaft) and a projecting butt with round or square cross-section. Axes like these show how variable this kind of weapon is, combining two functional elements into one piece.
Schematic pictures of both methods.
The axehead could be made by at least two methods. On the beginning of both methods, there was an iron ingot or a welded billet containing iron plates of different quality. The material could be folded several times for better quality. Afterwards, the body of the axehead was shaped. The first method, the easier one, is about forging the rough shape, splitting the frontal part, inserting the high-carbon steel blade and punching the eye for the shaft in the end. The second method lies in forging the rough shape in unwrapped (opened) symmetrical or asymmetrical shape – without the need to punch the eye for the shaft – and welding the frontal part, splitting the frontal part and inserting the high-carbon steel blade. On some examples, the ridge formed by inserted blade is very visible. In both cases, some finishing touches might be needed, as well as decoration, polishing, sharpening etc.
Very good example of the first method can be seen in the video below:
Axehead (Lunow type)
In my recent article “Axes from Birka“, I discussed a very interesting type of axehead, so-called Lunow type. The type is characteristic with its massive and long T-shaped blade, sometimes with four projecting lugs on either side of the head and a small butt.
The distribution of Lunow type. Taken from Michalak – Kotowicz 2014: 112. Fig. 5.
Michalak and Kotowicz (2014: 112) register 22 finds of this type, coming from what is now Denmark, Germany, Poland, Russia and Sweden. It seems that the centre of this type was situated in Greater Poland, Brandenburg and Pomerania. They can be dated to ca. 940–1050 AD. Sizes varies between 13–21.4 cm × 13–29 cm. The best known examples were found in Lunow, Brandenburg an der Havel and Poznań-Dębiec. However, this type seems to be quite popular in Scandinavia; there are 9 examples, mainly from Denmark and Sweden, including axes from Birka(SHM 35245:95), Haithabu (two examples), Over Hornbæk (grave BPW), Rosenlund (grave KR), Suderbys (SHM 11128), Lindholm Høje (grave 2149), Ulbjerg and Lund. The examples from Birka and Lund are very similar to the best known specimens from Poland and Germany; they are decorated with silver and copper inlays as well, the rest consists of typologically similar axes. I would like to suggest that examples from Dolmer and Trelleborg should be included among the rest as well, as they belong to the same tradition. The full list of Scandinavian finds with sizes can be seen here. Similarly to some axes of Petersen type M, the example from Rosenlund was found together with a sword, a spearhead, a shield-boss, stirrups and spurs.
Some axes of Lunow type 1 – Poznań-Dębiec (Luboń), Poland; 2 – Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany; 3 – Lunow, Germany; 4 – Lund, Sweden; 5 – Birka, Sweden; 6 – Over Hornbæk, Denmark; 7 – Lindholm Høje, Denmark; 8 – Haithabu, Germany; 9 – Suderbys, Gotland, Sweden; 10 – Rosenlund, Denmark.
The question of shafts is problematic, since there are not so many complete examples from the period and those that survived are not well known. Let’s begin with the length.
Sankiewicz and Wyrwa (2013: 77–78) made probably the most comprehensive list of complete axe shafts from early, high and late medieval Europe. From their list and some other finds these authors were probably not aware of, a very interesting result arises:
24–60 cm: 13 examples (17.81 %)
60–90 cm: 51 examples (69.86 %)
90+ cm: 9 examples (12.33 %)
The length of 60–90 cm (mainly 70–80 cm) is the most common and both aforementioned and many other researchers consider this length to be a standard; Kirpičnikov (1966: 28) suggests 80 cm to be an average length, as well as Mäntylä (2005: 110) gives the length of 70–90 cm and Kotowicz (2008: 447) writes that shafts varied between 60 and 80 cm. They agree on the statement that longer shafts should be seen as two-handed. In our simplified list, there are 9 examples of shafts longer than 90 cm, consisting of shafts from Behren-Lübchin (94 cm; 12th century), Lednica no. 85 (97 cm; 950–1050 AD), Novyja Valosavičy (100 cm; the end of 10th century – the beginning of 11th century), Lednica no. 84 (107.5 cm; 11th century), Kirkkomäki (108 cm; 11th or 12th century), Pahošča (110 cm; the end of 10th century – the beginning of 11th century), Vorma (111 cm; 13th century), Břeclav (115 cm; 9th or 10th century, see here) and Stóri-Moshvoll (around 120 cm; 9th or 10th century). What is more, three Petersen type M axes found in Lough Corrib probably had shorter shafts, around 80 cm, as well as other finds, axes from the River Robe and the River Shannon (see here). As will be mentioned in following chapters, these lengths are most likely typical for two-handed shafts of battle axes.
Some axes with shafts: 1 – Vorma, 2 – Lednica (no. 84), 3 – Kirkkomäki, 4 – Lough Corrib.
Vike (2016: 107–108) points out that Slavic tradition used shafts simply made of young trees of various shapes, but Scandinavian tradition consisted of shafts made by splitting of massive log. Thanks to this method, shafts were (relatively) straight and hard. In spring and summer 2016, I made a research on what species of wood were used to construct shafts in Middle Age Europe (the result can be seen here– this research is not complete!). The result is that combination of hard and light wood growing in the vicinity of the site was the desired quality of the shaft material. Evergreen wood species were used very rarely (only 1 example). The most common species are hornbeam (61 examples; 28.37 %), maple (44 examples; 20.47 %), ash (36 examples; 16.74 %) and oak (19 examples; 8.84 %). Hornbeam was particularly popular in Poland, while maple seems to be universal in whole Europe.
Shafts of Slavic (number 1) and Scandinavian traditions (number 2). Taken from Vike 2016: 108, Fig. 14.
Cross section of shaft fragments of axes from Lundehall and Langeid.
