Difference between revisions of "Broad Axes"
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Latest revision as of 20:03, 30 October 2018
For axes with a cutting edge under 9" in length see Hand Axes
The Broadaxe, or Dane-axe, was a two handed axe introduced by the Vikings in the late tenth century but which soon became popular with Saxons as well, and was probably developed from the axes used to slaughter animals. The blades from existing examples in museums demonstrate that they have very thin section blades, designed to hack flesh apart. If they were as bulky as the smaller axe, it would prove to be too heavy for any sensible use. Usually used only by the wealthier semi-professional warriors it has a broad blade with a cutting edge of about 22 - 45cm (9" - 18") and a long wooden ash haft some 1.2 - 1.5m (4' - 5' long).
The Bayeux tapestry and accounts from the battle of Hastings show these Dane-axes wielded by the Huscarls cleaving 'both man and horse in two' at the same time. The Dane-axe's only drawback was that you need to have both hands on the shaft of the axe, with your shield slung across your back, leaving your front wide open to attack. The introduction of the Dane-axe is credited to King Cnut, who is also credited with the whole concept of the Karl or Huscarl you can see on the left. With such a fearsome tool to hand, few people would question this mans reasons. The action of swinging the axe prevents the Huscarl from standing close to any of his fellow huscarls, and this may well lead to trouble for him from any thrown javelin, however, the sheer ferocity of this warrior would daunt most foes, prompting them to make mistakes.
Article by Ben Levick 1991, Roland Williamson 1999.