viking armour

Viking, Saxon, and Early Christian Irish cultures

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viking armour

Postby Ambiorix apsealgair on Tue Jan 27, 2009 9:51 pm

Did the vikings wear gambesons?? I've seen pictures of some viking reenactors wearing them but didn't find any information on actual finds :? is there any actually out there??
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Re: viking armour

Postby Swifty on Wed Jan 28, 2009 12:56 am

Hello there

To date there has been no definite find of viking armour composed in the prime of cloth or leather. Viking re-enactors base their interpretations of quilted armour on evidence from runestones in Scandinavia and on the literary evidence from the sagas. Evidence from the runestones points to short quilted jackets -to the base of the groin, roughly to the same proportions of the viking-style mail brynie - with the reinforcement stitching apparently tending to be arranged on a diagonal basis. However the artwork is rather open to interpretation and it could be argued that the warriors depicted could as easily be wearing mail. To my recollection one saga, at least - and I'm sure there are more, mention the use of deerskin for use as armoured jerkins. This latter is also of interest as deerskin was also known to have been utilised as armour by the Islesmen who were descendents of the Norse in the Western Isles and Highlands of Scotland and who were, of course, also closely related to the Galloglasses of Late Medieval Ireland.

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Re: viking armour

Postby wolfvine on Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:08 am

greetings my friends.
What about the use of metal by the vikings for the protection of the lower legs (Shins) and lower arms.

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Re: viking armour

Postby Matt on Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:50 am

vambraces and greaves were definitely in use by those vikings who were in the service of the Varangian Guard, along with the use of metal lamellar armour, once i get time i will check through the finds from Birka to see if there were any found in a Scandinavian context (due to the finds of lamellar plate there imported from Byzantium there is good chance there were vambraces & greaves also)
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Re: viking armour

Postby Swifty on Thu Jan 29, 2009 12:23 pm

I agree that splint armour was used for arm and leg protection but would caution that it would only have been any way common amongst the Varangians, the Rus (the Swedish exports to Russland) and to a lesser extent with the domestic Swedes themselves. Obviously the odd Anglo-Danish mercenary would have come home to old blighty with a set but there is no evidence that this type of armour (including lamellar) was an everyday sight amongst the Norwegian and Danish strain of viking who 'visited' our shores. Nor for that matter was it a common sight in Western Europe at large. Nice gear all the same...
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Re: viking armour

Postby the_power on Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:05 pm

There was a mention in Giraldus' description of the Danes in the 1180 Battle of Dublin wearing "coats of cunningly fashioned iron plates". Might be lamellar, might be wisby style coat of plates. But 1180 is hardly 'Viking' anymore, as the norse were almost completely into trading, farming and stand-up armies. There were "Greek" traders operating around the east coast of Ireland in the 11thC - most likely Rus, though they were by far the exception rather than the rule. I'm also pretty sure there was at least one Rus burial found in the Dublin hinterland (I'll check the book when I get home). Mary Valante's "The Vikings in Ireland" is a wonderful summary of Ireland in the 8th-12thC, and she goes to great lengths to describe Irish/Viking relations too. It's the only book I've seen Rus mentioned.

My gut feeling is no, but if you feel up to portraying a viking from Byzantium, I'm fine with it as long as you don't pretend they were a common sight here.

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Re: viking armour

Postby Matt on Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:39 pm

Sorry if my post was in anyway misleading but I never suggested that the Norwegians or Danes may have possessed or utilised Lammellar armour or indeed splint vambraces or greaves. Birka, being in Sweden, has finds of steel Lammellar plates, albeit not in any constructed garment, this does not give evidence to suggest that the average Viking warrior used lamellar, also the find has t be taken in context, that is Birka was not any regular Viking settlement, but rather a Garrison of seasoned warriors for whom battle was a vocation and not a profession.( A warrior will provide his own equipment and will bestow great pride in it whereas a professional soldier will have his equipment provided by his lord)

In short, Splint Greaves, Vambraces and lammellar Armour, perfectly fine, in the right context.

hope this will clear up my stance on this issue.

p.s. havent had time to check the paper yet
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Re: viking armour

Postby nathan on Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:01 pm

any idea on the actual appearence of these lamellers ive seen an abundance of eastern ones from the period but none in a western context. also the isuue of padded armour that i have seen on other forums is a seriously contested one for the reason of there being no concrete evidence for them. but on the reindeer skin jackets the inuit have been wearing those for a long time and still do. also open question to everyone do you think that would be a good basis for a viking reindeer jacket? as they would be both very warm comfortable and somewhat trendy :lol:
for here starts war carrion birds sing, and grey wolves howl
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Re: viking armour

Postby finnobreanan on Thu Jan 29, 2009 10:45 pm

Here's a good link to an article on Viking armor, mostly documentation fram the Sagas (good web site actually).
http://www.hurstwic.org/history/article ... g_mail.htm
Lamellar (scale) is more common than chain mail from the archealogical evidence, quite a few excavated at the Battlefield of Visby in 1365 (post-Viking Age). There is a great book published on the archealogy there.
http://www.alibris.com/booksearch?qwork ... ting*title
Gambesons would not have survived due to the materials they were made from, so it is speculation on their use.
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Re: viking armour

Postby frodo on Mon Feb 02, 2009 7:33 am

The "viking style" leg and vambrace do not originate in Birka (where the lamm bits were found) but actually in a vendel age grave in in fact Vendel... there is an image of the remaining examples further down the page http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic ... el&start=0
So in short unless you are portraying strongly eastern Byzantine or Swedish (Varangian) these leg guards do not really feature in the viking time-line.
As a side point the splints from vendel were originally supposed to be a form of chest armour and were recreated as such but with further research were recreated as 2 greaves and 1 vambrace only (as your shield arm would already be covered...

Apologies for rambling 14 hour night shift is gradually creeping to an end...
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