Viking Sword Museums
The Viking Age is noted for its long swords, which are some of the most well-known artifacts from the early medieval period. Judging by the covers of books on Viking-age history and archaeology, at least, the word “Viking” calls up images of soldiers.
Knowing the maker’s name is useful because it lets us learn a lot about the sword since swords with this maker’s name on them have been discovered. We feel that Ulfbert was a smith from the Rhine region, as there are numerous blades inscribed with his name throughout Europe. We believe he made this weapon, as it has more in common with steel than iron and is therefore stronger.
The Normans brought forth longer, more flexible swords that were simpler to use than the previous weapons. The newer blades were faster and swifter, resulting in greater efficiency. Iron swords tended to break or shatter frequently in the past. This may be observed throughout Norse sagas, which are jam-packed with references to impatient warriors who must retreat behind the battle line “to draw his sword under his foot” in order for it to strengthen.
Around the year 870, there were several Viking attacks all throughout southern England, and we know of at least two that attacked Chertsey Abbey. According to legend, the Vikings burned down the abbey at least once – most likely in 871 or 884 – as well as later in 1011, massacring the abbot, prior, and 90 monks.
What counts as a Viking sword?
It turns out to be difficult to tell a “Viking sword” from the numerous types of Viking swords. Jan Petersen, a Norwegian antiquarian, created the most widely accepted Norwegian sword typology in De Norsk Vikingesverd (1919; an English translation can be found here) over a century ago. Type is a classic example of object typology with a worldwide presence and the potential to identify usage patterns across Europe. “Type,” on the other hand, is too broad. It does not include the entire sword; rather, it only includes one component, the hilt, and those variances are usually owing to minor or unimportant variations in the curve of the hilt guard or shape of pommel. It was enough that it continues to be used as a synonym today; but it may be subjective, and two scholars may evaluate a sword differently using the same method.
Outside of Scandinavia, a large number of Viking swords were also produced. Carolingian king Charles the Bald prohibited pagan warriors in northern Gaul from buying Frankish weapons in AD 864, owing to Frankish steel being one of the driving forces behind Viking-age markets. Scandinavian-style hilts were added or removed from Frankish blades, muddying the issue even further. It’s been discovered that the greatest “Viking” swords may be Frankenstein monsters constructed out of parts from both regions.
Viking swords in the National Museums Scotland collections
Let’s have a look at the weapons in our collection, which include any from the ninth to the eleventh centuries, and see what they have to tell us about Scotland’s Viking Age.
The most recent research contains 34 to 36 established accounts of “Viking swords” from Scotland, with 30 being confirmed gravesites. We can now add the stunning new finding from a boat-grave in Ardnamurchan to these. Of these, 17 may be seen in the National Museum’s collection. We’ve also acquired shards of three early-medieval pommels via the Treasure Trove method. Our collection includes two Viking swords from a burial site at Ballaugh and Maughold on the Isle of Man, which were presented to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1824 and are now on display at Kingdom of the Scots for completists.
Of the 22 swords in our collection, 19 are from graves. We have a collection of aspirational grave goods, not a picture of all Viking swords or a depiction of how they were used on a daily basis.
At least 10 of the 34 Scottish swords in the previous study were classified as Petersen’s Type H. Petersen’s Type H is by far the most prevalent sword type in Scandinavia, so for now we can infer that Viking-age burials in Scotland were typical of their time. All four swords from Westness, Rousay, Orkney’s renowned cemetery (including an antiquarian find from Swandro nearby) are of Type H. They’re usually, but not always, adorned with a unique pattern of alternating strips of copper-alloy and silver, which produces a stunning multicolored light show when they catch the light. We are on secure ground in referring to these as “Viking swords” solely because they were so prevalent throughout Scandinavia and among the Viking diaspora.
Of the remaining Scottish weapons for which a classification may be made, 14 are classified in a variety of other types. These are the ones I’m most interested in since they demonstrate people who went against the norm by selecting something different than the most popular type. With one of these, you can learn all there is to know about ‘Viking identity.’
The Eigg sword hilt, Type D, is one of the most well-known Viking era symbols in Scotland. It has been utilized as an emblem for the Viking period outside of Scotland, and its inlaid silver, gold, and bronze work is exceedingly unique. One of several “prestige swords” discovered during excavations at high-status Viking Age sites – including four from Ireland – that are considered to be very pricey. Some people believe they were made in Frankia, while others think they were inspired by it. It’s more probable that it’s both and neither at the same time. They seem to have been quite popular in diaspora areas, albeit (kind of) Frankish in form and (kind of) Scandinavian in style. The Type H hilts are similar.
We’ve identified Type L swords, which are often said to be of Anglo-Saxon origin, as well as Types X, Q and B with Danish and Frankish distributions; we’ve also uncovered some from further afield. Over the years, the sword from Gortons in Strathspey has been labeled Y, P or L, and it’s conceivable that we have a weapon here that’s purposefully complex to identify – maybe because of the mixing of distinct types. It’s Voltron of Viking swords all rolled into one.
