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#79412
Ruarigh
Participant

Paskal, on the shield front, I wonder if Ian Heath is relying on the Bayeux Tapestry for his view that the Anglo-Saxon army used kite shields. That then leads to the question of how reliable it is as a depiction of the material culture of 1066 and whether it really depicts a later reality. A quick look at the tapestry shows that some Anglo-Saxons have round shields and some kite shields, so you could differentiate the two armies by giving one a mix of shields and the other only round shields, as long as you are happy to accept the tapestry as evidence. When Heath mentions the adoption of kite shields by the Scandinavians, I take that to mean wholesale adoption, rather than some individuals using them because they are fashionable or they particularly like how they work. That does not mean that some individuals could not have chosen to use kite shields for their own reasons, especially if they have had experience of using them in Byzantium. The problem is that the evidence for this period is really quite lacking, and very few shields have been found to confirm or refute the various claims.

Moustaches and beards might be another way to depict differences, but this is another area where the fashion might be for beards or moustaches, but that does not mean everyone followed it. As you wrote, ‘these people were not clones’. Some could, and possibly would, have adopted fashions from places they visited. Likewise with plaited beards, I’m really at a loss for images of plaited beards of this period. There are some earlier Viking figurines that show forked (possibly plaited) beards but most of the iconography shows fairly closely trimmed beards or just moustaches. Thus, most Viking beards are more likely to have been neatly trimmed rather than the bushy beards of popular culture.

Regarding clothes, if it is hidden under a long coat of mail, how will you tell?

From an utterly pragmatic perspective as a gamer, I would be inclined to mix up the shields on the Anglo-Saxon side and use only round shields on the Norwegian side as a way to identify the two sides. If the figure scale permits, then beards and moustaches become another identifier. In both cases, though, we need to recognise that the reality was almost certainly way messier than this, and that we don’t have the evidence to create a more accurate and more nuanced picture. We also need to recognise that many of the markers of difference would either not be visible under a full set of armour, or would consist of items that are rather too small to model on anything but the largest figures.

They had more sense of their ethnic origins and all their differences

People in this period did not really have the same sense of ethnicity that we have today. Clare Downham wrote a very good piece on this in The Conversation and it is worth reading because it comments on how identity might be created in the Viking Age. Essentially, we are looking at communities of language. Identity might be expressed through material culture, but language was the main marker, and ethnicity/race don’t really come into it in the same manner as they do today.

The Norwegian huskarls were mounted infantry like the huscarls of Harold ?

Yes. The Vikings were known for taking horses to get to where they needed to be. There is a good argument for the huskarls, at least, being able to fight mounted when needed, like medieval knights who fought on foot or mounted as needed, but the evidence is patchy so nothing definite can be stated about their ability to do so, or their effectiveness. On a side note, Adam of Bremen, writing in the eleventh century, claimed that the Swedes were the best horse-breeders in Europe.

Never argue with an idiot. They'll only drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

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