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wounds-msg - 10/12/95


Battle wounds in period.


NOTE: See also the files: p-medicine-msg, tournaments-art, p-armor-msg, firearms-msg, pottery-wepns-msg, siege-engines-msg, warfare-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: brain shots

From: schuldy at zariski.harvard.edu (Mark Schuldenfrei)

Date: 7 Mar 94 13:39:07 EST


Brigit Olesdottir

>For rapier, I would say extremity for first blood, hamstring to disable,

>torso for death. Relatively light Renaissance rapiers would not be likely

>to kill with a head shot (although all should call face shots as they bleed

>very heavily and you would not be able to see well, plus they HURT _a_lot_.


Locally, we are studying and recreating a period rapier manual by Joseph

Swetnam.  Swetnam makes much haste to avoid "murther", and discusses rapier

dueling habits in his period (just after 1600), in England.  He consistently

warns about the ubiquitous cuts to the head, and thrusts to the face, and

also recomments that you chop or stab at your opponents arms and thighs. He

specifically warns that torso shots are fatal.


        Tibor (citations if you want them)


Mark Schuldenfrei (schuldy at math.harvard.edu)



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: J. Swetnam was Re: brain shots

From: schuldy at zariski.harvard.edu (Mark Schuldenfrei)

Date: 8 Mar 94 09:01:09 EST


I, Tibor, wrote:

  Locally, we are studying and recreating a period rapier manual by Joseph

  Swetnam.  Swetnam makes much haste to avoid "murther", and discusses rapier


glink at silver.ucs.indiana.edu (Gary Link) writes:

  For the amusement of others, Joseph Swetnam is listed in the Indiana

  University microfiche library as the author of _The Schoole of the Noble

  Science of Defense_ and several other volumes including _The araignment

  of lewde, idle, froward, and unconstant women_ and _Swetnam, the woman

  -hater, araigned by women_.


  I am dying to know which 'manual' you are working from.


Hi, Hal.  We are working from "The Schoole of the Noble Science of Defense",

as my wife won't let me do recreation work from the other two.  She's a



        Tibor (OK, So am I. :-)


Mark Schuldenfrei (schuldy at math.harvard.edu)



From: jlpearso at vela.acs.oakland.edu (Alberic)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Armor decline (was Arrows Against Steel.)

Date: 10 Apr 1994 10:12:47 GMT

Organization: Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, U.S.A.


Greetings all:

Just a few thoughts, appropos the armour discussion.

In the book about the armour from the battle of Visby, the one with the

scale plates, there is also a section with a breakout of types

of wounds found on the corpses.  this section is seldom mentioned in

SCA contexts.  Unfortunately, I can't quote it directly, because my copy

is (A) 200 miles away, and (B) on microfilm anyway, but from what

I remember, some of those people took some pretty heavy damage, and

kept going. The example that stands out in my memory is several

photos of a skull showing repeated sword/axe strikes that penetrated

into the brain.  Ok, well he died, right?  Yes, but not immediately.

The text notes that from the apparent impact angles, our poor farmer was

standing for all (3+?) impacts..it wasn't as though he got hit, dropped,

and then got hacked up.  He took a hit into the brain, STAYED UP, and got

hit two more times before he dropped.  There's another photo of a skull

that apparently took a crossbow bolt to the jaw; the entire lower facial

structure is just shattered. (*sharp* bolts? who said anything about

*sharp* bolts???  Blunts actually have better energy transfer against

unarmoured troops...)


The other really memorable picture is of a corpse who has had both legs

severed, through both femurs in one strike.  Somebody cut through BOTH

this guys legs in one stroke...Can you say berserker???

(I LOVE adrenaline!!!)


Now none of these corpses were found wearing armour, so that says nothing

really about the effectiveness of period armour, but it does say a great

deal about the violence and ferocity with which these battles were fought.

Just thought I'd kick that in...





From: ESRLJHD at MVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU (Siohn Ap Govannan)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Pennsic Combat Archery

Date: Tue, 13 Sep 1994 14:19

Organization: UCLA Microcomputer Support Office


zkessin at world.std.com (Zach) writes:

>paulb at saturn.uark.edu (Paul A. Byers) writes:


>>In article <Cw19EC.7zF at world.std.com> zkessin at world.std.com (Zach) writes:





>zkessin at world.std.com


In regard to archers and armor, there was a science show called "Discove

r" I believe which did one episode in England. One of the subjects they

covered was this very question. A Physicist (sp?) had studied medieval

armor made sample pieces out of wrought iron and had bowmen using

wrought iron broad heads and bodkin points shoot at it.


He found that bodkins would penetrate arm and leg armor fairly well, whi

ch would cause wounds to the limb but would probably not incapacitate

the limb with just a single wound.


Bodkins would penetrate breast and back plates slightly and cause only

minor wounds.


The helmet was proof due to its thickness.


He also found that at high incident angles any armor would deflect the

bodkin points.


His conclusion was that a single arrow hit, except through the visor or

and opening in the armor would not kill, or seriously injure a fighter in

full plate. But that a number of hits, particularly to the extremities

would cause enough injury and loss of blood to incapacitate or kill

the armored fighter.


Siohn ap Govannan

Barony of Altavia

Kingdom of Caid



From: rorice at nickel.ucs.indiana.edu (rosalyn rice)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Severed Fingers

Date: 3 Oct 1995 12:56:01 GMT

Organization: Indiana University, Bloomington


        I've seen (but didn't read the whole of) the two volume book on

the Battle of Visby finds by Thordmann (?). I paid special attention to

the forensic sections because that sort of stuff interests me.

