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  • #79295
    Paskal
    Spectator

    Hello everyone,

    Aside from their shield forms, at the Fulford and Stamford Bridge battles in 1066, how do you differentiate a Huscarl from Harold Godwinson from a Huscarl from Harald Hardrada?

    In fact how to differentiate, in general, an Anglo-Saxon huscarl from a Scandinavian huscarl …

    Paskal

    • This topic was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by Paskal.
    #79298
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    If you’re a Saxon huscarl, the Norse huscarl is the bloke trying to kill you. And vice versa.

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #79303
    Paskal
    Spectator

    Imagine that I had thought about it, but seriously and chauvinism helping, he had to have different dress modes including between the huscarls of different Scandinavian kingdoms, that’s why it is interesting to speak …

    #79307
    Tony Hughes
    Participant

    I don’t think so. We do want to believe that such things should be so but there is no reason why they didn’t dress in very similar clothes – or even use very similar shields. Consider also that some of those in Hardrada’s army had previously fought with Harold – and vice-versa.

    Battle signs were used well into the gunpowder era to help tell friend from foe. Maybe a coloured cloth tied around an arm or a helmet, an oak sprig in your hat – many possibilities.

    Tony of TTT

     

    #79309
    Ruarigh
    Participant

    A huskarl in armour is going to look very much like any other huskarl in armour in this period. Both sides will have had round shields, and it is entirely possible that both might have had some kite shields. It is also worth remembering that Anglo-Saxon England had been under Danish rule up to only 24 years before these battles, and that much of the establishment in England had been Danish-ised during the 26 years before that. Some of the technological advances made in England at this time (such as riding gear) were directly imported from the Scandinavians. The main reason you will know that the other guy is the enemy is because he is arrayed under the enemy banner. There may be markers of identity like haircuts, jewellery or clothing, but that will make no difference if it is hidden under armour. I’ve never read of Anglo-Saxons or Vikings using battle signs, but there are stories of war cries that they shouted to identify themselves, and the confusion caused when these are too similar. Mind you, these are recorded in the sagas a couple of hundred years later so they are not reliable records. Beyond that, we are looking at probabilities based on very limited evidence. Groups might all have shields of the same colour and design, for example. The Gokstad ship had a set of shields all in black and yellow, for example, so perhaps groups got together to paint their shields. It’s not going to be standardised in this period, but may well be one way in which some huskarls affirmed their group identity.

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

    https://emidsvikings.ac.uk/
    https://roderickdale.co.uk/

    #79315
    Paskal
    Spectator

    @ Tony

    At a time when there were no uniforms, in my opinion I think there were fashions and equipment that allowed the people of the time to know who was what, finally you see well What I want to talk about, nothing could be generic … I am certain that the specialists of that time could find differences between an Anglo-Saxon huscarl, a Norwegian huskarl and a Danish huskarl in 1066 … Even if the differences are tiny.

    @ Ruarigh

    For example kite – shield for the Anglo – Saxon, round and flat shields for the Norwegians, braided beards for the Scandinavians and then the coats of stitches could have national peculiarities ect …

    There was inevitably something …

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

    #79345
    Cerdic
    Participant

    Pascal, I would listen to Ruarigh if I were you. Finding out about this stuff is what he does for a living…

    #79348
    Tony Hughes
    Participant

    Paskal – I think you are wrong and I’m fairly certain that you won’t find that evidence because it doesn’t exist.

    How much did Victorian Londoners and Victorian New Yorkers differ in their appearance ? If someone showed you a group photo, could you tell where that group was from ? I think not. Why then would you assume it was different in Early Medieval times when nationality was less of an issue that personal and family loyalties and identity wasn’t the ‘clone’ concept that came with nation states.

     

    #79349
    Paskal
    Spectator

    @ Cerdic

    In my opinion it’s not that there are no uniforms that there are no differences…

    For example Ian Heath – who also earns his living by being interested in such things, wrote on page 91 of the April 1979 edition of his book WRG entitled “Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066”: 11th CenturyViking Huscarls would have closely resembled the Anglo Danish Huscal through a round shield, the kite shield apparently not adopted in Scandinavia until the 12th century “.
    These are the kinds of differences I wanted to talk about and I would like to hear about them.

