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Hank Reinhardt




PostPosted: Thu 05 Jan, 2006 10:07 pm    Post subject: Viking Halberd         Reply with quote

Some of you may or may not know of my life long search for a true Viking Halberd. The weapons is sometimes translated as a Bill, but I have been informed (since I don't speak old Norweign) that it can be translated as mail piercer or hewing spear. I finally got a verty good idea, and MRL was supposed to do oen, but they didn't get it quite right. However I would be interested in hearing any opinions that any of you might have. Right now I am in the process of making one for me. I do dearly love well made polearms....if any of you have any ideas, let me know. None of the museums I have contacted were able to tell me of a grave find that might be a halberd......Closest thing I have come to it is a passage in one of the Sagas, where the warrior is mentioned of having a small axe with a head like a halberd....
Hank Reinhardt
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Jim Adelsen




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jan, 2006 11:43 am    Post subject: Re: Viking Halberd         Reply with quote

I think there is something like a halberd used in Njal's saga? If that's not your saga reference you might want to check it out.

Hank Reinhardt wrote:
Some of you may or may not know of my life long search for a true Viking Halberd. The weapons is sometimes translated as a Bill, but I have been informed (since I don't speak old Norweign) that it can be translated as mail piercer or hewing spear. I finally got a verty good idea, and MRL was supposed to do oen, but they didn't get it quite right. However I would be interested in hearing any opinions that any of you might have. Right now I am in the process of making one for me. I do dearly love well made polearms....if any of you have any ideas, let me know. None of the museums I have contacted were able to tell me of a grave find that might be a halberd......Closest thing I have come to it is a passage in one of the Sagas, where the warrior is mentioned of having a small axe with a head like a halberd....

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Shane Allee




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jan, 2006 7:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Although not overly popular, spears designed to penetrate mail have been around a long time. I recall seeing examples from the viking age and even as early as the celtic iron age. Nothing shocking that you start seeing spears to target mail wears as it becomes popular. These are usually pretty basic, thick diamond cross section, pretty narrow, and not much in the way of cutting as you would expect. My personal thought on the hewing spear is that they are most likely the examples we see with wide thin cutting edges and most of the time a medial ridge. While not cleavers, these wide blades cut flesh very well even is the thrust isn't perfectly inline for the point to hit.

There are examples of some pretty wild looking woodworking tools and axes that, it put on a long pole might look something like a halberd.

In the link below you probably won't see anything you haven't before, but there are some examples of the different types of spears and some wood working tools. The "T" shaped axes as they call them under the weapons section was probably something like you tried to get MRL to do wasn't it?

http://www.danetre-vikings.org.uk/Finds.htm

Shane
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Greyson Brown




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PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 5:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hank,

I, too, have been very interested in finding an example, or even passable replica of an Atgeir. I don't know that I can run my thoughts together coherently, so I'll just use a bullet list instead:

-I have always found the atgeir under list of viking spears (that is where Oakeshott puts it in Archeology of Weapons; other authors have done the same). Thus, I think it is more like a spear than an axe.

-Oakeshott described these halberd/spears as having heads like very early Swiss pikes. Most of those, to my mind, are more akin to a spear or glaive, than to an axe.

-Several Sagas mention these weapons being thrust through enemies so that the blade protrudes from the opther side of the body. Some of those opponents were wearing maille. Thus the design woud still have to be good for thrusting, and have a fairly long (I figure minumum of 12 inches, probably more) blade.

-In the end, I imagine what many fantasy artist have been drawing for years; a spear blade which is a bit wider on one side of the ridge (maybe with a clipped back edge), or a simple glaive with a sharp point and no rondell or langets. It would be good for cutting, but still retain the needed thrusting ability.

On the MRL/Windlass Viking Halberd:

-Good effort, but I don't think it is right.

- It does not have an effective enough point (it is really close, but it looks like it curves back toward the haft a bit)

-The same blade shape could be used (provided the point was corrected) by putting a spear-like socket on the same weapon. Even attaching a socket to the back of the existing blades (like a Lochaber axe) would be closer to what I think is correct.

-Assuming that my assumptions about the resemblance to a spear are wrong, I still think this piece could do with less space between the back of the blade and the haft. As it is now, I think it would be too awkward to get a really good thrust with it.