Shafts of three Petersen type M axes from Lough Corrib were made of cherry wood, as well as the fragment of wood found with type M axe from Langeid. The shaft of axe from Vorma is made of spruce. Shafts of axes from Lednica are made of hornbeam (no. 85) and maple (no. 84). The most common wood species found in Viking Age Scandinavia as materials of axe shafts are maple (6 examples: 2× Barshalder, 2 × Sønder Onsild, 1 × Grimstrup, 1× Træhede), birch (4 examples: 2× Oseberg, 1 × Reykjavík, 1 × Sønder Onsild), linden (2 examples: Gulli), alder (1 example: Fyrkat), elm (1 example: Nyrbo), oak (1 example: Gulli), beech (1 example: Haithabu) and cherry (1 example: Langeid).
The eye usually has an oval, egg (droplet) shaped or round cross section. Sizes of eyes varies between ca. 2–4.2 cm × 2–4.2 cm (Polish: 2.4–4.2 cm × 2–2.8 cm, Russian: 3.5 × 2–2.5 cm, Baltic: 3 × 2–4,22 cm). From my experience, most shafts have droplet shaped cross section and preserved fragments of shafts prove it.
The only type of decoration of shafts we are able to find consists of metal. There are only two kinds of such a decoration, including:
plate ferrules in the upper part of the shaft. The meaning of such a ferrule is obvious – it makes the axe firmer in the strained part and makes the axe to look more splendid. The problem was recently described by Vegard Vike (2016).
made of iron. An iron ferrule was found with the Petersen type E axe from Hemse (Hemse annex; SHM 5645; see here), but is now missing. Another one was found with Petersen type M in a 11th century grave in Bilczewo, Poland (see here). For more Polish, Russian and Hungarian analogies from different periods, see Kotowicz (2008: 451–453).
made of brass/bronze. Six examples of this decoration were found in Norway (C 24243, C 25583, C 27132, C 29866, C 57235, C 58882; see here). The ferrule of axe from Langeid is made of rectangular plate that is 0.5 mm thick; the plate is nailed to shaft with 12 brass nails (11 mm long, 2.5 mm thick). It has to be mentioned that a slight layer of wood under the ferrule was removed, so there is no visible step between the undecorated part of shaft and the decorated one. At least two Norwegian ferrules (C 27132, C 29866) have four projections in the lower part peeping under the axehead. Another eight examples come from Gotland (SHM 484 Gr. 4, SHM 4815, SHM 7785:93a, SHM 8064:196, SHM 14855, SHM 14885, SHM 19273, SHM 22297). There are three more finds discovered in the River Thames, one of them is ornated with rich motives and has 9 projections in the lower part (see here). Another example of brass ferrule comes from Klincovka, Kaliningrad Region (see here, I am indebted to Piotr Kotowicz for this information). There are at least two finds of decorated shaft wrapping of brass plate from 10th century Latgalian graves in Lithuania (see here and here, Kotowicz 2008: 452–453).
made of silver. A very nice example comes from Kalihnovščina, Nothern Russia (see here). The ferrule is placed below the axehead and ends in four cross-shaped projections in the lower part.
a butt or a ferrule on the bottom part of the shaft. The only find of the butt comes from Barshalder (SHM 27778: 11, see here). It is also said that a metal ferrule or a ring that was located on the bottom of the shaft was found in one of mounds in Berufjord, Iceland (Eldjárn 2000: 348).
Dominant types of brass/bronze fitted shafts. Taken from Vike 2016: 105, Fig. 12.
Fixing of the axehead to the shaft
There are two major methods, how axeheads were fixed. The first one is mounting the axe head from the tapered bottom. This method could be combined with a kind of securing of the axehead, for example with leather. The second method lies in mounting from the upper end of the shaft and securing the axehead with a wooden or metal wedge or nail. Both methods were used in the Viking Age Europe; for example, the first one can be seen on one of Oseberg axes and on many axes from Lednica and Mikulčice. Since the upper end has to be thicker and forms so-called forskapti (for example axes from the River Robe and the River Shannon), the first method can be easily recognized. Axes with shafts decorated with ferrules were mounted from the upper end, but the wedges do not occur in their case; some metal fitting could serve as external wedges. Even though wedges are not common, we can find some evidence for both wooden and metal wedges. Three axes from Lough Corrib were secured with wooden wedges, as was probably the axe from Hallingby (C 25583). Petersen type M axe from Ballinderry Crannóg was secured with a wooden wedge and a metal nail (see here). Petersen type M axes from Velo Vestre (C 24243) and Hunninge (SHM 19273) are also secured with metal spikes. One axe from Lednica (no. 102; Sankiewicz – Wyrwa 2013: 204–205; see here) is secured with a metal wedge. The recently found axe from Hårup, Denmark, was secured with one big nail that goes through the eye (see here). Pedersen (2014: Pl. 4, 21, 32, 57) shows at least 4 more Danish axes secured with metal wedges, including the axe from Trelleborg.
Three main methods of fixing of the axehead to the shaft, Taken from Vike 2016: 109, Fig. 15.
Suggested variants of suspension of wooden sheaths. Made by Tomáš Vlasatý and Tomáš Cajthaml.
In one of my previous article, I mapped all finds of Viking Age axe sheaths (see here). To sum up, there are 13 finds of wooden sheaths from Haithabu, 2 finds from Schleswig, 2 finds from Norway, 2 finds from Dublin, two Norwegian finds and 1 from Novgorod. They belong to two types and are made of alder, beech, birch, juniper, oak, pine, spruce, yew and willow wood. Moreover, there is an antler sheath found in Sigtuna. In our context, the most interesting sheaths come from Schleswig; one sheath is decorated with two pictures of two-handed axes, one of them belonging to the Petersen type M. Thus, the function of this object is clear. The second sheath from Schleswig could belong to an axe with 235 mm long edge. There is no doubt that sheaths like these served to protect blades from blunting and rust.
