"Viking hike" Jean Olivier - the book of my childhood.
And then came the moment when it came the feeling that “you can write about them yourself too!” Because each time has “its own songs”. Some books are “too childish”, some are poorly translated, while others are frankly abstruse and it is best to read them for the night in order to quickly fall asleep. So now, you, dear visitors of VO, will periodically get acquainted with the articles about the Vikings, which after some time will become the basis of the new book. I would just like to warn you that they are not written according to plan, but by what material you can get before. That is, in theory, it should start with historiography and the source base (and it will be necessary!), But ... it does not work out that way. Therefore, do not be surprised that the cycle will have some fragmentation and inconsistency. Alas, it is the cost of production. Right now, for example, I had under my arms a very interesting material about ... the axes of the Vikings, and why not start with him, because you still have to start with something?!
The famous "ax from Mammen." (National historical Museum, Copenhagen)
If we turn to Jena Heath’s book “Vikings” published in Russia (Osprey Publishing House, “Elite Forces” series, 2004), we can read there that before the Viking era began weapon, as an ax, in European military affairs was almost forgotten. But with the advent of the Vikings to Europe in the VIII - XI centuries. they re-entered into use, since it was the ax that was the second most important weapon in their arsenal.
Viking swords and axes at the National Historical Museum in Copenhagen.
According to, for example, Norwegian archaeologists, on 1500 finds of swords in the burials of the Viking era accounts for 1200 axes. Moreover, it often happens that the ax and the sword lie together in the same burial. There are three types of axes used by the Vikings. The first is “bearded”, in use from the 8th century, an ax with a relatively short handle and a narrow blade (for example, “an ax from Mammen”), and an ax with a long handle and a wide blade, so-called "Danish ax", with a blade width up to 45 cm and crescent shape, according to the Lexedale Saga, and called "breydox". It is believed that axes of this type appeared at the end of the tenth century. and gained the greatest popularity among the Anglo-Danish warriors of the xuskarls. It is known that they were used in the Battle of Hastings in 1066, but then quickly disappeared, as if they had developed their resource, and, most likely, this is exactly how it was. After all, it was a highly specialized type of ax, designed exclusively for battle. He could easily compete with the sword, as the main symbol of the Viking warrior, but they needed to be able to use it and not everyone could do it.
"Ax from Ludwigshar" with a wide slotted blade. (National Historical Museum, Copenhagen).
Interestingly, the Vikings gave the axes female names associated with the gods or the forces of nature, as well as the names of the trolls, while King Olaf, for example, gave his ax the name Hel, very meaningfully calling him the name of the goddess of death!
Ax from Langeida. (Museum of Cultural History, Oldsaksamling University, Oslo).
In 2011, during the archaeological excavations at Langeid in the Setesdalen Valley in Denmark, a burial ground was discovered. As it turned out, it contained several dozens of graves of the second half of the Viking era. Grave # XXUMX was one of the most remarkable, although its wooden coffin was almost empty. Of course, this was a big disappointment for the archaeologist. However, as the excavations continued, a richly decorated sword was found around the outer part of the coffin, along one of its long sides, and on the other, a large and wide ax blade.
Axes in Denmark used in the Bronze Age! The image on the stone from Fossum, Bohuslan, Western Sweden.
The blade of the “ax from Langeid” was relatively little damaged, and the damage that was done was fixed with glue, while the rust deposits were removed using micro sandblasting. It is quite surprising that the remains of a wooden handle of length 15 cm were preserved inside the butt. Therefore, in order to reduce the risk of wood destruction, it was treated with a special compound. However, the strip of copper alloy that surrounded the handle in this place helped the wood to survive. Since copper has antimicrobial properties, this prevented its complete decay. The strip had a thickness of only half a millimeter, it was highly corrosive and consisted of several fragments that had to be carefully glued together.
Micro sandblasting was used to clean the ax blade from rust. (Museum of Cultural History, Oldsaksamling University, Oslo)
It used to be that archeologists sketched their finds and had to be included in the expeditions of professional artists. Then a photograph came to their aid, and now the findings are completely x-rayed and use the X-ray fluorescence method.
X-ray of the "ax from Langeyd". You can see the blade thickening behind the cutting edge and the butt-weld line. Also the hairpins fastening a brass tape on the handle are visible. (Museum of Cultural History, Oldsaksamling University, Oslo)
All these studies confirmed that the linings on the pole consisted of brass, a copper alloy containing a lot of zinc. Unlike copper and bronze, which are reddish metals, brass has a yellow color. Untreated brass is reminiscent of gold, and this, apparently, was important at that time. The sagas constantly emphasize the magnificence of the weapons that belonged to their heroes and glittering with gold, which undoubtedly was the ideal of the Viking Age. But archeology proves that most of their weapons were actually decorated with copper — a kind of “gold of a poor man.”
Reconstruction showing the main design features of the “ax from Langeid”. (Museum of Cultural History, Oldsaksamling University, Oslo)
Unlike powerful landowners, who emphasized their social position and used the sword as a weapon, less wealthy people resorted to using axes designed for working with wood as a combat weapon. Thus, the ax was often identified with a landless working man engaged in the household. That is, at first axes were universal. But in the second half of the Viking era, axes appeared, designed exclusively for battle, whose blade was finely forged and, therefore, relatively light. Small and not so massive was the butt. This design gave the Vikings a truly deadly weapon worthy of the professional warriors that they were.
