The Viking Sword And Other Equipment

The Viking’s sword was his most prized possession. A good quality weapon was valued at about half a crown, and when you consider that this amount of money was worth the equivalent of 12 milk cows, these swords didn’t come cheap!

The wealthier Viking could afford a metal helm, a chainmail byrnie, a coat of animal skins and of course his shield. This was made of wood, about five eighths of an inch thick, faced with cow hide with a metal boss in the centre.

The sword itself was between two and three inches wide at the hilt, double edged, so it was good for cutting and slashing, but it also tapered to a point, so it could be used for thrusting as well. A wide, central fuller ran the length of the blade. Virtually all Viking swords had a heavy pommel on the end of the handle as a counter-weight, which made handling easier.

Because of work carried out at England’s National Physical Laboratory, it’s now known that a lot of sword blades were made in Herat, the old name for Afghanistan. The overall length of the sword was about 36″, the blade itself about 30″. It weighed about two and a half pounds. Norse law laid down that Vikings had to carry their swords at all times. The blades themselves were pattern welded, laminated from high and low carbon steel. The high carbon steel gave the sword its sharpness and durability, while the low carbon steel gave flexibility.

Vikings of high status would have their swords ornamented with silver and gold accents and inlays, while their scabbards would be decorated in the same way. The inside of the scabbard was normally lined with sheep’s wool. This acted as an excellent lubricant and prevented rust from forming on the weapon.

The National Physical Laboratory, N.P.L., analyzed Viking swords that had been found in funeral sites, rivers, etc. They used a powerful scanning electron microscope which showed that many swords were made of imperfectly melted steel consisting of a mixture of iron and carbonaceous materials which, when heated together, gave them high carbon steel.

The interesting part is that N.P.L’s. results agree with descriptions of ancient sword making in Herat, described by the Arab writer/philosopher Al-Kindi. This links to a known Viking trade route down the Volga and across the Caspian Sea to Iran. Until this discovery, it wasn’t known that Vikings had brought crucible steel back to Scandanavia and integrated ancient Arab steel making methods with their own swordsmithing.

The top of the line swords were made by a gentleman named Ulfberht. His name is in raised letters on the hilt. He’d be the equivalent to Colt, or perhaps Heckler & Koch today!

Not only that, but certain swords that have been recovered have been judged good enough to be used in combat today. That’s quite a tribute to the swordsmith who fashioned the weapons all those centuries ago.

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