Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Sword for sale

 For sale, A Scottish/Irish medieval sword. Based on the example listed in Wallace's Scottish Swords. Made by Armour Class and made to their usual good standard. I bought it for a photo shoot but am now selling as it is no longer required (though it looks good on my wall!). 
The blade is sharp and the sword has not been used to cut and has received very light handling. There is a small scratch on the hilt but it is hardly noticeable. 
I am afraid I will only be able to ship the sword within the UK due to problems I have had with overseas shipments in the past. 
I am looking for £150 plus shipping but am open to offers. 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Getting it to look right

The photo shoot I discussed in my last post was a somewhat rushed affair. I did not have time to get alot of the kit right, I also did not have time to truly apply myself to the physicality of the impression.
 I had been planning a shoot of some description for some time and had an idea of getting myself into the physical shape of a medieval Gael in addition to putting on the clothing. In fact this is one of those things that bugs me most about re-enactor impressions. Often we an see stunning attention to detail and no expense spared on kit, yet all hanging on a frame that would have been rare to non-existent in history.

Tough looking Irish tenants.
 The girl on the right looks just like my mum.
Most warriors until very recently were part timers who attended to other tasks on the off season, even full timers often came from a farming background. Only the very rich could have made it through to adulthood without building a frame capable of physical labour, the very rich would of course have had to have built a frame capable of fighting.  That said people would not have the bulk of modern populations, whether muscular or otherwise.
 Fortunately we can use photos from the 19th century of both Scotland and Ireland to get an impression of
Peat cutters
what people living and working in remote communities looked like. Of course the culture and conditions had changed enormously. New foods had been introduced and the communities of rural Scotland and Ireland were essentially colonies of the British state, the warrior tradition and its training had long gone as had many traditional aspects of society such as shielings and transhumance. We can surmise that the reliance on potatoes and more localised agriculture had effects on the populations as would have widespread emigration.
 Walter Raleigh,failed planter and the friend of Edmund Spencer (who hated the native Irish with genocidal passion) gifted the potato to Ireland saying it would solve the Irish problem. No one in the British state has ever really cared about gifting the native Irish with a nutritious food so we should assume the "solution" might well be more like a 20th century "solution:
by the sworde; for all those evilles must first be cutt awaye with a stronge hande, before any good cann bee planted; like as the corrupt branches and unwholsome lawes are first to bee pruned, and the fowle mosse clensed or scraped awaye, before the tree cann bringe forth any good fruicte. (Spencer)

Skye crofter.
 The Irish and Scots (on both sides of the highland line ate a far healthier native diet of oats/corn,  sheep and cattle with a great deal of fish and shellfish in coastal areas. You can read more here. Islanders eating a native diet were found by Weston Price to be in superb health (Chapter 4). I notice comparing photos that the Scottish islanders  eating a traditional diet look a bit "lighter" than the crofters of the 19th century.  Diet controls about 80% of body composition but we can't discount the slightly greater amount of muscle power used in the 19th century. 
Glib haircut
 Anyhow these sources give us a rough idea of the shape of medieval Gaels. For the impression I wanted a gaunt hungry look, a bit like I had been living of oats and blood up in the hills for a week. I had planned on going on quite a severe diet before the shoot but the scheduling rushed things along so that wasn't possible. I am in pretty good condition anyway but probably carry a bit more body fat than was the norm in history. 
 I had originally thought that I am too bulky for historical standards though going through the images of Irish crofters I'm not too sure this is the case. Breugels pictures of low country peasants also show similar "lusty" physiques.  Images of historical Gaels show pretty robust looking characters as well as the lithe,
dancer-like form of Deheere's redshank.  I had assumed that historical peoples would be rather more lean and smaller framed  than moderns. This is based on experiences with extant clothing post 18th century. Images, photos and archaeological reports don't confirm this assumption.  

Unlike the modern world of the puny and fat we would find historical communities full of strong, lean individuals. The incredible changes to body composition over the past thirty years are without parallel and completely extraordinary in the wider context of humanity.

 With a healthy dose of R1b and and I1 genetics I can assume that the general colouration and facial structure are about right though in honesty I don't think I look  terribly "Celtic/Gaelic" at all. It is however a look I can pull off more than say, a conquistador. The hair and beard are completely fine for Highland  Scots up to the 18th Century when beards became less fashionable. Even for the 17th century I would prefer to see a more manicured type of beard. The Irish famously wore a hair style called a glib which I have no intention of getting, though long hair is definitely portrayed too.  While many medieval impressions feature wild hair and beards, such a look was quite unusual in history, in fact much of the  medieval period was  clean shaven.
Medieval tough guys.
Even more so than today people cared about and fussed over their appearance. Fine mustaches, goatees and neat hair were all the rage at different periods. The modern wild barbarian look was very unusual in history, happily for me the Gaelic Scots also hated combs and scissors!

