You are on page 1of 29

Weapons and Armor of a Wealthy 7th Century Northern European Warrior.

Overview and Introduction: In this paper, I hope to provide a good description and of the weapons and armor that a wealthy warrior of the 7th century might be buried with. I hope to convince you with the evidence presented below that the 7th century was a magnificent and glorious era that is well worth researching and re-creating. The primary sources of the information I will present come a series of excellent grave finds from Valsgard and Vendel Sweden, and the contemporary graves from Sutton Hoo and Taplow Bucks and other Aprincely graves@ from England and the continent. I have broken this paper up into various topics as there is an exceptional volume of data on each, and I wish to cover it in some detail. The 7th century marked a great time in northern European history. This was the time of great Saxon Kings including the likes of Penda of Mercia, Edwin of Northumbria, Readwald of East Anglia, all of whom held the title of Bretwalda (high king) at some point during the early 7th century (Hodgkin, 1952). This obviously made for an interesting 50 years as they all competed with each other for the title. The 7th century also marked the end of the pagan era for northern Europe (Hodgkin, 1952). Consequently, very few rich graves from later times are known (notable exceptions include the ship burial at Osberg). Evidence from these graves indicates that aristocrats from northern Europe were acquainted with each other and with the rest of the known world including the Far and Middle East and Byzantium (Bruce-Mitford,1975-83). Thus, trade must have flourished (at least between the wealthy) during this time.

Swords: The mere presence of a sword in a grave is enough to mark the grave as rich (Geake, 1988; Kennett, 1971). Even relatively plain swords were apparently very expensive items reserved for the upper middle class. The Aprincely graves@ are marked by the presence of swords with hilts, scabbards and fittings that are richly decorated with gold, garnets and ivory. All of the princely swords have blades that are pattern-welded (Davidson, 1962). For an excellent discussion of the construction and metallurgy that went into these patterns welded swords, see the book by Davidson and the book by Tylecote and Gilmour, and the paper by Anstee and Biek. Briefly, pattern welding is a process by which small bundles of iron rods are forge welded together. These bundles are then twisted either along the entire length or at regular intervals and then forged square. Several of these twisted and squared rods are then forge-welded to each other to form the body of the blade (Figure 1). Simply welding together several twisted rods, so the pattern was duplicated on each face of the blade could make the body of the sword. However, some notable swords such as the one found at Sutton Hoo had a body made of 8 such rods (four making up each face of the blade) (Bruce-Mitford, 1978; Davidson, 1962) (Figure 1). On occasion, these twisted rods were welded to an iron core as well. Starting around the 7th century, swords can be found with a rod of higher carbon content

(steel) forge welded all the way around the body of the blade to serve as an edge (Tylecote and Gilmour, 1986). This final composite billet was then forged to shape.

Figure 1A. Graphic representation (from Tylecote and Gilmour, 1986) of pattern welding showing two bars with twists and straight sections welded together with twists going in the same direction (twists going in opposite direction would give a herringbone effect).

Figure 1B. Graphic representation of common construction for body of pattern welded swords. Steel was occasionally found as a thin strip welded between two iron strips to form the edge of the blade (lower right). (modified from Tylecote and Gilmour, 1986)

There is a modern misconception that pattern welding requires laminating steels of different carbon content to get a pattern, but the archaeological and experimental evidence argues against this (Anstee and Biek, 1961; Tylecote and Gilmour, 1986). Most pattern-welded blades are made completely from iron (with little or no carbon), and experiments by Anstee and Biek have demonstrated that perfectly visible patterns can be achieved by pattern welding homogeneous wrought iron (Anstee and Biek, 1961; Davidson, 1962). It has been observed that the pattern is the result of impurities (mostly phosphorous) that cause different Agraininess@ (granulation of a form of iron known as pearlite) of the iron which results in bright or dull patterns following etching (Tylecote and Gilmour, 1986). Also, high arsenic content in the iron can result in a hard bright alloy that follows the weld lines. This results in a thin bright line that is more resistant to etching by ferrous salts that were likely used in the production of the blades (Davidson, 1962; Tylecote and Gilmour, 1986). The length of the blades ranged from 34 to 39, and averaged about 35 inches (Oakeshott, 1960). The tips were blunt ended (spatha type), and not suitable for thrusting (Oakeshott, 1960; Davidson, 1962) (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Graphic representation of several swords from 6th and 7th century graves showing the blunt ended Aspatha@ shape of the blades. (Kennett, 1971)