Sagas and chronicles contain some pieces of information that can be useful for comparing with what we know from archaeology. The most importantly, we can learn how two-handed axes were called, used and perceived.
It should be said in the first place that Old Norse people did not call these axes “Dane axes”. Petersen type M axes, together with axes of type F, belong to a broader term breiðøx. Literary sources work carelessly with terms, so it is sometimes hard to say which passage refer to two-handed axe. Terms like þunnsleginn øx (“axe that is hammered thin”), háskeptr øx (“long-handled axe”) or simple “big axe” are small clues that can refer to two-handed axes. Let’s have a look on The Saga of the Sworn Brothers (Fóstbræðra saga), where we can find typical passages:
“Þorgeirr had a broad axe, a mighty weapon, keen-edged and sharp, with which he had sent many a man to dine [in Valhalla].” (ch. 3)
“Bjarni forged a broad axe for Þormóðr, according to his will. The axe was hammered right down to the cutting edge, had no weal to obstruct it and was thus extremely sharp.” (ch. 23)
Even though Þorgeirr’s axe is a mighty broad axe, he uses it as a one-handed weapon in fight (for example ch. 8). As the result, to be sure we refer to two-handed weapons, we have to pick passages about breiðøxar that are held on both hands; even this approach can be wrong, because warriors, in case they had no shields, used weapons with both hands (see for examplehereorhere). In such a way, only two axes in sagas can be named as two-handed – Hel, the axe of Óláfr Haraldsson (Saint Óláfr) and his son Magnús the Good, and Rimmugýgr, the axe of Skarphéðinn Njálsson.
Literary sources are far from being much descriptive. They contain information only about owning, carrying and fighting with what we could call two-handed axes. As we can see, axes have their own names and are owned by famous people. It corresponds nicely with what we can see from their occurrence in warrior graves and their decoration – Petersen type M axes are markers of the high rank, of a status similar to “hero”, “champion”, “professional warrior”. With no doubt, axes of this type were owned and used by noblemen and their hirðir (“retinues”).
One of the most interesting passages from Old Norse sources can be searched in Saga of Magnus the Good (Magnús saga góða), where King Magnús, just before the battle of Hlýrskógheiðr (1043), throws away his own chain-mail and runs to the array of enemy, starting the battle with two-handed axe Hel (tha axe that used to belong to his father) in his hands. I believe this mention corresponds to depicted fighting scenes that incude two-handed axes:
“Then King Magnús stood up, and ordered the war trumpets to sound, and at that moment the Víndland army advanced from the south across the river against him; on which the whole of the king’s army stood up, and advanced against the heathens. King Magnús threw off from him his coat of ring-mail, and had a red silk shirt outside over his clothes, and had in his hands the battle-axe called Hel, which had belonged to King Óláf. King Magnús ran on before all his men to the enemy’s army, and instantly hewed down with both hands every man who came against him. So says Árnórr jarlaskáld:
‘The unsluggish ruler stormed forth with broad axe, and cast off his byrnie; a sword-clash [BATTLE] arose around the ruler of the Hǫrðar [NORWEGIAN KING = Magnús], as the prince clenched both hands around the shaft, and the shaping guardian of heaven [= God] allotted earth; Hel clove pallid skulls.‘’” (ch. 29)
At least two English sources mention “the apologetic gift” of earl Godwin of Wessex given to Harðaknútr, the last Danish king of England, in 1040. The gift consisted of a ship of 80 warriors equipped with gilded “Dane” axes:
“Each of them had a gilded helmet on the had, a Danish axe on left shoulder and a spear in right hand.” (William of Malmesbury : Gesta regum Anglorum, II, § 188)
“Also, each of them had a chain-mail, a partially gilded helmet, a sword with gilded handle by the waist and a Danish axe, decorated with gold and silver, hanging on the left shoulder. In the left hand, each of them had a shield, whose bosses and rivets were gilded as well, and they had spears in their right hands, the one, which is called atagar in English language.” (Florence of Worcester : The Chronicle)
Axe-bearers from pictures stones from Tängelgårda I and Alskog Tjängvide I, Gotland.
It should be streesed that these are the oldest mentions of the Latin term “Danish axe” (securis Danica), together with the passage from De Miraculis Sancti Eadmundi (ch. 21), written by Hermannus The Archdeacon in late 11th century (“According to Danish fashion, Osgod Clapa had armrings on both hands and gilded axe was hanging on his shoulder.“). It is accepted (see for example DeVries 1999: 217) that Petersen type M came to England during the Conquest of Knútr the Great, and two-handed axes could be weapons of his troops called þingmenn. This elite retinue survived until 1066, as an be seen on the Bayeux Tapestry and skaldic poetry, and these troops were understood as very tough opponents by Norwegians in 1066 (see Úlfr stallari : Lausavísa). DeVries (1999: 217) thinks that English warriors used Petersen type M axes more commonly than Scandinavians. However, the Scandinavian origin of this weapon was still understood, as it was called “Danish axe”. In his major work The History of The English (Historia Anglorum), Henry of Huntingdon, 12th century historian, mentioned the popular story of Norwegian warrior, who killed more than 40 chosen Englishmen with the axe during the Battle of Stamford Bridge (1066):
“Here a single Norwegian, whose name ought to have been preserved, took post on the bridge, and hewing down more than forty of the English with a battle-axe, his country’s weapon, stayed the advance of the whole English army till the ninth hour. At last some one came under the bridge in the boat, and thrust a spear into him, through the chinks of the flooring.” (Historia Anglorum, VI, §27; trans. Forester 1853: 209)
The same story, but with slightly different details, can be found in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (version C) and Deeds of the Kings of the English (Gesta regum Anglorum) of William of Malmesbury (see here). Even though details vary – in other versions of the story, the axe and the number of slained opponents are missing, the Norwegian is equipped with a chain-mail and the way of his death is different as well – these passages are important proof of the skill of owners of these axes. I have to add that the popular theory that the Norwegian was a berserkr is rather a result of modern creativity.
