Secondary weapons and armour of a 12th/13th century archer?

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Mars Ultor
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Secondary weapons and armour of a 12th/13th century archer?

Post by Mars Ultor »

I'm looking into becoming an archer during this time period and would greatly appreciate any help as far as the choice of secondary weapons and armour is concerned?

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Brother Ranulf
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Post by Brother Ranulf »

Speaking for the 12th century in England, no source shows archers with any secondary weapons or armour of any kind.

Archers in period depictions are to my knowledge always huntsmen rather than soldiers in battle - they appear in bestiaries, psalters and other documents shooting at practically anything that moves. Examples are the Aberdeen Bestiary, the Westminster Psalter and the circa 1180 carving of a huntsman at Barfreston Church, Kent. There are never any bracers in these pictures, nor are there any quivers, bowbags and so on. Arrows are (if shown at all) carried tucked into the belt.

I have seen a bone gaming-piece which may represent a crossbowman wearing a gambeson and hood, perhaps indicating this as the usual defensive kit.

I suspect, but can not show definitively, that archers in battle would be equipped in just the same way and would need close protection by better-equipped knights or militia (as is precisely the case in the 1138 Battle of the Standard, for example). The Durham Bible depicts a military slinger in battle, dressed simply in peasant working clothes.

It is significant that the 1181 Assize of Arms makes no mention of either archers or crossbowmen - burgesses (and town freemen) earning less than 10 marks annually are expected to have a gambeson, iron helmet and spear and form the lowest level of troops mentioned. The implication is that archers were either formed of peasant classes below freemen, or were hired mercenaries, or were on the permanent establishment of knights' retinues (or a combination of these). Not even freemen were permitted secondary weapons within the statute, so their use seems unlikely on an official level at this time.

Since the freemen of each borough made up the militia, it is possible that skinners, furriers, butchers and similar tradespeople would bring along some of the tools of their trade as secondary weapons, but there is absolutely no evidence for this.

I do not believe that there was much change by the mid-13th century - the usually-quoted source is the French Maciejowski Bible, which shows archers wearing helmets and gambesons - some also now with mail shirts -, still without quivers or secondary weapons. It should be emphasised that this document is French and gives no evidence for English kit of the time, but is general terms there ought to be a similarity. On the other hand the status of French archers and crossbowmen may well have been much higher than the Anglo-Norman version, explaining their appearance in mail shirts (and on horseback) in some scenes.
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Post by gregory23b »

Funny, myself and a few others have a possible project for late 12thc, mainly to do with a battle in our region, and to back up what BR has said, my sources have said that many archers were mercenaries, esp in the battle we are concerned with and also that they were paid to shoot. Hand to hand fighting was only as a method of self protection rather than tactical need. Thew great thing is, if true then kit costs are way lower than that of late 15thc ;-)
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Post by wyldstallions »

Obviously depends on archers personal wealth, but I thought helm and gamby, possibly a little protection on the knee and/or elbow. Weapon wise I thought they would have carried a dagger at the very least, and usually a Maul as they would use them to put the wooden stakes in anyway, also I was told they could of carried a buckler as they didn’t get in the way to much of shooting. But I stand to be corrected

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Post by Phil the Grips »

Mr Stallyns- that sounds like an archer from about 100 years later.

I'd go with aketon at most and even a tinhat'd be a modern safety measure for insurance rather than accuracy- limit it to a cervelliere type bowl/skullcap, or kettle hat if feeling posh.
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Post by Colin Middleton »

I'm with Phil on this. My understanding was that, at this period, an archers was a man who used a bow (which provides a great excuse to not get mixed up in all that dangerous hand-to-hand combat), rather than someone hired to shoot well (obviously there were also mercenaries for whom this was not true). I'd even understood that during a seige, even knights would pick up a bow in order to do some killing, rather than sit around watching!

I'd say, choose a civilian status and arm/armour for that, then add a small bow (I'm not certain when long bows came in, but they don't 'get famous' until the 14th C, implying a lack of use in war before that).

