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Richard Hare




Location: Alberta, canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2008

Posts: 135

PostPosted: Sat 06 Sep, 2008 7:22 am    Post subject: Viking age scabbards.         Reply with quote

Hello all.
I have a Q. re. Viking age scabbards, as I am always impressed with the amount of wisdom on this forum!

Q. What percentage of Viking age swords had a metal fitting at the mouth / throat of the scabbard?

I asked a similar Q. on another forum, but did it badly and it has led to a bit of a bog-down!

Thanks in advance,

Richard.
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Russ Ellis
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Joined: 20 Aug 2003
Reading list: 42 books

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PostPosted: Mon 08 Sep, 2008 6:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Richard,

I saw your question over there and have been meaning to answer it. I know that "Sheath's and Scabbards" does have an aswer (dealing with scabbards found in England) at least based on the sampling of extant finds (which may or may not tell the actual story). As I recall the percentages changed depending on century but to be honest I don't remember the rationale that the author used explaining this and have been meaning to look it up for you. I am going to send myself an email right now to remind myself to look it up when I get home and if no one else pulls out their own copy of Sheaths and Scabbards before then I'll let you know tonight.

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Richard Hare




Location: Alberta, canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2008

Posts: 135

PostPosted: Mon 08 Sep, 2008 7:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great stuff Russ!

I'll keep my eyes peeled for your post.

Might be worth me looking for the book as well.

Thanks again,

R.
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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Mon 08 Sep, 2008 8:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Okay, let me see if I can sum these up in a sort of nutshell form (From Sheaths and Scabbards in Englad AD400 -1100 by Esther A. Cameron:

5th century:

Abingdon type: Earliest type found, made of copper alloy have punched or incised decoration
Brighthampton type: copper alloy and gilt, decoration similar to that of objects found in the Nydam bog deposit
Pewsey type: silver gilt, also others of copper alloy have runic inscriptions

6th century:

Smooth type: copper sheet alloy; little or no decoration
Ridged type: copper alloy; transverse grooves and ridges

7th century:
Extremely rare only a few have been found, the few found have been made of silver

8th to 11th century:

Sword fitting finds are rare: "scabbards were either unadorned or stripped of metal fittings before disposal. It would appear that according to the author less is actually known about the metal fittings during this time frame due to the Christianization of the populace i.e. swords were not buried with their owners regularly as they were before so most of the scabbard examples we have come from refuse heaps where the valuable metal fittings if they existed (and there is secondary evidence in a few cases that they did) were stripped. The companion theory that the author has is that at this later period swords were becoming more utilitarian and therefore didn't have the same amount of adornment as before. I'm not completely sure I agree with that analysis considering the swords continued use as a status symbol but there you have it.

So for the real answer to your question of the 351 sheaths and scabbards the author has identified 43 had a mouth band or roughly 12%. Some of the sheaths she identifies are knife sheaths so one would expect the percentage to be somewhat higher then that if one is only talking about swords.

A couple of caveats, you were asking about Viking swords and these percentages are for Anglo-Saxon swords. Even within England some areas seem more enamored of the mouth bands then others, so one could reasonably expect the same with Vikings. Further these only identify those discovered as previously mentioned that sample may very well have little to do with what was actually the percentage in period... or in other words this is just our best guess and we don't have a clue... Happy

I'm not sure I really helped much, but I think you are perfectly justified in putting a metal band at the throat of your Viking age scabbard... or not... whichever you prefer... Happy

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Richard Hare




Location: Alberta, canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2008

Posts: 135

PostPosted: Mon 08 Sep, 2008 10:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Russ,

I really appreciate you going to all the trouble of looking the data up, and adding it here in a detailed manner.
Thank you for your help re. styles,........ and you guessed right, I do have a "type s" that needs a house to live in.!

I also have to make a scabbard for a loose copy of the "Gilling-West "sword. (I wanted one like this, as I was raised close to where this sword was found)
The sword needs dressing up yet, Hopefully a winter projact....then a suitable scabbard!

Thanks again for all your help.

Best wishes,

Richard.
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M. Eversberg II




Location: California, Maryland, USA
Joined: 07 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Sep, 2008 5:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Russ, about what time did wool linings get discontinued from scabbards? If I recall correctly, the swords of the 12th century did not have this feature, but I could well be wrong.

M.

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Russ Ellis
Industry Professional




Joined: 20 Aug 2003
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Sep, 2008 6:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
Russ, about what time did wool linings get discontinued from scabbards? If I recall correctly, the swords of the 12th century did not have this feature, but I could well be wrong.

M.


That's another interesting question, once again, although it is counterintuitive we actually have fewer 12th century then say sixth or seventh century scabbards to work with, due to the change in burial practice. That limits our sample size considerably and also changes where that sampling comes from. Earlier period scabbard finds are typically from graves, later period ones are often from landfills and similar refuse deposits. The earlier period ones were not discarded the later period ones were. As you can imagine the state of the scabbards when they were deposited were somewhat different! Even so Cameron identifies 12th century examples with wool, textile, or fur (the inner was often other hair besides sheeps wool) linings although not as many as in earlier periods. Is this reduction because the practice was falling out of vogue or because our sample size is smaller? I am not sure. We do know that in even later periods scabbards were still lined with felt or even in one case I've read about velvet so they were not always just plain wood inside even much later. Again there is a lot of unanswered question here so I am not sure I helped at all.

I like Cameron because she tries to be pretty up front with what she doesn't know and tries to identify when she is theorizing unlike some other "authorities" that I have read. Her section on cuir boilli (spelling?) in the book is outstanding. It almost made me want to try it out! Happy

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M. Eversberg II




Location: California, Maryland, USA
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Sep, 2008 8:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I may have to get a copy of that book; still working on getting myself "The Anglo Saxon Shield" however Razz

M.

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Russ Ellis
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Joined: 20 Aug 2003
Reading list: 42 books

Posts: 2,607

PostPosted: Tue 09 Sep, 2008 8:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
I may have to get a copy of that book; still working on getting myself "The Anglo Saxon Shield" however Razz

M.


That's another excellent read... which reminds me I've got to get my copy back from the guy I loaned it too... (NEVER LOAN A FRIGGIN BOOK!!!)

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