 Given another photo shoot I may well try to get the gaunt, hunted look and would do well to get much more dirt involved.......much more dirt!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Wearing the Rogart shirt.

I had an article on Gaelic archery accepted by a U.S. publisher. The publisher asked for some photos to illustrate the article. This led to me speeding up my impression somewhat, so the accompanying photos do not necessarily reflect historical accuracy but do give something of historical flavour without any overt or egregious errors.

 I borrowed some weapons and an ionar and leine from my friend and fencing instructor Lyell Drummond and found a nearby heath that looked suitably Scottish. I went for a general Gaelic 15th-16th century look. The only glaring inaccuracy was the dirk which is very much a 17th century design, however I tucked the handle away so it just looks like a generic big dagger. I would like to have a bit more in the way of scabbards and baldrics but am still working on getting something made. I would also have liked to have got the clothing to look a bit more lived in (dirty!). The photo shoot itself was rather rushed and full credit to my wife who managed to take great pictures while holding a baby in one hand and dealing with a pesky three year old too!

 Shoes:I opted for bare feet as I dislike the brogan I own, the evidence suggest that barefeet were extremely common in both Scotland and Ireland, and before modern manufacturing methods going barefoot was probably far more practical. Even Anglo Saxon art portrays men going barefoot and this may have been a widespread feature in history.  Wet turn shoes are very slippy while not offering much in the way of protection. How far up the social scale one had to move before shoes were encountered is something of a question. I suspect that the more senior figures and mercenary troops wore shoes of some description much of the time, certainly this is what period art portrays. With more time I would have tried to acquire or commission shoes in the manner of Deheeres redshank. I go barefoot a lot of the time and even though the heath we shot on looks like upland Britain it is actually quite dry, with a number of spiky plants not commonly seen in wetter environments. I was pulling gorse spines out of my feet for about a week afterwards though at the time had no problems running and leaping about. 
 Yes this is where I took quite a major liberty. There is an Angus McBride illustration of Flodden which portrays highlanders in sleeveless jacks. It is a look I quite like, I removed the sleeves of this jack for another project and didn't have time to repair and replace them. Needless to say arms are quite important and protecting them is a good idea. By itself the leine does not look quite right and the sleeveless jack filled the need for some kind of upper body garment. The Ballymote coat reproduction that David Swift uses would be far more appropriate. I doubt you would see a gaelic warrior of any century wearing an armoured garment that I am in these pictures.The Ionar I had  was too 16th century for the 15th century sword so I went for inaccuracy over anachronism.
 The ionar is a padded fencing jacket owned by Lyell Drummond, he is quite a lithe man so I was pleased (and surprised) to be able to do it up. While the form is as generally depicted I am not sure about the colour though it was  perfectly achievable in period. This is a tailor made garment so was actually quite uncomfortable for me to wear. I could see that made for me it would be a pretty practical proposition especially if made of wool.
 I opted to go with my Rogart shirt rather than with the 16th Century leine I had borrowed, this was more due to time constraints. Again with the undershirt I was suprised by just how warm this combination of clothing actually is. I suspect the original owner of the Rogart shirt was smaller than I am, I was quite frustrated that I couldn't roll up the sleeves. I should disclose that I am one of those freaks who is too hot in January it would be interesting to try the shirt out in the highlands. The shirt lends itself to dynamism with great freedom of movement. Despite its apparent flimsiness it does see quite a practical option for Scottish weather, especially if made from wool as was the original. Midges however would be another thing, though in fairness I doubt they were quite the problem they are now.
 I opted for a non-clan tartan plaid, though this is a full size plaid it looks a wee bit small compared to contemporary images. The plaid was a huge pain and would clearly have been discarded before any kind of action though with a high value they would probably only be dropped if there would be a good chance of getting it back. The plaid kept unravelling and trailing and basically being a huge nuisance though it was well behaved in general movement. I think like a lot of people who have worn them I appreciate the practicality and comfort of cloaks/plaids and sort f regret that they aren't still worn, they look dashing too but aren't much good when activity goes beyond walking or general milling about. Wrapping the plaid around the arm was quite a nice may of dealing with the garment and would be quite protective as is attested to a number of times in history. Lyell Drummond hypothesises that the voluminous leine would provide at least some protection from cutting attacks which would be a nice thing to test out.

 In conclusion I think we achieved a good impression that while it is in no way wholly accurate is accurate in spirit. Not bad for a rushed job. The clothing was practical and while quite outlandish to modern eyes manages to effect practicality with showiness within the fairly limited means of people in the Gaelic areas.

