1. Design

Photos of Antique Viking Axes

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Axes were among the most Viking axe for sale popular weapons of Viking warriors. Ranging in size from hand axes to the famous Dane axe or bearded axe, they were tools of terror on raiding forays.

They also had a ceremonial use. An example is the axe decorated on every flat surface with silver decoration found in the rich chamber-grave of Mammen.
Farm Axes

Throughout the Viking Age, many different types of axes were produced. They were used for a variety of purposes, including battle and woodcutting. They could be quite heavy, allowing the user to hack at their opponents from a distance. They were often adorned with a number of motifs, both pagan and Christian, depending on the individual's preference. One of the most common motifs is a bird, either the rooster Gullinkambi, who sits on top of the tree Yggdrasil in Norse mythology, or the Phoenix, a symbol of rebirth in Christian mythology.

The size of the hafts and cutting edges differed with each axe type. Some had a haft that was as long as 140cm (55 inches) and required two hands to wield. Others had a shorter haft and were used one handed. Axe hafts usually had a bend near the head, which maximized the transfer of power from the arm and shoulder to the axe edge.

Most axes had a very sharp, single-edged blade that could cut through a person's flesh with ease. They would typically be heavily bearded, allowing them to hook on an opponent's ankle or other body part and trip them or to slash their throat with a single blow. The blunt butt end of the axe was also used to hit an opponent on the head, sometimes with enough force to break the skull.

Axes designed for fighting were usually a bit different than the farm axes in that they were intended to be lighter and faster so that the user can quickly attack an enemy. They may have a different shape to their head to allow for more efficient use in close quarters combat, and they might be crafted of bronze or other materials instead of iron.

For the average viking, an axe was not just a tool but a way of life. It was a necessary tool for survival in an environment where almost everything was constructed of wood, and it served as a formidable weapon when needed. These were powerful weapons that the Vikings took into battle with complete confidence.
Battle Axes

Axes were the weapons of choice for most Viking men, even the poorest farm laborer. But axes meant for battle were designed differently, as shown by the two reproduction axes (left) and historic 10th century axe heads (right). The latter have a ‘beard' extending below the haft, allowing it to be hooked onto an enemy's shield or weapon, giving its wielder an advantage in combat.

The curved shape concentrates all of the blow's force in a small area, enough to split a helmet or mail in half. In fact, sagas often mention clever moves involving axes. One such story involves a man named Thrandr, who used his axe to hook another axe-wielder's head over the wall of a fortification in the Eyrbyggja saga. Another tale, from the Islendinga saga, tells of an unnamed warrior who killed an enemy with a single blow of his axe.

In addition to demonstrating their lethal potential, axes were also used for ceremonial purposes and for practical tasks like chopping wood or harvesting timber. This is clear from the fact that a number of axes have been found in both richly furnished warrior graves and simple graves where the deceased had nothing else to accompany them on their last journey.

Some axes, like this one from the grave of a magnate from Mammen, have silver inlay on their heads. Others, such as the axe from Over Hornbaek, have motifs that appear to be both pagan and Christian.

The haft of the axe in this photo is carved with symbols including Norse gods and goddesses, runic letters, and Viking emblems such as the horned helmet and spearhead. The head of the axe, however, is decorated with a bird motif that is either the rooster Gullinkambi, who sits on top of the world tree Yggdrasil in Norse mythology, or the Phoenix, which is a symbol of rebirth in Christianity. Both of these motifs are associated with renewal, which is appropriate for an instrument that was both a tool and a weapon of war. The axe also has an unusually short handle.
Axe Heads

Axes were one of the most versatile tools or weapons used by Vikings. They were capable of cleaving helmets and armour, but also a formidable weapon to be thrown at an enemy. Varying in size, from small axes to the mighty Danish Axe, these cutting tools commonly doubled as weapons of war when these fierce warriors sailed on their pillaging forays.

The axe heads were typically made of iron and were single edged. They tended to be between 7 and 15cm (3-6 inches) long but they could also be much bigger, especially later on in the Viking Age when the breid-ox had crescent shaped edges 22 to 45cm (9-18 inches). The heads were often decorated with motifs and images, either pagan or Christian. This historic axe head has an image of the pagan tree god Yggdrasil on one side and on the other it is decorated with a Christian cross.

During the 10th century, the axe heads were sometimes made with a ‘beard’, which extended below the butt of the axe. This helped to optimise the weight of the axe for greater manoeuvrability. It is thought that this was a popular design of the time, as it enabled the user to be more accurate with their throwing, enabling them to ‘juggle' the axe in their hand and to maximise the power of the swing. The axe also looked more intimidating to their enemies and this was likely an important aspect of the effectiveness of the weapon.

The axe head on this example has a very sharp and effective blade and it is also in excellent condition considering its age and use. This axe would be ideal as an investment or for display and it would look good with a replica handle. It has an interesting feature in that it has evidence of actual combat damage, which makes it rare and highly desirable. This is shown by the broken weld on the haft body. Ancient weapons with this kind of history are very desirable as they are so rarely available for purchase. For more information on this particular axe head or to make an enquiry please contact us.
Axe Hafts

The axe was the primary weapon for many Vikings. They came in a variety of sizes and shapes. Farm axes had shorter hafts and were used one handed, while battle axes had longer hafts and were used two handed. The axes shown in the photos to the left are reproductions based on historic 10th century finds.

Axes were often decorated and even inlaid with silver. The hafts were usually made from ash or oak. Axes were sometimes fitted with a brass haft cap, which was a decorative element that may also have served to keep the head of the axe secure on the end of the shaft, and to prevent it from falling off during use.

An important feature of a viking axe was the ‘beard', a square shaped projection at the bottom of the axe head that could be used to hook an enemy's shield or weapon. The ‘beard' allowed the axe to be wielded with one hand, and was an advantage during combat.

Other axe heads were more utilitarian, and were designed for wood-related activities, such as chopping or harvesting trees. These axes had a ‘drip blade', which created a broad cutting edge. This was an important design feature, as it would allow the axe to inflict larger and more severe wounds than its size might suggest. This type of axe was also carried by the Varangian guard front line shock troops.

Another axe type was the ‘cross axe', which had a partly solid head and a cross motif. This type of axe was used in religious ceremonies by Vikings who were Christian.

The axes were also used for hunting and other ritual activities. The axes were also important tools for fishing, as well as for construction and farming. The axes were so useful that even the poorest Vikings had at least one. They were expensive to purchase, but cheap to maintain and could be easily adapted to serve a variety of purposes. The sagas record that occasionally an axe failed during use, such as when the axehead flew off the haft during combat (see chapter 144 of Islendinga saga). These failures were most likely due to accidental contact with hard objects or a poorly made axehead.


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