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Viking Axes: Types and Uses

Few weapons were more dreaded or as symbolic as the axe, which the Vikings wielded in their wars and conflicts as well as on their expeditions across Europe in the eighth and ninth century and afterwards.It was truly formidable, chopping heads and bodies in half with a single strike because to its long shaft that could be held in both hands, its iron head, and its razor-sharp edge.

Axes are frequently mentioned in literature, especially in the Icelandic sagas, and they are portrayed in Viking artwork. While the Norwegian monarch Eric Haraldsson is better remembered by his moniker, the evocative Eric Bloodaxe, they were frequently highly regarded and given names like "Witch of the Helmet," "Wolf of the Wound," "Fiend of the Shield," or "Woundbiter."

Numerous axes have survived through the ages, and have been frequently found in archaeological sites and showing a variety of sizes and shapes. So what are some of the types of Viking Axes?

Types of Axes:

Surprisingly, there hasn't been much recent research on battle-axes despite their widespread use and iconic reputation. But in 1919, with the publication of his book on the Norwegian Viking sword, Jan Petersen set the groundwork for the study of Viking weapons. He listed about ten different varieties and assigned letters A through M to each. But there are two primary axe kinds within his taxonomy that can be distinguished.

Bearded Axe:

The lower edge of the first axe, the skeggox or bearded axe, extends downward like a beard and has an asymmetrical head.

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Types B, C, D, and E are a few variations based on the size and shape of the beard, according to Petersen. As with Petersen's type C, the beard can be extremely severe and the length of the blade can be several times that of the rest of the head. Bearded axes are thought to have evolved from agricultural or woodworking axes as early as the eighth century.

Broad Axe:

The second type, the breix or broad axe, also known as Petersen's types L and M, has a roughly triangular shape, is thin towards the haft and flares out at the top and bottom to form a broad cutting edge that is approximately 15-20 cm (6-8 inches) in length. This is the traditional "Danish" axe that is commonly shown in art and mentioned in the texts and that becomes widespread after the year 1000. There are also a few smaller axe varieties that are still in existence and can be thrown or used as tools.

The majority of surviving axes are unadorned, although several extremely elaborate specimens have been discovered. The Mammen type of embellishment takes its name from one notable piece from Mammen in Jutland, Denmark, which is inlaid with silver motifs. By using wood fragments found in the cemetery where it was discovered, it has been determined when the tree was cut down, sometime after AD 971.

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The Mammen axe is one of the rare instances in which the haft has persisted; regrettably, even these few are shattered and unfinished, making it impossible to determine how long they were. The axe depicted in the Middleton sculpture is rather small, likely measuring 1 meter (3 feet), although those seen on the Bayeux Tapestry are longer, possibly measuring closer to 1.5 meters (5 feet). Most likely, the length of the haft was a reflection of the size of the head; in general, the longer and sturdier the haft, the larger the head. In addition to being a secondary weapon after a sword, shorter axes might be employed as covert weapons, hidden under a cloak or behind a shield.

On the two aforementioned Viking sculptures of warriors from Middleton in North Yorkshire, the first crucifix has all these weapons on, while the second, smaller sculpture displays an axe and a seax. The axe was frequently employed along with a sword, spear, or halberd, a shield, and a seax.

These weapons, as well as combinations of them, have frequently been found in graves across the Viking North Atlantic area. Others, including a number discovered in the River Thames close to the historic London Bridge, along with spears and a grappling hook, have been retrieved from waterways. These might have been lost during Cnut's raids on London in the early 1100s or dumped into the river as sacred deposits.


Through the eleventh century, the axe was still used for combat, but it seems to have progressively lost favor as the medieval knight's lance and sword took its place. References to battle-axes in the Icelandic Sagas, which describe how a single, precisely placed stroke from an axe ended wars and feuds, provide ample evidence of their potency as weapons. Targeting the enemy's head was common, indicating that many weapons had long handles and could be flung over the enemy's head.

Without a doubt when one thinks of Vikings, one thinks of the Viking axe. It goes down in history as one of the most viable weapons in existence. Get your historically accurate Viking axe at

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