While most people remember the Vikings for their brutal warfare skills, they were more than that. The Vikings were farmers, steelmakers and did all sorts of ingenious things to survive in the harsh environments of Ancient Europe.
They used axes as weapons and a handful of tools for other activities. The axe was a common tool for fighting due to its inexpensive nature and versatile use. In wealthier families, warriors would use stronger swords and one of the most valued battle weapons. Swords were so valuable that they would last for generations, passed down through the family.
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What Is A Bearded Axe?
The bearded axe also referred to as the Skeggøx, is thought to have originated from the Viking age Scandinavians as early as the 6th century AD. Several axes existed during the Viking age, so the bearded axe is a type that's not too different from its alternatives.
Alternatively, the Viking axe refers to various kinds of axe heads made differently to serve specific purposes. For instance, the "dane axe" was wielded with two hands because it was longer and designed for battle. Other types served more than one purpose and were used at home and in war.
The bearded axe has a special design characterised by a longer "beard" blade extending up to the axe's handle. So any axe that has the bottom of its crescent-shaped blade longer than the top is a bearded axe.
Bearded Axe Construction and Design
Depending on the use, bearded axes were constructed in different lengths. Generally, the cutting edge, located in the axe head, was between 7 to 15 cm long, with broader designs going up to 45 cm. The wide cutting surface was made from steel welded to the iron head. The steel gave the blade a better edge and more power at the lower portion of the axe bit, extending the cutting edge.
The blade's cross-section was thin at the edges to give precise cuts (during attacks or woodcutting). However, some bearded axes had thin edges, which was impossible to use for shaving wood. These types were made as weapons and thin enough to split a skull into two.
Now that you understand its construction, three main bearded axes existed in the Viking age. They include:
- Classic Norse War Axe
- Two-handed Berseker Axe
- Single-handed Viking Axe
Importance of The Viking Axe Head
There are many perks to this kind of design which made the Viking axe superior to other battle weapons in the Viking era. First, the bearded axe was lighter and had a longer cutting edge.
Since it is lighter, it was easy to manoeuvre with the axe during wars and was a deadly weapon in the hands of a seasoned Viking Warrior. The axes were small and had small hafts, meaning they could be easily hidden in cloaks and plan for surprise attacks. Some were hidden in shields as an extra weapon.
Also, the beard of the axe had an ingenious design that protected the user's holding hand. Since one could hold the haft directly behind the head, it was easy to control its overall weight.
The sharp axe bit extending to the bottom of the Viking axe wedge had various uses. It could be used as a hook to climb tall walls or barriers or pull weapons to lose the defender's grasp. During combat, an attack using the hook was so lethal that it could leave you with deeper cuts than swords or other pointy weapons. Due to their wide cutting surface, the hooks were also deadly at piercing armours and tearing them apart.
The blunt back of the Viking axe was also a nice knock out weapon in surprise attacks. It was used to attack an opponent who wasn't worthy of the deadly blade attack or if you just needed to knock out a guard in a stealth attack. The blunt back was also used to block blows and leave the attacker with fractures in the fingers.
In conclusion, the bearded axe was an important tool during their era as it was cheaper and more diverse when compared to various axes. It was used to break the shield of an opponent to prepare an attack, wield deadly blows, and also shaving wood at home. While the axe went extinct, modern woodworkers have replicas and variations such as the modern Japanese bearded axe bit, Dane axe, raider axe, etc.