The hilt was comprised of a short quillion, handle, and Acocked hat@ pommel often with a ring or ring like structure decorating the pommel (Figure 3). The quillion was just slightly wider than the blade itself and often built from bone or ivory sandwiched between two metal plates (usually gilt bronze). The handle was often made of wood, bone or ivory, and was usually wider at the blade end and tapered to the pommel (Hawkes, 1989; MacGregor, 1985). The pommel was also often constructed from bone or ivory sandwiched between a metal bottom plate and a decorated plate cap (Arwidsson, 1942; Arwidsson, 1954; Davidson, 1962; Hawkes, 1989; MacGregor, 1985; Oakeshott, 1960). The plate cap was often decorated with gold and garnet cloisonne which is very characteristic of 7th century decorative metal work (Figure 4). The cap plate also was likely to be adorned with a ring or ring-like structure that may have signified leadership of the sword's owner (Davidson, 1962; Hawkes, 1989). It is interesting to note that the vast majority of true rings (as opposed to false ring-like structures) are found on swords from Kent (Davidson, 1962). There are no true rings on any of the swords from the rich graves from Valsgard or Vendel (Arwidsson, 1942; Arwidsson, 1954; Bruce-Mitford, 1978).

Figure 3. Graphic representation of a number of Aring sword@ hilts and pommels (Davidson, 1962)

Figure 4. Photo of reconstructed pommel from a sword found at Vallstenarum showing the gold and garnet cloisone work that is characteristic of much 7th century decorative metal work (view from side and top). (Bruce-Mitford, 1978) One other common feature of swords from >princely graves@ is the presence of a bead (examples in glass, amber, meerschaum and gold/garnet composites) in the vicinity of the sword hilt (Bruce-Mitford, 1978; Davidson, 1962; Evison, 1976) (Figure 5). It is not known if these beads served any functional purpose (such as decoration for a peace bonding cord) or if they were talismans of some sort (Bruce-Mitford, 1978; Davidson, 1962). The scabbards for the swords appear to have been made from wood, covered in leather and often lined with wool (Arwidsson, 1942; Arwidsson, 1954; Bruce-Mitford, 1978). In the case of the two swords found in the Valsgard 6 burial, there appears to be some decorative carving on the leather covering the scabbard. However, on one of the swords the decoration may be the result of impressions from metal foils that were part of the suspension harness. Most of the richer graves had both a decorated chape and mouth (Arwidsson, 1942; Arwidsson, 1954; Bruce-Mitford, 1978; Davidson, 1962; Kennett, 1971). In the case of the Sutton Hoo sword, the mouth of the scabbard was decorated with gold and garnet cloisonn (Bruce-Mitford, 1978).

Figure 5. Graphic representation of several possible gold and garnet sword beads (Davidson, 1962)

Most of the scabbards had some means of fastening the sword to a baldric. Usually, the fastening mechanism consisted of a long AD@ shaped loop of wood, bone or ivory which the baldric strap would pass through (Bruce-Mitford, 1978; Davidson, 1962). Other mechanisms included the mounting of buttons (often highly decorated) which would be used to secure the scabbard to the baldric (Bruce-Mitford, 1978; Davidson, 1962). Both methods of fastening can be seen on figures depicted on 7th century helmet plaques (Figure 6). However, at least one of the swords from Valsgard 6 and the sword from Sutton Hoo were likely to have been suspended from a belt rather than a baldric. One additional feature, that is unique to the Sutton Hoo scabbard is a small decorated ivory strip that was fitted between the two buttons for fastening the scabbard to the baldric (Bruce-Mitford, 1978). The ivory strip was originally thought to be part of the mechanism for attaching the scabbard to the baldric (Bruce-Mitford, 1978). However recent analysis of this indicates that it most likely served as a sheath for a small knife (analogous to the small eating knives often found on oriental sword scabbards) (BruceMitford, 1982).

