Viking Shields

Shielding the Legacy: Viking Shields and the Formidable Nordic Warriors’ Expansion into Northern Europe from the 9th Century Onwards

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Viking shields, masterfully crafted and adorned with intricate designs, were not just defensive tools but symbols of prestige and martial prowess.

Viking Warriors Swords and Viking Shields

Constructed from sturdy materials, these shields were essential for Viking warriors in the chaos of battle and the high seas, embodying their unwavering resolve and formidable strength.

They eventually mustered a conquest of England and through their Norman descendants, left a permanent mark on the socio-political outlook of Western Europe.

Norman Conquest of England - Viking Shields

A military culture dominated Viking society and this was reflected in the wide range of laws and regulations which overlooked Viking social life.

These laws extended to the construction and maintenance of shields as well which Vikings considered a vital part of their battlefield gear.

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The round shield stood as the predominant choice among Vikings for their defensive needs.

Round Shields

Viking round shields were usually 30 to 36 inches in diameter although the specific size of a shield varied according to the warrior wielding it.

Viking Shield

Shields as large as 48 inches in diameter were also used. The most common material used in the construction of the round shield was linden wood. Other types of wood were also commonly used such as poplar, fir and alder wood.

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Multiple planks of wood were glued together and cut into a circular shape for the basic structure of a round shield. The rim of the shield was then fitted with additional bindings such as those of iron to reinforce the structure.

`Leather and different kinds of fibrous materials were used on the front of the shield to make the shield more durable and prevent enemy blades from cutting too deep.

A sizable iron boss was used at the centre of the shield to protect the hand holding the shield by creating a hollow at the back. The boss may also have been used to deflect an opponent’s weapon.

Unveiling the Artistry: Viking Craftsman Forges a Formidable Shield in a Medieval Workshop

Viking Shield Wall

Much like the Anglo-Saxons, the Vikings made frequent use of a shield wall as a battlefield tactic. In such a formation, the Viking warriors would line on the battlefield and stand close to each other so that their shields would overlap and create a tight shield wall.

Fortress of Fury: Viking Shield Wall Unleashes Chaos in Epic Battle Formation

The warriors would then use the shield wall as a defence and throw smaller spears toward enemy lines. At close quarters, Vikings used large spears to thrust from above the shield wall while securing themselves behind the wall.

Fortress of Fury: Viking Shield Wall Unleashes Chaos in Epic Battle Formation
The most common size of Viking Shield was around 30 – 36 inches in diameter

Viking Shield Laws

A number of laws in the Viking society specifically applied to the construction of the shields. The Norwegian Viking laws, for instance, specified that a shield should be made from wood and three iron bands should be used to reinforce its structure.

The laws further specified that a handle should be affixed to the back of the shield with the help of iron nails.

Viking laws in later periods further specific the outlook and design of the shield as well, specifying that reinforced layers of wood should be used for construction and the shield should carry a red-and-white front.

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How Were Viking Shields Made?

Viking shields were typically crafted through a meticulous process to ensure durability and effectiveness in battle. The primary materials used in their construction were wood and a combination of leather or rawhide.

The process involved

Wood Selection: Viking shields were commonly made from planks of lightweight yet sturdy wood, such as fir or pine. The chosen wood needed to be flexible enough to withstand impact while maintaining durability.

Circular Form: The shields were predominantly circular in shape, with a diameter ranging from about 80 to 90 centimeters (approximately 31 to 35 inches). This shape provided ample coverage and allowed for versatile use in both offense and defense.

Lamination: To enhance strength, layers of planks were often laminated together. This process involved gluing and pressing several thin layers of wood together, creating a composite structure that could better absorb the shock of weapon strikes.

Edge Reinforcement: The outer rim of the shield, known as the shield boss, was reinforced with a metal band. This not only provided structural integrity but also protected the shield from damage along its edge.

Covering with Leather: The front face of the shield was covered with leather or rawhide. This layer served multiple purposes, offering additional protection, improving the shield’s resistance to moisture, and providing a surface suitable for decorative elements or clan symbols.