Kulturhistorisk Museum in Oslo and a unique sword from the Viking era
In the Norwegian capital of Oslo, the Kulturhistorisk Museum has joined forces with Interspectral to illustrate portions of its world-famous collection of Viking Age relics. The Langeid Sword, a one-of-a-kind Viking sword from the early 11th century, was reconstructed with Interspectral’s 3D modeling expertise. The Langeid is the only surviving Viking-era sword with intricate inlay and decoration on its handle. The most ornate of the 3000 or so Viking era swords believed to exist in Norway is the Langeid sword, which has intricate inlay and decoration on the grip. Only royalty and prominent individuals in Norse society were allowed to have such a magnificent weapon.
The story behind the Langeid sword
The Langeid Sword was created in a period of great transition for Scandinavia, when it was converting from Norse religion to Christianity. Since their discovery in 2011, researchers have been enthralled with these symbols. In 2018, a CT-scan was done in order to increase understanding of the sword and acquire extra information about the symbols. The researchers gained important insights into metallurgical elements, how the weapon was built, and how to interpret the markings thanks to theCT-scan. Inside Explorer was essential for analyzing data as part of the research effort, speeding up the search for new knowledge about Langeid Sword.
“In order to design a new Viking Age museum in Oslo, we tested and experimented with various modes of communicating our collection. Using Inside Explorer, we were able to produce 3D models of our artefacts available and explore the possibilities inherent in doing so. It’s been beneficial for researchers as well as the general public to access and learn the Langeid Sword’s history. This trial has proven to be highly successful that it is now featured in a permanent Viking exhibit at Oslo’s History Museum.” Project leader at Kulturhistorisk museum Göran Joryd,
The Viking Ship Museum, which is already one of Norway’s most popular attractions, will be expanded threefold. The new Viking Age museum planned by Kulturhistorisk Museum will be ten times the size and allow for even more visitors. The new Viking exhibit will include both well-known ships from the period and a unique collection. Inside Explorer’s proposal to include research findings and a 3D model of the Langeid sword and other artifacts into the new exhibition space has been accepted.
The Cawood Sword from Yorkshire Museum
A magnificent Viking sword was recently discovered in the River Ouse near Cawood, about 10 miles south of York.
By comparing the Cawood Sword to a similar sword discovered in Norway, which was most likely created by the same craftsman, it may be dated to approximately 1100. Although the swords are nearly identical, with the exception of the inscription on the hilt in runes on the Norwegian version, one has an inscription in Runes on its scabbard. Because of these markings, both swords may be very precisely dated from written clues in this Viking language.
The sword’s design is unquestionably medieval, dating to the demise of the Viking age and the start of the Medieval era. The pommel, or top of the handle, is usually Viking in nature, while the guard is generally associated with the medieval period.
The blade was crafted with great precision. The thickest steel available at the time was used to create the blade, allowing for the exquisite motto to be created only by the greatest artisans.
The inscription is written in a mixture of capital letters that do not form any recognizable words. On one side, they’re printed in Roman type, while on the other, they’re written in Lombardic script. These letters were said to represent phrases or sayings and served as symbols for ideas. It’s thought that the words “sword” and “owner” relate to a religious phrase that gave him enhanced combat power.
University Museum of Bergen: A Viking Age sword found at Haukeli
Gøran Olsen spent a day fishing on the lake in 2012 and found something between stones at Haukeli. The discovery is currently housed at the University Museum, where it seems to be a single-edged Viking sword from the end of the Viking Age (c.800-950). Watch Gøran’s story about discovering an incredible find.
The burial site is high in the mountains, on a historic trade route that linked Eastern and Western Norway. Single-edged swords of the Viking Age are quite popular in Western Norway, frequently placed with their owners into graves. Although there are only a few Viking Age tombs in the hills, one of the most numerous Iron Age cemetery areas may be found not far away in Røldal. Norsemen would usually bury their dead closer to their homes.
The weapon will be kept for several months at the University Museum before being put on display in Viking Age exhibitions. The site will be investigated further to reveal some of the history behind its odd position and to see whether it was made during a burial or not. This will tell us more about the mountain area’s exploitation during the Viking Age. The snow is most likely to be gone by then, giving researchers the opportunity to conduct these tests.
The Sæbø sword (also known as the Thurmuth sword) is a 9th-century Viking sword discovered in a barrow at Sæbø, Vikøyri, in Norway’s Sogn region. It is now on display at the Bergen Museum in Bergen, Norway.
The inscription on the blade of the sword has been identified as a runic inscription with a swastika symbol by Stephens (1867), who wrote: “The hilt is ornamented with plates of twisted iron, and between them are figures in cartouches. There is an inscription on the blade which appears to be a runic inscription including a swastika sign.” The inscription is barely legible, and the blade’s preservation is poor, but if Stephens’ reading is correct, the sword would be one of a kind among Viking swords with a runic blade inscription.
Petersen (1919) classifies the sword as ‘Type C,’ noting that it is distinct in having traces of a metal wire at the broadsides of the upper hilt, when compared to other examples of the type with horizontal ridges or projecting edges, or less frequently inlaid forged stripes or protruding moldings that appear to be imitations of twisted or smooth thread. Because of its uniqueness, it is characterized as an imitation of a foreign [continental] sword inscription. There is an inscription etched in iron inlay along the blade’s center near the hilt.