Saxon fighting kit

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The fighting equipment of Saxons is drawn from burial remains, sacrifices and other found lost and now recovered artifacts. This brief guide covers the period of the Saxon in England of 500 to 1100.


Equipment

Arms

  • spear - sometimes with wings and generally socketed. Some were light enough to be easily thrown. This weapon is typically associated with Saxon fighting men.
  • axe - a common household tool, sometimes with pronounced beard. Thought to be less common in Saxon armies than their contemporaries, the Vikings. Seems to decline with the arrival of the saex.
  • saex - a knife and typically associated with all free Saxons. Appears around 600 and seems to correspond to the decline of the axe.
  • sword - a single-handed weapon with short crossguard that might be straight or slightly curved forward on both sides of the blade and this is thought to be Saxon in origin. Blade could be pattern welded, would have a rounded tip and the blade would usually be no longer than 76 cm (30 inches). Pommel of various types (cocked hat predominating). Hilt small only just large enough to accommodate an average sized modern hand. Only used by the wealthy.
  • Dane axe - large axe designed for use with two hands. Likely only used by the wealthiest of warriors and only in good quality armour. A weapon much associated with the 11th century Huscarls.
  • longbow - of yew, with side nock on the upper limb which could have an odd bent section. Lower limb tied to string.
  • arrows with tanged heads and self nocks. Likely to be similar to Viking arrows and thus eagle feather flights bound onto the shaft in a spiral pattern.

Armour

  • none
  • padded armour (gambeson or aketon) - conjectural with no known examples surviving
  • leather - conjectural with no known surviving examples.
  • mail - short sleeved and short in the body composed of alternating rows of punched/welded links (roughly rectangular or flattened round section) and riveted (roundish drawn wire) of approximately 1.2 to 1.5 mm diameter with an internal diameter of 5-6mm internal diameter for the rings. Wealthy only. The length lately likely in the 11th century changed to include elbow or forearm length sleeves and knee length body probably split in the front and back.
  • shield - centre boss style. Width between 40 to 95 cm in diameter, and thickness of approx 6.5 mm (4th century), 7.6 mm (5th to 6th century), 8.5 mm (late 6th century onwards). Covered on both sides with leather or rawhide (conjectural)with possibilty of being curved in the vertical plane, with an iron boss typically carinated and conical.
  • Norman or kite shield a possibility for 11th century Saxons.
  • Conical centre boss shield - conjectural
  • spangenhelm - pointed helmet with nasal. Single or multiplate construction -conjectural from ill defined picture stones and contemporary helmets
  • helmet - rounded multiplate with cheek plates and aventail (e.g. Coppergate and Bentley Grange)). Bronze animal decoration on top for wealthy but may have fallen from favour by the 10th century early period. May have face plate in earlier periods (e.g. Sutton Hoo).
  • helmet with metal frame and cuir bouilli sides.
  • Iron greaves from a 9th century find, but little evidence otherwise to suggest their presence.
  • Atlantian A&S Links: Anglo-Saxon Armour

Clothing

Common misconceptions

Links