“Danish axes” occur several times in high medieval sources, mostly in connection with King Stephen of England (Battle of Lincoln 1141; he allegedly fought with the axe until it was broken) and Richard the Lionheart (Battle of Jaffa 1192). Also, they are included in Old French romans in the form hasche Danoise (“Danish axe”).
Irishmen equipped with two handed axes. Topographia Hibernica, Royal MS 13 B VIII, folio 28r.
What is insteresting is the fact that literary sources can show how axes were carried. In connection to “Danish axes”, Latin sources from England contain the phrase in humero dependente (“hanging on the shoulder”), in humero sinistro (“on the left shoulder”) and in sinistro humero pendentem (“hanging on the left shoulder”). In Old Norse literature, there is a quite nice parallel to this phrase, hann hafði øxi um ǫxl (“he had axe across the shoulder”) – one occurrence of the phrase is connected with Skarphéðinn Njálsson, the owner of two-handed axe Rimmugýgr (“Skarphéðinn was foremost. He was in a blue cape, and had a targe, and his axe aloft on his shoulder“; Njáls saga, ch. 92). The aforementioned quote from Florence’s Chronicle is important as well – we can see that warriors could have many weapons, including hanging axes, and could change them. The design of hanging device is unknown and to learn more, experiments are needed. The picture from Hunnestad Monument, a picture from Dynna stone and the pendant from Klahammar show a warrior with his two-handed axe on the right shoulder. Similarly, Varangian guardsmen greeted the Emperor by axes raised on right shoulders:
“Guardsmen were holding them in the right hand, leaning the blade against the left wrist. When the Emperor came, they brought up the axes to lean them on their right shoulders. During the time of the name-day of the Emperor, the Varangians saluted him and banged their axes, which emitted rhythmical sound.” (Kotowicz 2013: 52)
Scandinavian depictions of two-handed axes carried on the right shoulder.
Source: Dynna stone, Klahammar pendant, Hunnestad Monument.
Slavic axes called taparøxar (from Slavic topor, “axe”, and Old Norse øx, “axe”) are mentioned in sagas and The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (version A) sometimes. In sagas (Ljósvetninga saga, Njáls saga, Vatnsdœla saga), they occur as prestigious objects among Norwegian-Icelandic elite. The shape is not know, nor the length of the shaft; however, I believe that Lunow type or Russian types of one-handed axes (like Kirpičnikov types I, II, III) are possible. I think the best mention of the axe comes from Ljósvetninga saga (ch. 2), where it occurs as a gift of jarl Hákon, the ruler of Norway in ca. 970–995:
“Jarl [Hákon] said he [Sǫlmundr] should first deliver his gifts, a Russian hat to Guðmundr the Mighty and taparøx to Þorgeirr Ljósvetningagoði.“
A replica of the axe from Langeid, made by Vegard Vike and Anders Helseth Nilsson.
In literary sources, axeheads and shafts are frequently decorated. We already mentioned English sources, where axeheads are gilded. In sagas, what is interesting is the fact that axes decorated with gold are mentioned as gifts from specific rulers (Haraldr hárfagri, jarl Hákon, Sigurðr Hloðvirsson, Haraldr harðráði) and are given to important Icelanders. It seems that mentions like these are oral formulas – for example, both Þorkell from Vatnsdœla saga (ch. 43) and Þorstein from Þorsteins saga Síðu-Hallssonar (ch. 1) receive øx gullrekna (“gilded axe / axe inlayed with gold”) from Sigurðr Hloðvirsson, jarl of Orkney, and in an analogical manner, both Brandr from Brands þáttr ǫrva (ch. 1) and Halli from Sneglu-Halla þáttr (ch. 10) get in possession of øx gullrekna thanks to generous Haraldr harðráði. My point is that the quantity of mentions is not so important, since it rather reflects features of orally-derived prose of high and late medieval Iceland. If we study material like this in order to get relevant information about weapons, we should focus on what parts of weapons are decorated and what is the context. To sum up, saga literature mentions axeheads decorated with gold (gullrekinn and gullbúin) and shafts covered with silver or iron wrappings (vaf) or plates (spengðr). The “fore-haft” (the part above the axehead) of the axe, that was given to Sneglu-Halli, was decorated with “a big silver knob [silfrhólkr] with a precious stone on it” (Sneglu-Halla þáttr, ch. 10). Let’s say that gold, silver and any other kind of decoration is mentioned as an indicator of the maximum richness and the status, and such a decorated gift is a proof of king’s favour, which gives the importance to the receiver of a gift, the character of the story, and his descendants.
Before we move forward to the next chapter, the last thing – the terrifying aspect of axes – has to be mentioned. Unlike swords, axes are named after Norns, troll-women and monsters etc. in poetry (for example Norn skjaldar, “the norn of the shield”, or brynflagð, “the troll-woman of the chain-mail”, and so on). One of the most illustrative mention I know comes from Halldórr ókristni’s Eiríkrflokkr (st. 7), it says: “slender monsters of the land of Þriði [ÞRIÐI = ÓÐINN, LAND OF ÓÐINN = SHIELD, MONSTERS OF THE SHIELD = AXES] yawned with iron-mouths at people“. In literary sources, axes are often synonyms of awe, brutality or hard power (“Even though we are not lawmen, we will solve the suit with axe butts” says Þorsteinn in my favourite sentence in Vatnsdœla saga, ch. 37). No wonder, because axes are very destructive tools and weapons, designed for chopping and they can not be easily blocked. On the other hand, facing to these deadly weapons is the feature of a brave man.
Depictions (pictorial evidence)
In this chapter, I divided the pictorial evidence between four groups from different areas and periods. Only those axes that resemble Petersen type M were included. Groups are:
Bayeux Tapestry. This group contains no less than 20 axes.
Scandinavian pictures. This group contains at least 5 axes.