Almost all the illustrations of Angus McBride, made them to the books about the Vikings, there are various battle axes.
In the Byzantine Empire, they served as high-ranking mercenaries in the so-called Varangian Guard, and were bodyguards of the Byzantine emperor himself. In England, these wide-blade axes became known as “Danish axes” because of their use by Danish conquerors at the end of the Viking Age.
Viking in a long-haired mail (in the center) and with a wide-breasted battle ax "breydoks". Fig. Angus McBride
Archaeologist Jan Petersen in his typology of Viking weapons classified broad-blade axes as type M and believed that they appeared in the second half of the X century. The “Ax from Langeyd” has a slightly later origin, which is connected with the dating of the grave, where it was found, in the first half of the 11th century. Since the initial weight of the ax itself was initially around 800 grams (now 550 grams), it was clearly a two-handed ax. However, it is lighter than many woodworking axes that were previously used as weapons. It is believed that the length of its arm was about 110 cm, but it is shorter than many people think. The metal ribbon on the handle is unusual for finds in Norway, but at least five other similar finds are known. Three ax handle with brass stripes found right in London in the Thames.
It is often quite difficult to distinguish between a working ax and a battle ax, but the Viking era battle ax, as a rule, was smaller and slightly lighter than a working ax. The butt of the battle ax is also much smaller, and the blade itself is much thinner. But it should be remembered that most of the battle axes, presumably, in the battle held with one hand.
Another Viking battle ax with a relatively narrow blade and handle for one hand. Fig. Angus McBride
Perhaps the most famous copy of the ax of the Viking Age found in the town of Mammen in Denmark, on the Jutland Peninsula, in the burial of a noble Scandinavian warrior. When dendrological analysis of the logs, of which the burial chamber was folded, it turned out that it was built in the winter of 970 - 971. It is believed that one of the closest associates of King Harald Sinezubiy was buried in the grave.
This year was very eventful for the entire “civilized world”: for example, Prince Svyatoslav fought the Byzantine emperor John Tsimishey that year, and his son and future baptist of Russia, Prince Vladimir, became a prince in Novgorod. In the same year, a landmark event happened in Iceland, where the future discoverer of America, Leif Eriksson, nicknamed "Happy", was born in the family of Eric Red, the adventure of which is exactly dedicated to the book of the Vikings by Jean Olivier.
A page from this book ...
The ax itself is not large in size - 175 mm. It is believed that this ax had a ritual purpose, and was never used in combat. On the other hand, for the people who believed that the valalla were taken to the Viking paradise, only those warriors who died in battle fall, therefore the war was their main life ritual and they belonged to it, and also death, accordingly.
"Ax of Mammen." (National Historical Museum, Copenhagen)
First of all, we note that the “ax from Mammen” was very richly decorated. The blade and ax of the ax were completely covered with a sheet of blackened silver (thanks to which it would remain in such a beautiful state), and then trimmed with inlaid silver thread, laid out in the form of a complex pattern in the style of the “Big Beast”. By the way, this Old Norse ornamental pattern, common in Denmark in 960-1020, is today called “Mammen”, and precisely because of this ancient ax.
On one side of the ax is a tree. It can be interpreted as the pagan tree Yggdrasil, but also as a Christian "Tree of Life". The drawing on the other side depicts the rooster Gullinkambi (Old Norse “golden crest”) or the Phoenix bird. The rooster Gullincambi, like Yggdrasil, belongs to Norse mythology. This rooster sits on top of the tree Yggdrasil. His task is to wake up the Vikings every morning, but when Ragnarok comes (“the end of the world”), he will have to turn into a crow. The phoenix is a symbol of rebirth and belongs to Christian mythology. Therefore, the motifs of the images on the ax can be interpreted as both pagan and Christian. The transition from the ax blade to the sleeve is gold plated. In addition, on both sides of the butt, slits were made in the form of an oblique cross and, although they are now empty, in antiquity they apparently filled bronze-zinc foil.
Viking weapons (late era) from the exposition of the Museum of Cultural History, Oldsaksamling University, Oslo.
Another huge ax was found in 2012 in the construction of the highway. The remains of the owner of this huge ax were also found, and the tomb in which they were located was dated to about 950 year. It is noteworthy that this weapon is the only item buried with this departed Viking. Based on this fact, scientists conclude that the owner of the weapon of this, apparently, was very proud of him, as well as his ability to possess it, because the sword was not in the burial.
The Ax of Silkeborg.
The tomb also contained the remains of a woman, and with it a pair of keys that symbolized power and her high social position in Viking society. This gave scientists reason to believe that this man and this woman had a very high social status.
Interestingly, as a requisite for the costume of the Varangian Guest from the opera Sadko by N. Rimsky-Korsakov, in which Fyodor Chaliapin himself performed his part at the 1897 premiere, the Vikings were clearly prepared to emphasize this mind the weapon!
To be continued ...