13th century fighting equipment

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The fighting equipment of a 13th 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. Small, sharply pointed head.
  • axe
  • sword of war - single handed weapon with longer, heavier blades appear as the great helm appeared. The blade is about 40-42 inches (101 to 106cm). They featured wide crossguards that could be tapering and inclined towards the blade or spatulate and straight. The blade still sports a central fuller, the hilt is longer and the pommel takes the form of wheels, balls or trefoils from the middle of the century. Still worn by nobility as a symbol.
  • thrusting sword - diamond sectioned bladed sword designed for thrusting rather than the cut.
  • falchion - favoured by all classes for it's powerful cuts.
  • battle axe - large axe designed for use with two hands with and well liked by high ranking warriors. Large heavy head on a 4 to 5 foot (1.2 to 1.5m) shaft.
  • mace - increasingly popular with the noble classes with bronze or iron flanged or pyramindal projections head on a 3 foot (1.0m) shaft.
  • 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, sinew and horn lath covered in leather or parchment. Spanned with a hook attached to the belt as it became increasingly powerful.
  • knife - Blades are usually 8 to 10 inches (20-25 cm) long and used point down. The quillions of the crossguard typically point down.
  • slings - used by foot soldiers, including the staff sling

Armour

  • none (especially longbowmen although these would have at least a buckler.
  • padded armour (gambeson or aketon) - vertically quilter of layers of linen stuffed with tow, rags, etc. Whilst the terms are often used interchangably at the time, general consensus has a gambeson fitting over armour and an aketon under. Soldiers might wear a gambeson that was sleeveless with a stiffened collar or one that was plain, knee length with full sleeves.
  • mail hauberk- include sleeves ending in mufflers, thigh length and and sporting integral coifs and a ventail. The middle of the century saw the mitten-like mufflers split into separate fingers. Towards the end of the century, separate coif reappears, sometimes with thick mail rings or plates of metal reinforcing the neck. Short sleeved haubergeons were worn by better off soldiers.
  • scale hauberk - occasionally appear at the beginning of this century.
  • cuirasse or cuirie- a leather defence for the chest and back, found under the surcoat were developed in the latter part of the century.
  • armoured surcoats - rectangular steel plates arranged in three rows and attached to the surcoat with rivets.
  • an early form of a pair of plates appears late in the century as well.
  • chausses - of mail are ubiquitous for mounted nobles throughout the century and developed into form of joined mail hose.
  • gamboised cuisses - velvet, silk or other rich material covering padded funnel shaped tubes that covered the thigh. They could be embroidered for decoration and were generally laced to a belt worn underneath or possibly laced directly to the aketon.
  • kite shield - flat top kites that began large but were cut down in the middle of the century and to form the heater shield. Covered with leather they still had a guige and also two enarmes and were painted to display the owner's coat of arms.
  • conical spangenhelm - pointed helmet sometimes with nasal.
  • domed helmets such as early forms of the bascinet appear before the middle of this century.
  • small skull cap - worn under a mail coif.
  • kettle helm - worn with of without a mail coif.
  • great helm is introduced. This is worn with a padded coif which could sit either under or over a mail coif.
  • gauntlets - likely of leather reinforced with whalebone and appear after 1290, but are very rare. Steel gauntlets are also mentioned in the last 5 years of the century.
  • espauders - shoulder defences of unknown form or material are mentioned at the end of the century.
  • ailettes - flat diamond shaped, disc or square plates laced to the shoulder and made of leather or parchment which appear primarily to provide identification of a knight.
  • poleyns - apear in the middle of the century and were cup shaped plates of steel laced to the chausses.
  • couters - small disc shaped defences for the elbows appear at around 1260 but are very rare.
  • schynbalds - gutter shaped plates of steel that were laced to the chausses to protect the shins.

Clothing

Misconceptions

  • two handed swords - not known (although we do see the introduction of the "hand and a half" or "bastard" sword which could be used with two hands but was not a true zwiehander)
  • double-bitted axes - not known
  • swords with elaborate basket-style hand guards - not known

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