        Anyhow, *to the best of my recollection* (which could well be wrong)

there weren't any severed fingers, per se, though it is entirely possible

(my speculation) that the archeological team missed things like finger bones.


(Basis: The dig did a very good job by the standards of the time, but the

standard was a 1930's standard where they still weren't sifting the dirt

for very small finds. OTOH, since the dirt still stank from the collected

bodies I don't blame them...)


        (More speculation: This sort of makes sense. A hand is going to

be protected by at least the quillons of a sword, and a certain amount of

any blow that hits the hand is going to go into knocking the hand/arm back.

I'd expect more deep cuts on fingers- and accompanying cuts on the bones

of the hand - than actual severed fingers.


        Furthermore, Wisby was a massacre. The professional Danish

mercenaries probably didn't go for "low percentage" shots like hand shots

that left the oponent mobile when they could kill by slicing off a leg,

arm, or head.)


        So, *I don't think* that there were any severed fingers at Visby.


        Now, Thordman came up with a nice diagram showing all the locations

(and angles) of cuts to the surviving skeletons, and more tables than you

could possibly want breaking out the types, locations, and number of

wounds to the various bodies. He then broke out this evidence by burial



        So, it becomes appearent that in least one area a bunch of

militia were killed or wounded by arrows. It also becomes appearant

that a lot of militia were just hacked down and took repeated blows while

they were either on the ground or were trying to flee (lots of blows to

the back and multiple blows any of which would have incapacitated).


        Finally, it is obvious that some blows were just incredibly

powerful. A number of blows took off legs (one blow took off *both* legs

of the victim) or drove deep into skulls.


        It is impossible to speculate about *techniques* used by the

Danish, except for the fact that they used swords and axes (they make

distinctive, different cuts on the body) and *some* of the angles of the

wounds were consistant with common SCA fighting techniques. There are

some (I don't know how many) skulls with a rising sword cut to the left

side of the head. You can't say that this proves that the SCA "feint low,

hit high" tactic is Period though.


        More common were blows at or below the knees. There is some

speculation that the Danes were using great axes like scythes (though

they could just be using bills from a bit of range, or something else



        What can be said with certainty is that most blows were to the

left-hand side of the victim. This means that the aggregate of Danes were

right-handed and were using swinging forehand and overhand strikes.





From: "David R.Watson" <crossbow at moontower>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Severed Fingers

Date: 3 Oct 1995 14:03:13 GMT

Organization: New World Arbalest


  Surprise!  I have actually read the archaeological report on the Visby

finds, but it's been many years.  I do not recall any information about

loss of fingers, but it may have been included.  The main parts of the

dig were done in the 1920's, so the procedures were not as sophisticated

as those that would be used today.


  What I do remember is that the most common wound was a shot to the

left upper cranium.  The second most common shot was to the leg just

below the knee.  After that were shots to the right upper side of the

cranium, and there were a fair number of shots that didn't appear to hit

real hard, but hard enough, to the lower, back of the skull.  The

authors thought these may have been hits on running men, but they sound

like wrap shots to me. One guy had the whole top of his skull cut off,

like an egg, and another had BOTH legs severed. A fair number of the

people were fairly elderly or rather young.  This sounds like local



  Sixteen percent of the bodies had arrow wounds (probably crossbow) to

the skull.  Arrow wounds to the body were harder to identify, but there

were one or two, I think that stuck into major bones.  If you look long

enough, you can find this report.  I had it on interlibrary loan from

some midwestern university.   Iolo   crossbow at moontower.com



From: UDSD007 at DSIBM.OKLADOT.STATE.OK.US (Mike.Andrews)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Severed Fingers

Date: Tue, 03 Oct 1995 16:23

Organization: The University of Oklahoma (USA)


hwt at bnr.ca (Henry Troup) writes about the bodies in the Visby

mass graves:


>Sounds like there might not have been much armor.  Any evidence,

>one way or another?


Plenty. Bengt Thordeman did the classic and definitive book,

which (IMSC) is titled _Armour from the Battle of Wisby_.


The Library of Congress entry for it is:

        Thordeman, Bengt Johan Neren, 1893-  Armour from the battle of

Wisby, 1361,   Stockholm, Kungl. vitterhets historie och antikvitets

akademien {1939-40}  2 v. illus., plates (part fold.) tables, diagrs. 30



From my reading in this and other sources, from museum visits,

and from contemporary photos of the dig (from Statens Historiska

Museum photo archives), it appears that the bodies in the graves

  1) had a distinctly bimodal age distribution, with one peak

     around 16-17 years of age and the other around 50-60 years

     of age; and

  2) were wearing decidedly out-of-date armor, in some cases as

     much as 60 years out of date IMSC.

Some of the skeleta showed very badly healed broken bones, some

had signs of very severe arthritis, and a few appear to have had

vertebrae which had collapsed -- possibly due to osteoporosis.


The conclusion that some writers have drawn, and one which I

find very plausible, is that the healthy fighting-age Gotlanders

were, for the most part, off trading to the East, and that they

took their good armor with them.


udsd007 at dsibm.okladot.state.ok.us

Michael Fenwick of Fotheringhay, O.L. (Mike Andrews) Namron, Ansteorra


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org