Today we take a look at how Dane axes interact with cloth and maille armors. These axes were a popular weapon during the Viking period right up through the end of the 11th century. Many of the representations we have of these axes come from the Bayeux tapestry, an embroidered work depicting the events surrounding the Norman invasion of Anglo-Saxon England in and around 1066AD. In the tapestry there are over 200 depictions of armed men, and out of those 79 are depicted in armor. Below you can see some of the variety of clothes and armor worn by armed men depicted in the tapestry
Armed men in clothing, including possibly cloth armor
Archers with and without maille armor
Knights depicted in maille armor with helms
The variety of these representations suggests that fighters of differing status and or means were differently armored, probably with lower class combatants wearing cloth armor or simple clothing and elites wearing expensive suits of maille. Many men in the tapestry are shown wielding large Dane Axes, which begs the question of how effective these weapons were against the various armors depicted therein.
Luckily we happen to have a bunch of very nice Dane Axes, some lovely cloth armor made by our friend Charles Lin, and a decent piece of riveted maille. In this video Nathan explains the differences between Dane Axes with simple edges, and reinforced edges, and attempts to cut/damage cloth armor and maille armor with the axes. You can also check out this previous video of Nathan cutting tatami mats with an axe similar to the one in this video, demonstrating how well they cut unarmored targets.
Check out the video to see what happened and what we might be able to learn from this little experiment. Also, buy a Dane Axe, they are awesome!
Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.
Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985