Indeed, there is good reason for regarding these classes as essentially military.
The chief weapons were the sword and spear. The former were two-edged and on the average about 3 ft. long. The hilts were often elaborately ornamented and sometimes these weapons were of considerable value. No definite line can be drawn between the spear proper and the javelin. The spear-heads which have been found in graves vary considerably in both form and size. They were fitted on to the shaft, by a socket which was open on one side. Other weapons appear to have been quite rare. Bows and arrows were certainly in use for sporting purposes, but there is no reason for believing that they were much used in warfare before the Danish invasions. They are very seldom met with in graves. The most common article of defensive armour was the shield, which was small and circular and apparently of quite thin lime-wood, the edge being formed probably by a thin band of iron. In the centre of the shield, in order to protect the hand which held it, was a strong iron boss, some 7 in. in diameter and projecting about 3 in. It is clear from literary evidence that the helmet (helm) and coat of chain mail (byrne) were also in common use.
They are seldom found in graves, however, whether owing to the custom of heriots or to the fact that, on account of their relatively high value, they were frequently handed on from generation to generation as heirlooms. Greaves are not often mentioned. It is worth noting that in later times the heriot of an "ordinary thegn" (medema þegn) - by which is meant apparently not a king's thegn but a man of the twelfhynde class - consisted of his horse with its saddle, etc. and his arms, or two pounds of silver as an equivalent of the whole. The arms required were probably a sword, helmet, coat of mail and one or two spears and shields. There are distinct indications that a similar outfit was fairly common in Ine's time, and that its value was much the same. One would scarcely be justified, however, in supposing that it was anything like universal; for the purchasing power of such a sum was at that time considerable, representing as it did about 16-20 oxen or 100-120 sheep. It would hardly be safe to credit men of the sixhynde class in general with more than a horse, spear and shield.
6. Agriculture and Village Life. - There is no doubt that a fairly advanced system of agriculture must have been known to the Anglo-Saxons before they settled in Britain. This is made clear above all by the representation of a plough drawn by two oxen in one of the very ancient rock-carvings at Tegneby in Bohuslän. In Domesday Book the heavy plough with eight oxen seems to be universal, and it can be traced back in Kent to the beginning of the 9th century. In this kingdom the system of agricultural terminology was based on it. The unit was the sulung (aratrum) or ploughland (from sulh, "plough"), the fourth part of which was the geocled or geoc (jugum), originally a yoke of oxen. An analogy is supplied by the carucata of the Danelagh, the eighth part of which was the bouata or "ox-land." In the 10th century the sulung seems to have been identified with the hide, but in earlier times it contained apparently two hides. The hide itself, which was the regular unit in the other kingdoms, usually contained 120 acres in later times and was divided into four girda (virgatae) or yardlands. But originally it seems to have meant simply the land pertaining to a household, and its area in early times is quite uncertain, though probably far less.
For the acre also there was in later times a standard length and breadth, the former being called furhlang (furlong) and reckoned at one-eighth of a mile, while the aecerbraedu or "acre-breadth" (chain) was also a definite measure. We need not doubt, however, that in practice the form of the acre was largely conditioned by the nature of the ground. Originally it is thought to have been the measure of a day's ploughing, in which case the dimensions given above would scarcely be reached. Account must also be taken of the possibility that in early times lighter teams were in general use. If so the normal dimensions of the acre may very well have been quite different.
The husbandry was of a co-operative character. In the 11th century it was distinctly unusual for a peasant to possess a whole team of his own, and there is no reason for supposing the case to have been otherwise in early times; for though the peasant might then hold a hide, the hide itself was doubtless smaller and not commensurate in any way with the ploughland. The holdings were probably not compact but consisted of scattered strips in common fields, changed perhaps from year to year, the choice being determined by lot or otherwise. As for the method of cultivation itself there is little or no evidence. Both the "two-course system" and the "three-course system" may have been in use; but on the other hand it is quite possible that in many cases the same ground was not sown more than once in three years. The prevalence of the co-operative principle, it may be observed, was doubtless due in large measure to the fact that the greater part of England, especially towards the east, was settled not in scattered farms or hamlets but in compact villages with the cultivated lands lying round them.
The mill was another element which tended to promote the same principle. There can be little doubt that before the Anglo-Saxons came to Britain they possessed no instrument for grinding corn except the quern (cweorn), and in remote districts this continued in use until quite late times. The grinding seems to have been performed chiefly by female slaves, but occasionally we hear also of a donkey-mill (esolcweorn). The mill proper, however, which was derived from the Romans, as its name (mylen, from Lat. molina) indicates, must have come into use fairly early. In the 11th century every village of any size seems to have possessed one, while the earliest references go back to the 8th century. It is not unlikely that they were in use during the Roman occupation of Britain, and consequently that they became known to the invaders almost from the first. The mills were presumably driven for the most part by water, though we have a reference to a windmill as early as the year 833.