The swords of the 11th century were of a form commonly called "Viking" swords today, though there are also early examples of swords with cruciform hilts. Our Shifford Viking Sword, Anglo-Saxon Sword, and Viking trainer are all good examples some of the swords carried by both sides at the battle, while our St Maurice Sword is an example of an early cross hilted weapon.
Although they are iconic, swords were only one of the weapons used at the Battle of Hastings, and they were probably mostly secondary weapons for most knights. Spears were the primary weapon depicted in art from the time and would have been the preferred weapon of many fighters. Lances are, of course, a variety of spear used from horseback, but there were also a wide variety of spears used afoot.
From left in the above picture, are our Javelin, Celtic Spear, 12th Century Spear, and Norseman Spear. The first two were often thrown, while the later two would be wielded either in two hands or in one hand with a shield in the other.
The final category of weapons used in the period of the Norman Invasion, and depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry are large battle axes, such as our Dane Axe and Type L War Axe. Both of these are long handled axes for use with two hands. Single handed axes were also popular during the period and could be used with a shield. Here is a video of some cutting with our Type L Fighting Axe.
Together sword, spear, and axe form the basis of 11th century warfare, and lay the foundation for the later developments of European arms and armor.
The main thing to remember is don't forget to pick up your toys at the end of the day
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.