Another (Byzantine and Russian pictures). This group contains only 5 depicted axes.
High Middle Ages pictures. 12 axes were selected to this group.
To sum up, 42 axes were included. 39 of them are depicted together with men. We can distinguish two basic forms:
standard axes, with the length varying between 3 and 4 feet (91–122 cm). Sankiewicz and Wyrwa (2013: 76) suggested the length ofapproximately 3 feet and 6 inches (107 cm). Axes of this length are usually depicted in the fight. 36 depicted axes belong to this form.
above-standard axes, with very long shafts reaching to the head of the wielder. Edge and Paddock (1988: 31) calculated the length to 4 or 5 feet (122–152 cm). The axe depicted on Byzantine ivory plaque seems to be even longer. The context suggests they were used as symbols during ceremonies; these symbols are important for stressing the crucial persons in the piece of art and their sizes could be disproportionally enlarged. On the other hand, axeheads are not enlarged, so we can assume these symbolic axes did in fact have long shafts. 6 depicted axes belong to this form.
Axes of the first form seem to be weapons of renowned warriors. As the rule, wielders of axes are tall. In 23 cases, warriors with axes wear a better form of body protection (chain-mails, scale armours, gambesons) or noble clothing. Similarly, in 25 cases, warriors have helmets. Together with axes, 11 swords and 8 shields are depicted, what is in agreement with aforementioned statements (warriors could have many weapons […] and could change them). One axeman holds a blowing horn. Two depicted men from pictorial evidence are described as Leofwine Godwinson and King Stephen of England. On the contrary, five axes are shown in hands of men not dressed in armour; two of them seem to be peasants, not warriors.
A considerable number of warriors (12) hold the axe in the left-hand forward grip; however, we can find some men with the right-hand forward grip (8). It is speculative whether the artists wanted to show the real fighting techniques or the perspective of period style was more important. To avoid any misleading result, let’s say that the owners knew how to use these axes in the most effective way and probably changed the grip in order to gain the advantage.
Regarding the second form of two-handed axes, we can try to count all the contexts of their usage. Harold Godwinson is depicted to hold his axe during the meeting with messengres of Duke William. In two cases, axes are used during a meeting of King Edward the Confessor and Harold Godwinson. Another two axes are shown when Harold Godwinson is offered the English crown. In all five cases from Bayeux Tapestry, long two-handed axes are connected with the English ruling power, King Edward the Confessor and Harold Godwinson. The maker of the Tapestry probably wanted to stress their nationality and status by giving them the typical weapon (on the contrary, Normans are always depicted with swords as symbols). Finally, the sixth axe is depicted on a small Byzantine ivory plaque, dated to the 10th or 11th century (see here). The plaque shows a man in underpants, holding the axe in the right hand and (Petersen type X) sword in the left hand. The axehead seems to have the similar design to what we previously called “open blade”. A similar design is shown at the miniature axe from Avnsøgård, Denmark. In my article “Axes with crosses“, I agreed with Kotowicz (2008: 447-448, Note 16), who put these “open bladed” axes in connection with pelekophori (“axe-bearers”), Varangian guards. It seems probable this kind of axe served for ceremonial greeting of the Emperor, as mentioned above.
The most of depicted axes of both types seem to be top-mounted, since the shafts are thicker in the lower part. At least three (high medieval) pictures shows bottom-mounted axes. No visible decoration of both axehead and shafts is visible; the colour of axeheads can be interpreted in many ways. The bronze axe amulet from Haithabu shows the shaft with a large knob (the curved bottom end of the shaft).
A note for reenactors
A replica of the type M, made by Scott Roush.
We can clearly see that original two-handed axes were used in completely different way than modern versions. The most visible difference is the length of the shaft, causing the need to fight in the first line with the lacking protection of limbs (gloves). Modern versions of two-handed axes are based on 6 aforementioned axes with very long shafts, which are not shown to be used on the battlefield. Such an approach is an ignorance of the majority (34) axes and archaeological material. In the real fight, two-handed axes require a lot of free space, so they have to be placed in the first line or on the side of the formation. The sharp axe is almost unstoppable, destroying both shields and bodies. The placing in the first line and the shorter shaft have to be compensated by quality armour that reduces the risk of mortal wounds. However, there are no period gloves able to give the protection against sharp weapons. From my experience, I can say that a man with a 110 cm long axe has to be enormously movable, in order to be safe and effective. If we are talking about the real fight, stopping in front of the enemy line is the worst idea, the best option is to run forward and attack. A combination of two-handed axe and a shield passively hanging in front of the warrior, which is a common trend today, is ineffective in the real fight (it can be pierced with a spear anytime), slows down the warrior and has no real support in historical sources (on the Bayeux Tapestry, warriors had shields on their backs). The act of deploying two-handed axes always has a great morale impact on both sides, and probably occured in special cases. As a result, warriors with two-handed axes, leaders, and their retinues belonged to the heaviest armoured infantry and the most skilled troops that occured on late Viking Age and high medieval battlefields.
A replica of the type M, made by Ronan Jehanno.
To be fair, modern versions (with 2.5 metres being the maximum length I have seen) are perfect weapons for a modern way of fight and its rules. In the “Eastern style”, rules are set to be “dead” after the first proper hit into the areas covered with armour – the system that is illogical from the historical perspective. Long two-handed axes are good for this purpose, as well as the hooking of shields and weapons. That’s why we should draw a very clear line between what is period and what is modern. However, when we make compromises, I tend to advise the length of the axe that reaches to the chest or the chin of the wielder. Such a length allows the wielder perfect control of the weapon. In any case, the length should be referential, not standardized to the particular number.
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A 14th century depiction of both handed axe from Novgorod. Taken from Paulsen 1956: 99, Abb. 39.
Dřevorubecká sekera Petersenova typu F nalezená v hrobu Bj 750. Převzato z Arbman 1940: Taf. 14:2.
