Vikings were tribes of Norsemen who originated from Scandinavia. Generally they were known as sailors and warriors. Many Europeans considered them barbarians and raiders because of their ware prone tendencies.
It should be mentioned that their weapons slightly but differed from Europeans ones. Actually, it should be made a distinction between Viking Era weapons and Viking weapons itself. The first category includes Anglo-Saxon weapons along with many others tribes arms.
Very few weapons of Viking origin have survived till our days. This is not because of low quality of the weapons as some tend to believe. The reality is that Vikings used to bury their weapons (swords, helmets and armor) in the ground when the warriors died. Thus, many of the artifacts survived either in bad conditions or didn’t survive at all. Some experts affirm that there are only about 1000 artifacts of Viking origin which survived; all of them are spread in major museums around the world.
Most of the found swords date back to 10th century and were mainly dug out Iceland; though evidences of Viking weapons are spread throughout the Europe.
Short Description of Swords
Most of the Viking swords are simply designed. They are equipped with a typical double edged blades and strong handles. They are actually single-handed to let one of the hands free for the shield.
Usually, blades ranged from 24 to 36 inches long, but the most typical reached from 27.50 to 31.50 inches. In late Viking Era blades have extended up to 40 inches.
The blade’s width was from 1.5 to 2.3 inches. The range of sword’s weight situated between 2 and 4 lbs. Blades had a slight taper, which helped bring the center of balance closer to the grip. It goes towards the point and deeper central fuller on both sides.
The hilt construction with its elements (pommel and hand guard) provided needed balance for the huge blade.
Blade Creation Art
During the early Viking Era there was present a specific tradition of blade forging. It is now called pattern welding! This technique was used because of poor knowledge of blacksmiths concerning all details of smelting process and lack of a proper control over it.
It was tended to obtain flexible, hard and resistant blade! This indeed was very rarely achieved and only on incidental basis. Thus, the smith used available materials, creating a composite material:
Step 1. There were selected bars of different types of iron in a specific order and bundled together.
Step 2. The bars were welded into a layered bar.
The pattern welding process created wonderful and extremely thin patterns. Later in the Viking era, the pattern welding was no longer used because the iron control became available.
On the other hand, there were developed methods for blade’s decoration. Blades used to be inlaid with precious metals such as silver and gold. The inlays didn’t play only the decoration role they sometimes indicated the smith’s or possessor’s name.
To create inlays there were necessary to cut a groove into the blade (usually in the fuller) and then hammer a wire of desired metal in place.
Distinguishable Features of the Hilts
It was notices that in different period of Viking era the design of the hilts differed. Generally, the hilts were classified by Jan Petersen in 1919. He mentioned that the size and shape of the hilt vary along with the construction details. One of the main criteria of classification was the pommel. So there were distinguished swords with:
– Fastened to the sword pommel
– Framed to the upper guard pommel
– Attached to the tang pommel
It is very interesting to observe how hilt components were decorated! There were several techniques: scribing, wire inlays, etc. The inscriptions were not accidental they indicated the maker or the possessor (as the blades did too).
The materials the grips were made of varied with intensity from wood cores with leather wrapping, to wire wrapped and precious metals made. Some of the swords even were covered with embossed plates of precious metals.
To observe the uniqueness of the Viking swords it is enough to watch the photos. Pay special attention to the details!