Figure 6. Graphic representation of figures from helmet plaques showing methods for suspending scabbards from baldrics (b) and graphic representations methods for suspending scabbards from belts (a,c). (Bruce-Mitford, 1978)

Spears and Angons: Spears are perhaps the most common weapon found in warrior graves of the 7th century (for rich and poor alike). Princely graves often contained several spears. Spears generally had narrow leaf shaped blades that ranged from 3 to well over 12 inches in length (not including the socket) (Figure 7). Spear blades could be either pattern welded or not, and were often decorated with inlaid silver wire (Evison, 19??). Patterns for the decorations included simple bands and chevron motifs (Figure 8). The sockets of the spears could either wrap around the shaft (split socket) or be welded shut (welded socket). Occasionally, a separate Awing@ or rod with nobs on the end was fitted through the socket on the same plane as the blade. However, there appears to be a straight cross bar welded to the base of the spear on several of the spears from Sutton Hoo (Bruce-Mitford, 1978). Similar spears can be seen carried by figures on helmet plaques of the 7th century (Figure 9). It is of interest to note that the figures depicted on this particular plaque appear to have straps attached to their spears. It is possible that these may have been used to prevent them from being pulled from the users hands (after sticking into shields or being grabbed by an opponent) or otherwise dropped during battle. The most common wood for spear shafts seemed to be ash, however, spear shafts of oak, maple, and other woods have been found. Spears ranged from 5 to 7.5 feet in length (Bruce-Mitford, 1978; Swanton, 1974). There is evidence that the spear shafts were decorated by carving (Hawkes, 1989). Also, most high quality spears from princely graves were fitted with a butt cap as well (Arwidsson, 1942; Arwidsson, 1954; Bruce-Mitford, 1978).

Figure 7. Graphic representation of Awinged@ spear. (Oakeshott, 1960)

Figure 8. Graphic representation of two spears inlaid with silver wire. (Evison, 1955)

Figure 9. Graphic representation of helmet plaque showing two figures carrying spears. (Lamm and Nordstrom, 1983)

Angons (throwing javelins) were more commonly associated with princely graves than in poorer grave finds. These were distinguishable from spears by the fact that they were often tipped with a small barbed blade (Figure 10). Also, the angons had longer, narrower sockets. The length of the angons was usually 5 foot long or shorter. Angons lacked the decorative attention lavished on the spears as all examples were simply forged of undecorated iron. However, there is evidence that some of the shafts on the angons from Valsgard 6 were decorated with red paint (Arwidsson, 1954).

Figure 10. Graphic representation of angon point. (Oakeshott, 1960)

Saxes, Axes and Other Weapons: Small hatchets and saxes are also commonly found in rich 7th century warrior=s graves (Arwidsson, 1942; Arwidsson, 1954; BruceMitford, 1978; Hawkes, 1989; Oakshott, 1960). Most of the axes are frankish style throwing hatchets which are made of a narrow iron blade welded in between the ends of a iron band folded around to fit over the haft (Tylecote and Gilmour, 1986) (see figure 11). However, the axe in the Sutton Hoo grave had a distinctly modern shape more like that of a tomahawk with a hammer end and was on a relatively long shaft (23 inches) (BruceMitford, 1975-83).

Figure 11. Graphic representation of frankish style throwing axe (left) Oakeshott, 1960) and photos of axe from Valsgard 8 with corrosion lines indicating the construction methods used to forge the head (right) (Arwidsson, 1954) Saxes are large knives with a distinctively shaped blade in which the back curves or angles down to the edge at the tip (Figure 12). Oakeshott states that saxes were not pattern welded, but that they were occasionally decorated with inlaid pattern welded strips (Oakshott, 1960). However, there are several examples of pattern welded saxes from the 7th century (Hawkes, 1989; Tylecote and Gilmour, 1986). Other decorative motifs on the saxes include silver wire inlays that on some later versions included runes (Hawkes, 1989,Oakshott, 1960). Sax blades ranged in size from 3 inches to 17 inches (with very long saxes (20+ inches) becoming popular after the 7th century) (Arwidsson, 1942; Arwidsson, 1954; Hawkes, 1989; Oakshott, 1960). Most of the handles on saxes were of wood, bone or antler (Hawkes, 1989). Some saxes have been found with small cocked hat pommels, but most appear to have lacked pommel caps.

