Viking Bearded Axe
For much of their history the Vikings were warrior-farmers, and many of their weapons originate from every-day tools or hunting implements. So, for example, the heavy boar spear with its six-foot long shaft of ash, when used in battle, became the ‘aesc’– a favourite of wealthy thegns and earls.
Such was the case for the bearded hand axe.
The bearded axe, or Skeggöx, was probably first developed as a wood-working tool as the shape of the blade allowed the owner to grip the haft directly behind the ‘beard’ of the axe head while shaving or planing wood. However, much like the barbs of an arrowhead, this design also produced a very long cutting edge for its size and weight – exactly the qualities a warrior would look for in a weapon.
Bearded axes were typically wrought in iron with a sharpened edge made from steel. The Viking warrior would rarely be without these short-handled axes, wearing them in their belts whether in battle or not, much like the earlier Roman legionaries would wear their ‘puggio’ daggers in the belts of their tunics - to be used as both tool and weapon.
This beautiful example of a Viking Skeggöx dates from the 8th-9th century A.D., and is classified as a ‘Wheeler type III’. Framed in a glassless, hand-finished driftwood so that the axe can be removed and replaced, as seen in this video of a similar axe.
Acquired by Timeless on the UK Antiquities market, 2018. Formerly in the collection of a London gallery formed in the 1980s.