Po dlouhé a náročné práci mohu čtenářům představit svůj nejnovější článek „Sekeru s sebou“: katalog seker z Birky, komentář a srovnání. Tato práce si klade za cíl popsat, jakým způsobem byly sekery chápány a používány, zmapovat všechny dosud nalezené sekery z Birky, typologicky je zařadit, v případě zahraničních seker správně určit provenienci, a srovnat soubor z Birky se sekerami z okolních zemí.
Článek jsem doplnil mnoha odkazy na obrázky a citacemi z dobových básní. Kromě toho navrhuji řadu metodologických úprav, které by pomohly zlepšit následující bádání.
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.
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 2004; Hedenstierna-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.
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
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: 268–269). 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 or opinion?
I would like to present my typology of fire strikers used in Viking Age Norway, more particulary 700-1000 AD. This typology is based on Jan Petersen’s works and it is not complete. I am sure there are many other finds that are not included. Please, let me know if you find what I missed. Thank you.
The typology can be downloaded or seen via this button:
Jakožto velitel vojska nájezdníků na festivalu Wolin je jednou z nejdůležitějších postav evropské raně středověké bojové rekonstrukce. Těm, kteří měli možnost jej potkat, utkví v paměti nekompromisní pohled, náušnice, potetované tělo a svérázné vystupování. Na letošním ročníku „Wolinu“ jsem měl možnost vidět jeho odhodlání, kdy pobíhal za řadou a neustále pobízel a hnal nerozhodné bojovníky vpřed, až dosáhli vítězství, vyzvedli svého velitele na štít a provolali mu slávu. Nepopsatelná atmosféra. „S tím musím udělat inspiromat,“ pomyslel jsem si. V tomto jubilejním dílu inspiromatu se podíváme na živoucí legendu Maxima Makarova, takzvaného Maxe či Ragnara, zakladatele a velitele moskevské skupiny Stříbrný vlk (Серебряный волк, Silver Wolf).
Maxim představuje Švéda na dvoře ruského knížete a svůj kostým koncipuje do konce 10. a začátku 11. století. Se svou skupinou Stříbrný vlk se zaměřují zejména na období vlády Jaroslava Moudrého (1016–1054).
Jelikož Maxim neměl mnoho času, nejsem obeznámen se všemi detaily jeho kostýmu. Kostým vždy tvoří barvená košile a barvené kalhoty, podkolenky stažené podvazkem, nízká kožená obuv, kápě nebo honosný plášť. Jediné, co mi Maxim ke svému textilu sdělil, je to, že používá vlnu, vlnu a hedvábí, a že kombinuje švédské a ruské tradice. Výšivky na oděvech jsou provedené vlněnými a zlatými nitěmi. Košile je přepásána unikátní rekonstrukcí stříbrem zdobeného opasku nalezeného v ukrajinské Poltavě, na němž je zavěšen měšec, nůž a brašna typu tarsoly. Šperky (plášťové spony, náhrdelník, náramek) se podle Maxima zakládají na nálezech z Gotlandu.
Do bitev chodí s replikou přilby z Nemie, poměrně úzkou koženou prošívanicí nebo jenom koženou tunikou, kroužkovou zbrojí a kabátcem bez rukávů zapínaným na bronzové knoflíky. Podle fotek bojuje kopím a kombinací štít – meč (typu S?) a sekera.
Maxim se svým Stříbrným vlkem navštěvuje všechny ruské i mnohé „evropské“ historické festivaly. Kromě toho se věnuje dalším aktivitám, například pluje na replikách středověkých a novověkých lodí a věnuje se rekonstrukci napoleonských válek. Maxim je zkrátka ostřílený veterán s tak mohutnou aurou, že dokáže motivovat lidi k neuvěřitelným výkonům a získávat jejich respekt. Dokonale tak ztvárňuje to, co si představím, když se řekne „varjag“. Je jedním z nejlepších vůdců, jaké jsem měl tu čest potkat.
Ohelmený námořník na gotlandském obrazovém kameni Smiss Stenkyrka I. Za fotografii děkuji Daliboru Grimmovi.
Téma vikinských přileb patří mezi populární a přitom neprobádanou kapitolu raně středověkého vyzbrojení. O problematiku se dlouhodobě zabývám, o čemž svědčí také mé články o fragmentech přileb z Tjele („Přilba z Tjele“) a Birky („Fragmenty přilby z Birky?“, „Další fragment přilby z Birky?“). Proto jsem se rozhodl sepsat ucelený článek, který by mapoval všechny doklady skandinávských přileb používaných během let 800–1100. Práci jsem pojmenoval „Grafnir hjálmar“ : Komentář k vikinským přilbám, jejich vývoji a používání a můžete si ji stáhnout prostřednictvím následujícího odkazu.
Jsem si vědom, že otázka přileb není zdaleka uzavřená, a jsem ochotný o jednotlivých bodech článku vést debatu.
The article Grafnir hjálmar : Komentář k vikinským přilbám, jejich vývoji a používání („A Comment on the Viking Age Helmets, Their Developement and Usage“) aims to summarize known sources concerned with early medieval Scandiniavian helmets. The article comments not only the shape of helmets, but also their ownership and symbolism.
Jakožto reenactor se pravidelně setkávám s problémem ovinek nohou. Je obvyklé, že se ovinky vyrábějí co možná nejlevněji – to znamená ustřižením několika proužků vlny, které se sešijí k sobě a obšijí, aby se nepáraly. Článek, který tímto prezentuji a který je překladem článku Petera Beatsona, ukazuje, že tento způsob není nejvhodnější, a názorným způsobem vypovídá o tom, jak vypadaly původní nálezy. V krátkosti jsou okomentovány rozměry, technické parametry, způsob fixace a rekonstrukce. Do článku jsou zahrnuty dobová vyobrazení a grafy, díky kterým si lze udělat dobrou představu o tom, jak dobové ovinky vypadaly a jak byly nošeny.
