Thursday, December 12, 2019

Armor Up - 10th Century Early Medieval Europe

Frankish, Anglo Saxon and Nordic (Viking) era kit from the late migration/early medieval period.

 Chain mail hauberks were becoming more common, usually 3/4 length sleeves and groin length. Worn over linen or wool tunics (and most likely some kind of padded gambeson apparel). Winnegas or leg wraps made of strips of wool were still fashionable over trousers worn from knee to ankle.

Seaxes continued to be the most commonly used blade and were utilized as multi purpose camp and combat knives of varying length. They were generally of the brokeback variety with only a single sharpened edge. Often carried horizontally  suspended from a belt either on the front or back.

Swords remain prohibitively expensive and most often used by nobility and elite warriors who possessed some means to afford such a status symbol. As a result axes and spears are commonly used by the majority of combatants. Axe design was somewhat standard with most being of the bearded variety that included everything from the smaller Francesca throwing axes up to the longer Dane ax used famously by the Anglo Saxon huscarls.

Centre boss shields round out the warriors kit comprised of varying diameters to facilitate the defensive strategy of using shield walls.

Helmets are becoming more common as the classic design of the spagenhelm nasal helmet is beginning to replace the more ornate Anglo Saxon Sutton Hoo typology and Norse style spectacle helms.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Armor Up -12th Century Europe

Gearing up a 12th century knight/ Man at Arms. The 12th century witnessed the martial influence of the Norman's within Western Europe in regards to the use of full body chain mail and the shared experiences from the Crusades contributing the use of surcoats and the development of pot, sugarloaf and flat top helmets. It was also the beginnings of heraldry and the advancements of rudimentary plate armor.

Gambeson quilted leg and chain mail chausses belted over hose, braies and linen undershirt. Suspended from a belt or a type of girdle the chain mail chausses were also supported by ties below the knee and above the ankles.

Quilted gambeson and padded forearm vambraces. Gambesons began to get longer with full sleeves in response to improved chain mail 3/4 length haubergeons developed and used by Norman cavalry.

Chain mail hauberk. By the end of the 12th century the 4 in 1 pattern chain mail hauberk had evolved into the 3/4 length haubergeon, often with a front/ back split to facilitate sitting  in the saddle while horseback. Often it had both integrated mittens and coif but due to the expensive nature of chain mail it became a legacy item. Often passed down through generations and also within the ranks of a medieval army to men at arms, crossbowmen and archers there was quite a variance in the styles of mail worn.

Surcoat, gauntlets, axe and sword belt. Surcoats or tabards began to be used over armor during the 12th century, in part for the protection of chain mail from the elements, but also in facilitating the burgeoning heraldry tradition. Arming swords of the period were, according to Oakeshott's typology, of the X, Xa or Xi variants. Generally they were broad medium length double edged blades of about 31 inches in length possessing wide fillers the length of the blade. Possessing cruciform hilts they could have either wheel or Brazil nut pommels. Axes and knives were also common as backup or melee weapons. As plate armor became more advanced daggers became more common as well as percussion weapons like war hammers and/or maces.

Chain mail coif and nasal spagenhelm (early 12th century). The venerable nasal helmet was eventually replaced by helms that offered better face protection in response to the increased use of battlefield archery and the threat of lance impacts during massed cavalry charges. 

Flat top helmet ( late 12th century). A substantial piece of kit in terms of weight it did provide excellent protection while horseback but was often discarded within a melee due to limitations in sight and hearing. A chain mail coif and arming cap provided adequate protection as a tradeoff for better situational awareness. Later versions of the great helm allowed the use of a secret helmet, a small spagenhelm type helm, for added protection. Eventually these flat top styles of helmets were replaced by visored pot helms and bascinets which offered better sight, hearing and deflective qualities enabling users far better protection.

Armored Up.....

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Dublin Seax

I have been looking to add a traditional Seax to my medieval collection and discovered an unique design available at The Medieval Shoppe based in Australia.

Called the Dublin Seax it is a reproduction of a seax from the late Viking era.  With an overall length of 19" (47.5 cm) it is a substantial blade and falls within the midrange of historical seaxes. It could easily be used as both a camp knife and a warrior's sidearm.

The seax was a traditional knife used by Germanic peoples during the Migration period into the early Medieval period. They varied in length but usually were of the broken back variety of utility blade with a steep descending angle from the spine towards the tip. In regards to the Dublin seax the broken back is less acute with more of a Bowie knife style of point. 

This reproduction also features a pommel made of solid brass and adorned with Celtic knotwork. Not sure if it is based upon a historical example but pommels were not typically found on seaxes. I did notice that the pommel seems offset and not centered on the handle. Either an assembly issue or more probably by design....the offset enables a more comfortable hand shake grip that offers better point control. The false edge along the spine is also sharpened about three quarters the length of the blade. That is unusual for a utility seax but probably not for a weapon designed for combat. Swords were prohibitively expensive during the Migration/Viking period and most Germanic/Norse warriors opted for spear, axe and seax which were far easier and cheaper to manufacture.

The handle is comprised of a very nice hardwood and swells towards the brass guard (or lack thereof) resulting in a comfortable grip.The Dublin seax comes with a well constructed leather sheath in the traditional duel strapped style so it can be worn on a belt horizontally above the groin or lower back.

Whether it is a historical copy or not belays the fact this seax is a well constructed reproduction. Fit and finish is very good considering the price. It possesses a substantial, non fullered, carbon steel blade that comes moderately sharp and feels well balanced in the hand. 

Online ordering from The Medieval Shoppe was easy and the seax arrived well oiled and packaged. Shipping was high but it was sent air and arrived fairly quickly having travelled to Canada. Our dollar is slightly higher than the Aussie dollar so it was nice to not have to factor in paying more in exchange as with the USD or Euro.