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Jeppe

Viking knife sheaths and belt suspensions

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One thing we must remember is not to assign our understanding of worth to these pieces. Remember steel was worth its weight in gold in some points in history, iron all most as much. Labor untill very recently was cheap the cost of goods being mostly in the materials not the manufacturing costs. In that kind of economy is out really surpriseing to have heavily decorated every day items? Worn daily as a visible mark of the owners wealth. We should also remember the mind set and culture differed from our own. Things we would consider ostentatious or gaudy may then have been considered classy and understated...MP

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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?

 

 

It is damaged and needs to be replaced anyway, I might as well have fun destroying it instead of just tossing it in the trash. So far I've not been able by hand, tomorrow I'll have more time to put into it, and if all else fails I have a truck and a very sturdy post vise... :D

 

We shall see just how much leather, work-hardened bronze and solid brass rings can take. I'm curious as to what will prove to be the weakest link.

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Matthew, while we need to be careful about applying our beliefs to past cultures, we also need to recognize human nature for what it is. Cheap labor doesn't make up for the cost of the material, certainly, and people don't walk around adorned by commonplace stuff. A metal chain, for example, would be a status symbol because of the cost of the metal in the chain and the time/skill to make the chain... but it would also be a status symbol because of the size of the links in the chain. The finer the chain, the greater the skill needed to make it.

If we accept that the highly decorated sheath was daily wear, mustn't we apply that logic to the entire ensemble? Do we honestly believe that Mrs. Viking was walking around all day every day in this regalia? Does that sound reasonable?

post-24382-0-30633200-1393866530.jpg

 

 

Here's a great example of a very plain knife stuck into a rather fancy sheath. All the wear on the blade, but no mention of similar wear on the soft metal covering the leather sheath. She carried this outfit so much that the blade is almost half-gone, but the sheath is still just as nice as the day is long. Why isn't the handled decorated to match the sheath? Doesn't it stand to reason that the sheath was a ceremonial/decorative item that was set aside in the hope chest until needed?

xpost-38172-0-90059500-1393949060.jpg.pa

 

Here we have a great example of an "everyday" sheath that was cheap and easy to make. It would fit the above knife rather easily, and not be too great a loss if was damaged somehow.

 

xpost-38172-0-71560600-1393956152.jpg.pa

 

And, if chain suspension was such a great idea, and was the norm, why so few examples of surviving chains on the pictures posted so far? The sheath is there. The rings on the sheaths are there. But not many have even a few links attached. Some have the whole shebang, but I wonder if we're inferring too much from that.

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Great topic!

 

Here you have few examples from Poland. I bet none of you gentleman have ever seen them before.

Bronze alloy fittings represent hunting scene, two dogs and a hunter. Two knives showing similar scene were found in different places. Looks like it was quite common expression.

 

brzesc_kujawski_okucie_pochwy.jpg

 

Pochwa_no?a,_Lednica.jpeg

 

800px-Pochwa_no?a_z_w??em_IIc,_Ka?dus.jpg

 

800px-Pochwa_no?a_z_w??em_I,_Ka?dus.jpg

 

Pochwa_no?a_z_w??em_II,_Ka?dus.jpg

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I see your point and I am sure in some cases you are correct.

I still feel that for those of wealth in the period NOT showing it off would have been odd. we do not see as many knives or sheaths from the poorer members of these cultures, this is due to many factors partly due to the face that they have very few metal fitting and organic don't survive, but also I feel due to there knives being passed on if still useful rather than ending up in the grave. The very act of taking it with you to the grave can be seen as an act of wealth. My point with the cost of material VS labor is that just having metal fitting would be costly adding all the punch work leather tooling etc would not have been a very high added cost. I think this is why everything seems to be tooled. I feel this would translate some what to the poorer classes, just with less costly materials (organics etc.)

MP

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"... still feel that for those of wealth in the period NOT showing it off would have been odd." I agree with that entirely. My only question is when it was shown off. Plains indians had fabulously decorated outfits, but they didn't wear them every day. In a small village, wealth and status of the various members was common knowledge. If neighboring dignitaries were coming by, you could break out the foofaraw to impress them because they didn't know your level of wealth. It wasn't like was portrayed in Costner's "Dances with Wolves"! :)

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I think we may be moving into the realm of speculation. my own feeling on the matter is the more wealth position and power a individual had the more elaborate the every day outfit an equipment would be. Swords are a good example of this, from the sagas we know that a sword was carried by a section of the population at all times and these swords were highly ornamented sometimes with hilts sheathed entirely in gold or silver.. for this class of warrior I would think a matching fancy seax and sheath would also be worn daily.

MP

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Thanks, Lukasz!

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When I first saw a saxe sheath I had no idea how it was carried. I saw one possibility on the History Channel's "Vikings," which is supposed to be highly accurate. In Season 2, Episode 3 or 4, the main character's son, Beorn, carries his hanging horizontally from his belt. It's suspended by the two rings, but not by very much, so it hangs right under the belt, instead of swinging around.

 

Just a thought, so take it for what it's worth. Besides a hankering for lefse and a dislike of lozenge pommels, I can say I'm any authority.

Edited by Buck Hedges

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When I first saw a saxe sheath I had no idea how it was carried. I saw one possibility on the History Channel's "Vikings," which is supposed to be highly accurate. In Season 2, Episode 3 or 4, the main character's son, Beorn, carries his hanging horizontally from his belt. It's suspended by the two rings, but not by very much, so it hangs right under the belt, instead of swinging around.

 

Just a thought, so take it for what it's worth. Besides a hankering for lefse and a dislike of lozenge pommels, I can say I'm any authority.

 

Says who?

 

I think most here would agree that a horizontal carry is appropriate, but not because any TV show said so.

/curmudgeon ;)

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