Leather work:
Please contact me for further information about the bow.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Videos and pictures

 The bow is here. I am trying to negotiate the time to wrote a longer piece on the bow but have been swamped over the summer, which is traditionally my busier time. It's nice to be busy!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Quiver re-think

 I have been mulling over quiver designs in my head. I had opted for a design a bit simpler than a medieval arrow bag. The open bottom and excess bag for the quivers does not appear on any of our sources but I was going to use a leather spacer as from the Mary Rose and use a thick linen canvas for the bad. I have sourced a good great er, source of antique linen sail cloth which will be ideal.
 I was however watching these superb videos by Nick Birmingham:

which has made me reconsider this design or a design based on it. The bags themselves very much do not appear to have been worn in the style we might think of as a quiver and do not match illustrations of Gaelic archers at all. Indeed looking at Nick drawing the arrows it seems that these bags would (if worn) suit arrows being drawn from the bag point first, again inconsistent with the artistic evidence.
 It seems that in English archery and Gaelic archer have the opposite problems. The English have good evidence of bag construction from extant examples but little evidence for how they were used, while in Gaelic archery the opposite appears to be true.
 A spacer would seem  necessary to prevent arrow heads" fouling on each other "bow and arrows barbed with iron" though were not used by all cultures so maybe not. It does seem that a more simple arrow tube made of leather that leaves the fletches free would be more apt. Choices for leather include cowhide, sheep goat and deer. With cow and deer being thicker and more tear resistant. Though I promised myself I wouldn't use a hair on barbarian hide I do have ready access to hair on hides and think a summer roe would look wonderful!
Hmmmm time for a think!

Friday, 31 January 2014


The bow commission I made with Mike Roberts is proceeding, Mike has been very busy recently but I am assured it is very much in the works. Now my mind turn to the accessories of the bow, namely quiver, hand guards and bracer.
Wild Captain by Richard Breton 1567

  Firstly we have to say that none of the above are required for archery. Many modern archers from traditional or primitive cultural backgrounds do not use any protective equipment. Images from the medieval and Renaissance also show that archers were at least depicted without using such equipment.
 Bracers, that is a piece of stiff material worn on the bow arm to protect said limb from the impact of the bow string are known from archaeology. Made from archaeologically visible substances such as stone and bone. One only needs to be struck once in the arm to realise the utility of such an item, being struck on the arm with a full weight warbow would be potentially damaging. Self bows having a low brace height (distance of string to bow) and quite commonly strike the archer on the tendons of the wrist. While recurve archers are more likely to be struck on the upper part of the arm.
 Modern bracers are made of leather or plastic while medieval examples look like leather with a horn or bone plate providing the protection for the vulnerable tendons. Far more minimalist than modern "medieval bracers" medieval designs show the limitations of the material available to them and the general thrift of people in the past.  The amount of leather considered to have been worn in medieval times is more a result of the limits of Hollywood prop designers minds than agricultural reality. Leather was available but was required for a very wide variety of uses all he way from belts and shoes to drinking vessels. Horn and bone also provide much better protection against the frightening force of English warbows. Tales abound of modern warbow users doing themselves injuries including injuring the wrist tendons.Ascham
Note the bracers
 "Litle is to be sayd of the braser. A bracer serveth for two causes, one to save his arme from the strype of the strynge, and his doublet from wearynge, and the other is, that the strynge glydynge sharpelye & quicklye of the bracer, maye make the sharper shoote. For if the strynge shoulde lyght upon the bare sleve, the strengthe of the shoote shoulde stoppe and die there. But it is best by my judgemente, to gyve the bowe so muche bent, that the strynge neede never touche a mannes arme, and so shoulde a man nede no bracer as I knowe manye good Archers, whiche occupye none. In a bracer a man muste take hede of . thinges, it haue no nayles in it, that it haue no bucles, "
 There is far less evidence for hand protection, Roger Ascham in Toxophilus considers hand protection useful, not vital and indeed mentions that some archers shot barehanded. A shooting glove was ordered for Anne Boleyn by Henry VIII "Bowys, Arrowys, shafts, brode hedds, bracer and shooting glove" and an example of a shooting tab is known from about 1500. It was made from pig skin and is thought to have been made for a child.
How common the use of a shooting glove or  tab was is not clear, they are rarely depicted in art and Ascham does suggest something of a heath-robinson technique of placing flattened goose quills in a glove
rub the skyn of there fingers. For this there be
 .ii. remedyes, one to haue a goose 
quyll splettyd and sewed againste the nockynge,
 betwixt the lining and the
 ledder, whyche shall helpe the shoote muche to, 
the other waye is to haue some roule of ledder
 sewed betwixt his fingers at 
the setting on of the fingers, which shall kepe his 
fingers so in sunder
To me the Ascham source suggests that protection for hands was ad-hoc, a good idea perhaps not generally practised. Certainly a glove would be an expensive item, though tabs would be well within the means and ability of all.