    @Tony

    YouThe comparison is not valid, it is not people of war who do not have the same ethnic origin and who are at war .

    The Norwegians are neither Anglo-Saxons, nor Danes, nor Swedes ect … fighting techniques, may be identical but that’s all, it’s not the same people …

    There are necessarily differences even between Scandinavians  huscarls.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by Paskal.
    #79358
    Mike Headden
    Participant

    I’m pretty much with the “if he’s facing the same way as you he’s on your side” method of distinguishing friend from foe in those battles.

    Hollywood likes to make the two sides in any conflict look different so audiences know who to cheer for but real life (military and otherwise) tends to be a little muddier!

    National identity is a very modern construct and feudal loyalties often crossed cultural and national boundaries.

     

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!

    #79361
    Tony Hughes
    Participant

    I’m sorry Paskal but there is no evidence to back up what you say SHOULD be so. Ian Heath was writing what was known in 1979 – that is nearly 40 years ago and may well be outdated by more recent research.

    I cannot see any argument that would support your statement that …   “There are necessarily differences even between Scandinavians  huscarls.”

    WHY do you think that to be true ?

    Tony of TTT

     

     

    #79365
    Paskal
    Spectator

    I’m sorry too, because if there is any evidence to counter what Ian Heath wrote, I wonder where she is?

    You do not see any arguments that would support my thinking that … “There are necessarily differences even between Scandinavian huscarls.” and what are your arguments for thinking the opposite?

    For me it flows, nothing was generic, these people were not clones …

    They had more sense of their ethnic origins and all their differences, even smaller than the Western Europeans of our day who laugh at these things.

    #79367
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    They had more sense of their ethnic origins and all their differences, even smaller than the Western Europeans of our day who laugh at these things.

    I’d like to see some evidence of that last statement. Unreasoning nationalism is a modern evil.

     

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #79375
    Paskal
    Spectator

    Unreasoning nationalism?

    But nowadays all nationalisms are synonyms of unreasoning and evil.

    Please do not talk politics on this forum and you’re still off topic …

    #79404
    Paskal
    Spectator

    In addition to shield shapes,mustaches (for Anglo-Saxons) beards (for Scandinavians) is probably also a good shortcut …

    Remember that a lot of these chaps (on the Saxon side) could have been the sons of those who arrived with Svein and Cnut.

    Even Harold was Danish on his mother’s side.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by Paskal.
    #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.

    https://emidsvikings.ac.uk/
    https://roderickdale.co.uk/

    #79413
    Paskal
    Spectator

    Yes Ruarigh, I’m happy to accept the tapestry as evidence, because although very favorable to William the Conqueror, to the point of being sometimes considered as a work of propaganda, it has an invaluable documentary value for the knowledge of the eleventh century Norman and English.

    It provides information on clothing, castles, ships and living conditions of that time. As such, it is one of the few examples of secular Romanesque art.

    For example we also forget that even the fyrds men began to use kite-shield, a question of modernity or fashion in my opinion but confirm or refute our various claims is impossible, I do not want to let myself be overwhelmed by passion but I like to see the fyrds men with kite-shields of a model shorter than those of the huscarls …

    I find that to differentiate them by mustaches and beards is a good find even if you must never generalize because yes  ‘these people were not clones’ …

    Me too alas, I’m really short of photos of time – LOL – showing braided beards worn by the Vikings.

    With regard to clothes and if it is not hidden under a long coat of mail, what are the differences in fashion dress between Anglo-Saxons and Vikings ?

    Yes the Scandinavians and other peoples using the kite shields because in my opinion they are fashionable and everything new is immediately appreciated or hated …

    Alas the problem is that the evidence for this period is really quite lacking

    But we can try to put ourselves in the place of the people of the time and in a discussion it’s necessary to have an opinion, otherwise useless to discuss …

    From a player point of view, I would be inclined not to mix the shields on the Anglo-Saxon side and use only round shields on the Norwegian side and as with figs of 25/30 mm the scale of the figure allows it beards and mustaches become another identifier.

