Vikings Shield

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Vikings Shield

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Vikings Shield Video

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Vikings Shield Video

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Posted by brian smith on May 14th Bootifull Real nice boots! Gonna go great with my viking costume! Super authentic! When that happened, a clever fighter could twist his shield either to break the weapon, or to break it loose from the grip of its owner.

The sagas suggest that the shield might be used two handed to defend against a powerful attack. Bolli dropped his sword to hold the shield with both hands.

This trick did not stop Helgi's spear from penetrating the shield and wounding Bolli. In chapter 24 of Grettis saga , Gunnar held his shield with two hands against an attack by Grettir.

The trick didn't work in this case, either. Grettir hacked with his sax between Gunnar's body and the shield, cutting off both of Gunnar's hands.

A speculative reconstruction of two-handed use of the shield is shown in this combat demo video , part of a longer fight. Occasionally, men dropped their shields in battle because they temporarily needed a free hand for some other purpose.

The spear found its mark, and Grani was seriously wounded. Many people think of a shield as a wall to hide behind.

While shields can be used passively in that manner, a more aggressive posture and use are advantageous. In single combat, the shield was probably held at an angle to the body, either to the outside to the left side for a right-handed man or inside to the right side.

The shield is held forward, but not in front of, the combatant, contacting hand, arm, and shoulder and becoming a part of the combatant's body. Too far forward results in a slower, less powerful and less effective defense that wastes the combatant's physical resources.

This stance puts the combatant in an aggressive position with good defensive options. The aggressive posture moves the line of defense well away from the body.

Attacks can be parried or deflected or broken up well before they reach the body. The angle prevents the shield from being driven straight in to the combatant's body, which might pin his arms and limit his options.

The angle also allows incoming blows to be deflected, rather than being caught straight on. Deflecting the blow, rather than stopping it, puts less force on both the shield, and the combatant's arm, reducing the likelihood that either will break.

Egill used this technique against Berg-Önundur in chapter 58 of Egils saga. Egill placed his shield at an angle so that the spear kesja thrown by Önundur was deflected by the shield and glanced off.

That is not to say that the flat of the shield was never used for parrying a weapon in the Viking age. Surely, a warrior would parry with whatever was available in the heat of battle.

That the saga author found this notable enough to mention suggests that perhaps this usage of the shield was not common. The author also comments that Lambi's sword did not "bite" the shield, again, suggesting that perhaps a different outcome was expected.

Another approach to using a Viking shield has recently been suggested, similar to the peek-a-boo guard used by modern boxers. The shield is held up near the head, with the shield hand near the face.

The position provides significant protection to the head and to the all-important central nervous system.

The grip is very efficient in its use of body resources, since the weight of the shield is locked in place and carried by the skeletal system rather than being held in place by the muscles of the arm and shoulder.

The shield is moved for defense using small motions of the arm and hip, making for extremely fast parries from either side, with little effort.

The orientation of the shield grip with the hand and wrist, along with the large contact area with the body means the shield is much more solidly positioned against incoming strikes, making it less likely to be hammered out of position.

Additionally, when the shield edge is used offensively as discussed later in this article , a twist of the hips applies the power from the strong muscles of the lower body to the strike, making for a devastating attack.

This high shield position has many advantages when fighting from the ground, as well, after a fighter has been wounded or otherwise forced down.

Virtually the entire body is shielded. Visibility is good, and many attacks are still possible. Yet, this approach to using the shield has many problems not yet resolved.

It's more difficult to defend against low attacks. It's easy to blind oneself to an opponent during some defenses.

Additionally, the shield takes a lot of abuse from the opponent's weapons in this position. Yet the advantages of this approach to shield use, both in speed and efficiency, are so significant that we are reluctant to discard it out of hand.

Perhaps one shield position was used for close-in fighting, and another for more distant fighting. Our research continues. One example of the aggressive defensive use of the shield is binding the opponent's weapons, opening a new line of attack.

