12th century fighting equipment

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The fighting equipment of a 12th century warrrior is described by recovered artefacts, manuscript images and contemporary references and depictions in sculpture.


Equipment

Arms

  • spear - sometimes with wings and generally socketed.
  • lance- ash shaft and rarely shorter than 10-12 feet (3 to 3.7m) long. As the century progressed the head of the lance became smaller and more sharply pointed.
  • axe - common household tool sometimes with pronounced beard.
  • sword - single handed weapon with straight, long crossguard thought to be an influence of Christianity. The blade still sports a central fuller and frequently inlaid or inscribed with religious slogans or the name of the smith. The blade is rarely longer than 25-30 inches (63.5 to 76cm). Pommel now leans heavily towards the Brazil nut or wheel or disc type in the south and was spreading north and were sometimes made of bronze. Rarely rock crystals appear as do Holy relics incorporated into the pommel. Still primarily used by the wealthy but now more common and still worn if the knight were to use another weapon such as an axe as their primary weapon.
  • Battle axe - large axe designed for use with two hands and well liked by high ranking warriors.
  • mace - popular with the noble class
  • longbow - of elm and possibly of yew used by the common infantry.
  • arrows socketed heads and self nocks. Needlelike bodkin points and broadheads for hunting were used.
  • crossbow - with a wooden tiller and composite wood (likely yew) and horn lath.
  • knife - frequently pattern welded. These develop during the century into the dagger. The term dagger does not appear until the late 12th century, rather the words coustel or cultellus are used. Blades are usually 8 to 10 inches (20-25 cm) long and used point down. The quillions of the crossguard typically point down.

Armour

  • none
  • padded armour (gambeson or aketon) - worn with or without mail. Conjectural with no known examples surviving
  • mail hauberk- include elbow or forearm length sleeves and knee length body probably split in the front and back. This mail could also sport an integral coif and a ventail is occasionally seen by the end of the century as well as the sleeve extending to include mail mufflers.
  • scale hauberk - occasionally appear
  • chausses - of mail appear relatively common and are primarily of the type that laces across the back of the leg although the knee length stocking type are also seen.
  • kite shield - centre boss style. Covered with leather with an iron boss. These are decorated in geographic patterns or animal shapes (regular and fantastical), or with a coat of arms or devices symbolisimg their calling (eg. Crusader cross). They start to become shorter near the end of the century and gain a flatter top.
  • conical spangenhelm - pointed helmet with nasal. Single piece construction appears to become the main form in the early part of the century. By the middle of the century, this form could be replaced by a domed helmet which freqently lacked a nasal. During the end of the 12th century, flat (or very slightly dome) topped helmets that tapered down towards the base also appeared. Very late in the century, face guards with sights appear. Sometimes these have ventilation holes. The kettle helm also makes an appearance.

Clothing

  • tunic of wool - A longer tunic worn under armour seems to appear in the latter part of the century
  • undertunic of linen
  • hose of wool
  • turnshoes of leather
  • surcoat - long sleeveless, full skirted types appear in the latter part of the century although are not common

Misconceptions

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