A Look into the Weapons of the Vikings

The age of the Viking captivates many people. This post takes a look into historical Viking weapons as well as how they were made and used. We take a look at what type of weapons did the vikings use, including their swords, axes, polearms, and bows.

Viking Swords

When it came to swords, Vikings would usually wield double-edged blades with a single-handed hilt. Swords were often expensive to make. This is most likely due to the amount of iron a sword requires vs another weapon such as an axe or spear. The quality of metal would help to add to the quality and expense of the sword. A popular manufacturer or source of swords during the Viking era was Ulfberht. It is not completely known if this maker was a single person, a family, or a group of manufacturers. Ulfberht swords would have the maker’s name on the base of the blade. These high-quality swords became so popular that blacksmiths of the era would make counterfeit versions.

In addition, many Viking swords would have had highly decorated hilts. A popular design choice was the use of inlays on the pommel. The use of inlays would also add to the cost of a sword purely based on the labor involved. Since swords were expensive, they were usually wielded by people of high status. Viking sagas relate that the Vikings would pass down swords as heirlooms.

The sax or seax was a shorter version of the sword. This shorter sword would have a single edge and would more closely resemble a knife. In fact, it was usually the items length that would have separated it from a knife historically. A seax would usually be simpler than a longer sword. However, there are examples of seaxes of a similar quality to the longer swords. In addition, seaxes would have thicker and heavier blades comparatively speaking.

Viking Axes

The axes used by the Vikings were all single-edged blades, usually with a light, fast, and well-balanced design. Viking axe heads were constructed in one of two ways. One method involved folding a piece of metal over at the eye or socket point, and then forge-welding the ends with another piece to make the edge. The more common method was making the axe head from a single piece without folding it over and instead punching a hole through the axe head for the socket. The Danish style of axe was one of the most popular styles. This style has a wide and thin axe head designed for cutting.

As axes of any kind were incredibly common, they were often the weapon of choice for the poorest fighters. A poor fighter would have found it somewhat easy to pick up a wood-cutting axe and use it in a fight. Such an axe would have had a different design than an axe for battle. A Viking could use an axe in battle in different ways. There are sagas that mention warriors hiding shorter axes from the enemy’s view until they attacked. There are also mentions of using an axe to hook onto a body.

Viking Weapons: The Mammen Silver-inlaid Axehead
The Mammen Silver-inlaid Axehead, created 970 CE, National Museum of Denmark

Viking Spears and Polearms

The spear was the most common weapon in the Viking age. A spearhead was often made from iron using pattern welding. Pattern welding consists of forge-welding several metal pieces together. Rivets would secure the spearhead onto the shaft. Unfortunately, there is not much information about how long the shafts were. The best guess is that a Viking spear at the time would have been around 7-10 feet in total length, including the spearhead. A Viking warrior wielding a spear could have thrown their spear. There are myths and sagas that mention this fighting style. However, sagas also mention the disadvantage of this fighting style. It was theoretically feasible for the enemy to throw your weapon back at you.

More commonly, a Viking used a spear as a thrusting weapon, especially in melees, one-on-one fighting, and mass battles. In addition to spears, sagas briefly mention other polearms. For example, a weapon called atgeirr mentioned in a saga is generally thought of as a version of a halberd or a glaive. Other weapons such as kesja and hoggspjot are other polearms that may have been used. Little knowledge of what they looked like survives today.

Viking Bows

When it came to warfare, the Vikings most commonly used bows in naval battles and mass battles. However, they were more common as hunting tools, and therefore had less of an association as a weapon for military use. In naval battles, Vikings used bows to help prepare an enemy ship for boarding. In the Viking Age, like in other eras of history, warriors used bows at the beginning of a battle before the opposing sides got in close range of each other. Various sagas such as the Brennu-Njáls saga and the Eyrbyggja saga mention bows. Current available evidence suggests that Vikings only used longbows rather than other types of bows like recurve bows.

This post takes a quick look into historical Viking weapons It covers the most popular weapons, from axes to swords and more. Medieval Collectibles is proud to offer this insight into Viking weaponry. We hope this post interests anyone looking to create their own Viking character as well as anyone interested in weaponry or Viking history.

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