Enough of this! to quivers......Okay lets get one thing clear backquivers really, really annoy me. This is an almost amazingly impractical way of carrying arrows and of course totally invented by the crazed minds of Hollywood props masters. Just like the insane stiff leather vambraces worn by nearly every fantasy or medieval character. For some reason there has been considerable bleed over into reality and back quivers are used extensively by modern archers. Even reconstructions of historical or prehistorical figures occasionally feature back quivers.This figure of Oetzi has him carrying his quiver on his back. My Friend Leonard Henry was given short shrift when he suggested that this was not only inaccurate but also failed to demonstrate the sophistication of the quiver.
Back Quiver!
 The stiffening rod of the quiver is a feature common on Native American bows and is for holding the bow across the belly. A position which means the quiver can be easily accessed and controlled when stalking. The projection of this rod means that the quiver could also be used as a ground quiver when hunting from a ground blind or indeed fighting. The protective caps on the top of the quiver would serve well in protecting the fletchings but also in stopping the flechings from rubbing and making tell-tale sounds.
 Back quivers are extremely hard to access and slow to use (films use CGI to get fluidity and speed) when you bend over the arrows fall out, if you are carrying different types of arrows it can be hard to find the one you need. Lastly arrows carried on the back snag on trees all the time. Most importantly there is no evidence at all that arrows were carried in back quivers in Europe.

17th Century Archer
 So how were arrows carried? In hip quivers, suspended by a baldric around the neck or belt, carried in the hand, transported in wicker baskets and issued during battles shoved in the ground or thrust through the belt. In Gaelic contexts we have images of arrows being held in the hand thrust through a belt and worn in a
hip quiver largely depicted being suspended from the waist. Certainly for the battles described in some highland histories a means of carrying arrows would be required, while in prepared ambushes arrows could be set in the ground. I suspect that in larger engagements arrows were supplied by the state, king or clan as they were for English armies. Arrows cannot really be carried in great quantity so for large engagements some form of re-supply would be required. For highlanders the end of the supply of arrows characteristically meant the beginning of hand to hand combat. 
 Quivers were likely made from linen canvas or leather.Medieval and
Linen Quiver by Head Longbows
Renaissance English quivers were  sophisticated affairs that used a spacer to keep the arrows separated and rode high to protect the fletchings. Draw strings allow the arrows to be drawn from the top or bottom. Gaelic quivers seem (none survive) to have been rather more simple tubes of leather or canvas stiffened with leather or wicker. Leather might offer greater weather-proofing and hold its shape better when sodden, it is surprising that no protection for the fletchings are shown, these may have been shielded by the plaid or brat. Barbarian style deer hair quivers don't appear likely and the chape depicted on this image is without parallel.
Within the parameters of;
  • leather or canvas
  • hip quiver suspended from belt of baldric
  • simple tube shaped design 
Archer from Knockmoy
it would seem there is a great deal of lee-way in any potential  quiver for a Gaelic warrior.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Viking Archery

The clank of steel, the bowstrings’ twang,
The sounds of battle loudly rang;” (heimskringla)

 The Norse culture entered Western Europe with a deafening crash and changed the political and cultural make up of vast swathes of Europe irrevocably. Through trade and violence Norse culture had a serious impact on Scotland and Ireland. In Scotland the Vikings occupied great areas of the Isles and West, founding many families and making many far reaching cultural and material changes to the culture. The Northern Isles remained Norwegian until well into the medieval period and are still genetically very strongly Norwegian. The Nordic influence can be seen in buildings, words material culture and extensive Nordic place names. Of 126 villages on Lewis 99 are purely Scandinavian. The clans MacLeod, Macaulay Macqueen Matheson and many others were founded by Norse settlers. About 30% of the genetic signature from Western Scotland hails from Norway showing widespread population influx. The clan chiefs of MacDonald are genetically strongly Norse and the Lordship of the Isles was formed by the chaos surrounding Norse invasions The medieval character of the Isles and Western Highlands with a series of territories united by a maritime power using Birlinns (a boat strongly reminiscent of longships) and mail clad axe wielding heavy infantry, the famous galloglass, being Norse in origin.

  The Norwegians maintained that the Isles of Scotland were theirs until the 13th century a matter settled at the battle of Largs 1263 which effectively ended the “Viking period” in Scotland. Three years after Largs in the treaty of Perth, Mann and the Isles were handed over to the Scottish Crown for 4000 marks and 100 marks a year “for ever”. Though the Northern isles of Orkney and Shetland did not become part of Scotland until the 15th Century.
The effect of the Vikings on the culture of the Gaels was profound and long lasting. Much of what later came to typify Gaelic culture can be traced back to this period of history, including I would say the martial archery for which the Highlanders later became known. The Gaelic word for bow “boghan” is itself derived from the Norse. This perhaps gives a clue that martial archery was a reaction to a Viking tradition rather than an indigenous practice.   Unlike other early medieval cultures archery played a key role in Norse combat. And while Nordic weaponry and material culture was consistent with other Europeans widespread use of the bow does seem to differentiate them from the mainstream.