Figure 12. Graphic representation of sax blades from the 7th century. (Hawkes, 1989) Saxes appeared to be carried in leather sheaths that were often decorated with metal studs and could have elaborate metal fittings of gilt bronze (Arwidsson, 1942; Arwidsson, 1954). Again, in the case of one of the saxes from Valsgard 6, the sax sheath was of wood covered in leather, with some decorative motifs carved into the sheath and decorative gilt bronze plaques mounted on the sheath as well (Arwidsson, 1954). I would speculate that it is likely that most leather sheaths were tooled and decorated. There is an 8-9th century tooled leather sheath that was found in Gotland (Hall, 1978; Hawkes, 1989). This sheath has decorative motifs that might be more suggestive of an earlier date. Also, the only surviving bit of 7th century leatherwork on the Stonyhurst bible cover shows evidence of painting and dying as well (Powel, 1956). Such tooling was likely to take the form of type II decorative motifs common in 7th century art that I will discuss later (Wilson, 1984). Interestingly, most of the depictions of warriors carrying saxes show the sax carried sharp edge up with the pommel towards the right (Hawkes, 1989).

Smaller knives of shapes and sizes similar to modern sheath knives were also common in 7th century graves of both the rich and poor (Geake, 1988; Hawkes, 1989). There is some suggestion that the hone-stone scepter found in the Sutton Hoo grave was a weapon as well (Simpson, 1979). Analogies have been drawn to a hone-stone wielding giant who battled Thor. Finally, there was a whole sheaf of arrows found in the Valsgard 8 burial (Arwidsson, 1954). The arrowheads were iron, with a narrow diamond shape and about 3 inches long (including the sockets) (Figure 13).

Figure 13. Photo of arrow heads found at Valsgard 8. (Arwidsson, 1954)

The armor often found in rich 7th century graves usually includes a helmet, shield, and various components of body armor including (but not limited to) mail and splinted leg and arm armor. These artifacts can be supplemented by artistic representations of armor from the 7th century which provide evidence for less stable armor components made from cloth or leather. Finally, the placement of buckles and strap ends can provide additional evidence for armor construction and wear. Helmets: The most common design for helmets in the 7th century was based on a close fitting skullcap of spangen type construction (Figure 14) and are undoubtedly descendants based on earlier Roman designs. Such helmets were formed by constructing a framework of bands; one that encircled the head just above the eyes, one that crossed over the top of the head from front to back, and one that crossed over the head from side to side. Such a design leaves four large openings of nearly equal size. However, several examples exist where the framework consisted of three bands crossing over the top of the head leaving six openings of nearly equal size (Bruce-Mitford, 1978). It should be noted that one of these three banded helmets was quite small and is thought to have belonged to a child. In another example, the skullcap of the helm was formed from a single sheet of iron with no bands at all (Bruce-Mitford, 1978). Finally, on the Ulltuna helm, the skullcap is formed entirely of latticework (Figure 14). The gaps between the banded framework were covered in a variety of methods. For the previously mentioned childs helmet, sheets of horn were riveted to the framework to fill the gaps (MacGregor, 1985). On several Scandinavian helms from Valsgard and Vendel the openings were covered using a latticework of iron bands (Figure 14) (Arwidsson, 1942; Arwidsson, 1954; Tweddle, 1992). Although no evidence of fabric or leather remains in these examples, it is obvious that a brightly colored helmet lining visible through the gaps in the lattice would have had rich and beautiful results. Solid plates appear to have been used to cover the gaps on the helm from Coppergate (Tweddle, 1992). On at least one of the helms from Valsgard, two separate plates were used to cover the gap (Figure 14). Additional protection of the face and neck was provided by plates, bars or mail suspended from the skullcap. On most of the helms from Valsgard and Vendel, an additional plate was riveted to the front of the helmet such that it protected the upper cheeks nose and eyes. Eyeholes cut in this plate give the helmet a goggles like appearance (Figure 14) and such are often referred to as eyeglass or eye goggle helms. In the case of the helm from Sutton Hoo, this plate was extended to cover the whole face. A more open, but full face plate was present on the helm from Uppland Sweden (Tweddle, 1992). The Coppergate, Pioneer and Benty Grange helms only have a nasal for protecting the face. It is of interest to note that these are the only good examples of early Anglo-saxon helms. To protect the sides of the face, cheek plates suspended from hinges were present on the helm from Sutton Hoo, Coppergate and the Pioneer helm (Figure 16). The back of the neck was protected by metal slats hung off the back of the helm from Uppland and a full Romanesque flanged plate was riveted to the back of the Sutton Hoo helm (Bruce-Mitford, 1978). On several helms including the helm from Valsgard 7 and 8, and the helm from Coppergate, mail was hung around some or all of the metal plates. The mail was suspended on a wire fed through a notched bronze tube in the case of the Coppergate helm (Figure 17). On most of the Vendel and Valsgard helms, the mail was suspended by linking them through holes punched along the rim of the skullcap and goggles ) (Arwidsson, 1942; Arwidsson, 1954). The mail in all examples