I think most peasent soldiers wore their normal clothes or possibly a gambeson/aketon and only the really wealthy ones added a hauberk to that. As for weapons, the long knife (seax still at this stage) appears to have been popular from vikings to tudors, also a small axe or wooden club would both fit nicely.
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Post by zauberdachs »

Brother Ranulf wrote:I do not believe that there was much change by the mid-13th century - the usually-quoted source is the French Maciejowski Bible, which shows archers wearing helmets and gambesons - some also now with mail shirts -, still without quivers or secondary weapons. It should be emphasised that this document is French and gives no evidence for English kit of the time, but is general terms there ought to be a similarity. On the other hand the status of French archers and crossbowmen may well have been much higher than the Anglo-Norman version, explaining their appearance in mail shirts (and on horseback) in some scenes.
The Holkham folk bible (early 1300) show archers with mail shirts etc.
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Post by Colin MacDonald »

Brother Ranulf wrote:the French Maciejowski Bible, which shows archers wearing helmets and gambesons - some also now with mail shirts -, still without quivers or secondary weapons. It should be emphasised that this document is French and gives no evidence for English kit of the time
... and as far as we know is idealised, conjectural, and not drawn by anyone with practical experience of warfare of the period.

A further note of caution: the (very few) archers on it are shown with distinctly recurved bows. Make of that what you will. AFAICR, all the archers (as distinct from crossbowmen) are all unarmoured except for at most a simple dome skullcap.

So, back at the original question, I think you're looking at helmet alone unless you intend to get mixed up in melee, in which case you may want to add an akheton for safety (not authenticity!) reasons.

Even for 1314, I only go as far as helmet and a very thin akheton, with a hardened leather curie (for safety) concealed under a (Courtrai chest style) knee length unpatterned surcoat.

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Post by wyldstallions »

Phil the Grips wrote:Mr Stallyns- that sounds like an archer from about 100 years later.

I'd go with aketon at most and even a tinhat'd be a modern safety measure for insurance rather than accuracy- limit it to a cervelliere type bowl/skullcap, or kettle hat if feeling posh.
oops sorry :oops: . I ment the helm for safety but forgot. I think weapon wise though I would stand by the dagger and a maul or small axe as was mentioned.

by the end of the 13th centry wouldn't they have some form of knee or elbow protection boiled leather etc?

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Post by zauberdachs »

wyldstallions wrote:by the end of the 13th centry wouldn't they have some form of knee or elbow protection boiled leather etc?


Boiled leather armour is notoriously difficult to prove, if you have sources for this many folk would be interested.
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Post by Colin Middleton »

I've seen a few pictures (try Arms & Armour of the Medieval Knight by Miles and Padock) that are attributed as leather armour, but they are very late 13thC, and pictures of knights, so that defineitely doesn't give us a wider context. I've not read enough texts from the time to comment on their mention in writing, but I'm guessing that there is some, even if we don't know what they're talking about (smoke and fire and all that).
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Post by Hobbitstomper »

Cuirboili armour, if it is worn, would be worn by people who need it (knights). A set of cuirboilli knees would probably cost getting as much as a pair of shoes. Archers don’t need it and it will only get in the way. In close combat, archers are dead against better armed/armoured and more skilful knights. Even against sergeants they would probably lose as they do not have shields or spears. A good example of what happens when lightly armed and armoured soldiers meet professionals is the battle of Painscastle, 1198. 3000 Welsh dead against 3 Normans.

Ther is an original cuirboilli archers bracer in existence though.

On no account should archers save their last arrow, hold it like a very small dagger and charge towards an advancing enemy (as I've seen a particular group demonstrate).

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Karen Larsdatter
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Re: Secondary weapons and armour of a 12th/13th century arch

Post by Karen Larsdatter »

Does the armor on the archers in the Maciejowski Bible count? Fols. 10r, 10v, and 23v dress archers in some combination of helmet and/or mail.

See also http://larsdatter.com/archers.htm

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Post by Hobbitstomper »

Depends upon the context in my opinion...

First one looks like a professional soldier wearing full top seargent/knight kit sniping from a castle. Unsporting cad, probably on the Philistine's side.

Second is a group of engineers. They are all wearing armour (engineers are expensive and professionals) and the crossbow man is there for support. Crossbow man has armour but he is in a very high risk job.

Third has a helmet but not a good one. This is fair enough if you consider a garison probably consists of a limited number of people and even losing one of them is a big loss. A castle should be able to afford to outfit its guards.

