What Weapons Did The Vikings Use?

What Weapons Did The Vikings Use?

The Viking warriors, known for their fierce and relentless nature, were equipped with an array of weapons that made them formidable opponents on the battlefield. A Viking warrior's basic arsenal typically included a sword or an axe, a shield, and a spear. Each of these weapons played a crucial role in their combat strategy and effectiveness.

The Viking Sword

The Viking Sword: A Symbol of Power and Legacy

Among the most significant discoveries at Woodstown, a Viking settlement located 5km from modern-day Waterford in Ireland, was the grave of a Viking warrior, dating back to around 850 AD. This grave stands out as the only one in Ireland where the warrior was interred with all his weapons – a sword, shield, spear, axe, knife, and even a hone stone for sharpening these tools.

The sword held unparalleled importance as the ultimate status symbol for a Viking warrior. These weapons were highly valued and often passed down from father to son. However, the Viking warrior at Woodstown was buried with his sword, suggesting he might not have had a son to inherit it, or perhaps his status was so elevated that it was believed he should retain his sword in the afterlife.

Iron was a costly material, and the construction of a sword required more iron than any other weapon. Consequently, swords were typically possessed by wealthier warriors, though many were likely taken from fallen enemies on the battlefield.

Viking swords were generally between 90cm and 95cm long, including a 10cm tang. They were crafted through a process called pattern-welding, where wrought-iron strips were welded together, twisted, and hammered into a blade. A hardened steel edge was then added to the main body. A typical Viking-Age sword weighed just over 1kg.

The blade tapered towards the point and featured a groove known as the ‘blood groove,’ which was forged and ground along its length. Skilled smiths, who were highly valued craftsmen, often marked their weapons during construction, while victory runes might be etched onto the blade or hilt after a battle.

These swords were double-edged, designed for one-handed use, and primarily intended for slashing rather than stabbing, being both strong and flexible. Some single-edged varieties existed in the early Viking period.

Swords were celebrated in the sagas and often given names by the skalds, such as Fotbitr (leg-biter) and Kvernbitr (quern-biter), the latter being an English sword gifted by King Athelstan to the Norwegian King Hakon. Other legendary sword names from the sagas include Dragon Slayer, War-Snake, Viper, Battle-Flasher, Serpent of Blood, Widow-Maker, Ice of Battle, and Torch of Blood.

Discover the fascinating world of Viking swords and the rich history they embody, symbolizing the power and legacy of the warriors who wielded them.

Viking Battle Axe

Viking Battle Axe: The Iconic Weapon of Norse Warriors

When you think of Viking warriors, the image of a fearsome axe often comes to mind. This weapon, typically with a long handle, was a staple of Viking arsenals. Viking axes came in various styles, with axe-heads ranging from the T-shape to the distinctive bearded design. Early blades measured between 8cm to 16cm, while later versions grew significantly larger, reaching lengths of 23cm to 46cm.

Not only were these axes formidable in combat, but they also served as symbols of status and craftsmanship. The Mammen Axe, for instance, is a prime example of this dual purpose. This particular axe is renowned for its intricate inlay of gold and silver, showcasing the artistry and wealth of its owner.

In the heat of battle, the axe offered a significant advantage with its extended reach. A skilled warrior could wield it with devastating effect, as evidenced during the Battle of Clontarf in Ireland in 1014. It was in this fierce clash that King Brian Boru met his end, underscoring the lethal effectiveness of the Viking axe in the hands of a master.

Viking Warrior With Spear

The Ubiquitous Viking Weapon: The Spear

In the Viking era, the spear stood out as the most common and versatile weapon, requiring minimal iron for its production. This practicality made it a staple in Viking armories and a frequent find in burial sites.

Spears served dual purposes in combat: thrusting at close range and throwing at the onset of battle. The initial volley of thrown spears likely featured simpler designs with slender, smaller heads, aimed at disrupting enemy formations. In contrast, spears with broader, leaf-shaped heads were kept in hand for precise, powerful stabbing during close-quarters combat. This dual functionality made the spear an indispensable tool for Viking warriors, showcasing their strategic prowess in battle.

Viking Bows and Arrows

Bows and Arrows: The Viking Arsenal

Viking arrows, renowned for their distinctive leaf-shaped heads, were about 15cm long. These arrows, crucial in both hunting and warfare, were carried in cylindrical quivers. Although only fragments of Viking bows have survived, historical texts like Saxo Grammaticus's Gesta Danorum highlight their significance. For instance, Norwegian archers played a pivotal role in the Battle of Bravalla, where they are credited with the death of Ubbi, the champion of King Harald Wartooth. This demonstrates the formidable skill and strategic importance of Viking archers in both legend and history.

Viking Warriors With Shields

Viking Shields: The Ultimate Defense of Ancient Warriors

Viking warriors were known for their formidable defense, largely attributed to their iconic round, wooden shields. These shields, typically around one meter in diameter, played a crucial role in protecting the Norse fighters during battles.

  • Design and Structure: The shield's design included a central hole, strategically placed to accommodate an iron boss. This boss was crucial as it provided added strength and durability to the shield. Attached to this boss on the inner face was an iron grip, allowing the warrior to hold and maneuver the shield with ease.
  • Aesthetic and Variations: Beyond their functional use, Viking shields often showcased the warrior's status and personal taste. Many shields were adorned with vibrant colors, making them not only tools of defense but also symbols of identity and pride. Over time, the design of these shields evolved, with variations in shape and size emerging to suit different combat needs and styles.

In essence, Viking shields were more than mere protective gear; they were a blend of practicality, artistry, and personal expression, embodying the spirit of the Viking warrior.

Viking Helmet and Chainmail

Helmet and Chainmail: Unveiling Viking Armor

Vikings are often portrayed donning iron helmets, but archaeological evidence suggests otherwise, with only a few examples discovered. One of the most remarkable finds is the Gjermundbu helmet, unearthed in a grave in Ringerike, Norway, in 1943. This helmet features an iron cap with four spokes and a rim, along with a substantial eye and nose guard.

In the same grave, fragments of a chainmail shirt were found. This chainmail was crafted with interlocking rings rather than the more common riveting method. Such helmets and mail shirts were likely reserved for the very wealthy or elite warriors, such as the king’s bodyguards. This discovery sheds light on the sophisticated craftsmanship and the social hierarchy of Viking warriors, highlighting the exclusivity of such protective gear in ancient Norse society.


The Viking warrior's arsenal was a combination of versatile and effective weapons, each serving a specific purpose in combat. From the revered sword and versatile axe to the protective shield and versatile spear, these weapons made the Vikings a formidable force. Combined with their defensive armor, Viking warriors were well-equipped to face their enemies and emerge victorious. Understanding the weaponry of the Vikings provides insight into their legendary prowess and success on the battlefield.

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