In the Viking Age, the weapons to be carried on board a warship were decreed by law. Norwegian laws relates that it was the crew’s task to provide weapons for the ship.
On board the smaller warships each free man of age was to present a broad-axe, a sword, a spear and a shield, and he would be fined 3 øre for each missing weapon.
The farmers were to bring two quivers of arrows and a bow for each thwart in the ship, and they also paid 3 øre per missing bow.
Helmets and chain mail are not mentioned.
Fact: The law texts also recount that it was the coxswain’s job to bring the ship’s rudder.
For chieftains’ ships, such as Skuldelev 2 with a crew of 60-70 men, the equipment was more comprehensive and more defensive/protective equipment was taken along.
A ship of Skuldelev 2’s size would presumably have had:
- 34 bows, with 48 arrows per bow
- 80 swords
- 60 light axes
- 30 battle axes
- 160 spears
- as well as throwing stones and slings.
Further to this, the warriors protected themselves with:
- 20 sets of chain mail
- 20 helmets
- 60 sets of leather armour
- 60 leather hoods
- 80 round shields
- as well as shin and wrist guards.
By: Louise Kæmpe Henriksen