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The battle axe was one of the most common hand-held weapons used by the Vikings, who used axes widely as both weapons and as tools. The axe was favored as a weapon as it was cheap to produce, yet could make powerful strikes capable of piercing armor. Generally speaking, Viking battle axes had a wrought iron head and a high carbon steel edge and a wooden pole, making them cheap and, unlike a sword, could be made by a village blacksmith with no special skills. Contrary to depictions in fiction, real battle axes such as those used by the Vikings and other medieval European cultures were generally lighter than woodcutting axes, so as to be easily swung repeated for extended periods of time, and had only a single bit.


The Vikings used two different types of axe, a short axe somewhat similar in appearance to a modern hatchet, which could be used in melee combat along with a shield, or even be thrown. The other commonly used type of Viking battle axe was the Dane Axe, a long handled, two handed axe with a handle of at least three feet long, though some could have been up to six feet long. The blade was "horned", with it widening out to width of up to a foot from the much narrower back end of the blade. The blade itself was very thin compared to a woodcutting axe, in order to reduce weight. The Dane Axe was used no only by the Vikings, but also by the Huskarls, the elite soldiers and royal guards of Saxon England, and later evolved into a polearm, called a sparth, which may have formed the basis of later axe-based polearms such as the halberd and poleaxe. Dane Axes were in use long after the end of the Viking Age, into the 1400s and 1500s in some places. One famous post-Viking era user of the Dane Axe was Richard the Lionheart, who is often depicted as using a Dane Axe at Jaffa.


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