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69. VIKING ARCHER

An extract from Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066
by Ian Heath


69.      VIKING ARCHER

The Vikings made considerable use of the bow both on land and at sea, Not only was it used to a considerable extent by the bondi (particularly in Norway, and in Sweden where the word ‘bow’ could even be used to mean a warrior) but also by nobles and kings, who took great pride in their personal accuracy.

Vikings bows were mainly of elm, though yew was also used. They were almost longbows in their proportions but the length of excavated arrows confirms that they were only drawn to the chest. In the Leidang bows were provided as part of the ship’s equipment; the Gulathinglaw and Frostathinglaw say a bow and 24 arrows per thwart, to be supplied by the 2 oarsmen. This implies that up to 50 per cent of a Viking national army might in fact be bow-armed.

This man’s hair is held back by a decorated headband; these were highly popular and brightly coloured. A cylindrical quiver holding on average 2 or 3 dozen 24-inch arrows hangs at his right hip, some quivers containing up to 45 or 48 arrows. His sword is a one-edged sax, particularly popular amongst the Norwegians. The word sax, or seax, seems to have been applied generally to the longer types of scramaseax. Some use was also made of the sling, and a chronicle of the siege of Paris in 885 mentions lead-cast slingshot.



Next: 70. VIKING BERSERKR in Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 by Ian Heath