were either welded or riveted (or a combination of both) (Figure 18). The rivets for the mail were almost always of bronze. For a good discussion of techniques for early production of welded and riveted links, see Tweddle, 1992. Most of the helms found had some form of crest. In the case of the Scandinavian type helms, a hollow bronze zoomorphic crest (often with heads at both ends) that started at the back of the skullcap and extended down over the nose was common (Arwidsson, 1942; Arwidsson, 1954; Bruce-Mitford, 1978). In the case of the Sutton Hoo helm, the crest was made of iron and decorated with inlaid silver wire (Bruce-Mitford, 1978). Most of the other Anglo-Saxon helms had a bronze or iron boar mounted on the top of the helm. Most helms were also decorated with large bronze eyebrows and bronze decorations that ran down to the end of the nasal or goggles. In the case of the Coppergate helm, there were bronze bands that decorated the skullcap which was had runic inscriptions that read In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, (and) God; and to (or with) all we say Amen. Oshere (Oshere is a well-documented OldEnglish name) (Tweedle, 1992). Gold and garnet cloisonn work also decorated the eyebrows of the Sutton Hoo and several of the other Scandinavian helms (see figure 14M). It is also of interest to note that the zoomorphic terminals on the eyebrows of the Sutton Hoo helm were made of brass (30% zinc 70% copper) rather than the more common bronze (10% tin 90% copper) (Bruce-Mitford, 1978).

P Figure 14. Reproductions and restorations of various 6-7th century helms: A) Roman Cavalry Helm (6th century German); B) Helm from Vendel 14 (7th century Swedish); C) Pioneer Helm (7th century Anglo Saxon); D) Ulltuna helm (7th century Swedish); E) Sutton Hoo Helm (7th century Anglo Saxon); F) Copergate Helm (7th century Anglo Saxon); G) Lombard Helm (7th century Italian); H) Frankish Princes Helm (6th century France); I) Uppland Helm (7th century Swedish); J) Valsgard 6 Helm (7th century Swedish); K) Ostrogoth Helm (7th century Italian); L) Valsgard 5 Helm (7th century Swedish); M) Valsgard 7 Helm (7th century Swedish); N) Valsgard 8 Helm (7th century

Swedish); O) Vendel I (7th century Swedish) P) Benty Grange Helm (7th century AngloSaxon, Q) Childs Helm (6th century Frankish). (Tweedle, 1992; Arwidsson 1942 & 1954;

Figure 15. Line drawings of four 7th century helms showing construction and methods of covering quarter panels. A) Valsgard 5 helm; B) Valsgard 6 helm; C) Valsgard 8 helm; D) Ulltuna helm (Drawings from Tweedle, 1992)

Figure 16. Close up of hinges on Coppergate helm. (Tweedle, 1992).

Figure 17. Various methods used to attach mail to the Coppergate helm. (Tweedle, 1992).

Figure 18. Close up of mail from Coppergate helm showing riveted and welded links. (Tweedle, 1992). Shields: Unless specifically referenced, all of the information on shields comes from an excellent review by Dickinson T. and Harke H. (1992). Nearly all graves with either spear or sword also contain a shield. Shields were nearly always round with a central boss. However, there are limited examples of oval shaped shields. The shield size range from 12 inches up to 40 inches in diameter. However, the bulk of them were between 20-30 inches in diameter. Shields were almost always constructed of a single layer of planks (no plywood). Planks were oriented so that the handle was perpendicular to the grain. The thickness of the planks ranged usually ranged from 6-8mm and tapering of the shield to the edge appears rare. Despite a number of references to linden (lime) wood shields, the most common woods for shield construction were alder and willow, however there are examples of shields made from poplar, maple, birch, ash, oak (very rare), and linden (linden is the same as lime and basswood). I do not know if American basswood has similar qualities but it is the same genus and they are difficult to distinguish from one another. Most shields were flat. However, some of the very nice examples such as the shield from Sutton Hoo have a convex surface (Bruce-Mitford, 1978). A hole is cut in the central plank over which the boss is mounted. On the best

shields, the handle is formed by two D shaped cuts that form the central hole. Thus, on these shields, the handle is actually part of the central plank and is not a separate piece (Figure 19).

