Less Commonly Known Viking Weapons – The Atgeir

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The Atgeir was a ‘spear-like spear’ that was used before and through the Viking Age.

One reference to the atgeir comes from Icelandic Sagas about the Viking hero Gunnar Hámundarson whom used an atgeir in Njál’s Saga that would “sing” by making a ringing sound when it anticipated ‘bloodshed’ when it was used in battle.

800px-Njal_saga_-_Gunnar_Ranga
Gunnar Hámundarson fights his ambushers at Rangá

Gunnar was a great warrior.  He is described as being nearly invincible in combat. According to Njál’s Saga, he was a powerful, athletic man “capable of jumping his own height in full body armor, both back and front.” He was a skilled archer, and in close combat his weapon of choice was the atgeir, which scholars consider to have been a halberd or glaive of some sort. He was said to have taken this famed weapon in battle from a man named Hallgrímur, while on a Viking raid to the island of Eysýsla (Saaremaa in present-day Estonia).

Norse Arms, Atgeir
Norse Arms, Atgeir

This weapon was sometimes referred to as a “mail-piercer” or “hewing-spear.”

It was a type of polearm used throughout Scandinavia and Norse occupied areas during the Viking Age.

Viking pole weapons, dane axe, Atgeir, spear, winged spear, (trowing) spear.
Viking pole weapons, dane axe, Atgeir, spear, winged spear, (trowing) spear.

In English it is described as a kind of “halberd,” but it more likely resembled a bill or glaive.

The word ‘atgeir’ is often used to describe some typical European halberds. Additionally, some multipurpose spearheaded staves of the time period are called atgeirsstafir.

aspear2

Beyond description from old records and sagas, there have not been any atgeirs discovered by archaeologists to get a clear picture as to what one was beyond the assumption of it being a spearheaded type of polearm.

Source:
Kane, Njord. “Norse Armor and Weaponry.” The Vikings : The Story of a People. 2nd ed. Yukon: Spangenhelm, 2015. Print. 978-194306601

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by Njord Kane © 2016 Spangenhelm Publishing


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Njord Kane is an infantry and cavalry veteran who also served in law enforcement just prior to entering into the world of academia where he pursued the disciplines of military science, social psychology, and anthropology. Having left his profession, he now takes care of his adult autistic sons at home while passionately writing about early Norse and Mesoamerican culture and history at spangenhelm.com and readicon.com. Kane is also the author of numerous books including, The Vikings, The Maya, and The Viking Hero Series.

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