I'm not saying that archer's shouldn't wear gambesons and helmets. It is when they get in to full hauberks, coifs and faceplate helmets that they look wrong.

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Post by gregory23b »

"3000 Welsh dead against 3 Normans"

It is was the smell, the Taffs would rather die than put up with the garlic breathed sausage eating erstwhile viking lot.
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Post by Karen Larsdatter »

Hobbitstomper wrote:Depends upon the context in my opinion...
True. It's not from the era in the original question above, but I'd found a quote in a description of the Siege of Calais (Rome, Venerable English College, MS 1306): There myght men see Archers gode, / Cast away bothe gowne and hode, / The better forto shote

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Re: Secondary weapons and armour of a 12th/13th century arch

Post by Colin MacDonald »

Karen Larsdatter wrote:Does the armor on the archers in the Maciejowski Bible count?
Depends if you count crossbowmen as "archers". Given the period (12th-13th century) then I wouldn't conflate the professionalism of the two roles just yet, even in an English context.

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Post by Mars Ultor »

Thanks everyone for all the help and information, I've put some research into what you have said and now have a better idea how to outfit myself!

Cheers :D

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Post by El Frog »

I would have thought that any veteran archer would have some sort of blade, like a scramasax, that sort of thing.

They do quite a good one here: http://www.theknightshop.co.uk/catalog/ ... a2f0045923
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Post by Nigel »

Archers in ealry Norman armies were professionals and valued

look at the anglo Norman army operating in Normandy it consists of Knights and archers

As such they were too valuable to get involved in any hand to hand. Especially as they were developing their new found role

I haven'r seen any evidence for normal archers carrying sidearms

As for taht scram one word NASTY
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Post by zauberdachs »

yep, seconding that nasty...

was the scramasax still in use in the 12th/13th century?
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Post by El Frog »

Although certainly not cutting edge (but as mentioned - nasty!), I can't image an archer/warrior throwing away a perfectly good weapon just because it is old. It also looks fairly generic, so you may even be able to claim that it is just a large (and nasty) knife!

Furthermore, if I were an archer, I would certainly loot a weapon from a fallen enemy...

...just so no one had the opportunity to loot MY corpse! ;)
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Post by zauberdachs »

El Frog wrote:Although certainly not cutting edge (but as mentioned - nasty!), I can't image an archer/warrior throwing away a perfectly good weapon just because it is old. It also looks fairly generic, so you may even be able to claim that it is just a large (and nasty) knife!

Furthermore, if I were an archer, I would certainly loot a weapon from a fallen enemy...

...just so no one had the opportunity to loot MY corpse! ;)
ah, the line of your argument can be described thus:

1. I really want one
2. I'll rationalise till I can have one
3. yey! I can have one

Most people on here will bitch slap you for that. We've all done it but it's bad. We tend to encourage:

1. What does the evidence show?
2. Oh, it shows people wearing/using this
3. ok then, it's not necessarily the coolest or cheapest thing but I'll get it because it's correct

It's important because it's the very tiny difference between bad panto and re-enactment ;)
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Post by El Frog »

zauberdachs wrote:
El Frog wrote:Although certainly not cutting edge (but as mentioned - nasty!), I can't image an archer/warrior throwing away a perfectly good weapon just because it is old. It also looks fairly generic, so you may even be able to claim that it is just a large (and nasty) knife!

Furthermore, if I were an archer, I would certainly loot a weapon from a fallen enemy...

...just so no one had the opportunity to loot MY corpse! ;)
ah, the line of your argument can be described thus:

1. I really want one
2. I'll rationalise till I can have one
3. yey! I can have one

Most people on here will bitch slap you for that. We've all done it but it's bad. We tend to encourage:

1. What does the evidence show?
2. Oh, it shows people wearing/using this
3. ok then, it's not necessarily the coolest or cheapest thing but I'll get it because it's correct

It's important because it's the very tiny difference between bad panto and re-enactment ;)

Not at all. My argument is that the lower orders of an army DID loot the fallen, friend or foe. I cannot imagine a veteran archer (who has probably seen victory and defeat, however minor) seeing lots of knives/swords/whatevers lying around, unwanted and uncollected by the lords, etc., and not picking one up and sticking it in his belt. If said archer HAD seen defeat (and had managed to escape while his fellow bowmen were cut to pieces) he is much more likely to have a knife on the grounds that he doesn't want to be cut up!