Figure 19. Diagram of ways handels were mounted on shields. (Dickinson and Harke, 1992)

Shields were usually faced with vegetable tanned leather of a thickness between 2-4mm (Figure 20). In all of the examples examined (only three that I know of), there is no evidence of dyes or paints on the leather. I do not know if the leather was glued into place or not. However, with the existence of shields without metal rims or other decorations to hold the leather in place, it seems likely that it was. Since the planks used to construct the shield were not plied and that the decorative shield mounts were often not placed in such a way as to add to the structural integrity of the shield, I suspect that the leathers main function was to hold the planks together.

Figure 20. Diagram showing details of facing and edging of the shield from Sutton Hoo. (Bruce-Mitford, 1978) The central boss of 7th century shields was more domed shape the typically conical bosses of the 6th century and earlier (Figure 21). These domed bosses could be quite tall with extremes being referred to as sugar loaf shield bosses (Evison, 1963). The bosses mostly appear to have been constructed in two parts. A domed top was almost always welded to a flanged base, however there are examples of bosses that appear to lack this weld line and thus may have been raised from a single piece of metal. Often a decorative button was fixed to the top of the dome. In most cases, the shield boss was attached to the shield by 5 or more rivets (4 rivet attachments are known but rare). The rivets were often covered with decorative domed bosses and gilding and inlay work on bosses was common in the richer grave finds (Figure 22).

Figure 21. Drawings of several 7th century sugar loaf shield bosses. (Evison, 1963) Other shield decorations included simple geometric bronze (often gilded or tinned) plaques with repose and stamped decorations (Figure 23a). In some very rich graves such as that at Sutton Hoo, some of the shield mounts were decorated with gold and garnet cloisonn as well (Bruce-Mitford, 1978) (Figure 23b). Other shield mounts include typical type II Anglo-Saxon bird motifs and there is at least one example of a false ring (similar to those found on sword hilts) mounted on one of the geometric plaques (Arwidsson, 1942; Arwidsson, 1954; Bruce-Mitford, 1978). In most cases, the shield mounts were oriented to go with the grain of the planks and nailed to the shield. They may have served to help hold the leather facing in place. Additional decorations on the face of the shield include fastenings for the rim (when present), and inlay or enameling on the button for the shield boss. The metal reinforcing the handle on the back of the shield was also commonly decorated. Usually this piece was a long bronze plaque with several branching dragonesque motifs (Figure 24). It may have served some structural purpose as it was usually mounted perpendicular to the planks. Surprisingly, other structural mounts of wood or metal are rare.

Figure 22. Drawing of a shield boss from Vendel XII. (Stolpe and Arne, 1927)

Figure 23a. Graphic representation of shield decorations from various 7th century shields. (Bruce-Mitford, 1978)

Figure 23b. Photo of gilt bronze shield mount with garnet cloisonn from Sutton Hoo. (Bruce-Mitford,1978)

Figure 24. Diagram of the back of the Sutton Hoo shield showing dragonesque handle and strap mounts. (Brice-Mitford, 1978) Body Armor: There is very little archaeological evidence for body armor. The one exception being a mass of alternately riveted and welded mail and shoulder clasps found at Sutton Hoo (Bruce-Mitford, 1978). Previous reconstructions of the Sutton Hoo armor represent it as being similar to 4th century roman with a hinged cuirass for chest

protection (Bruce-Mitford, 1978; Bruce-Mitford, 1982; Gamber, 1966; Gamber 82, Cederloef, 1955). However, with the exception of the Cederloef paper, these reconstructions did not take into account any representations of armor from the 7th century. Most of the evidence for body armor comes from representative art of the 7th century. Invariably, such pictures depict individuals wearing either mail, or a stiff corset like garment (leather?) suspended by shoulder straps (Figure 25). Note the decorations on the straps and corset of the figures on the silver repose plate from Byzantium. In at least one figure on the Joshua Scroll, a buckle appears to be connecting the front half of the shoulder strap to the back half. It should be noted that the Joshua Scroll and Joshua Casket are 9th and 11th century works that are thought to be copies of an earlier 7th century work that is now lost (Tselos, 1950). In most cases, this type of armor is depicted being worn over only a tunic.

