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Nick Bourne




Location: London, United Kingdom
Joined: 09 Nov 2008

Posts: 44

PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 9:45 am    Post subject: Viking sword beads         Reply with quote

I recently went to a reenactors markets and came across and interesting little thing. Apparently in many viking burials very large beads of various materials have been found next to swords and seem to be associated with them.
I was just wondering what the great and the good of the forum (thats you) know about this phenomenon, whether it was attached to the sword or the scabbard, or if it was just laid there for the sake of it.
Thanks in advance for any info,
Nick
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Myles Mulkey





Joined: 31 Jul 2008

Posts: 250

PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 10:01 am    Post subject: Re: Viking sword beads         Reply with quote

Nick Bourne wrote:
I recently went to a reenactors markets and came across and interesting little thing. Apparently in many viking burials very large beads of various materials have been found next to swords and seem to be associated with them.
I was just wondering what the great and the good of the forum (thats you) know about this phenomenon, whether it was attached to the sword or the scabbard, or if it was just laid there for the sake of it.
Thanks in advance for any info,
Nick
Nick,
It's my understanding that these beads are called life-stones, since they were believed to be able to heal wounds and keep a wounded warrior alive. They were attached to the scabbards on the Migration Period examples I have seen, like the one in this photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Goldgriffspatha.jpg
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Anders Backlund




Location: Sweden
Joined: 24 Oct 2007

Posts: 629

PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 10:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is relevant to my interests! Surprised

On that picture, does it simply hang from the scabbard suspension system or is the bead itself attached to the scabbard somehow?

Also, what materials were these beads commonly made from?

The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

"This doesn't look easy... but I bet it is!"
-Homer Simpson.
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Myles Mulkey





Joined: 31 Jul 2008

Posts: 250

PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 1:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anders Backlund wrote:
This is relevant to my interests! Surprised

On that picture, does it simply hang from the scabbard suspension system or is the bead itself attached to the scabbard somehow?

Also, what materials were these beads commonly made from?
I think it hangs from the suspension system, just tied with a cord of some kind. The sagas don't really say, and the only example I know of is in Kormak's Saga, where it's stated "Bersi had a sharp sword called Hviting, with a Lifstein (life stone) attached to it, which he carried in many dangers."
Hrolf Kraki's sword Skofnung is also said to possess a life stone, but it is supposedly set into the hilt. Perhaps like the garnet inlayed hilts of the Migration Period?

Anyway, I'm not sure what kinds of materials they were made from, as I only know of these few specific finds and occurances in the sagas. You can see another picture on Patrick Barta's site here: http://www.templ.net/pics-weapons/117-germani.../a17bv.jpg which shows his Blucina sword. In his text description, he states that the original stone was made of either white chalcedony or agate, and that he used agate for his reproduction.

I wish I had sources to back this up, but I seem to remember some other finds in stone, and possibly some that were made of bone, ivory, and precious metals. I also seem to remember that the "life stone" phenomenon is related to the sword pyramid phenomenon of the Anglo-Saxons, but I might be mistaken on that one.
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R Lister




Location: Hamwic
Joined: 01 Jan 2010

Posts: 34

PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 1:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From what i remember the one at petersfinger was large and of amber.

There is one that is glass, and i can't remember where that one is from.


There are severel examples of sword beads from migration period graves. But my brain has deserted me on where they are.

The bead makers at the living history fair in warrwick last weekend had some very nice examples of replica saxon glass beads, and sword beads. I can't remember the company, but they are well worth a look.


Rich
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Nick Bourne




Location: London, United Kingdom
Joined: 09 Nov 2008

Posts: 44

PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 1:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The name of the company at the fair was Tillerman Beads, they sell glass beads meant to represent amber ones found in the Petersfinger grave.

Here's a link http://www.tillermanbeads.co.uk/amber-sword-b...p-410.html
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Douglas S





Joined: 18 Feb 2004

Posts: 177

PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 2:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Is it me, or does it seem that the material evidence (swords from archaeology) are from the early Migration Age, while the the textual evidence (sagas, etc.) are from a much later period?

