Viking swords displayed at the Wikingermuseum in Hedeby.
|In service||732–1066 AD|
|Used by||Norse & various Europeans|
|Weight||avg. 1.1 kg (2.5 lb)|
|Length||91–100 cm (36–39 in)|
|length||avg. 74 cm (29 in)|
|Width||5 cm (2 in)|
The Viking sword was the primary weapon of the viking and main type of sword used in North Western Europe during the Viking Age. Although called "Viking sword", this style of sword was not exclusively limited to Vikings and was used by other people.
The Viking sword was the primary weapon of the Viking. It was a development of the Roman spatha, evolving out of the Migration Period sword in the 8th century, and into the classical knightly sword in the 11th century with the emergence of larger cross-guards. The Viking swords were pattern welded which gave the blade extra strength as the core was made of springy iron and edge of hard steel. Of particular note is the "Ulfberht" subset, which used steel of higher purity and carbon content than its peers in the region that may have been imported in ingot.
Blade length varied from 71 to 84 centimetres. Early examples have single, deep, wide fullers running the full length of the blade. Later examples have multiple narrow fullers. A fuller reduces the weight of the blade without compromising its strength. This weight reduction would allow the wielder to swing faster and harder strokes. Later swords also had more tapered points for increased effectiveness against chain mail.
Of the thousands of Viking swords that have been recovered, 171 of them, all made between 800 and 1000 AD, bear the inscription "+ULFBERH+T" or "+ULFBERHT+". Some of these Ulfberht swords were made of remarkably high-quality steel for their day. The steel had very few impurities (or slag), and unusually high carbon content, making it stronger, more flexible, and less brittle than most contemporary steel. Historians suggest that the Vikings made these swords from high-quality steel ingots from Central Asia which they acquired on the Volga trade route, which the Vikings are known to have used from the early-800s to the mid-1000s. Steel of this quality required production in crucibles at much higher furnace temperatures than European blacksmiths of the time were capable of producing at their forges. There was no evidence that Europeans could make crucible steel themselves until the Industrial Revolution 800 years later.
The Ulfberht swords made from this crucible steel would have had superior performance in battle. They were extremely rare and valuable, and would have been prized possessions of the most elite Vikings. Historians suggest that the Ulfberht-inscribed swords that were not made from crucible steel were probably contemporary fakes, trading on the reputation of true Ulfberht swords. However, the exact meaning or origin of the word Ulfberht is unclear. As these swords were made over a 200-year period, it is not possible they were all made by a single craftsman who was signing his work. The cross that appears twice in the inscriptions may be a reference to the Catholic church, as certain church officials of the time included such crosses in their signatures.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Viking swords.|
- Maev, Kennedy. "1,000 years on, perils of fake Viking swords are revealed". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
- Loades, Mike (2010). Swords and Swordsmen. Great Britain: Pen & Sword Books. ISBN 978-1-84884-133-8.
- NOVA, "Secrets of the Viking Sword", http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/secrets-viking-sword.html
- Wiglaf's Weapon Widget Database of Viking swords.