Při listování v publikacích o nálezech z Haithabu / Hedeby jsem narazil na zajímavost, o které jsem doposud věděl pouze málo – nášlapné ježky (lat. tribulus, česky též „vraní noha“, viz terminologii v Žákovský 2009: 115). V Haithabu bylo objeveno celkem osm kusů. Nášlapní ježci se obecně „skládají ze čtyř různě dlouhých a profilovaných ramen, která jsou uspořádána tak, aby při vhození hvězdice na zem čnělo vzhůru vždy jedno její rameno. (…) Účinnost ježků byla někdy zvyšována i jednostrannými nebo oboustrannými zpětnými háčky na koncích ramen. Tyto háčky měly za úkol ránu zasazenou útočníkovi rozšířit a tím zesílit krvácení, dále měly znemožnit vytažení ježka z rány. Nebudeme asi daleko od pravdy, pokud budeme uvažovat i o natírání hrotů jedem nebo jejich znečišťování fekáliemi.” (Žákovský 2009: 121–122). Zpětné háčky lze detekovat také u nálezů z Haithabu. Ramena (bodce) nalezených ježků jsou dlouhá 30–70 mm (Westphalen 2002: 246, Taf. 91:25–27).
Nášlapní ježci z Haithabu. Převzato z Westphalen 2002: Taf. 91:25–27, Nr. 5954, Nr. 5951, Nr. 5952.
Nášlapní ježci z Haithabu. Převzato z Schietzel 2014: 581.
Masivní ježek vystavený v muzeu v Haithabu. Autor fotky: Jan Mudruňka.
Nášlapný ježek je defenzivní zbraní, která se užívala od antiky až do novověku např. při opevňování táborů nebo obraně měst. Jedná se o účinnou zbraň vůči pěchotě i kavalérii. První písemná zmínka o nasazení ježků se vztahuje k bitvě u Gaugamél (331 př. n. l.), kdy je měl použít perský král Dareios III. proti makedonským jednotkám (Michalak 2011: 275; Westphalen 2002: 246). Spisy Gaia Julia Caesara a Flavia Vegetia Renata svědčí o tom, že ježky přejala i římská armáda, což je podloženo archeologickými nálezy z německého Passau-Niedernburgu a skotského Newsteadu (Trimontium) (Michalak 2011: 275–276; Westphalen 2002: 246; Žákovský 2009: 115–116). Řada badatelů uvádí, že v období raného středověku ježci mizejí, aby se znovu objevily ve vrcholném pozdním středověku (např. Westphalen 2002; Žákovský 2009) – faktem však je, že se poměrně často zmiňují v byzantských válečných pojednáních (včetně praktických poznámek o jejich rozmístění, následném sběru a případné obraně proti takové zbrani) a občas i vyobrazeních (Michalak 2011: 275–276, 285, Ryc. 1:2). Michalak (2011: 276) se domnívá, že právě z Byzance se tato zbraň rozšířila do Evropy. Badatelé se shodují, že hlavním těžištěm této zbraně bylo 14.–17. století (Michalak 2011: 277–280; Žákovský 2009: 121). O používání nášlapných ježků v tomto mladším období se můžete dočíst v práci Petra Žákovského „Nášlapný ježek. Příspěvek k poznání jedné opomíjené středověké a raně novověké militarie“.
Pokud se vrátíme k ježkům z Haithabu, je potřeba říci, že jejich přiřazení k vikinskému materiálu provází obtíže. Přestože Michalak (Michalak 2011: 277) je považuje za rané doklady používání ve středověké Evropě a datuje je do období existence vikinského osídlení v Haithabu (nejpozději do 2. pol. 11. století), jiní autoři vyjadřují pochybnosti, protože ježci byly objeveni v nehlubokých vrstvách (Schietzel 2014: 581; Westphalen 2002: 246). V praxi to znamená, že mohou být mladšího data.
Je překvapující, že žádný z autorů, jejichž práce jsme dosud citovali, nezmínil skandinávské literární památky, v nichž lze nalézt zajímavé paralely. Stará severština ježky označuje jako hersporar. Pro účely tohoto článku jsem vybral tři nejzajímavější literární zmínky, přičemž zájemce o další zmínky odkazuji na H. Falka (1914: 198; § 102).
Nejstarší zpráva, která toto slovo obsahuje, pochází ze Ságy o Magnúsovi Slepém a Haraldu Gillim (kap. 6–7), která věrohodně popisuje dobývání Bergenu roku 1135 (ačkoli samotná sága byla zapsána zhruba o sto let později):
Král Harald plul na západ podél pobřeží a shromáždil velké vojsko, a proto se té zimě říkalo „davová zima“. Harald doplul do Bjǫrgvinu na Štědrý večer a zakotvil ve Flóruvázích. Kvůli posvátnosti toho času nechtěl bojovat na Vánoce. Král Magnús připravil město na boj. Na Hólmu vztyčil katapult a nechal vyrobit železné řetězy a dřevěné zátarasy, které položil přes záliv od královského dvorce. Nechal ukovat ježky a rozprostřít je po Jónsvellech. Z Vánoc nebyly slaveny více než tři dny, během kterých se nic nevyrábělo. A poslední den Vánoc dal král Harald zatroubit k postupu vojska. O Vánoce se jeho vojsko rozrostlo o devět set mužů. Král Harald slíbil králi Óláfu Svatému, že výměnou za vítězství postaví ve městě na vlastní náklady Óláfův kostel. Král Magnús postavil svůj šik u dvora Kristova kostela, zatímco král Harald vesloval nejprve k Norðnesu. Ale když to král Magnús se svými lidmi spatřil, obrátili se směrem k městu a ke konci zátoky. A když procházeli ulicemi, mnoho měšťanů odbíhalo do svých dvorů a domovů, a ti, kteří se vydali přes pole, naběhli na ježky.
