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Viking weapons: Viking axes

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear Viking weapons? Probably a solid doublebitted ax, right? Movies and historical illustrations often depict doublebitted axes as the most commonly used weapon by Vikings. But is it really the weapon the Fjord men used in combat, or is the media pulling our leg? 

In fact, the Vikings swore by their axes. Most Vikings used axes thanks to their price as a cheaper replacement for expensive swords not only because swords were only affordable to wealthy Vikings, but also because axes were more efficient for short-distances. Cheaper, domestic, and lower-quality swords were also among Viking warriors, but they were more expensive than axes and their production was not sufficient to meet the vast needs of the Viking troops. 

The truth is that all axes used by Vikings were single-bitted. They could be one-handed or two-handed heavy axes, both with dual blades. The myth that the Viking axes were double-bitted is probably due to a misunderstanding based on older ax-hammers (Hammeräxte), which were made of stone and antler and served both as weapons and working tools. However, they were never used during the Viking age. The most famous example of these is Thor’s phenomenal hammer called.Mjölni

Although axes were owned by the less fortunate Vikings, axes of war differed from their cheaper variants which were used primarily for farming. Cheaper axes were made only of iron, better and more expensive ones had welded steel blades, and the most expensive axes were richly inlaid with silver, gold, or engraved. Ax heads also varied over time – while at the beginning they had a blade of about 7-15 cm (3-6 in), later their blade more than doubled in size – 22-45 cm (9-18 in). 

The older axes, skeggöx, used since the 8th century, had an asymmetrically drawn downwards blade and were called ‘goatee-beards’ due to their shape. The younger broad axes, which expanded significantly only from the 10th but mainly in the 11th century, had a blade the shape of a symmetrical trapezoid.

Vikings axes served various purposes – for example, they could be used as a throwing weapon. Although, the throwing axes were easy to make, they were also very effective in battle and for hunting as well. 

Are you fascinated by Viking axes? Would you like one for yourself? Have a look at Gimli – our most popular example of a throwing ax.

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