By sweeping his shield from outside to inside across his front, a combatant can capture and trap his opponent's weapons with his shield, leaving the opponent open to an attack right.

This kind of shield bind can also be used to apply pressure to the opponent's body, allowing control of his movements. In the photo to the left, Brown has put Blue in a poor shield bind.

Brown controls Blue's body with his shield bind, but Brown has neglected to control Blue's weapons. Blue is about to give Brown a lesson in the importance of maintaining that control.

The futility of hiding behind a shield as if it were a wall is graphically illustrated in this series of photographs. The shield was made of six wooden planks, butted and glued together.

The planks were Quaking Aspen Populus tremuloides , a hardwood having similar properties to Basswood Tilia , also known as Linden outside of North America.

The boss was attached to the front by clinched forged nails, and the handgrip was similarly attached to the back. A rawhide edging was attached to the rim by tacks.

No iron reinforcements were used on the back, and no facing was used on the front. The shield was affixed to a wooden stand that simulated a human grip on the shield.

A cut was made from a ward without a wind-up, as one might do in a combat situation. The axe penetrated the shield easily.

The axe split the plank from one end to the other, and the fragments were held in place by the rawhide edging. If a hand had been holding the shield when the blow struck, the axe would have partially severed the hand.

With the second blow, the shield was destroyed. Again, the plank was split from end to end, and the rawhide edging failed. The handgrip broke in several places, and the shield fell apart.

The same test was made on an identical shield that was faced with leather. The first blow penetrated the shield, but did not split the planks.

There was no damage to the shield, other than the penetration, and the shield remained an effective defense. Even after four solid blows, the shield was still intact, without any splits.

It remained a solid, usable defense, demonstrating the benefit of a facing on shield. It wasn't until the sixth blow that the shield failed, due to the shattering of the handgrip.

This failure suggests that a solid iron reinforcement would be beneficial for extending the utility of the shield faced with leather.

A slow motion video of one of the axe blows may be seen here. The benefits of using a shield constructed of layers of wood compared to a shield contructed of planks is clearly visible in the photos to the right.

The unfaced planked shield offers little protection after just two hits, while the unfaced plied shield continues to offer significant protection, even after it had been penetrated by an axe five times.

The unfaced plied shield left was pierced many dozens of times with a spear and remained intact, while the unfaced planked shield right flew apart into pieces on the second hit, with shards of wood and rawhide edging flying in all directions.

Further research and tests are planned. Would a hand have been able to hold a shield given this kind of impact? Would bones have broken under the force of the blow?

What are appropriate responses for each combatant when a weapon penetrates and is trapped by the shield, which happened several times during these test cuts?

In addition to its obvious defensive uses, the shield can also be used offensively. The edge of the shield can be used for punching, turning it into a very effective set of "brass knuckles".

If a combatant does not take care to control his opponent's shield, he may quickly find his teeth have been knocked out.

The attack can be made with the arm and shoulder, or very powerfully and quickly using the hips. Using the high shield position described earlier on this page, it's easy to imagine delivering a lethal one-handed punch with the edge of the shield.

However, the saga suggests that Björn used two hands. A speculative reconstruction of this move is shown in this combat demo video , part of a longer fight.

A speculative reconstruction of that move is shown to the left, and in this combat demo video , part of a longer fight.

Hurstwic has conducted research on how and when a Viking warrior might choose to throw his shield, detailed in this short video. A fighter might run in under an opponent and bash him or smother him with his shield, shown to the right and in the same combat demo video.

The stories also describe instances where the shield was used completely passively. Shields were thrown on fallen combatants during a battle to protect them from further injury.

His companions freed Grani and laid him in a hollow and covered him with shields. A swimmer under attack from missiles thrown from the shore might cover his back with his shield to protect himself while swimming.

We tried this to test whether it was possible to swim with a shield on one's back, and whether the shield provided any protection.