Další zprávu představují Činy Dánů Saxona Grammatika (oddíl 6.5.9, napsáno kolem roku 1200) , který píše o ježcích v souvislosti s mýtickým příběhem o Starkaðovi. Starkað podle příběhu dobýval ruské město, ale jeho obránci použily ježky. Dánové však byli natolik důmyslní, že obuli dřeváky, díky kterým jim ježci neublížily. Ježci jsou popsáni jako „hřebíky nezvyklé ostrosti“, které mají „čtyři hroty, jež jsou uspořádány tak, že ať jsou hozeny na jakoukoli stranu, pevně stojí na třech stejných nohách“.
Další zmínku zachycuje takzvané Královské zrcadlo, příručka vytvořená pro následníka norského trůnu kolem roku 1250. V 38. kapitole, která popisuje boj na pevnině i na moři, se můžeme dočíst následující:
Na lodi může být k užitku mnoho zbraní, které nemají využití na pevnině, s výjimkou pevností a hradů. Na lodi jsou dobré dlouhé kosy a bradatice s dlouhými ratišti, bitevní břevna a praky na holích, oštěpy a všechny další druhy vrhacích zbraní. Dobré jsou také kuše, luky a všechny druhy střelných zbraní, avšak uhlí a síra jsou nejdůležitějšími ze všech zbraní, které jsem teď zmínil. Odlévaní ježci z olova [blýsteyptir hersporar] a dobré atgeiryjsou rovněž dobré zbraně na lodi.
Ze zprávy o bitvě o Bergen z roku 1135 vychází najevo, že ježci jsou železné a kované, stejně jako ježci nalezení v Haithabu. Nejbližší analogie, která je mi známa, pochází z ölandské pevnosti Eketorp (Eketorp III), která byla opuštěna kolem roku 1200. V Eketorpu bylo nalezeno celkem 24 kusů ve 3 různých typech (Michalak 2011: 277; Sandstedt 1998: 208). Úplně jiný pohled by v budoucnu mohl přinést nově nalezený ježek z dánského (dnes německého) protoměsta Sliasthorp, který by se mohl datovat nejpozději do 10. století. Jeden fragment nášlapného ježka byl nalezen také v Yorku (Období 3, 850–900, katalogové číslo 3944; viz Ottaway 1992: 244, 472, 1067, 1108). Olovění ježci, kteří jsou zmíněni v Královském zrcadle, jsou zcela jistě specificky norskou zbraní, protože byly archeologicky zachyceni v Norsku – jedná se o ježky s olověným jádrem, do něhož je zasazeno čtyři až pět železných hrotů (Ahrens 2012: 149; Petersen 1915: 5–8, Fig. 1–3).
Nášlapní ježci z Eketorpu III. Převzato z Michalak 2011: 287, Rys. 3:12–16, dle Sandstedt 1998: 208.
Ježek nalezený v severoněmeckém Sliasthorpu. Fotku pořídila Univerzita v Aarhusu.
V rámci tohoto kontextu je datování ježků z Haithabu nesmírně složité. Ukázali jsme si, že jde o zbraň, která má dlouhou historii. V raném středověku se však, a to i přes její jednoduchost, ve většině Evropy s výjimkou Byzance neobjevuje mezi archeologickými nálezy nebo v literárních památkách. Ukázali jsme si, že ježci se mohly dostávat do módy již ve 12. století, což ve své práci dokládá také Sven Ahrens (2012: 147–148). V severském prostředí, ve kterém nebyl kavalérní boj prioritou, byly ježci používáni proti pěchotě při obraně pevností, měst a při námořním boji. Haithabu bylo opevněno tzv. Polokruhovým valem (Halbkreiswall), který mohl být k vojenským účelům využíván i po zániku města, a tak je pouze otázkou, zda můžeme ježky datovat do vikinského období, nebo je přiřadíme k mladšímu a analogicky bližšímu materiálu. Pokud by se dokázalo prokázat, že nalezení ježci z Haithabu, Sliasthorpu a Yorku náleží do vikinského období, poupravila by se naše představa o podobě raně středověkého boje.
Použité prameny a literatura:
Královské zrcadlo (Konungs skuggsjá) = Speculum regale. Konungs-skuggsjá. Konge-speilet. Ed. Rudolph Keyser, Peter Andreas Munch, Carl Rikard Unger. Christiania 1848. Online. Anglický překlad.
Sága o Magnúsovi Slepém a Haraldu Gillim (Magnúss saga blinda og Haralds gilla). Snerpa. Online zde.
AHRENS, Sven (2002). En fotangel fra Bjørvika og fotangelens lange militære historie. In: Norsk Maritimt Museum Årbok 2012, 143-160. Online.
FALK, Hjalmar (1914). Altnordische Waffenkunde, Kristiania.
MICHALAK, Arkadiusz (2011). „[…] i konie […] były niezawodnie zniszczone“. Rzecz o tribulusach, czosnkach i kruczych stópkach. In: O. Ławrynowicz, J. Maik, P. A. Nowakowski (red.). Non sensistis gladios! Studia ofiarowane Marianowi Głoskowi w 70. rocznicę urodzin, Łódź, s. 275–287. Online.
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PETERSEN, Theodor (1915). Kongespeilets blýsteyptir hersporar. In: Det Kongelige Norske Videnskabers Selskabs Skrifter 6, 1–8. Online.
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SCHIETZEL, Kurt (2014). Spurensuche Haithabu, Neumünster – Hamburg.
WESTPHALEN, Petra. Die Eisenfunde von Haithabu. Die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu 10, Neumünster 2002, 227–228.
ŽÁKOVSKÝ, Petr (2009). Nášlapný ježek. Příspěvek k poznání jedné opomíjené středověké a raně novověké militarie. In: Sborník prací Filozofické fakulty brněnské univerzity – řada archeologická (M) 12-13, 115–132. Online.