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Jeppe

Viking knife sheaths and belt suspensions

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This post is inspired by Justin's topic on a Viking knife in a bronze sheath

http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=28750

 

There was a question about how this would have been worn, and I thought that this would be a good topic for further discussion.

 

In addition I find it interesting how simmilar the sheaths that have been found are, even though they have been found all around the Baltic Sea.

 

 

There is the Finish knife, already discussed here:

http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=26433&hl=%2Bviking+%2Bknife#entry249486

8735608584_9fa48b0161_c.jpg

WP_20130514_003.jpg

 

Here is an example of how it could be worn:

http://www.deviantart.com/art/Vikings-2012-4-321066943

 

I know there are more examples hiding on the forum, in particular here:

http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=15373&hl=seax

 

I will post them as I dig them out.

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Thank you, Jeppe. I can't believe that anyone would trust such an expensive piece of jewelry to such a weak attachment system, but it goes to reinforce the idea that they weren't used on a regular basis.

 

I bet millions of them are laying on the shoulders of old roman roads where they fell when the chain snapped during a gallop!

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I'm not sure why you're calling it a weak attachment system or why you'd assume people didn't wear their knives frequently / regularly. that's a whole lot stronger than how most of us attach important things like our phones to our belts these days, and I doubt you'd be able to rip off the knife and sheath without a tremendous effort to break the wire or chain to the belt splitter... you have to remember, the same hangers and belt splitters used for these knives held on full swords and sheaths too which weigh a whole lot more and can get a lot more leverage.

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Now first my apologies if any of these images or drawings belong to anyone, but I tend to save images to my folders on my computer and forget where I got them but here's a whole lot of sheathes. Some of these images may have even come from this very site in some other older threads

 

Lettkniv-1.jpg

LTN_knivskida_06.jpg

Vapenkniv_till_Ville_1.jpg

Vapenkniv_till_Ville_2.jpg

Vapenkniv_till_Ville_3.jpg

Vapenkniv_till_Ville_4.jpg

Vapenkniv_till_Ville_5.jpg

Vapenknivar-01.jpg

588c209d7ed52d21fc95d79037719439.jpg

82823db158e9a511df7ce65544fa0491.jpg

 

 

 

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Justin, I do the same with saving pictures for a personal reference archive. Backtracking the original is difficult when it comes to posting.

Most of the pictures are indeed from the freaking seax topic, and the ones I was going to track down.

 

the second last image is new to me, and first time I have seen a complete suspension.

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Here are some from my picture archive

4514665914_154a827431_o.jpg

vikingknife1.jpg

W&GFig34s.jpg

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Awesome stuff. Thanks for sharing.

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one from Turaida, central Latvia, c. eleventh century A.D.

figure-54.jpg

and one from Gotland

Gimpkniv_06.jpg

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I'm not sure why you're calling it a weak attachment system or why you'd assume people didn't wear their knives frequently / regularly. that's a whole lot stronger than how most of us attach important things like our phones to our belts these days, and I doubt you'd be able to rip off the knife and sheath without a tremendous effort to break the wire or chain to the belt splitter... you have to remember, the same hangers and belt splitters used for these knives held on full swords and sheaths too which weigh a whole lot more and can get a lot more leverage.

Not to mention most sheaths had 2 or even 3 rings, and the piece they attach to the sheath with is riveted through 2-3 layers of leather and 2 metal plates.... I honestly have difficulty imagining a stronger system if solid rings are used. If the rings are not solid, they are usually paired, meaning to loose the sheath both rings have to give...

 

My only complaint about this type of construction is that it rattles! Not a good thing when stalking deer....

 

Thanks for the images.

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My only complaint about this type of construction is that it rattles! Not a good thing when stalking deer....

 

This has been my experience as well. Strong but noisy. Could we be missing something? I doubt this would be overlooked.

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I'm not sure why you're calling it a weak attachment system or why you'd assume people didn't wear their knives frequently / regularly.

 

Why is it so outlandish to think that these highly-decorated sheaths were only worn occasionally, or were worn for show and not heavy use? As I see it, they were very expensive items much like a Rolex watch is today. Am I wrong? Were these things as common as sin? Were they so easily produced that they had almost no real value?