Swimming with a shiled while wearing Viking clothing was no problem. The shield seemed to provide some significant protection to the swimmer from arrows fired from the land, although the archers commented that the shield made the swimmer a better target.

The stories suggest that slaves were used as human shields. His two slaves threw themselves on his fallen body to shield him.

The earl ordered the captured men killed at once, but Sveinn demurred, pointing out that it was night, when men should not be killed.

The captives were bound, and later in the night, they were able to cut their bonds and escape. During a recent practice, I discovered what should be obvious: a shield makes an excellent sail.

A gusty wind makes controlling the shield very much more difficult. One wonders if a skilled fighter would take advantage of that in the same way he might contrive to put the sun in his opponent's eyes.

The stories say that a fighter might hold a second weapon at the ready in his shield hand, while fighting with his primary weapon in the other hand.

Later in the fight, he threw down his spear and took up the axe in his right hand, using it to cut through Snorri's spear shaft, and then through Snorri's head.

The use of shields was nearly universal in Viking combat. Someone without a shield would be, quite literally, defenseless, and would likely be cut down very quickly.

So, most every fighting man had a shield. The stories say that occasionally, some men chose not to carry a shield, notably when they carried a two-handed weapon, or a different weapon in each hand.

He carried a sword and an axe, but no shield. Did he think his opponents didn't know how to fight? Since the shield could and did break in combat, people expecting to be in a protracted fight such as a duel might have several shields on hand.

The sagas are filled with examples in which shields split or punctured under the force of incoming spears, axes, or swords.

While fighting Gunnar in chapter 43 of Grettis saga , Atli delivered a blow with his sword that sliced through Gunnar's shield and part of Gunnar's knee.

Atli's next blow killed Gunnar. Shields were treated differently than other weapons, perhaps because they were so disposable. Shields apparently were not named, in the way that swords, mail, and other weapons were.

Shields had uses outside of combat. Elaborately decorated shields were given as gifts. In Egils saga chapter 81 , the earl gave the poet Einar a shield that was carved with scenes from legends, overlaid with gold, and set with jewels.

Vikings Shield

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Leg injuries visible in the skeletal remains from Fishergate York suggest deliberate attempts to sever the leg muscles, causing the combatant to fall without killing him.

Offensive weapons sometimes stuck fast in a shield after a blow. When that happened, a clever fighter could twist his shield either to break the weapon, or to break it loose from the grip of its owner.

The sagas suggest that the shield might be used two handed to defend against a powerful attack. Bolli dropped his sword to hold the shield with both hands.

This trick did not stop Helgi's spear from penetrating the shield and wounding Bolli. In chapter 24 of Grettis saga , Gunnar held his shield with two hands against an attack by Grettir.

The trick didn't work in this case, either. Grettir hacked with his sax between Gunnar's body and the shield, cutting off both of Gunnar's hands.

A speculative reconstruction of two-handed use of the shield is shown in this combat demo video , part of a longer fight.

Occasionally, men dropped their shields in battle because they temporarily needed a free hand for some other purpose. The spear found its mark, and Grani was seriously wounded.

Many people think of a shield as a wall to hide behind. While shields can be used passively in that manner, a more aggressive posture and use are advantageous.

In single combat, the shield was probably held at an angle to the body, either to the outside to the left side for a right-handed man or inside to the right side.

The shield is held forward, but not in front of, the combatant, contacting hand, arm, and shoulder and becoming a part of the combatant's body.

Too far forward results in a slower, less powerful and less effective defense that wastes the combatant's physical resources.

This stance puts the combatant in an aggressive position with good defensive options. The aggressive posture moves the line of defense well away from the body.

Attacks can be parried or deflected or broken up well before they reach the body. The angle prevents the shield from being driven straight in to the combatant's body, which might pin his arms and limit his options.

The angle also allows incoming blows to be deflected, rather than being caught straight on. Deflecting the blow, rather than stopping it, puts less force on both the shield, and the combatant's arm, reducing the likelihood that either will break.