A B C Figure 25. Representative art depicting corset-like body armor of the 7th century: a) Reposee silver plate from Byzantium dated 623, b) figures from Joshua Scroll, note circle around shoulder strap with apparent hinge type connector; c) figures from Joshua Casket However, there is one picture showing an individual wearing this type of armor over what appears to be a Romanesque leather tunic with terges below the waist and at the shoulders (Figure 25). The only possible archaeological evidence for this type of armor may be the shoulder clasps found at Sutton Hoo and Taplow Bucks, and a pair of simple buckles found at the shoulder of a warrior in a 7th century Frankish grave (Bruce-Mitford, 1978; Pescheck, 19??) (Figure 26). These items would have served well as a means of connecting the front shoulder straps to the back. This two piece shoulder strap appears to be necessary as the straps must have passed through loops in the garment directly under the corset. (Figure 27) Personal experience has indicated this loop is necessary to keep the shoulder straps from slipping down over the shoulders during combat. However, it is possible that a one-piece strap could have been used if the presumed loop through which the shoulder strap passed was designed to open and close (with either buckles or ties)

(Figure 27). Often, the corset appears to have a belt that circles the chest that passes over the shoulder straps. This is the only pictorial evidence for a means of closing the corset. There is one drawing that shows lacing up the side of the corset, however, it should be noted that this representation appears to lack the chest belt. There is one buckle from the Sutton Hoo find that appears to have no obvious function (Bruce-Mitford, 1978).

Figure 26. Shoulder clasps from Taplow Bucks and Sutton Hoo. (Bruce-Mitford, 1978)

Figure 27. Drawing showing possible ways to hold shoulder straps to under armor. A) under permanent loop as was likely done on the Sutton Hoo and Taplow Bucks armor; B) tied in place; C) buckled in place.

In a paper on the reconstruction of the Sutton Hoo harness, I have proposed that this buckle serves to close the corset in the back (Horvath, 1999). The only other depictions of body armor from the 7th century are on helmet plaques from Valsgard and Vendel (Cederloef, 1955; Stolpe and Arne, 1927). These plaques depict individuals wearing mail coats. Interestingly, the mail on one figure (Figure 28a) appears to be designed more like the karate gee type garment worn by other warriors depicted on the plaques rather than the tunic like garment shown on other more obviously mail clad warriors (Figures 28b and c). This gee like tunic appears to be a common design for coat-like garments in the 7th century as based on representative 7th century art (Lamm and Nordstom, 1983).

D Figure 28. Drawings of warriors from helmet plaques from Vendel and Valsgard showing chainmail body armor. (Lamm and Nordstom, 1983; Stolpe and Arne, 1927) Leg and arm protection: The grave at Valsgard 6 contained a number of iron bars connected by leather straps that clearly served as a form of splinted armor. The original reconstruction of the armor from this grave depicted these bars forming a splinted corset similar in design to those described above (Arwidsson, 1942) (Figure 29). However, the size and shape of the metal bars indicate that they served as splinted greaves for both legs and splinted arm armor for the right arm (Cederloef, 1955). Similar splinted armor is depicted on the figure from the helmet plaque previously mentioned (Figure 28). Cederloef suggests that the arm armor was for the upper arm, but analysis of the representative art suggest it is more likely that they protected the forearm instead.

Figure 29. Reconstruction of Valsgard 6 armor according to Arwidsson. (Arwidsson, 1942) Hands and feet: There is pictorial evidence on 7th century helmet plaques that have been interpreted by one author to represent gloved hands (Figure 28). Similar helmet plaques show figures that appear to be wearing foot coverings of some sort (ie. they are not barefoot). Pictures from the Byzantine plate and the Joshua Scroll and Casket depict the warriors wearing calf high boots (laced up the front in the case of the figure on the plate) (Figure 25). However, there is no archaeological evidence that I know of (besides finds of shoes that I will cover later) which indicate any special armor for hands or feet.