Or can we say that many of the Norse sagas are legends begun in the Migration era?
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Tom King




Location: florida
Joined: 11 Sep 2009
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 4:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow, reading this I just realized I have a circular chunk of Tigers eye with a hole in it. Guess whats going on my scabbard tonight.

::Edit::

Done, now I have a leather wrapped scabbard with a life stone for a norman sword. Hey it could happen >.<


Last edited by Tom King on Tue 02 Mar, 2010 8:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Ken Speed





Joined: 09 Oct 2006

Posts: 654

PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 6:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Do you think it would be OK to use a Lifesaver or a washer until I can find a bead? Big Grin
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Myles Mulkey





Joined: 31 Jul 2008

Posts: 250

PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 7:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ken Speed wrote:
Do you think it would be OK to use a Lifesaver or a washer until I can find a bead? Big Grin
Haha, lifesavers sound appropriate Laughing Out Loud
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R Lister




Location: Hamwic
Joined: 01 Jan 2010

Posts: 34

PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 11:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

@ Doug S

I only know a little about C6th stuff.....

From my understanding, there was not alot of written evidence in the 4th=8the centurys. It was a very long and very labourous process, and literacy rates were low.

Everything was passed orally. If i remember correctly, literacy in the 5th century was counted on you being able to recite your lineage to five generations, be able to name the seven magical herbs, and be able to compose a poem on the wayback from battle about said battle.

Stories, riddles, lore, etc would be passed orally. Most of the people with this information were pagan. So when the monks came along with christianity, they wrote down everything with a christian slant. So the original reasons for things were lost and replaced with what the monks interpriated.

i hope this makes sense.

@ Tom King

are tigers eyes from africa and australia. I know there was trade arround the med, but is africa and australia a bit far? However its your sword and if you like it, go ahead. There is evidence for trade from the ruins of the roman empire in north africa coming into the wessex area. So you can blag it.
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David Huggins




Location: UK
Joined: 25 Jul 2007

Posts: 490

PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2010 2:17 am    Post subject: Viking sword beads         Reply with quote

Hi Nick

The folk from Tillerman beads are very knowledgable about beads in general, and I would be suprised if they described them as 'Viking' sword beads, I have some of their reproduced glass sword beads and these are all of early anglo-saxon
provenance and are described as such.

Most if not all of these bead finds are from the Migration/Merovingian/Early Anglo-Saxon period. Hrolf Kraki's Saga falls within the Migration period.

The beads are made from a number of different materials. Keep an eye out for Paul Mortimer's fourth coming book which includes a discussion on these beads and their significance.

best
Dave

and he who stands and sheds blood with us, shall be as a brother.
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Stuart Thompson




Location: Walton-on-the-Naze
Joined: 15 Feb 2010

Posts: 118

PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2010 3:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I had a large bead (Amber) fixed to my old scabbard. It goes with the healing properties of amber, as well wrapping a tiny bronze 'valkyrie' inside the scabbard (Within two layers of leather)

This being my own 'get out of jail' card so as when I 'die' in battle a valkyerie will be sure to come collect me. You cant see it but I know it's there. Surprised no-one mentioned 'sword beads' before.
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Myles Mulkey





Joined: 31 Jul 2008

Posts: 250

PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2010 5:36 am    Post subject: Re: Viking sword beads         Reply with quote

David Huggins wrote:
Keep an eye out for Paul Mortimer's fourth coming book which includes a discussion on these beads and their significance.
When is this coming out, by the way? I heard about it some time ago and got quite excited Laughing Out Loud
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Tom King




Location: florida
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PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2010 5:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well Lister, it looks cool. It'll be a bead my grandfather found in the roman fort ________, in gaul or England. Big Grin
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Nick Bourne