    Although, however, I must admit that the reality was almost certainly less strict than that, and that we do not have the evidence to create a more accurate and nuanced picture.

    And yes we also have to recognize that many difference markers would not be visible under a full set of armor, or would consist of elements that are too small to model anything other than the larger ones.

    Do you write that language was the main ethnic marker?

    Of course, that could help, the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian spoke the same language?

    Yes the Vikings were known for taking horses to where they were supposed to go, but not for staying on them to fight and that depends on the horses used …

    But again, there may have been some Viking cavalry.

    Paskal

    #79421
    Oh no….
    Participant

    “Are you here for the five minute argument, or do you want a full course  of ten?”

    With apologies to the relevant Monty Python scriptwriters.

    #79423
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    Old English and Old Norse shared many similarities and while far from being the same language, there has been considerable discussion about the extent to which they may have been mutually intelligible – both Germanic root and not that far from a common ancestor. Probably (wild conjecture is my source for this) as mutually comprehensible as Northumbrian Angle based English and Wessex Jutish/Saxon would have been at the time?

    Here is an easily accessible paper on it with a nice bibliography to follow if anyone feels inclined.

    Old English and Old Norse

    #79425
    Paskal
    Spectator

    @ Oh no

    Always talk, you interest us – LOL –

    @ Guy

    Anyway we will be able to say the opposite, as it is not the same people, they are different and it had to be noticed visually that’s all, yes  historically I suspect that their were perceived differences …

    The huscarls of england England would likely have kite shields in preference to round, especially if in the household of a Southern Earl. They may also wear a longer mail coat as the fashion was moving that way.

    The “English” Huscarls would have ridden to battle whereas the invaders hadn’t necessarily stolen enough horses to all ride before Stamford Bridge, especially as they’d stayed close to rivers thus far.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by Paskal.
    • This reply was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by Paskal.
    #79431
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    Well there were two reasons I picked the reference above about languages –

    one was: it is very interesting and illuminating,

    the second was :it ends like this

    Treating the mutual intelligibility question as an argument to be won has limited the focal point of our
    vision so much as to ignore available evidence, no matter how superfluous some would
    call it. In the end, this is an argument that can never have the certainty of other areas of
    historical linguistics, and it seems as if researchers could benefit by treating historical
    mutual intelligibility between Old English and Old Norse as it is: a subject of mere
    conjecture.

    With a few tweaks about what we are talking about I think it could apply very well to this and similar discussions about historical unknowns – we don’t know and modern ‘common sense’ ie the distilled cultural processes that affected us in our growth to adulthood, is unlikely to fill in for evidence and knowledge. No; human beings haven’t changed much in the last thousand years, but cultural norms and attitudes have changed dramatically in the last six decades of my awareness, so we can’t ‘guess’ with certainty about past likelihood of fashion v logic in things like shield choice.

    I think in most cases we have to accept that we just don’t know what differences there were between Huscarls – don’t forget there was a stream of ‘northeners’ from Kiev to Middle Wallop, going to Byzantium as mercenaries and that until 22 years before Hastings England had been part of a Northern Empire with a Danish King. Stamford Bridge was just another dynastic squabble between Norsemen.

    #79433
    Paskal
    Spectator

    Guy

    In the popular imagination, the Viking huskarls, even in the eleventh century, are still seen with a round shield – was it flat, like the Viking shields of the previous periods? – another good question, I think so – and the Anglo-Saxon huscarls with kit shield, there were even fyrds that began to adopt it – and it may be there were no more round shields among Anglo-Saxons – Idem in the army of William …

    #79447
    Ruarigh
    Participant

    Regarding the mutual intelligibility of Old Norse and Old English, Guy has it right. The answer has to be that it is complicated, if not fruitless, to try to work out whether they were really mutually comprehensible, and dialects make things even more difficult.

    Just because it’s fun, here’s a 15th-century misunderstanding between a northerner and southerner in England. The northerner’s dialect includes Old Norse words that make mutual intelligibility hard: http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item126611.html

    Paskal, yes, I was stating that language was one of the main markers of a given ‘ethnicity’.