 The Viking world was very large and their culture reached across three continents giving us a wide breadth of sources to draw from.
 Archery finds are common from the Norse period bows and arrows were frequently interred within the tombs of warriors and the literature of the sagas confirms that bows were used extensively for combat. The thirty year old warrior from Scar in Orkney was buried with an axe, sword, shield and bow along with many other more peaceful items.

 Bows themselves being wood rarely survive in the archaeological record and indeed the Bow at Scar is presumed on the basis of a quiver of arrows being the only surviving evidence. Dr William Short states that the great archaeological frequency of arrowheads in a domestic context rather than warrior burials suggests that Bows were not necessarily considered part of the warrior’s panalopy.
 Two bows are known for this period in a Viking context. The Ballinderry Crannog bow from Ireland and the Hedeby bow from Denmark. Both bows were ovoid sectioned and made of yew wood. Both were over 6’ c.190cm and c.192cm long. The Ballinderry bow looks to have slightly recurved tips. That is the tips are steam or heat bent against the natural bend of the bow which gives great arrow
speed. However the Hedby bow had flared tips which could also be the case with Ballinderry.  Jurgan Junkmanns states “. The tips of it (the Ballinderry bow) and most other Viking longbows are not reflexed, but deflexed, which has no function in shooting because it is beyond the string notch.
Maybe the stave as such is a bit reflexed now which is caused by shrinking of the sapwood after unearthing. Most of the older finds of yew bows which were not chemically treated for preservation show this phenomenon…..Well, nobody knows (why) actually... We can’t ask them. I think it’s for the looks and part of showing you are a Viking. (..)when viewed from the side it resembles the front of a ship” (pers com)
 Reconstructions of the Hedeby bow have given a draw weight around 100 pounds which would be much higher than required for hunting. Modern Bow hunters and hunter gatherers who use bows tend to favour weapons which pull about 50-60 pounds.  Not all modern bowyers agree on the higher draw weight and for unarmoured fighters this high figure would not be required. The vast majority of fighters in the early medieval period were unarmoured. A later law required every fighter to be armed with a helmet, spear and shield, while only one shirt of mail was required per ship or 40-60 men. A bow was required for every 6 benches. The armour requirements are lower than those for Anglo Saxon Fyrd men who were drawn at a rate of one man per 5 hides, a hide being a measure of land fit to provide for a family. Fyrd men were required to provide themselves with a mail shirt. The Scandinavian figure may be low but then Anglo Saxon England was a rich country.
 Other woods were used, Elm is mentioned in the Orkneyinga saga and in the Lay of Rig “And the big farmer twisted a bowstring, bent an elm bow, made arrows; whilst the mistress looked at her arms, smoothed her clothes, tightened her sleeves.'”. Ash is also mentioned and indeed even in Medieval England “white woods” were used to make warbows where the favoured yew was in short supply.
 13th Century Icelandic law gives a bowshot as a measurement of distance as 480metres (two hundred fadmar).  This distance if correct would suggest that draw weights were very high, as high in fact as later medieval warbows. In 2008 Alistair Aston shot a flight arrow 370 yards from a yew bow with a 132 pound draw weight. Military ranges with heavier arrows must have been shorter and the same archer with the same bow shooting a quarter pound arrow (113 grams) got a respectable 240 yards. These distances won him a flight competition against similarly made bows and arrows. It is unreasonable to expect Viking bows to have achieved much beyond what is possible by modern archers using similar bows today. We should regard the Fadmar as a dubious measurement however halving the distance to 240 meters makes the Fadmar a far more realistic range.  Worth noting is the fact that this measurement is the distance from an outlaw’s home at which their property is forfeit.
 There is some slight evidence for the use of Eastern type recurved bows in Viking cultures. Several Asiatic composite bows are known from a 10th century context in Birka and in the later King’s Mirror a Scandinavian treatise on kingship bows called “hornboggi” or horn bow are referred to as useful for mounted troops;
 there are, however, other weapons which a mounted warrior may use, if he wishes; among these are the "horn bow" and the weaker (!)  crossbow, which a man can easily draw even when on horseback” (King’s Mirror).
 Indeed in the Epic poem Beowulf a horn bow (hornbage Old English) is used by Hrethel to kill Herebeald.
 The bows at Birka shot a variety of Asian and Scandinavian arrow types though as with the examples from the Roman walls in Scotland one wonders how the Asiatic bows with their susceptibility to damp coped in Sweden, it does appear they were used at the fort.
It might be of importance that both in Scotland and Sweden composite bows have been found in static defences, where they could more reliably be kept dry.  Asiatic bows would not appear to offer much advantage over native Scandinavian bows though being faster and with a flatter trajectory were probably more accurate. There is extensive Eastern influence at Birka and it is clear that the bows were found in a context of many other Eastern objects and clothing, including lamellar armour. The Asian bow offers no real advantage over the Scandinavian bow in terms of potential penetration or range. The complex and highly skilled process used to make a composite bow was to create a smaller weapon of similar power for use on horseback. For Scandinavians who fought in damper environments on land and at sea the Asian bow represented a great cost for no gain.