 

While a lot of people wear Rolex watches every day, they are not hard-working, down-in-the-ditch types of jobs that they are doing. A businessman might have a nice watch, but he spends his whole day in a clean office. Similarly, a wealthy merchant might carry a knife like that, but how much cutting does he have to do in the day? He's using it for show more than anything else. He wants folks to see that he's so rich that even his knife is heavily embellished. But he's not in the kitchen preparing meals with that fancy knife.

 

Is it a weak mounting system? In my estimation, yes it is. You've got butted rings made out of copper or brass. That's a weak ring. And having had to wear a gun on my hip for years, I can tell you without a doubt that a knife dangling like that is going to get caught on stuff. Door jambs, trees and brush, bystanders in the crowd, whatever you might be carrying in your arms, you name it. You'd be surprised at how easily and often stuff gets snagged even when you're trying to not get snagged.

 

Every guy on the trucks had to replace their holster and pouches about every year because they got to the point where they no longer looked professional. The only guys that didn't get their gear banged up were the higher ups that stayed in the offices and usually kept their gear in a drawer.

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This has been my experience as well. Strong but noisy. Could we be missing something? I doubt this would be overlooked.

It would not be difficult to glue a thin leather of even fabric to the inside of the 'ring attachments' to dampen the sound, though I see no evidence that this was actually done... Having the ring attachments snug fitting to the ring does help some. Viking 'rattles' are sometimes used for dating graves, perhaps they liked the noise... :)

 

The enemy will hear the dreadful racket of my approach, and tremble with fear! Subtly may not have been a very viking attribute.

 

Vaughn I understand your argument, looking through the rings posted a number of them are butted, but the majority are not, particularly on the larger knives. I've seen a few that appear to be riveted like mail links, others that are twisted around in such a way that it would be very difficult to pull them apart. My argument is that using multiple metal rings is superior to using leather or twine by a huge margin... stitching is all that holds a modern sheath together in most cases. Many of these sheaths were 'man jewelry' of the day, but many were not, and most of the common man's tools are not displayed in museums in favor of the trinkets of the rich, if they even survived a lifetime of daily use. To settle the argument, I have a sheath of this type I made that is damaged, I will see just how much force is needed to separate a solid ring from the sheath... I suspect the entire sheath will have to be ripped apart.

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This has been my experience as well. Strong but noisy. Could we be missing something? I doubt this would be overlooked.

 

 

Maybe that was purpose- make noise in woods to avoid bear attacks :-)

(when people in Slovakia go mushrooming or berry harvesting to woods with bears them wear some cans or bells on belts)

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I don't think stealthy killing was very honorably received...

 

Jeppe, thanks for this initial pictures of the Finnish piece with the dangly bits. I've wanted some better pictures of that one!

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There's so many excellent images in this thread I'm gonna have to pin it. I think my favorite is the one with the domed shoulder brooches indicating that yes, these may really be women's knives after all, at least the shorter ones. ;)

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There are more examples that some of these were women's knives, and that they were actually used every day.

 

Knife and sheath from a
female grave at Slite Torg, Gotland, Sweden. Partly reconstructed.
The leather of the sheath is missing. The handle is made of ivory,
and has carvings in animal style. The handle is also decorated with 6
layers of silver wire.

Drawings3.JPG

 

Knife and sheath from a
female grave at Ihre, Hellvi parish, Gotland. Partly reconstructed.
Notice the worned out knife blade. Dating 9-10th C.

Drawings7.JPG

 

 

I think the second one, is the one in one of my previous posts.

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Here is a picture of the first one from my last post

gotland.jpg

 

some simpler ones from Haithabu

haitabu.jpg

haitabu2.jpg

 

example from Birka

birka2.jpg

 

Some more close-ups from Peter Johnsson

Bärring.jpg

Fogkant.jpg

Doppsko, front 1.jpg

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George, don't destroy a sheath just to prove a point. I'll gladly concede that it's a valid method of carry! My concern or question about the daily use of an item like this is simply one of cost/risk versus benefit. Even if it's stronger than string or leather, that doesn't mean it was a better choice for daily use because leather was cheaper and easier to fix or replace.

 

Generally, people were/are buried with their best suit, not the the ripped up blue jeans they do their gardening in. If we accept that these sheaths were worn daily, decorated as they are, then doesn't logic dictate that the other stuff found in the grave was worn daily regardless of how fancy it was?


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