Egill used this technique against Berg-Önundur in chapter 58 of Egils saga. Egill placed his shield at an angle so that the spear kesja thrown by Önundur was deflected by the shield and glanced off.

That is not to say that the flat of the shield was never used for parrying a weapon in the Viking age. Surely, a warrior would parry with whatever was available in the heat of battle.

That the saga author found this notable enough to mention suggests that perhaps this usage of the shield was not common. The author also comments that Lambi's sword did not "bite" the shield, again, suggesting that perhaps a different outcome was expected.

Another approach to using a Viking shield has recently been suggested, similar to the peek-a-boo guard used by modern boxers. The shield is held up near the head, with the shield hand near the face.

The position provides significant protection to the head and to the all-important central nervous system. The grip is very efficient in its use of body resources, since the weight of the shield is locked in place and carried by the skeletal system rather than being held in place by the muscles of the arm and shoulder.

The shield is moved for defense using small motions of the arm and hip, making for extremely fast parries from either side, with little effort.

The orientation of the shield grip with the hand and wrist, along with the large contact area with the body means the shield is much more solidly positioned against incoming strikes, making it less likely to be hammered out of position.

Additionally, when the shield edge is used offensively as discussed later in this article , a twist of the hips applies the power from the strong muscles of the lower body to the strike, making for a devastating attack.

This high shield position has many advantages when fighting from the ground, as well, after a fighter has been wounded or otherwise forced down.

Virtually the entire body is shielded. Visibility is good, and many attacks are still possible. Yet, this approach to using the shield has many problems not yet resolved.

It's more difficult to defend against low attacks. It's easy to blind oneself to an opponent during some defenses.

Additionally, the shield takes a lot of abuse from the opponent's weapons in this position. Yet the advantages of this approach to shield use, both in speed and efficiency, are so significant that we are reluctant to discard it out of hand.

Perhaps one shield position was used for close-in fighting, and another for more distant fighting. Our research continues.

One example of the aggressive defensive use of the shield is binding the opponent's weapons, opening a new line of attack.

By sweeping his shield from outside to inside across his front, a combatant can capture and trap his opponent's weapons with his shield, leaving the opponent open to an attack right.

This kind of shield bind can also be used to apply pressure to the opponent's body, allowing control of his movements. In the photo to the left, Brown has put Blue in a poor shield bind.

Brown controls Blue's body with his shield bind, but Brown has neglected to control Blue's weapons. Blue is about to give Brown a lesson in the importance of maintaining that control.

The futility of hiding behind a shield as if it were a wall is graphically illustrated in this series of photographs.

The shield was made of six wooden planks, butted and glued together. The planks were Quaking Aspen Populus tremuloides , a hardwood having similar properties to Basswood Tilia , also known as Linden outside of North America.

The boss was attached to the front by clinched forged nails, and the handgrip was similarly attached to the back.

A rawhide edging was attached to the rim by tacks. No iron reinforcements were used on the back, and no facing was used on the front.

The shield was affixed to a wooden stand that simulated a human grip on the shield. A cut was made from a ward without a wind-up, as one might do in a combat situation.

The axe penetrated the shield easily. The axe split the plank from one end to the other, and the fragments were held in place by the rawhide edging.

If a hand had been holding the shield when the blow struck, the axe would have partially severed the hand. With the second blow, the shield was destroyed.

Again, the plank was split from end to end, and the rawhide edging failed. The handgrip broke in several places, and the shield fell apart.

The same test was made on an identical shield that was faced with leather. The first blow penetrated the shield, but did not split the planks. There was no damage to the shield, other than the penetration, and the shield remained an effective defense.

Even after four solid blows, the shield was still intact, without any splits. It remained a solid, usable defense, demonstrating the benefit of a facing on shield.

It wasn't until the sixth blow that the shield failed, due to the shattering of the handgrip. This failure suggests that a solid iron reinforcement would be beneficial for extending the utility of the shield faced with leather.