-Grey

"So long as I can keep the path of honor I am well content."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company


Last edited by Greyson Brown on Sun 08 Jan, 2006 8:47 am; edited 1 time in total
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 7:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
They saw a man coming to them who had a stick with an axe-head on it in his hand, a hat low upon his head, and a short green cloak. He was bare-legged, and had linen breeches on tied at the knee. He laid his stick down in the field, and went to Karl and said, "Take care, Karl Morske, that thou does not hurt thyself against my axe-stick."...
Gaut immediately sprang up, and struck with a hand-axe over the heads of the people, and the stroke came on Karl's head; but the wound was slight. Thord the Low seized the stick-axe, which lay in the field at his side, and struck the axe-blade right into Karl's skull. - Olaf Haraldson the Saint's Saga


I've wondered about this for some time. Every axe is on a stick, so why the explaination? Unless by a stick the author meant a staff, certainly something long enough to be worthy of comment. I realize that the Aetgier is most commonly cited, and is generally agreed to be a spearlike object, but might Olaf's Saga be describing a form of polearm? Just curious.

There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 10:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Atgeir's are only helbards in translation. "Geir" means spear; thus its a spear rather than axe based weapon.
Quite a few viking spearheads are broad enough to chop with. But I have seen but one spearhead that would appear to be made spesifically for this use; It has a much broader socket than the standard, thin spearshafts, the head is 10cm pluss broad, stout, and has a rounded tip, probably because a broader one would break when used for hewing...

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Hank Reinhardt




PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 12:08 pm    Post subject: Viking Halberd         Reply with quote

Wow, I didn't think that there would be that much interest. All of the posts have been interesting and quite good. Let me add some thoughts. Nothing concrete, but observations from play and one helluva lot of reading and research on this.
I have always liked polearms, and have enjoyed playing with them. It is almost impossible to spar with one due to the force generated (May have solved that problem, but will talk about that later). I have slightly over 1000 books and pamplets on arms and armour, but when dealing with pole arms none of them go back further than about 1100. I guess it is best to use the bullet approach rather than try to connect everything.
I think the translation from the original to "halberd" or "bill" is due more to lack of knowledge about weapons. If something is on a shaft, and you cut with it, they call it a halberd.
There seems to be at least two versions of this polearm. Ewart and I talked about it at length one night, amd we both concluded that this was the logical conclusion. There are at least two names, (don't remember the Old Norse terms right now) but one is definitely "Hewing Spear". This would be something like a sword on a shaft. Not an unusual concept at all. The medieval equivalent to the glave. The other has to have an axe like appearance.
In Egil's Saga Thorolf gets rather angry during the battle, slings his shield on his back, takes his ahlberd, and cuts donw people right and left. He cuts down the standard and the bearer, then stabs the Earl thrught the body, hoists himup and plants the halberd in the ground so that the Earl dies on the shaft. As far as I can tell, this would require something to stop the guy from sliding down the shaft. Many spears had projections to keep them from going to deep, but not the blade to cut with.
In another saga a warrior is mentioned as having a small axe with a head like a halberd. There are many Viking axes shaped like a T. This is frequently termed a ship builders axe. But there are fighting axes shaped the same way in India, called Bulovas. Enlarge this, and you get a weapon that would do all of the things mentioned. (I didn't have a problem with the shape of the MRL halberd, but the throat should have been deeper, and the point somewhat sharper).
Consider the Berdiche, a Russian weapon that was also popular in Scotland.(lots of trade between the two) But who were the original Russians, the Rus, who were Vikings). There are many shapes to the Berdiche, and all of them could also be the "halberd".
I have made me a "hewing" spear out of one of the Del Tin blades. It isn't socketed, instead the tang has been inserted into the wood, fixed in place and wrapped. Works like crazy, have cut a lot of saplins with it. As for accuracy..can't say. There were many spears and axes in Europe that had tangs rather than sockets. But I wasn't trying for accuracy, but for making a very serviceable weapon.
On the axe on a stick. All of the Nordic countries had "walking axes" but they seemed to be the most popular in Sweden. These were axes on a long shaft that was used as a walking stick. The heads were not very large, and frequently the axe had was on a section that was warped way back. They were not used to chop with, but as a self defence weapon, and used in whirling and slicing motions. The hand could also slip up to the head allowing some nasty punches. If interested I will try to post a photo of some of the ones I have made. Thanks for the comments.Hank

Hank Reinhardt
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 4:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd love to see the axes shaped like a T, because I'm not clear on what you mean. Do you mean an axe like a Petersen Type A or K, with a hammer head on the back, or a pick? Some photos would me helpful.

