The use of warhammers for the duration of the Viking age?

by admin on February 13, 2013

Query by Frostfaxe D.: The use of warhammers for the duration of the Viking age?
I am curious about the hammer Mjolnir that is pointed out in the old Heathen mythology. I have not been ready to uncover any data of real mallets or warhammers getting utilized in the course of the Viking age in Scandinavia.

What I am pondering is if warhammers were really used in the course of this time interval and I skipped it, in which circumstance I might like a website link or yet another supply to read through up, or if the historic data could refer to a two-sided axe or yet another weapon with a related form.

Greatest response:

Reply by Petrusclavus
They were only good in opposition to folks in total armour. Not a frequent opponent for vikings. Extremely very good from chain-mail the place a blade could fall short.
There are quite number of detailed stories including weapon images – so considerably a part of the culture that a bard wouldn’t hassle to mention it.

Give your answer to this question under!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

beth l February 13, 2013 at 4:09 am

Try this site http://family-ancestry.co.uk/history/vikings/burial_sites/

I was thinking maybe they had found a war hammer in one of the burial ship in Europe.

Nathaniel J February 13, 2013 at 4:11 am

Typically, hammers were not among the most popular of weapons among vikings. Im sure they were used to some extent. I think the hammer, in the case of Thor is meant to solidify his link with the common man and is found to be an apt symbol of thunder.
By far however, swords, spears and axes were far more popular among vikings. The original Common Germanic prototype for Thor, whose name means simply “Thunderer”…would be Donar, who is often associated with an axe as opposed to a hammer.

Ymmo the Heathen February 13, 2013 at 4:25 am

I starred your question for Noddy, our resident expert on the Heathen history and lore.

Edit: thanks Noddy :)

No Chance Without Magpie February 13, 2013 at 5:15 am

I believe that Thor’s hammer has to do with the tools of the smithy, rather than as a weapon–the hammer against the anvil as a metaphor for thunder.

Also, I do seem to recall from history classes that smiths, when they were drawn into battle (which was rare, because their skills were too valuable to risk losing), would use their hammer as a personal weapon–which would make sense, as they wielded a hammer all day, it would be a natural choice. Much like farmers would use flails and bill-hooks (the forerunner of the polearm).

Could be wrong on that.

The warhammer didn’t become a popular weapon until the advent of plate armour, where a crushing weapon was far more effective that a cutting or stabbing one.

Gene F February 13, 2013 at 5:53 am

The answer is in the prehistoric, not in the viking age although it is a safe bet that the connection to the forge kept the stories alive.

Noddy T (FRASH) February 13, 2013 at 5:54 am

The war hammer is not the most common of weapons from the early medieval however evidence does exist for its existence at least in early Anglo-Saxon culture and then later after evolution into the mace in the Bayeux Tapestry. The early example is the Sutton Hoo “axe-hammer” from the ship burial which contained the famous helmet, lyre and shield. (image: http://www.sheshen-eceni.co.uk/images/sutt%20hoo%20axe%20dn1.JPG)

The use of the hammer is not connected to platemail or other armoury in the early medieval period as its primary function was as a short range missile weapon (as was the mace illustrated in the Bayeux Tapestry) in a similar fashion to the Francesca axes. Hammers could be hurled into an advancing shield wall smashing their boards, killing or injuring troops and littering the ground making movement awkward exactly the same as a thrown axe. The concept of the thrown hammer is further backed up by the mythology surrounding Mjolnir as it’s magical property is to return to its thrower like a boomerang.

The hammer pendants found often include a large ring on the end of the shaft, this is taken to being a representation of a rope quoit used to whirl the hammer before throwing. This whirling of the hammer in battle may be the reason why hammer wielding gods have a hooked cross as their symbol. When early hooked crosses are looked at in negative, that is to say we examine the space between the legs of the cross not the cross itself, we see four hammers of a similar shape to the axe-hammer above spinning around a central point. (image: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3583/3798583623_c3634fdacf.jpg) The Sutton Hoo hammer is unique in that it has an iron shaft, this shaft terminates with a small ring which may have been used to attached a rope for whirling.

Overall the hammer is a low status weapon, maybe an improvised weapon, with the exception of the Sutton Hoo royal hammer. The professional armies of raiders and noblemen carried swords, the lower ranks of the shield wall bore spears, hammers and axes, an anything else they could lay their hands on to kill the man in front of them.

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