A slow motion video of one of the axe blows may be seen here. The benefits of using a shield constructed of layers of wood compared to a shield contructed of planks is clearly visible in the photos to the right.

The unfaced planked shield offers little protection after just two hits, while the unfaced plied shield continues to offer significant protection, even after it had been penetrated by an axe five times.

The unfaced plied shield left was pierced many dozens of times with a spear and remained intact, while the unfaced planked shield right flew apart into pieces on the second hit, with shards of wood and rawhide edging flying in all directions.

Further research and tests are planned. Would a hand have been able to hold a shield given this kind of impact? No weapon matching their descriptions have been found in graves.

These weapons may have been rare, or may not have been part of the funerary customs of the Vikings. The Viking age sling was easy to manufacture, consisting of a rope and sometimes a leather cup to assist with loading, giving many of the lower class access to a formidable weapon.

Slingers make effective light infantry due to their lack of heavy equipment and open formation. The bow and arrow was used for both hunting and warfare.

They were made from yew , ash or elm. A yew bow found at Viking Hedeby , which probably was a full-fledged war bow, had a draw force of well over pounds.

A unit of length used in the Viking Age called a bow shot corresponded to what was later measured as Illustrations from the time show bows being pulled back to the chest, rather than to the corner of the mouth or under the chin, as is common today.

Arrowheads were typically made from iron and produced in various shapes and dimensions, according to place of origin. Most arrowheads were fixed onto the arrow shaft by a shouldered tang that was fitted into the end of a shaft of wood.

Some heads were also made of wood, bone or antler. Evidence for eagle feather flights has been found with the feathers being bound and glued on.

The end of the shaft was flared with shallow self nocks, although some arrows possessed bronze cast nocks. The historical record also indicates that Vikings may have used barbed arrows, but the archaeological evidence for such technology is limited.

The earliest find of these relics were found in Denmark, seemingly belonging to the leading-warrior class based on the graves in which they were found.

The shield was the most common means of defence. The sagas specifically mention linden wood for shield construction, although finds from graves show mostly other timbers, such as fir , alder and poplar with steel or iron shield boss.

These timbers are not very dense and are light in the hand. They are also not inclined to split, unlike oak.

Also, the fibres of the timber bind around blades preventing the blade from cutting any deeper unless a lot more pressure is applied.

In conjunction with stronger wood, Vikings often reinforced their shields with leather or, occasionally, iron around the rim. The smaller shield sizes came from the pagan period for the Saxons and the larger sizes from the 10th and 11th centuries.

Most shields are shown in illuminations as being painted a single colour although some have a design painted onto them; the most common designs are simple crosses or derivations of sun wheels or segments.

The few round shields that survived have much more complicated designs painted on them and sometimes very ornate silver and gold work applied around the boss and the strap anchors.

The Gokstad ship has places for shields to be hung on its railing and the Gokstad shields have holes along the rim for fastening some sort of non-metallic rim protection.

These were called shield lists and they protected ship crews from waves and the wind. Some Viking shields may have been decorated by simple patterns although some skaldic poems praising shields might indicate more elaborate decoration and archaeological evidence has supported this.

In fact, there is a complete subgenre of Skaldic poetry dedicated to shields, known as "shield poems", that describe scenes painted on shields. Viking shields were also heavily used in formations.

The shield wall or skjaldborg was a main formation in which accomplished Viking warriors would create a line of interlocked shields and thrust spears at adversaries.

Other notable tactics included the svinfylking "boarsnout", in which warriors would create a wedge configuration and attempt to burst through the front line of nearby foes.

It has been proposed that the medieval era kite shield favoured by the Normans was introduced to Europe by the Vikings.

The remains of five helmets from the Viking Age are known to exist: the Tjele helmet fragment , two fragments from Gotland , one fragment from Kiev , and the Gjermundbu helmet.

Only the remains from Gjermundbu were capable of reconstruction. The helmet dates to the 10th century. This helmet was made of iron from four plates after the spangenhelm pattern.