Hunbogi or hunnish bow was used as a personal name in Iceland but aside from this there is no reference to this bow in the saga literature. While of great interest and giving a sign of how wide the world of the Viking was the composite bows at Birka were probably unique and don’t represent a widespread technology, moreover there is no evidence that the design had any influence over the development European archery. It would not be unreasonable at all to expect Eastern Rus Vikings to use Asiatic bows. Birka was something of a gateway to the East.
Generally over the Western Viking range (West of Norway) arrow heads in the earlier period are
mostly tanged (a thin tongue of metal is stuck into the shaft) with a development to socketed ( with a socket that fits over the shaft)  types later in the period. By far the most common arrow head of Scandinavia is a triangle broadhead design with a tang. This would be affixed into the shaft with some type of glue and possibly bound. A hardwood shaft would be more robust but lighter woods like pine could also be used with far more damage likely to the shaft. The tanged design is weaker than the socketed type though this damage might have been desired as damaged arrows would not be “returned” and indeed might cause more problems for those struck. Barbed arrows are also known. To achieve heavy weights heavy woods would be desirable for shafts. Ash was common in later periods, poplar declaimed but shot. Birch is another possibility.
 The broad arrow head of the earlier Viking period would be suitable both for the hunt and for war. Halpin notes that in Ireland the bodkin like type 7 arrowhead superseded the broad headed type. The bodkin is unsuitable for hunting as its shape is more for armour piercing and gives it a better flight characteristic for long range shooting. This leads Halpin to suggest that the broad headed type was also used for war in Irish contexts. Certainly the broadhead would be very effective against unarmoured men; modern tests show that mail armour was effective against this type of arrow. The Irish mention that the Vikings were better armoured and that their (the Irish) weapons were ineffective against this armour.  From the mid-10th century armour piercing arrows become more common in Irish assemblages. Most of the archery paraphernalia is believed to be Norse so it may reflect a greater armouring of the Irish fighting man at this time as is thought to have been the case in other locations like Anglo Saxon England.
 It should be noted that the Royal Armouries do not believe that (later medieval) bodkin points were designed to penetrate armour and indeed in other tests on the effectiveness of mail armours stated "it is almost impossible to penetrate using any conventional medieval weapon" (Medieval Military Surgery", Medieval History Magazine, Vol 1 is 4, December 2003). Later bodkins were not hardened unlike the type 16 which was an interesting mix of bodkin and broadhead. Bodkin points are less affected by the “wind-planing” that often affects modern bowhunters. Wind planing is the effect of the wind and air on the flat surface of the arrowhead, very often this is compensated for by using large feathers and offsetting those feathers with a helical, or spiral fletching pattern. This produces slower less powerful arrows but with the advantage of greater accuracy. Bodkins are more aerodynamic and potentially more accurate so the greater prevalence of their use might reflect a development of tactics rather than a reaction to Irish (or otherwise) “up-armouring”.
 Along with the archaeological evidence we are also fortunate that there is a great deal of textual evidence for the Viking age, both in the extraordinarily rich literary heritage of Iceland but also in the histories of Europe.
 Much like the Irish cycles we should remember that the Icelandic sagas were written a few hundred years later than the events they describe and were written in a religious context that was, if not hostile, then unsympathetic or possibly just ignorant of the breadth of the spirituality it replaced. There is also the possibility that the writers of the sagas were making anachronistic errors with the stories, superimposing the technology of the time they were written in to the time when the saga was set. The sagas themselves were written to legitimize and explain the development of the state of Iceland. Iceland was settled mostly by Norwegians and in the manner of many immigrants they wanted to present their ancestors in the best possible light, it being easy to cast aspersions on those who “had to leave”. They were also written as genealogies and many modern translations omit great lists of names for the comfort of the modern reader.
 The quote at the beginning of this piece is from the heimskringla which also gives us this:
And bowman hurried on advancing,
Their bright helms in the sunshine glancing

Then the bonde—army pushed on from all quarters. They who stood
in front hewed down with their swords; they who stood next thrust
with their spears; and they who stood hindmost shot arrows, cast
spears, or threw stones, hand—axes, or sharp stakes. Soon there
was a great fall of men in the battle.” (heimskringla)

 This excerpt gives us the idea that archers here ”bonde” or bondi the middle ranking Norseman  were in the rear ranks shooting over the shieldwall.  In the battle of Bruanunburh an Anglo Saxon poem about an un-located Scots-Saxon -Norse battle gives us the line
Thaer laeg secg manig
garum agieted, guma Northerna
ofer scield scoten, swelce Scyttisc eac,
werig, wiges saed. 

