Pole-weapons in the Sagas of Icelanders: a comparison of literary and archaeological sources (Jan H. Orkisz) - APD4/1(2016)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 177–212, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apd-2016-0006, May 2016


The Icelandic sagas are a major source of information on the Vikings and their fighting prowess. In these stories, several mysterious pole-weapons appear, which are often called “halberds”, for lack of a better word. In order to better identify what these weapons could have been, and to provide a better understanding of how the sagas relate to the Viking-age events they describe, we confront textual and archaeological evidence for several of these weapons (the höggspjót, the atgeirr, the kesja, the krókspjót, the bryntroll and the fleinn), keeping in mind the contextualisation of their appearances in sagas. The description of the use of each weapon allows to pick several candidates likely to correspond to the studied word. Without a perfect knowledge of what context the authors of the sagas wanted to describe, it appears to be impossible to give a final answer. However, we show that some specific types of spears are good candidates for some of the studied weapons.