As to sources: just because a picture doesn't show something, doesn't mean it didn't happen. A number of art sources from the time were created by people who had never actually seen a battle, so aren't likely to get every detail correct. Furthermore, they are going to spend much more time drawing in the details on the important people, not the common plebs. After all, it is likely that only the important people are ever going to see it, not "John the serf".
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Post by guthrie »

But a scramasax? I don't think i would last that long.

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Post by Mark »

Hi El Frog,
I understand what you are saying about looting on the battlefield,but,to be wearing a Seax without evidence to back up why you wear it is surely against every concept of why we do Living History?
There will definately be MOPs that will ask why you have it (I would!)
I would go so far as to say that it would even be wrong to wear one unless you are portraying an Anglo-Saxon circa 600-800,a late Gallo-Roman or an Alammanic or Frankish warrior and even then there are typologies to consider!
Incidently,the one in the photograph to me looks wrong! From the top of my head, I dont think any have been found with a fuller in the blade or with that piece of metal at the junction of the handle and blade.The stitching on the sheaf looks wrong too.
I happen to think that the Seax (note not Scramasax,there is only one reference to scramasax and that is ambiguous) is the finest of knives which I use in my role as a volunteer Nature Warden but lets make our living history the best it can be using all the evidence we can find otherwise we are just dressing up.
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Post by zauberdachs »

El Frog wrote:Not at all. My argument is that the lower orders of an army DID loot the fallen, friend or foe. I cannot imagine a veteran archer (who has probably seen victory and defeat, however minor) seeing lots of knives/swords/whatevers lying around, unwanted and uncollected by the lords, etc., and not picking one up and sticking it in his belt. If said archer HAD seen defeat (and had managed to escape while his fellow bowmen were cut to pieces) he is much more likely to have a knife on the grounds that he doesn't want to be cut up!
Unfortunately that is not living history and is exactly the rationalisation I am talking about. Rationalising how something could exist despite any historical evidence is fantasy and is in effect what LARPers do: "My level 7 Pirate/ninja/viking has his Byzantine trousers because of his service in the Byzantine Army, his Roman sword handed down as a heirloom and his Sallet through a time warp adventure in the 15th century." ;)
El Frog wrote: As to sources: just because a picture doesn't show something, doesn't mean it didn't happen. A number of art sources from the time were created by people who had never actually seen a battle, so aren't likely to get every detail correct. Furthermore, they are going to spend much more time drawing in the details on the important people, not the common plebs. After all, it is likely that only the important people are ever going to see it, not "John the serf".
Please admire the detail in the contemporary images below, you are making a lot of assumptions about art sources that are not backed up by the evidence:
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Post by Colin MacDonald »

Indeed. The "looted it" argument eventually ends with everyone tinned and sworded-up to the gills. Once you've gone down that route, you can't very well expect or ask anyone else not to do so.

While it's good to have some variation on display, I prefer to aim for a largely provenancable portrayal[*], so that someone else gets to play the speculation game without skewing the overall impression too far.

However, I will note that the Maciejowski (including the image above) shows knights wielding daggers in melees. Since it doesn't show them wearing them anywhere, we could either assume that they're worn under the outer clothing (which seems rather impractical), or that they're worn on the outside but simply not depicted.

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Post by El Frog »

zauberdachs wrote:Please admire the detail in the contemporary images below, you are making a lot of assumptions about art sources that are not backed up by the evidence:
No, just a degree in Art History here, at Oxford...

Look - I cannot be bothered to argue with you any more, and it's making me lose the will to live (quite literally, I'm manic depressive), so have it your way; I can find as many holes in your point of view as you have in mine.
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Post by zauberdachs »

Colin MacDonald wrote: However, I will note that the Maciejowski (including the image above) shows knights wielding daggers in melees. Since it doesn't show them wearing them anywhere, we could either assume that they're worn under the outer clothing (which seems rather impractical), or that they're worn on the outside but simply not depicted.
Good point.

What kind of daggers are they using? I don't have any of those images to hand right now.
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