There lay many a warrior
by spears destroyed; Northern men
shot over shield, likewise Scottish as well,
weary, war sated.
 Again suggesting use of bows in battle and how they could be used to inflict damage against warriors carrying large effective shields. From another Anglo Saxon poem we get:
Nor might any one of them injure the other
Except where from arrow's flight one had his death
This is from the epic Battle of Maldon, and relates how the armies were separated at high tide. Though they were used later when Britnoth allowed the Vikings to cross so they could fight more effectively:
The sharp-ground spears to fly.
Bows were busied - shield met point

 The monk Abbo’s account of the siege of Paris in the 9th Century includes accounts of archers “sharpening their arrow heads” and using “poisoned arrows”. “Stormed it with arrows…on every side arrows sped and blood flowed…with the arrows mingled the stones cast by slings and war machines”. He also relates that Abbot Ebolus was killed by an arrow. In Ireland the Cogad Gaidel re Galaib describes the Vikings as having “sharp, swift barbed murderous poisoned arrows” and “polished yellow shining bows”. It is possible that the “poison in both cases, if it is not a literary device to describe nasty, rotten heathens, could be from the standard practice of sticking arrows into the earth.
Gunnar strings his bow, and takes his arrows and throws them on the ground before him, and shoots as soon as ever they come within shot; by that Gunnar wounded many men, but some he slew.” (Njal’s saga)

In another case of possible propaganda Viking heathens martyred Edmund King of East Anglia by using him as target practice after he had infuriated them by refusing to renounce Christ.
 From a history written from a Norse perspective we can look at the heimskringla which has been quoted above. This is a history of the Norse kings by Snorri Sturlson.  The history is full of “arrow storms” and the woundings of men like Thormod by arrows “There he was struck by an arrow in the left side; but he broke off the shaft of the arrow….. The arrow—drift o’ertook me, girl, –A fine—ground arrow in the whirl Went through me, and I feel the dart Sits, lovely girl, too near my heart…. In a stone pot she had stirred together leeks and other herbs, and boiled them, and gave the wounded men of it to eat, by which she discovered if the wounds had penetrated into the belly; for if the wound had gone so deep, it would smell of leek….. The king has fed us well. I am fat, even at the heart—roots;“ and so saying he leant back, and was dead.
Olaf Trygvasson’s saga gives more details of archery at sea. 
The Gotlanders must tremble next;
And Scania's shores are sorely vexed
By the sharp pelting arrow shower
The hero and his warriors pour;
His last battle at Svolder against a combined Swedish Wendish and Danish fleet is described in the 
saga as a virtual archery festival. 
 “The king had a bow in his hands, and laid an arrow on the string,
and aimed at Ulf.
Ulf said, "Shoot another way, king, where it is more needful: my
work is thy gain……….. Einar Tambarskelver, one of the sharpest of bowshooters, stood by the mast, 
and shot with his bow.  Einar shot an arrow at Earl Eirik, which hit the tiller end just above the earl's head 
so hard that it entered the wood up to the arrow-shaft.  The earl looked that way, and asked if they knew 
who had shot; and at the same moment another arrow flew between his hand and his side, and into the 
stuffing of the chief's stool, so that the barb stood far out on the other side.  Then said the earl to a man 
called Fin, -- but some say he was of Fin (Laplander) race, and was a superior archer, -- "Shoot that tall 
man by the mast."  Fin shot; and the arrow hit the middle of Einar's bow just at the moment that Einar 
was drawing it, and the bow was split in two parts.
"What is that."cried King Olaf, "that broke with such a noise?"
"Norway, king, from thy hands," cried Einar.
"No!  not quite so much as that," says the king; "take my bow,
and shoot," flinging the bow to him.
Einar took the bow, and drew it over the head of the arrow.  "Too
weak, too weak," said he, "for the bow of a mighty king!" and,
throwing the bow aside, he took sword and shield, and fought
…. The king stood on the gangways of the Long Serpent. and shot the
greater part of the day; sometimes with the bow”
Or from the Orkneyinga Saga:
As blood beat on helms,
so did blades on breastplates:
the bow of Agder’s prince
was bravely bent.
On shields the arrow-storm
spattered; as men fell,
deftly the lord of Hordar
dealt the Earl’s death-blow.
 These sources are clear that archery was not only practiced by senior retainers but also by kings 
themselves. Archery is also given a high social status in the Rigsthula or list of Rig. Rig (the god 
Heimdall) travels through Midgard and creates the three social classes of Thrall, Bondi and Jarl.  
 When Rig meets with the father and mother of the race of Jarls Fathir is making archery equipment:
There sat the house-lord, | wound strings for the bow,