The walking axe sounds much ike what I mentioned from Olaf's Saga, but why would you put the axe on a warped section? You can punch just fine with a bearded axehead. Unless you mean to thrust, as with a spear, but why not just use a hewing spear. Overall the small axe on a walking stick sounds plausible, in fact I'm reminded of several scenes from the Bayeux tapestry where people appear to be leaning on a longaxe or carrying it like a walking stick. If you could show a pic, it would clear a lot of confusion.

As far as MRL's attempt, it really looked like they took the concept of a broadaxe, added a thrusting tip, and stretched out the haft. doesn't seem much more useful than a hewing spear, except that you can hold it right behind the blade.

There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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Greyson Brown




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 5:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hank,

You have a good point about needing something to keep a fellow from sliding all the way down the shaft. I had noticed that, but had not given it the weight it deserves in this investigation. That's for pointing that out.

Also, I agree with you on the point of the MRL Viking Halberd needing to be sharper, but I'm not quite sure what you mean by the throat. Can you clarify, please?

-Grey

P.S. Despite the way it might sound, I don't have a serious problem with MRL's weapon, either. Even with all my nit-picking, I am still tempted to buy one.

"So long as I can keep the path of honor I am well content."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 7:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Unfortunately, Snorre Sturlason, who writes the sagas about the old kings, isn't exactly concerned with realism and accuracy; If he lived today he would be making movies in Hollywood.
He also wrote these sagas in the early 1200's. The latest of his sagas describe events 60 to 70 years in the past.
So the statements of these sagas should not always be taken at face value.

The bardiche type axe is termed "Snagghyrnd x", and appears in the 1200s, so it has its own term.

My theory on the Atgeir is that it is a hewing type spearhead on a stout pole; regular viking spears shafts where quite thin, and not very well suited for chopping.
Another question is if the Atgeir is a viking weapon, or an anachronism on the part of the 13th cent writers.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Shane Allee




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 7:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin, follow the link I posted above for a few examples of the "T" axes. They are listed under the weapons section 1/3 to a 1/2 the way down the page.

Shane
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 7:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote



Rear right. broad bladed, thick shafted hewing spears. With lagnets.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Hank Reinhardt




PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 7:55 am    Post subject: Viking Halberd         Reply with quote

The throat of the axe is that section that extends from the socket down the the edge. A "T" shaped would be shaped like an upside down T. This throat varies in length, and when I had them do the Viking Halberd, it was supposed to be about 2 inches longer. A much longer throat puts the weight further out, and balances the axe becomes a little awkward. This style of axe shows up all over the world, India and Africa have a lot of them. The idea of having the power of an axe with the ability to thrust is nothing unusual.
Elling you have a distinct advantage in where you live and the museums that are available to you. I envy you that. AT one time I would have envied you the cold weather. But at 72 I am now more fond of reasonalbe tempertures.
Sturleson was writing 2-3 hundred years after the events, but don't forget the oral traditions were firmly established and although there was some likelihood of changes, I don't think there would be a lot of them. Today we live in an incredibly fast paced world that is changing even as we speak. Not so back then. Let me give you an example. How many of you young guys have seen people missing both legs that pushed themselves along on a small car with 4 wheels? How many with faces terribly scarred by smallpox or acne? But those sights were quite common when I was growing up.
Egil's Saga gives a description of Thorolf's halberd, but it is somewhat confusing, but no fault of the writer. Consider how you would describe a Ford or a Honda to a buddy, and how someone who had never even seen a car would then try to interpet your description. When I get more familiart wiht posting pictures, will show some of my efforts. Hank

Hank Reinhardt
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Hank Reinhardt




PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 8:06 am    Post subject: Viking Halberd         Reply with quote

Elling, beautiful photo of spears. Any idea of the length of the hewing spear? Saw one several years ago, excavated, that had a blade length of about 19-20 inches.
Hank Reinhardt
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 8:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I guess the ones on the picture are a bit shorter, maybe 30-40 cm blade length... (12-16 inches)
At least that's the size of the ones at my local museum...

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Greyson Brown




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 8:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
Another question is if the Atgeir is a viking weapon, or an anachronism on the part of the 13th cent writers.


