Viking Weaponry - An Introduction Suitable for KS2
Updated: Feb 10
Swords are tricky to make and as a result, are very expensive. Only the richest of Vikings (Kings or Jarls) would have been able to own one.
A sword could have the same value as 16 cows, think of the sword as the equivalent value of an Aston Martin today!
In fact, owners were so proud of their extravagant swords they would often name them, ideally with something very dramatic! Some real-life examples are: 'Flame of Battle', 'Viper', and 'Leg-Biter'.
These weapons would be passed from parent to child, across the generations, and became very famous. Certain swords were even believed to possess magical powers! If you called your sword 'Wolf' then perhaps it would channel the powers of that animal into the user, making a Viking warrior even more deadly in battle.
Viking's Axes were rarely huge, double-handed, and double-edged, using such a weapon in battle would be incredibly cumbersome and really slow a warrior down. Instead, think light and small axes with a single blade on the head – ideal for speedy attacks.
Due to their size, smaller axes could be also hidden behind a shield for a surprise attack. They could also be used to 'hook' over the rim of an opponent's shield and drag it out of the way, exposing the unwitting warrior to a follow-up attack.
Axes were far more popular than swords. Primarily because they were much cheaper but also because they had multiple uses: an axe could be used to chop firewood but using a sword for such a purpose would just blunt the blade.
Most Vikings would have a spear. They were far and away the most affordable weapon and as a result very plentiful.
Whilst archaeologists have found tons of spearheads, no one knows for certain how long the shafts were! Too short and the enemy would get too close, too long and the spears would be too difficult to carry. What do you think the perfect length for a Viking spear would be?
The sagas and stories of the Vikings are chock full of heroes throwing their spears – a risky plan, if they missed then the enemy might lob the spear back at them. Some Viking heroes supposedly could throw two spears at once - one in each hand. Whilst others were claimed to be able to catch a thrown spear in mid-light, now that would be an awesome party trick!
Bow and Arrow:
Bows and Arrows were primarily used for hunting animals but there is increasing archaeological evidence that Vikings used them in battle too.
This makes sense as sometimes to win a fight you might not be able to rely on close combat, instead, it might be best to shoot lots and lots of arrows at your foe. Fighting at sea is a good example, trying to charge with a sword, spear, or axe whilst on a boat would just result in getting very wet.
Archaeologists have recently found rings made of bone buried in a Viking grave, perhaps these were used to help draw a bowstring?
What do you think, if you were a Viking would you use a bow and arrow? Or perhaps that would displease the gods?
If you are a Primary School teacher then you'll definitely want Imagining History to bring their 'How to Launch a Viking Raid' Interactive workshop to your school.
Have your students got what it takes to launch a successful Viking raid?
In this award-winning workshop, our practitioners will use interactive activities with a drama and performance twist to teach your students everything they need to know to raid the Anglo-Saxon monastery on Lindisfarne. Your students will:
Create a timeline stretching from the first Viking raid to the end of the Viking era.
Construct a Viking Longship using just their bodies.
Interact with replica Viking Weapons, Armour and tools, including a sword, shield, spear, and sunstone.
Use their teamworking skills to test out Viking navigation techniques
Launch a raid on Lindisfarne & outsmart the Monks to steal their treasure.