    On the fashion front, we don’t know much about ideas about fashion, although Ælfric’s letter to Edward could suggest that people were just as eager to follow the latest fad back then as they do now.

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

    https://emidsvikings.ac.uk/
    https://roderickdale.co.uk/

    #79449
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    Just because it’s fun, here’s a 15th-century misunderstanding between a northerner and southerner in England. The northerner’s dialect includes Old Norse words that make mutual intelligibility hard: http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item126611.html 

    That is repeated in David Crystal’s ‘Stories of English’ IIRC. A useful little book that discusses how the English language has evolved. And how it has absorbed, nicked and borrowed from other languages.

     

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #79462
    Paskal
    Spectator

    Yes Ruarigh, yes the languages were different, because the cultures were different, and if the cultures being different, it caused other differences  even if their cultures are very close, that’s why I insist on the fact that I have the presentiment that the fighters – although having no uniforms – were different from the opponent even if their military cultures are very close…

    Now for 1066, I would like those who know more than me to explain to me the differences in tactics and organization of their armies between the Anglo – Saxon and Norwegian armies, and between the Anglo – Saxon and Danish armies (because We must forget that the Danes also participate in the War of succession of England and that they are neither Anglo-Saxons nor Norwegians) and finally between the Norwegian and Danish armies.

    For me who do not know, it’s going to be exciting to learn a little bit about it …

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by Paskal.
    #79472
    Ruarigh
    Participant

    That is repeated in David Crystal’s ‘Stories of English’ IIRC. A useful little book that discusses how the English language has evolved. And how it has absorbed, nicked and borrowed from other languages.

    I always liked Terry Pratchett’s comment that English was the sort of language that would lurk down dark alleys and mug passing languages for vocabulary and grammar, or words to that effect. I’m sure he wrote it more elegantly than I have.

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

    https://emidsvikings.ac.uk/
    https://roderickdale.co.uk/

    #79476
    Mike Headden
    Participant

    “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.” – James Davis Nicoll (not Terry Pratchett)

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!

    #79477
    Mike Headden
    Participant

    I would say that Danish, Anglo-Saxon and Norwegian armies pretty much looked the same, fought the same and probably sounded much the same too.

    I think you could pick up a unit from any of the three armies and slot it into either of the other two and barely anyone would have noticed.

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!

    #79480
    Ruarigh
    Participant

    Thanks, Mike. I wonder why I thought it was Pratchett? I’m fairly sure I’ve not read any Nicoll, so I must have encountered it quoted elsewhere.

    I’m going to agree with Mike about how the armies fought too. What evidence we have suggests very similar tactics.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by Ruarigh.

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

    https://emidsvikings.ac.uk/
    https://roderickdale.co.uk/

    #79482
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    Thanks, Mike. I wonder why I thought it was Pratchett? I’m going to agree with Mike about how the armies fought too. What evidence we have suggests very similar tactics.

    When all you and your opponents have is a shield and a spear (I’m disinclined to believe that *every* high rank viking had an axe), few missile troops and not much good cavalry, a shieldwall starts to look like a good idea. Probably.

     

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #79485
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    Anyone for a discussion about what ‘shieldwall’ actually meant?

    Probably not.

    #79487
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    Anyone for a discussion about what ‘shieldwall’ actually meant? Probably not.

     

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #79516
    Paskal
    Spectator

    @ Not Connard Sage

    Bon Appétit (Enjoy your meal !)

    @ those whom the topic interests, this might be helpful :

    https://www.cs.vassar.edu/~capriest/vikdyes.html

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by Paskal.
    #79521
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    It does interest me and thanks for the link.

    Anglo Saxon Dyes

    More Anglo Saxon Dyes

    And Yet More Anglo Saxon Dyes

    The above links show the experiments of someone trying natural dyestuffs . Also see Ruarigh’s post in the Welsh Warrior colours thread Colours for Welsh

    I am not sure that moves us forward however.

    The range of colours available to Saxon and Norse seems to have been common to both.