Paint and Decoration: Viking shields were often painted with vibrant colors, and intricate designs were added for both aesthetic appeal and to signify the identity of the warrior or clan. These decorations ranged from simple geometric patterns to more elaborate symbols.

Arm Straps: A central grip, typically made of wood, was attached to the back of the shield, allowing the warrior to hold it securely during battle. Additionally, leather straps were fastened to the shield’s back, allowing it to be slung over the shoulder for easier transportation when not in use.

Through this careful craftsmanship, Viking shields became not only essential tools of defense but also expressive artifacts that reflected the martial spirit and cultural identity of the Norse people.

Viking Shields in Literature

One of the richest sources of information about Vikings’ shields is in classic Viking literature. A large body of Viking poems deals directly with the shields, elaborating on their significance and on the mythological scenes painted by the notable warriors on their shields.

Much of our contemporary knowledge about Viking shields is owed to the extensive body of Viking literature.

Unveiling the Artistry: Viking Craftsman Forges a Formidable Shield in a Medieval Workshop

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Where Can You See Viking Shields?

Several museums around the world house impressive collections of Viking artifacts, including shields.

Keep in mind that exhibition content may change, so it’s always a good idea to check the current displays and collections. Here are some notable museums where you might find examples of Viking shields:

National Museum of Denmark (Copenhagen, Denmark)
The National Museum in Copenhagen is home to one of the most extensive collections of Viking artifacts, including shields.

The Swedish History Museum (Stockholm, Sweden)
This museum features an outstanding Viking exhibition with a variety of artifacts, offering insights into Viking Age Scandinavia.

British Museum (London, United Kingdom
The British Museum has a significant collection of Viking artifacts, including shields, helmets, and weaponry.

Museum of Cultural History (Oslo, Norway)
This museum, part of the University of Oslo, boasts a rich collection of Norwegian archaeological finds, including Viking shields.

Viking Ship Museum (Oslo, Norway)
While primarily focused on ships, this museum also houses a variety of Viking artifacts, providing a glimpse into the seafaring culture of the Vikings.

The Historical Museum (Stockholm, Sweden)
This museum features a Viking exhibit with an array of artifacts, including shields, showcasing the cultural and military aspects of the Viking Age.

National Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
The museum has a collection of Viking artifacts, shedding light on the influence of the Vikings in Scotland.

Museum of Archaeology (Stavanger, Norway)
Located in the heart of Stavanger, this museum offers insights into Norway’s prehistoric and medieval history, featuring Viking shields among its exhibits.

The Danish National Museum (Copenhagen, Denmark)
In addition to the National Museum, Denmark’s cultural history is also showcased here, with an extensive collection of Viking artifacts.

Remember to verify current exhibits and collections before planning your visit, as museum displays may change over time.

Unveiling the Artistry: Viking Craftsman Forges a Formidable Shield in a Medieval Workshop

Where Can You Buy Viking Shields?

Here are some online platforms that often specialize in historical replicas, including Viking shields:

Kult of Athena:
Website: Kult of Athena
Note: Kult of Athena offers a wide range of historical replicas, including Viking shields.

Windlass Steelcrafts:
Website: Windlass Steelcrafts
Note: Windlass Steelcrafts is known for historical replicas, and they may have Viking shields in their collection.

Website: ArmStreet
Note: ArmStreet specializes in historical and fantasy-inspired armor and accessories, including shields.

By the Sword, Inc.:
Website: By the Sword
Note: By the Sword offers a variety of historical replicas and may have Viking-style shields.

The Knight Shop:
Website: The Knight Shop
Note: The Knight Shop provides a range of historical replicas and reenactment gear, potentially including Viking shields.

Website: Etsy
Note: Etsy is a marketplace where various craftsmen and sellers offer handmade and vintage items, including Viking-style shields.

When purchasing historical replicas, ensure that the products meet any reenactment or safety standards you may require. Additionally, read reviews and check the reputation of the seller for authenticity and quality. Always verify the current availability of Viking shields on these websites before making a purchase.