References Anstee J.W. and L. Biek (1961) A study in Pattern-welding. Medieval Archaeology 5: 71-107 Arwidsson G. 1942 Die Graberfunde von Valsgard I Valsgard 6 Acta Musei Antiquitatum Septentrionalium Regiae Universitatis IV Arwidsson G. 1954 Die Graberfunde von Valsgard II Valsgard 8 Acta Musei Antiquitatum Septentrionalium Regiae Universitatis IV

Arwidsson G. 1974 Die Graberfunde von Valsgard III Valsgard 7 Acta Musei Antiquitatum Septentrionalium Regiae Universitatis IV Bruce-Mitford (1978) The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial II: Arms Armour and Regalia Bruce-Mitford (1975-83) The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial III: Late Roman and Byzantine Silver, etc. Bruce-Mitford (1982) The Sutton Hoo Helmet-Reconstruction and the Design of the Royal Harness and Sword-Belt: A Reply to Hofrat Dr. Ortwin Gamber with some Additional Comments on the Sutton Hoo Arms and Armour. Journal of the Arms and Armour Society 10. Cederloef, O. (1955) The Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial and Armour during the Vendel Period. Journal of the Arms and Armour Society 1 Davidson, H. (1962) The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England. Boydell Press, Suffolk, Eng. Dickinson T. and Harke H. (1992) Early Anglo saxon shields. Antiquaries Journal Vol. 110 Evison V.I. (1963) Sugar-loaf shield bosses. Antiquaries Journal 43 Evison V.I. (1955) Early anglo saxon inlaid metalwork. The Antiquaries Journal 35: 20-45 Evison V.I. (1976) Sword Rings and Beads. Archaeologia 105. Evans HC and Wixom WD (1997) The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843-1261. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Gamber O (1966) The Sutton Hoo Military Equipment-- An Attempted Reconstruction. J. Arms and Armour Society 5 Gamber O (1982) Some Notes on the Sutton Hoo Arms and Armour. Journal of the Arms and Armour Society 10 Geake H (1988) Use of grave goods in the conversion period England, c600-c850. British Archaeological Reports, British Series #261, Oxford Hall RA (1978) Viking Age York and the North. Research Report # 27, The Council for British Archeology. Hawkes S.C. (1989) Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford Committe for Archaeology Monograph 21. Oxford

Hodgkin, R. H. (1952). A History of the Anglo-Saxons. Oxford University Press. Kennett D. H. (1971) Graves with swords at Little Wilbraham and Linton Heath. Proc. Camb. Ant. Soc. Vol. 63: 9-26 Lamm J.P. and Nordstrom H.A eds. (1983) Vendel Period Studies. The Museum of National Antiquities, Stockholm Studies #2. MacGregor (1985) Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn: The technology of skeletal materials since the roman period. Totowa: Barnes and Noble. Oakeshott, E. (1960). The Archaeology of Weapons. Barnes and Noble Books, USA. Pescheck C. (????) Das Frankische Reihengraberfeld Von Kleinlangheim, LKR. Kitzingen/Nordbayern. Verlag Philipp Von Zabern (press?), Mainz am Rhein Powel R (1956) The Stoneyhurst Gospel: The binding. in ed. Battiscombe The Relics of Saint Cuthbert. The University Press, Oxford Simpson J. (1979) "The King's Whetstone." Antiquity 53. Speake G (1980) Anglo-saxon Animal Art and its Germanic Background. Cladendon Press, Oxford Stolpe H and Arne TJ (1927) A Necropole de Vendel. Stockholm Swanton M.J. (1974) A corpus of pagan anglo saxon spear types. British Archaeological Reports #7. Oxford, England Tweddle D (1992): The Anglian Helmet from Coppergate, York ; Analysis and study, with comparative discussion, of one of only three known Anglo-Saxon helmets. Council for British Archaeology Tylecote, R.F and Gilmour B (1986) The metallography of early ferrous edged tools and edged weapons (BAR, British Series #155) Oxford Wilson, David. M. 1984. Anglo-Saxon Art, From the Seventh Century to the Norman Conquest. The Overlook Press, Woodstock, New York. Tselos D. (1950) The Joshua Roll: Original or Copy. Art Bulletin 32: 275-290 Youngs S (1989) The Work of Angels, Masterpieces of Celtic Metalwork, 6th-9th Centuries AD. University of Texas Press, Austin

Related Interests