Spears were often in the first line of both attack and defense in Viking battles, as they had several reach advantages over shorter weapons.
In its throwing version, the spear was one of the key weapons in the personal arsenal of Viking warriors, as it was well fitted to Viking warfare and tactics.
Researchers believe that spears were mostly used as one-handed weapons.
The spear was also used as a thrusting or stabbing weapon, and blacksmiths made sure to adapt spears to specialize them, particularly when it came to the design and creation of the spearheads.
While more robust and broader spearheads were produced for thrusting and stabbing, the narrower ones were created for throwing. Heavy thrusting spears, for example, could have up to 2 meters long shafts.
Although spears might not seem as glamorous and dangerous as swords and axes, Vikings used spears often.
Statistically speaking, the spear was the weapon that Vikings used the most because spears were easier to make than swords or axes – they required fewer resources and were thus cheaper to create.
Some also claim that they were easier to carry and wield in battle compared to axes or swords. Spears were popular among members of all social ranking in the Viking society. In contrast, swords were mostly reserved for the rich and high-standing members of the Viking community.
Making a spear wasn't as complicated as making a sword or a knife, so any (or most) Viking blacksmiths were able to create one. In general, Viking spears were made by using a head of the spear riveted to a shaft, with many variations of spears, in sizes and shapes.
Throughout history, the length of the shaft changed too. The length of the spearhead also grew through time, from 20 centimeters in the early Viking Age to 60 centimeters later on.
There isn't much information about the shafts of the Viking spears. Some sources say that they were as long as a stretched arm, and some claim that they were supported with iron.
According to researchers, smaller tools and weapons were manufactured in Scandinavia, but many spearheads were purchased and imported from abroad. Photo: 12138562 / Pixabay
The use of Viking spears
Vikings used the spears in three main ways in combat – throwing, cutting, and thrusting. Thrusting the spear was one of the most popular methods, often mentioned in many sagas.
This method could be performed with one or two hands. However, it had a sort of a disadvantage to it - the use of the spear with two hands would require removing the shield, so Viking warriors would become more vulnerable by doing so.
Cutting was probably the least common method of usage. Throwing a spear was quite popular. Viking spears used to be thrown at their enemies. However, that was also risky – if not thrown precisely enough, the spear could be thrown back at them by their enemy.
Pettersen spear typology and famous spears
When it comes to types of spears, they are usually divided into several categories, according to the length and thickness of the socket, if and how they are ornamented (by lines or by inlays), and according to their length.
The head is characterized by its thickness and length, in general. There are some other additional criteria to build and mark specific types of spears. They range from type A to type M, plus some additional types that could not fit these criteria.
A "famous" Viking spear was found in 1974 in Norway by a young student, Per Dagsgard. He found the perfectly preserved Viking spear, with both the spearhead and the shaft preserved, due to the thick ice in which it was hidden and thus kept in such a good condition.
Later on, through detailed research, it turned out to be a spear from the period between 825 and 950 AD, of the Pettersen type F, and with all details amazingly preserved.
Viking spear replicas
Nowadays, with the revival of Viking culture and its breakthrough into the global scene of films and series, it has become quite popular to re-enact Viking battles and organize different events where Viking fans can get together and enjoy a reenactment of "the old days."
In this sense, Viking spear replicas can be found on various markets throughout the world.
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