Our knowledge about arms and armour of the Viking age (8th to 11th centuries Europe) is based on relatively sparse archaeological finds, pictorial representation, and to some extent on the accounts in the Icelandic sagas, recorded in the 13th century.

The main weapons were the spear and the sword, and sometimes the battle-axe. The main defensive equipment included the shield, typically round, and the helmet, sometimes combined with a chainmail shirt.

Contents [hide]
1 Weapons
1.1 Spear
1.2 Sword
1.3 Battle-axe
1.4 Bow and arrows
2 Armour
2.1 Shield
2.2 Helmet
2.3 Mail shirts
3 Archaeological finds
4 Saga accounts
4.1 Battles
4.2 Duels
5 Images
6 External links

Spears consisted of metal heads on usually wooden shafts of two to three meters in length. The heads could measure between twenty centimeters and sixty centimeters, with a tendency of longer heads towards the later Viking age. Spear heads with wings are called krókspjót (barbed spear) in the sagas. The spear was used both as a throwing weapon and as a thrusting weapon. They were used one-handed just as well as two-handed, if not better (the shield could be slung to the back to free the left hand).

Main article: Viking Sword
To own a sword was a matter of high prestige. A sword mentioned in the Laxdćla saga was valued at half a crown, corresponding to the value of 16 milk-cows. The viking sword was for single-handed use to be combined with a shield, with a blade length of typically 80–90 cm. Its shape was still very much based on the swords of the Dark Ages and on the Roman spatha, with a tight grip and no pronounced cross-guard.

Main article: Danish axe
Based on the everyday tool for splitting wood, axes specialized for use in battle evolved, with larger heads and longer shafts. Some axe heads were inlaid with silver designs. These were more brutish and sluggish than the graceful spear or fast swinging sword, but could split mail links easily. Vikings were the only warriors during medival times to use a battle axe. In the later Viking era, there were axe heads with crescent shaped edges measuring up to 45cm, called breiđ-řx (broad axe).

Bow and arrows
Bows were used both for hunting and in battle. They were made from yew, ash or elmtrees. The draw force of a 10th century bow may have reached some 90 pounds force (400 N), resulting in an effective range of at least 250m. Only a specially trained archer could have hit a target some 250 meters away. A unit of length used in icelandic law (the Grágás) called a bowshot (ördrag) corresponded to 480 m.

The viking shield was typically round, with a diameter of ca. 80–90 cm and a thickness of 1–2 cm, made of planks of coniferous wood (fir, pine) or linden. Towards the end of the Viking age, the Norman kite shield came into fashion.

Simple round helmets, some with noseguards or masks, or cheekguards and chainmail neck protection. The Vikings did not use horned helmets, contrary to myth.

Mail shirts
T-shaped shirt made of small metal links with short and/or long sleeves. The mail shirt usually was about thigh-length and was worn over regular clothing or actual armor for reinforced protection from swords and arrows.