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Early Medieval Combat

spangenhelm The helmet shown in this picture is called a spangenhelm. It is conical so as to deflect blows. The piece over the nose is called a nasal and is reasonably effective at protecting most of the front of the face without restricting the wearer's visibility as much as a full face mask would.

The body armour is a mail shirt which is made from about 30,000 interlinked steel rings. It is worn over a padded tunic. The mail protects against cuts and the padding absorbs the force of a blow.
A puncturing weapon such as a spear or an arrow will be more effective at getting through the mail than a sword or an axe, although a heavy blow could still cause damage without breaking through the mail shirt.
Peasants only tended to fight close to their home areas when danger threatened them directly. They tended to have simple weapons, often adapted from farm tools.
The round shield, as shown here, was being replaced by the new kite shaped design during the 11th Century.

Early medieval laws required communities to provide a certain number of warriors with equipment between them.

Professional warriors would usually be attached to a particular household and would travel with their lord.
While the lord was away it was often his wife's job to organise the defence of his lands.
Armoured knights in combat with peasants

Lothene Experimental Archaeology Group holds combat practices on Sunday afternoons and Friday evenings, weather permitting. The weapons used are blunt replicas of 11th Century ones. They include spears, swords, knives, hand axes, polearms and the large Dane Axes which were used by the Saxons at the Battle of Hastings.

contact AJ for further details

Re-enactment combat is a martial art and fights are usually competitive. A "hit" is scored by making light contact with a defined target area on an opponent. For safety reasons areas such as the head, neck, spine and joints are not used as targets. The techniques used are based on medieval manuscripts and other archeological evidence.

Useful Links

The Apprentice Armorer's Illustrated Handbook For Making Mail
The 'Viking Shield' from Archaeology describes the construction and decoration of early medieval shields.
The Mediæval Sword Virtual Museum shows examples of sword styles from 400 to 1450 AD.
Shields of the Shattered Isle Group have a page illustrating different types of Shield Wall.
Arms and Armour - Glossary of Terms useful index of technical terms.
There Is No Best Sword is an essay on different styles of swords and their uses.
Women Warriors throughout History has descriptions of historical and mythological women from prehistory to the 20th Century.
Fields of Conflict Project a battlefield archeology project in the UK

Warning - these links may not be suitable for children.
The Towton Mass Grave Project is a report on bodies found at the site of the Battle of Towton, 1461.
Blood Red Roses: The archaeology of a mass grave from the Battle of Towton AD 1461


"The Viking Art of War" - Paddy Griffith - Greenhill Books - 1-85367-208-4
"Medieval Warfare Sourcebook" - David Nicolle - Arms and Armour Press
"Saxon, Viking and Norman" - Terence Wise - Osprey Military, Men at Arms series - 0-85045-301-1
"English Martial Arts" - Terry Brown - Anglo Saxon Books - 1-898281-18-1
"Scottish Castles and Fortifications" - Christopher Tabraham - HMSO - 0 11 492475 9
"Scottish Weapons and Fortifications 1100-1800" - David H. Caldwell - John Donald Publishers - 085976 047 2
"Crusades" - Terry Jones, Alan Ereira - BBC Publications - 0-563-37007-6
"Medieval Combat" - Hans Talhoffer - Greenhill - 1-85367-418-4
"The Art of Combat" - Joachim Meyer -Greenhill -13 978-185367-643-7
"Medieval Swordsmanship" - John Clements - Paladin Press - 1-58160-004-6
"Highland Swordsmanship" - Mark Rector - Chivalry Bookshelf - 1-891448-15-3
"Swords of the Viking Age" - Ian Peirce - Boydell Press - 1 94383 089-2
"Codex Wallerstein" - Grzegorz Zabinski - Paladin Press - 1-58160-339-8
"Medieval Sword and Shield" - Paul Wagner and Stephen Hand - Chivalry Bookshelf - 1-891448-43-9

Lothene Experimental Archaeology are available for displays, talks and educational visits - contact us for details
If you are interested in Scottish history, research, medieval crafts, swordfighting or other medieval combat skills contact us to enquire about joining Lothene. We currently have members in Lothian, Fife and the Borders.

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