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Viking sword

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Title: Viking sword  
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Subject: Spatha, Crossguard, Longsword, Sverd, Ulen sword
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Viking sword

Viking sword.
Viking swords displayed at the Wikingermuseum in Hedeby.
Type Sword
Production history
Produced c. 8th to 11th centuries
Weight avg. 1.1 kg (2.4 lb)
Length 91 cm (36 in) to 100 cm (39 in)
Blade length avg. 74 cm (29 in)
Width 4.4 cm (1.7 in) to 6.2 cm (2.4 in)

Blade type Double-edged, straight bladed, slight taper
Hilt type One-handed with pommel, variable guard

The so-called Viking sword is the type of sword prevalent in Western and Northern Europe during the Viking Age.

The Viking or Carolingian-era sword was a development of the Merovingian sword (more specifically, the Frankish production of swords in the 6th to 7th century, itself derived from the Roman spatha) and the Viking sword in turn gave rise to the high medieval knightly sword in the 11th to 12th centuries.[1]


  • Terminology 1
  • Morphology 2
  • Metallurgy 3
  • Notable examples 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Two men armed with swords, detail of an illustration from the Stuttgart Psalter (fol. 7v), dated c. 830.

Although called "Viking sword", this style of sword was not in any way limited to Vikings; indeed, the center of Western European sword production at the time was in the Frankish Empire, and many of the sword blades found in Scandinavia are of Frankish manufacture, imported by trade, ransom payment or looting.

Swords of the early Viking Age (8th to 9th centuries) can also be termed "Carolingian swords",[2] while swords of the later Viking Age (10th to 11th centuries) blend into the category of Norman swords or the early development of the knightly sword.


The seminal study of the topic is due to Jan Petersen (De Norske Vikingsverd, 1919). Petersen introduced a morphological typology, mostly based on hilt shape. Petersen's types are identified by capital letters A–Z. Petersen focussed on swords found in Norway; Alfred Geibig (Entwicklung des Schwertes im Mittelalter) introduced an additional typology based on blade morphology (types 1–14) and a typology of pommel shapes (types 1–17, with subtypes), focussing on swords of the 8th to 12th centuries found within the boundaries of East Francia (as such including the transitional types between the "Viking" and the "knightly" sword).

Blade length varied from 71 to 84 centimetres (27 to 33 inches).[3] Early examples have single, deep, wide fullers running the full length of the blade.[3] Later examples have multiple narrow fullers.[3] A fuller reduces the weight of the blade without compromising its strength. All have short single-handed hilts with triangle, lobed or cocked-hat style pommels. Pommels were made of iron and were heavier than on the earlier Merovingian swords.[3]


An important aspect in the development of the European sword between the early and high medieval periods is the availability of high-quality steel. Migration period as well as early medieval sword blades were primarily produced by the technique of pattern welding, also known as "false Damascus" steel. Blooms of high-quality steel large enough to produce an entire sword blade were only rarely available in Europe at the time, mostly via import from Central Asia, where a crucible steel industry began to establish itself from c. the 8th century. Thus, swords of the Viking Age are still predominantly made from "false Damascus" steel, but with a gradually increasing proportion of high-quality mono steel blades.[4]

Of the thousands of sword blade that have been recovered, about 170, dated to between the 9th to 11th centuries, bear the inscription +VLFBERHT+ (or variants), after which they are known as the Ulfberht group. While some of these swords continue to make use of the pattern welding technology of the Migration period sword, some of them were made of remarkably high-quality mono steel or crucible steel.[5]

Notable examples

A sword dated to the 10th century, with a blade of German/Ottonian manufacture classified as a Petersen type L variant (Evison's "Wallingford Bridge" type) and hilt fittings added by an Anglo-Saxon craftsman, was recovered from the River Witham opposite Monks Abbey, Lincoln in 1848.[6] Classified , Peirce (1990) makes special mention of this sword as "breath-taking", "one of the most splendid Viking swords extant".[7] The Lincoln sword is also remarkable for being one of only two known bearing the blade inscription Leutfrit (+ LEUTLRIT), the other being a find from Tatarstan (at the time Volga Bulgaria, now kept in the Historical Museum of Kazan). On the reverse side, the blade is inlaid with a double scroll pattern.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Oakeshott, R.E. (1996). The Archaeology of Weapons, Arms and Armour from Prehistory to[ the Age of Chivalry. New York: Dover Publications Inc.  
  2. ^ Goran Bilogrivić, Carolingian Swords from Croatia – New Thoughts on an Old Topic, Studia Universitatis Cibiniensis X (2013). V. D. Hampton, Viking Age Arms and Armor Originating in the Frankish Kingdom, The Hilltop Review 4.2 (2011). Madeleine Durand-Charre, "Merovingian and Carolingian swords", Microstructure of Steels and Cast Irons, Engineering Materials and Processes, Springer Science & Business Media (2013), 16ff.
  3. ^ a b c d Loades, Mike (2010). Swords and Swordsmen. Great Britain: Pen & Sword Books.  
  4. ^ Maev, Kennedy (27 December 2008). "1,000 years on, perils of fake Viking swords are revealed". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  5. ^ NOVA, "Secrets of the Viking Sword",
  6. ^ British Museum 1848,10-21,1 Antiquities from the River Witham, Archaeology Series No. 13, Lincolnshire Museums Information Sheet (1979)
  7. ^ Peirce, Ian (1990), "The Development of the Medieval Sword c.850–1300", in Christopher Harper-Bill, Ruth Harvey (eds.), The Ideals and Practice of Medieval Knighthood III: Papers from the Fourth Strawberry Hill Conference, 1988, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, pp. 139–158 (p. 144).
  8. ^ Britisn Museum 1848,1021.1. Kendrick, T. D. (1934): 'Some types of ornamentation on Late Saxon and Viking Period Weapons in England', Eurasia Septentrionalis Antiqua, ix, 396 and fig. 2; Maryon, H. (1950): 'A Sword of the Viking Period from the River Witham', The Antiquaries Journal, xxx, 175-79; '

External links

  • Wiglaf's Weapon Widget Database of Viking swords.
  • The Norwegian Viking Swords by Jan Petersen, translated by Kristin Noer An online English translation of Jan Petersen's typology of Viking swords.
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