Shafts he fashioned, | and bows he shaped.
 The son Jarl later learns the arts of war:
Grew Jarl forthwith in the halls and 'gan

to swing the shield, to fit the string,

to bend the bow, to shaft the arrow,

to hurl the dart, to shake the spear,

to ride the horse, to loose the hounds,

to draw the sword, and to swim the stream.
Archery paraphernalia was also a part of the grave goods of Kings and higher ranking males in the
 society.  Further down he social scale Gunnar a doomed heroic figure from the famous Njal’s Saga 
made a heroic defence of his house with his bow:
Then they made for the buildings. Gunnar shot out arrows at them, and made a stout defence, and they could get nothing done. Then some of them got into the out-houses and tried to attack him thence, but Gunnar found them out with his arrows there also, and still they could get nothing done.
So it went on for while, then they took a rest, and made a second onslaught. Gunnar still shot out at them, and they could do nothing, and fell off the second time. Then Gizur the white said-………
Gunnar said, "There lies on arrow outside on the wall, and it is one of their shafts; I will shoot at them with it, and it will be a shame to them if they get a hurt from their own weapons"……..
Just then Thorbrand Thorleik's son sprang up on the roof, and cuts asunder Gunnar's bowstring……. Give me two locks of thy hair, and ye two, my mother and thou, twist them together into a bowstring for me."
"Does aught lie on it?" she says.
"My life lies on it," he said; "for they will never come to close quarters with me if I can keep them off with my bow."
"Well!" she says, "now I will call to thy mind that slap on the face which thou gavest me; and I care never a whit whether thou holdest out a long while or a short."
From Hurstwic

 And so Gunnar meets his end. The hair bowstring is an interesting reference to a recurrent theme in classical literature and fairly obviously would not be even close to strong enough for a bow.  Throughout Njals saga Gunnar and Hjortr use bows for personal defence in the rough feud that forms the theme of the story. The story above is paralleled on the Franks casket which may be a co-incidence, defending one’s home with a bow was certainly a theme expressed more than once in the Germanic dark ages.
Ullr the god of archery, was the son of Thor and Sif, god of skiing too, was invoked for duels. He had a hall in Yew-dale. It is thought that Ullr (which might mean glory) was a very popular god but who did not survive long enough to be immortalised by the pen of Snorri Sturllson. There is a cloak dating to 200ad and a later ritual platform that are associated with the god. Indeed the rings held to be so important to heathen blots were Ullr rings.  Ullr is not really considered to have been a hunting God and he has strong associations with war.

In conclusion we can say that in general Norse warriors used bows across the social scale. Archery was a pursuit of the warrior and bows could be associated with very senior figures. Archery has a very high status in Viking culture and was associated with figures, both mythological and historical, of glory and prestige.  Later law suggests that bows were carried in ratios of at least five to one ship (one in six benches on a ship like skuldelev 2 having 30 benches) of about 70 men. They were used extensively in sea battles and sieges. They were also used in open battles and I suspect were carried in much higher ratios than the law decreed.
Chest anchors
 In the east Asiatic type bows could be used with special centers with contacts in the East also having supplies of these weapons. In the main Yew, ash or elm bows were used in a pattern similar to what we now call a longbow. Draw weights could have been as high as later English bows though without extensive cavalry or highly armoured opponents would not necessarily need to be. If, as Dr Short suggests, bows were used primarily for hunting we should expect draw weights to be about 60 pounds.
 There is a transition to socketed bodkin types over the period with shafts being presumably made of hardwoods. Early arrowheads were tanged and arrowheads were predominantly broadheads sometimes with barbs. Forked arrowheads are also known.
 Tabs, bracers and quivers were options and probably conformed to later examples. Quivers could be made from leather or canvas and would be worn at the hip.
 The standard early medieval depiction of archers using a chest anchor is often queried. It is certainly possible to shoot in that manner though seems needlessly difficult to me and does not make the most of the arc of the bow. Ishi the Yana Indian shot with a high chest anchor but it is by no means a good way to shoot. There may be an artistic convention at work.
 Vikings used archery in a tactically competent way defeating mounted forces through sophisticated and cunning use of archery (heimskringla) and in a way which accentuated their already impressive martial culture.