    What they did with those coloured threads is another thing of course. Any evidence Anglo Danes did anything distinctly different from Scandinavians?

     

    #79524
    Paskal
    Spectator

    @Guy
    While remaining serious and courteous, little by little we advance on this topic and thanks for the links…

    An other idea, I dare to suggest that Saxon huscarls could have used Christian pictures on their shields, Scandinavian goal huskarls probably still used pagan images”.

    This was the case in 1066?

    Could this be a distinctive sign between saxons and scandinavians ?

    Paskal

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by Paskal.
    #79527
    Ruarigh
    Participant

    An other idea, I dare to suggest that Saxon huscarls could have used Christian pictures on their shields, Scandinavian goal huskarls probably still used pagan images”. This was the case in 1066? Could this be a distinctive sign between saxons and scandinavians ?

    No. Haraldr was a Christian. Norway pretty much officially converted c.1030 with the death of Harald’s brother Olaf the Fat (St Olaf). Even noted pagans like Thorir the Dog are said to have converted after the Battle of Stiklestad. There may have been pagan hold-outs or backsliders among the Norwegian army, but you certainly could not expect the two armies to be differentiated that way.

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

    https://emidsvikings.ac.uk/
    https://roderickdale.co.uk/

    #79529
    Paskal
    Spectator

    So the decorations of shields are not characteristic for each army engaged in 1066?

    However this will be a good recognition system …

    #79531
    Ruarigh
    Participant

    Shield decorations were not divided along Christian/pagan lines at this time. As I wrote earlier, groups of men might have painted their shields all at the same time or in the same colours to express their group identity, and perhaps to benefit from only having to mix up one or two pots of paint. The Gokstad ship included 32 shields painted black and yellow. Perhaps ship crews could have had shields all in the same colour or featuring the same design, and you might decide to adopt this approach for each army, or each group/unit in each army.

    There is one example from the sagas of a skald rewarded with a shield that is richly decorated with mythological motifs, so perhaps some shields were more ornately decorated than others. Alternatively, it could be a medieval reimagining of what Viking Age shields looked like based on medieval ideas of heraldry. It’s difficult to know because we just don’t have the examples of surviving painted shields, other than Gokstad.

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

    https://emidsvikings.ac.uk/
    https://roderickdale.co.uk/

    #79534
    Paskal
    Spectator

    Ok and what would be the characteristic “decorations”, for Norwegian, Danish and Saxon on shields in 1066,I guess as usual we do not know…

    #79567
    Ruarigh
    Participant

    That’s about right. For the most part, we don’t know, and I am fairly confident in saying that there was no characteristic design for each group that you cite. Instead, I can easily see smaller groupings (ship crews, etc.) having their own patterns and colours as I mentioned before. In some respects, you might be as well looking at what re-enactors do for inspiration in painting figures.

    The only examples of decoration that spring gazelle-like to mind are from Sweden:

    Procession on a picture stone from Tängelgårda, Lärbro socken, Gotland. Inventarienummer 4373. Foto: SHM

    There’s another like this from the same place with the swirl pattern on it. I’m assuming it is decoration on the shield, but there is always the danger that the carver was trying to depict something else instead.

    The Gokstad ship shields were in plain yellow and plain black, so some shields were clearly painted in plain colours, while a (presumed) shield from Grimstrup in Denmark has an interlace design in dark blue and grey-green with white and red detail. A Viking- Age shield from Valsgärde appears to have been painted red, while scraps of material from Ballateare have been interpreted as the leather facing of a 10th-century shield painted with a white background, black line decoration and red dots. It’s not a lot to go on.

    Incidentally, I found mention of a late 11th-century kite shield from Trondheim while checking a couple of things. I’m not sure how late that is because I did not have access to the excavation report, but it does show that kite shields were around in Norway in the second half of the 11th century.

    I don’t doubt that some manuscript images might show shield designs, so it could be worthwhile checking out eleventh-century English manuscripts for images to see what scribes thought Anglo-Saxon shields looked like around 1066.

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

    https://emidsvikings.ac.uk/
    https://roderickdale.co.uk/

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