In The Archeology of Weapons, Oakeshott says, 'we read of many different kinds of spear, every one of which has been found in the bogs.' He goes on to list them. The last one mentioned is, 'the "Atgeir", [incorrect punctuation is his, not mine] a kind of halberd.' That implies to me that it was a legitimate viking weapon, but I have wondered wether it might not be another name for a hewing spear or other weapon that we have already I.D.'ed. For example, if you write a story that involves a "Colt .45," and I write a story that involves a "M1911A1," people down the road might be trying to search for two different weapons, when in point of fact, they are the same thing. But that is also a bit of wild musing, with no real evidence to support it.

Hank,

If I understand your description correctly, you are basically saying that the blade should be wider. You have probably done more research on it, but I think it is okay as-is.

-Grey

P.S. I got internet in my room about 20 minutes ago. My computer sits right next to the bookshelf, so I won't have to operate from memory as much. And maybe I can cut down on some of those pesky spelling errors (Atgeir isn't in most spellCheck systems).

"So long as I can keep the path of honor I am well content."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company
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Hank Reinhardt




PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 9:15 am    Post subject: Viking Halberd         Reply with quote

Thanks Elling, we did one very similiar to that, and it works pretty well. Using a spear against a sword and shield is quite interesting, and when you add cutting potential, it gets much better.
Grey, What I meant was the bar of metal that extends from the socket to the blade should have been longer. If I could draw anything but flies, I would sketch out the two. But check the posting that has the T shaped axe. For a fighting weapon I think that bar is a little too long. As for the . 45, I hate to get pedantic, and I know what you mean, but they are two differnt weapons to the gun nuts like me. Colt .45 refers to the single action Peacemaker, while the l911a1 is a .45acp, and is semi automatic. Not really trying to be a word weenie here, but there is a difference.
Ewart is the only one I ever met who understood swords and weapons. I have a lot of respect for the knowledge that many professionals have, curators, etc. But so far none I have ever talked with understand what swords are all about. And in today's world it is quite a no-no. But they were made for young men to use in killing other young men. Ewart and I agreed on that the first time we met. Ewart was quite envious of me, having many swords to play with. We sent him a bunch, but it was the difference in age, as I was younger. I, on the other hand, am quite envious of all of you young guys, When I was that age there were no reoplicas available except a few from Spain,and they were lousy. Even back then, original medieval or Viking swords cost a helluva lot of money. Best, Hank

Hank Reinhardt
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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 9:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hank;

One could say that real sword work is like a chess game where loosing body parts corresponds to loosing chess pieces.

Also the stakes are higher as one has only one life to lose and no return matches are possible if one loses: Any large mistake is your last mistake. Eek! Laughing Out Loud I would think that would tend to focus the mind and real fights alternate between fast and short action versus longer periods of " circling / waiting / creating a opportunity for successful action ", i.e. Little pointless waving around and clanking of weapons together " la Hollywood " .

Only the very skilful, reckless or stupid would charge in without some pause: The skilful because they can see or create opportunity. The reckless because they don't think. The stupid because they don't see the danger of attacking without a plan.

In any case my attempt at some insight: Good or bad, I am very curious about what you will have to say about it. Big Grin

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Greyson Brown




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 9:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, Hank, I understand, now. I was trying to say the same thing when I said that I felt there was too much space between the haft and the blade. I agree with you.

As to the Colts, I understand what you are saying, and there is a difference. It probably would have been more accurate to say "Browning .45 Auto," but I know of a lot more people who call a 1911 a "Colt .45." I was just trying to think of something where people commonly use two different terms when they are describing the same thing.

-Grey

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-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company
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Hank Reinhardt




PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 10:23 am    Post subject: Viking Halberd         Reply with quote

Jean, that analogy isn't perfect, but its damn close. Close enough that I won't argue with it. The problem that I see is that most people haven't even been in a street fight, much less a real life and death struggle. Even there you have to look at the cultural milieu. Certainly there were Icelanders and Nordics that were afraid to fight, the Sagas mention them. But there were also the ones who who no problem fighting at any time. Also look at the Japanese, who would commit suicide quickly and with aplomb....Movies and books give us a very skewed picture, and most of the time that comes from someone who has never been in a grade school fight. This is something that I would like to explore in greater depth, but not sure where or when. I thought of putting in my book, but I don't think I will.
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