This helmet has a rounded cap, and there is evidence that it also may have had a mail aventail. It has a "spectacle" guard around the eyes and nose which formed a sort of mask, which suggests a close affinity with the earlier Vendel Period helmets.

From runestones and other illustrations, it is known that the Vikings also wore simpler helmets, often caps with a simple noseguard.

Despite popular culture, there is no evidence that Vikings used horned helmets in battle as such horns would be impractical in a melee, [20] but it is possible that horned head dresses were used in ritual contexts.

Once again, a single fragmented but possibly complete mail shirt has been excavated in Scandinavia, from the same site as the helmet—Gjermundbu in Haugsbygd.

Scandinavian Viking Age burial customs seems to not favour burial with helmet or mail armour, in contrast to earlier extensive armour burials in Sweden Valsgärde or possibly only a small amount of Vikings could afford it.

Probably worn over thick clothing, a mail shirt protected the wearer from being cut, but offered little protection from blunt trauma and stabbing attacks from a sharp point such as that of a spear.

The difficulty of obtaining mail armour resided in the fact that it required thousands of interlinked iron rings, each one of which had to be individually riveted together by hand.

Hjortspring boat contained several incomplete suits of mail. The mail worn by Vikings was almost certainly the "four-on-one" type, where four solid punched or riveted rings are connected by a single riveted ring.

Mail of this type is known as a byrnie from Old Norse brynja. Given scarcity of archeological evidence for Viking armor and the fact that Vikings on a raid tried to avoid pitched battles, it's possible that mail was primarily worn only by the professional warriors going into battle, such as the Great Heathen Army of the mid-9th century in England or at Harald Hardrada's invasion of Northumbria at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in , and wealthy nobles.

More than 30 lamellae individual plates for lamellar armour were found in Birka, Sweden, in , and — There is considerable debate however as to whether the lamellae in question were in the possession of a Scandinavian resident or a foreign mercenary.

Quilted cloth a gambeson is conjectured as possible options for lower-status Viking warriors, though no reference to such are known from the sagas.

Such materials survive poorly in graves, and no archaeological finds have been made. Some runestones depict what appears to be armour which is likely not chain mail.

The armour in question may have been the lamellar armour mentioned above, or may not have been armour at all.

Several layers of stout linen or hemp canvas would provide a good level of protection, at reasonable expense, as would winter clothing made from thick woollen cloth.

Leather was far pricier during the period than today [ citation needed ] and thus less affordable for the casual warrior.

In the Legendary Saga of St. The tunic is described as "magically" enhanced which may indicate that it may not represent a typical example of such a garment.

Leather clothing does, however, occasionally turn up in archaeological finds, and would have offered some degree of protection in combat.

All in all, the case for non-metal forms of armour remains inconclusive. It is likely that the average Viking fought whilst wearing ordinary clothing, with the shield as the only form of protection.

Foreign-made, specifically Frankish , weapons and armour played a special role in Norse society. Norsemen attained them either through trade an extension of gift-giving in Norse society [ citation needed ] or as plunder.

Therefore, their possession and display by any individual would signify their station in the social hierarchy and any political allegiances they had.

Scandinavian affinity towards foreign arms and armour during the Viking Age had an eminently practical aspect.

Norse weapon designs were obsolete and sources of iron within Scandinavia were of poor quality. Frankish swords like the VLFBERHT had a higher carbon content making them more durable and their design was much more manoeuvrable compared to Scandinavian-produced swords.

Many of the most important Viking weapons were highly ornate—decorated lavishly with gold and silver. Weapons adorned as such served large religious and social functions.

These precious metals were not produced in Scandinavia and they too would have been imported. Vikings also used foreign armour.

According to Heimskringla , one hundred Vikings appeared "in coats of ring-mail, and in foreign helmets" at the Battle of Nesjar [40] in

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die Stille ist getreten:)

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