Location: London, United Kingdom
Joined: 09 Nov 2008

Posts: 44

PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2010 11:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you all for your input, I have to say its a bit of a disspointment to hear that these were used in a much earlier period than I was led to believe but we live and learn.
Just as a bit of an off shoot to this thread does anyone have any idea how viking era scabbards were decorated by their wearers, vikings seemed to bling up everything else they owned so any ideas?
Thanks again,
Nick
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David Huggins




Location: UK
Joined: 25 Jul 2007

Posts: 490

PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2010 11:16 am    Post subject: Viking sword beads         Reply with quote

Hi Myles

The book should be published within this year, perhaps also of interest by another Ulfhednar collegue and friend, Steve Pollington who co-authors 'Wayland's Work - Anglo-Saxon Art, Myth and Material Culture 4th-7th Century' and is due publication in April, follow this link http://www.stevepollington.com/books.html

best
Dave

and he who stands and sheds blood with us, shall be as a brother.
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K J Seago




Location: Suffolk, England
Joined: 12 Feb 2009
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PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2010 11:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i reckon if you were desperate to have a bead on your sword, you could say it was part of your "peace bond" arrangement, i know they're a later thing and if you're worried about people hadling your "precious" Big Grin it'll stop'em too!
just another student of an interesting subject, Happy
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Johan Gemvik




Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Joined: 10 Nov 2009

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PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2010 11:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anglo saxons and Vikings were pretty much the same culture, or perhaps it's better described as they blended into one another more and more over time thoughout the viking age. Well, if not exactly the same, brother cultures at least.

Consider the huge interaction between Anglo Saxon and Scandinavian culture during the viking age, especially after half of England was more or less forcibly settled by Vikings (see the history of the Dane law) as well as Anglo Saxon crafted swords and jewelry has turned up in Danish and Swedish grave mounds. i.e. the Dybeck sword I'm re-creating was most likely made by Anglo saxon craftsmen known at the time (late 900s) for this type of master craftsmanship and shipped over to Skåne (Denmark at the time, but Sweden today).
Also, if you look at Constantinople employing elite Varangian guards, Swedes, Norwegians, Danes and Anglo Saxons in great numbers took their turns at that. To the rulers of Constantinople they were clearly seen to be of the same mettle and troop type in battle.
And look at the history of celtic and scandinavian knotwork, these people were influencing each other, not just that, but sharing culture, arts, weapons, armour styles, heroic legends and even dress fashion on a fundamental level. Even language, as can even be seen in modern English.

So what am I getting at? Whether one agrees with my idea that "everyone was a Viking" or not, certainly something was getting across the North sea, like swords. So why not Life Stones? Seems like a good thing to have and Vikings were both practical and superstitious, can't you just imagine an Anglo Saxon weapons trader insisting the Viking buyer simply must have a Life Stone with the Sword, "-Look, I'll throw it in for half price, just half a silver, my kids'll starve, but at least you're safe" Wink

Several of the sagas mention Life stones even for Viking age in Scandinavia, here's a passage from the Kormacssaga:
"Now, Bersi owned the sword they call Whitting; a sharp sword it was, with a life-stone to it; and that sword he had carried in many a fray."
I'm not sure but didn't Skofnuing also have a life stone? I'll look it up. Anyway, that sword is said in the story to have been taken from a Danish burial mound.
Not that you can use the sagas as a definite source for real archaeology, but it's indicating the use of Life stones might well have been around in Scandinavia in Viking times. To me that's good enough for at least plausible re-enactment.

From this thread I've decided I'm getting a Life stone for my viking sword. Any suggestions on material I could use? That picture earlier looks like some sort of orange stone, not glass or amber? Or could it be unpolished "raw" amber?

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Douglas S





Joined: 18 Feb 2004

Posts: 177

PostPosted: Fri 05 Mar, 2010 2:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

R Lister wrote:
@ Doug S
i hope this makes sense.


Sorry, it was a rhetorical question. Happy
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