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"No shieldwalls - conclusion from archeology" Topic

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1,875 hits since 31 Aug 2017
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M C MonkeyDew31 Aug 2017 7:51 a.m. PST

'e's been silenced for heretical thought.

Ponder Supporting Member of TMP31 Aug 2017 7:54 a.m. PST


Very frustrating trying to post this.

Very interesting article, worth reading if you've an interest in Dark Age warfare.

Ponder on,


Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP31 Aug 2017 8:26 a.m. PST

Yeah, I ran into the same thing the other day. You just have to go get a sandwich and wait for the "Crosspost?" dialog to appear.

GurKhan31 Aug 2017 8:30 a.m. PST

Might be worth reading in conjunction with the same researcher's link and perhaps also with link

Puster Supporting Member of TMP31 Aug 2017 8:38 a.m. PST

So his conclusion is not "NO Shieldwalls" but "no VIKING shieldwalls", as the viking shield is unsuited to form a wall.
Talk about misleading forum thread names…

Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP31 Aug 2017 12:26 p.m. PST

I'm not changing my impression of Viking combat based on the interpretations of one researcher.

How does he account for references in the Sagas and the Saxon writings to shield walls on both sides?

Is the Gokstad ship the only place shields were found?
Note that such was a funeral ship. Would that make a difference?

In the end, he might carry the day with his views. Too early to tell. But note that the surest way for an academic to get attention is to be contrary.

Personal logo herkybird Supporting Member of TMP31 Aug 2017 2:50 p.m. PST

I always laughed at the depictions of shield walls in TV shows, the Romans Testudo has more in common with them IMO!
I think shield walls were just lots of guys standing in line with shields in front…just like people did in every other period of ancient and medieval warfare!
Feel free to disagree though!!!

M C MonkeyDew31 Aug 2017 3:03 p.m. PST

+1 Herybird. A scrum, with shields.

Ponder: I sympathize. Sometimes its hard to get a post in and others it just wanders off to another board. Always an adventure!

VVV reply01 Sep 2017 2:21 a.m. PST

I always laughed at the depictions of shield walls in TV shows, the Romans Testudo has more in common with them IMO!

True but TV shows (and films) have an audience to cater for. They unlikely to show things how they were. The other unrealistic thing often shown is battles breaking up to individual fights all over the battlefield. The Romans would have laughed their socks off.
Vikings no doubt fought in skirmishes (and personal combats) but in battles the shield wall formation should have the edge, a line of soldiers close together protecting each other with their shields.

Wulfgar01 Sep 2017 4:53 p.m. PST

Well, if Rolf Warming says there were no shield walls, then it must be true. I never did have much faith in the Norse Sagas or Anglo-Saxon poetry.

Still, it was an interesting article, Ponder. Thank you for the chance to read it. I guess we'll have to see what other scholars have to say.

Puster Supporting Member of TMP02 Sep 2017 4:15 p.m. PST

There is always the possibility that "Vikings" would not fight uniform over several centuries, countries and campaigns…

It may be – actually its most likely – that shields used for raids by smaller groups were more mobile then those used for shock infantry equipped and trained for battles.

Henry Martini Inactive Member02 Sep 2017 7:44 p.m. PST

Oddly enough, certain rules writers have been onto this for some time. For instance, in Dux Bellorum there are separate generic Land Raider and Sea Raider army lists in which infantry can only be fielded as 'warrior' units, even in the case of armies whose infantry would normally rate as 'shieldwall' in their standard lists.

Puster Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2017 9:28 p.m. PST

Makes sense. Far more then a base claim that there were no shieldwalls based on individual archeological finds…. :-)

Bindon Blood24 Sep 2017 3:39 a.m. PST

I think shieldwalls existed.

However I don't think it is a special formation. It's just a description of a bunch of guys standing in a line holding shields.

Poets are always prone to using colourful language to describe the ordinary, would Dark Age bards be any different?

Most Napoleonic rule sets don't have a 'thin red line' formation, so why a shield wall formation??

Rogue Zoat25 Sep 2017 2:52 a.m. PST

Pan Marek, interesting you say that (you're last sentence)- a friend of mine told me their lecturer stated that women wore Mjolnirs, not men. I asked for a source to this but didn't get one.

Interesting prospect. It does look good in the films. Although I always had a humorous thought in my mind of both sides "shieldwalling" for days and not actually doing any fighting.

General Ism Inactive Member24 Jan 2018 7:59 a.m. PST

To be honest, whilst The Vikings is a great piece of eye-candy, like a lot of historic-esque programmes, it does play fast and loose with the probability of things.

I have always found it a litle odd that Vikings are associated with the Sheild-Wall.

The Norse, certainly in the early period of Anglo-Viking activity, were raiders who prized individual battle-skill, quick and decisive action, looting, slaving and then back on the boat pip-pip. I don't see them using such a defensive technique in these circumstances – and for a number of different reasons…

Firstly, there is no actual evidence… the only mentions on the Nosrse side come from works of fiction (the Sagas) which were originally oral and then written down at some ideterminate time with the intention of recording an idealised "hero worship" form of history …

…. then we have the Saxon Chronicles – these are not eyewitness testimonies and were written from a secondary perspective – sometimes years after the events they describe and which are fast and loose with the "truth" … And by "truth" I mean they ignore or tweak anything that does not align with the church's perceived world-view .. getting beaten by a small group of pagans would certainly qualify for a little tweaking.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly for me, the Norse were highly skilled fighters operating in a strange land… they would have known that using a defensive strategy such as the wall would leave them dreadfully exposed. We are talking in the early stages of small bands of fighters using speed and surprise. In my view it would be an attack or retreat mentality – no defensive action.

Thirdly, though a generality – the Dark Age peoples that utilised the Sheild-Wall are usually the ones that had a lot of direct contct with Rome – usually on the sharp end of a pilum.. the Norse did not have this – Yes Roman artifacts are found in Scandanavia, but the Romans never got further north than Germania and all the evidence suggests that artifacts come from trade, a lot of it by Germanic peoples as they are migrating in the period around the fall of the western empire …

What I think we have with this is a conflation of different things. An oral tradition that takes the "best" version of a story and records it.. a set of secondary sources that cannot stand the fact that christians were beaten by pagans and would not be above showing those pagans to be a military match for the britons jsut to explain how they lost, we have a people who are used to using and seeing the Sheild-Wall (Saxons) in action (derived from direct contact with Rome) and who would "expect" this to be the standard method of battle and we have a force that is small and knows that it needs speed and surprise to achieve victory….. and of course, the fact that all of it is subject to the very same issues of mistaken recording and bias that every modern source suffers from too…

Don't get me wrong.. as we move later, and as the Norse settle and start to mingle with the Saxons they would of course pick up different tactics and techniques… but this period I classify as Anglo-Dane and not Viking.

My thoughts, for what they are worth


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