Experimental archaeology can be an essential contributor to our understanding of historical events. In many cases researchers use replicas of historical weapons, armor, clothing and other artifacts to gain insight into how people lived in the past. Today we take a look at a project that was just undertaken by local history student and friend of Arms and Armor using some of our products to learn about the 1066 Battle of Stamford Bridge.
The Battle of Stamford Bridge, from The Life of King Edward the Confessor Cambridge University Library, MS Ee.3.59, f. 32v; MS produced c. 1250-60.
Leo Dannersmith is a history student at the University of Minnesota, a historical fencer at the Center for Blade Arts in Minneapolis, and a frequent volunteer at Oakeshott Institute events. We were happy to help Leo with his research project by consulting with him on the weapons appropriate for the period. As you will see in the following videos, Leo has tried to replicate the historic military feat accomplished by King Harald Godwinson who reportedly marched his army nearly two hundred miles in five days, taking the forces of King Harald Hadrada by surprise and defeating them in battle a mere three weeks before Godwinson was himself defeated at the Battle of Hastings.
Arms and Armor Norseman Spear used in experiment
As Leo explains in the video below, his goal was to test how difficult such a march would be, and how such hard marching for five days might impact the fighting ability of Godwinson's army. To do this he has equipped himself with period arms and armor, fought a series of test bouts with similarly outfitted combatants, and then attempted the march, followed by a second round of fights to determine if and how much his fighting ability suffered from the physical hardship of a forced march.
Leo explains his research project
The gear he used included an Arms and Armor Norseman Spear, which is modeled on common weapons of the period, as well as a custom Arms and Armor sword based on 11th century originals. Other Arms and Armor weapons that would have been appropriate to the period include many of our axes such as our Danish Axes and Nordland Axe.
The gear used in the experiment
The final day of the march
The final battle was fought in a park in Minneapolis this past weekend and a pretty tired Leo fought well. We are still awaiting the full results of the experiment, but we thought that it was an interesting project that folks might be interested in.
Additionally, some lessons were learned. You may notice that Leo is walking with a staff instead of a spear, this is due to a run in he had with the Wisconsin State Troopers on the first day of his practice march when his spear and sword were confiscated in the interest of public safety. Don't worry, the cop was pretty nice and gave the weapons back with the warning not to hike around armed to the teeth Viking-style. It apparently, freaks people out... Check out all of Leo's videos here.
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