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Laurie Brandt




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Aug, 2013 11:08 am    Post subject: Ulfberht Swords         Reply with quote

I have see the Nova TV show in the Ulberht Swords on youtube. I have been active with the SCA as a name herald. Ulfberht is a first name, but there is no last name or epithet. Why is it in the Latin alphabet and not in runic? may be Ulfberht meaning "bright wolf," is the name of the shop that made it?
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Aug, 2013 11:26 am    Post subject: Re: Ulfberht Swords         Reply with quote

Laurie Brandt wrote:
I have see the Nova TV show in the Ulberht Swords on youtube. I have been active with the SCA as a name herald. Ulfberht is a first name, but there is no last name or epithet. Why is it in the Latin alphabet and not in runic? may be Ulfberht meaning "bright wolf," is the name of the shop that made it?


The general consensus is that Ulfberht may have been the original maker who later became something of a brand name. It may have been the name of the original smith and later the shop he built. The name isn't in runic because the blades were typically produced in the Rhineland area, not in the Nordic countries. Many variations of the name can be found on blades, as forgeries were common and the makers couldn't spell. This in itself is evidence that Ulfberht blades were know for their quality, ie. someone was willing to fake the name for its brand recognition. Think of Ulberht as the period equivalent of Nike.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Henrik Granlid




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Aug, 2013 2:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another possibillity presented to Peter Johnsson by a friend of his, IIRC, is that Ulf was an old saxon name for the sparks coming out of the pyre during the smelting and forging processes, whilst Behrt is old saxon for Bright (do also consider the resemblence between the old name and the modern day anglosaxon english name).

This would give the meaning "Bright Spark" or "Bright Ember", essentially stamping how the blade was made on the sword, much like a modern day sticker saying "Made by the highest quality steel".

Thusly, the saxon Ulfbehrt is NOT the same as the nordic Ulfbehrt in meaning, where one denotes sparks of a very strong colour, whilst the other reffers to a bright or strong wolf.

Furthermore, the reason for the letters being written in latin rather than runic alphabet would be the very same reason, they were likely made (originally at least) by saxon (french) monks or clergymen, not by nordic blacksmiths, the clergy knew how to write in latin, not how to write in runic.
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Shahril Dzulkifli




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Nov, 2013 9:32 pm    Post subject: Ulfberht Swords         Reply with quote


Ulfberht sword (bottom)

I think Henrik is right.
To me it is quite bizarre to see Roman letters engraved on the blade of a Viking sword like Ulfberht itself.

“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength”

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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 2:57 am    Post subject: Re: Ulfberht Swords         Reply with quote

Shahril Dzulkifli wrote:

Ulfberht sword (bottom)

I think Henrik is right.
To me it is quite bizarre to see Roman letters engraved on the blade of a Viking sword like Ulfberht itself.


Not that bizarre if you remember these blades were used not just by vikings but by most of the Europe at that time. And that Ulfberht himself probably wasn't a Scandinavian.
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 6:44 am    Post subject: "Ulberht" our perceptions         Reply with quote

Hi All

Great topic. The origin of the "Bright Wolf" idea came from Dr. Keith Alderson and I working on some language stuff helping Ric Furrer prepare for the film shoot. It came about pretty organically and Keith being an expert in early Germanic languages.

The intent of the word could follow a couple different meanings and or translations. One needs to remember when following such threads in history that the words and the perception of them in period are not going to be the same as what we perceive today completely out of the context of the piece and its time.

Our thinking is that the phrase could be interpreted as Bright wolf, shiny wolf, bright fang, gleaming tooth or the like. Our feeling is it is a kenning. The name of the sword like excalibur, or durendal. This would fit in the context of the period and explain why the distribution and variety of makers and there different forms of inscription are so wide and varied. It is not the sign of a workshop or smith. Craftspeople of this period would not sign their work in such a way, it would be a declaration of their hubris which the religious and social structure of the period do not support. It also breaks down the idea that there are forgeries of a particular forge or smith.

Rather these are swords made to answer a desire for a famous sword of the period one that must have been legendary. Sadly the examples of the sword have survived but their story has not.

This also explains why the cost and time to produce these blades would be undertaken. They would have been for high status clients. There are additional supporting ideas to this theory and a few other ideas as well. One of the main being the swords are wrapped into the forges of religious orders as the term Ulf is used almost as a title in some of the period leaders of the church. There is a paper or two written by a scholar from Iceland I think on this. I do not have the site to hand and will try to find it for you all.

Either way Ulfberht and its derivations should be viewed as a power word one that will impart something special in the blade and have meaning to the person or institution that commissioned its manufacture. The wolf was the top of the predator list in this region and time, it was seen as one of the forces of nature to those living with it in the world.

The idea for the show started along the lines of looking at the fakes verses the real Ulfberhts but this in a way misses the whole poiont of what they where and the story behind them.

Best
Craig

PS I had not heard Peter's theory on the sparks it is intriguing and will look further into that.

Have a great day everyone Happy this stuff is cool !
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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 9:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just for the record, I should perhaps also point out that I have never proposed that "Ulfberht" has anything to do with "Bright Sparks".
:-)
I think this could be an example of the whisper game: a phrase or saying getting gradually changed by being retold a few times.
:-)

Ulf is not a word that means spark in any language that I know of. It means *Wolf* in ancient germanic languages.
"Berht" is an ancient word for "Bright".

During the preparatory work of "The Secret of the Viking Sword" I had many lengthy sessions over Skype with the producers of the film. During one of these talks I brought forward an idea that I had been told by Achim Wirtz, the german steel guru and blade smith:

-"Vlfberht" is a germanic kenning that combines the ideas of "Bright" and "Wolf". Vlf =wolf, Berht= bright.

It is worth noting that the latin name for wolf is Lupis. The germanic word for the iron bloom taken from the furnace is "Lupe", "Luppe" or "Lup". (Why a wolf is borne out of the furnace, is something that I don´t know: it must be further researched!)
The word Lupe, Lupp or Lup might actually carry directly over from the latin name for wolf.
Ulfberht might therefore refer to "Bright Fang", "Bright Wolf" but perhaps most of all:

*Bright Bloom*!

All of these Kennings are meaningful in the context of a fine and murderous sword made from *excellent* material.

We sill call the bloom a Lup, or Lupp. There are also sayings about the wolf in the smithy, but now in the meaning of something going wrong or getting dangerous. I think this is an ancient connection.

Both the name (it is a continental germanic name, not a scandinavian name) and the style of lettering (latin letter, not runic) suggests a continental european origin for these blades.
They may have been copied by smiths in other areas, but there is scarce evidence to suggest they were made by scandinavian smiths. Viking age scandinavians did not use latin letters. They were literate with runes. All known scandinavian inscriptions from this period are in runic alphabets. I think the scandinavian link is weak, both for trading of the steel cakes and for manufacture of the blades.
There is undoubtedly something very unique and rare going on with these swords, with the extremely high carbon content and almost or completely slag free composition. A R Williams is convinced this is only possible to achieve with crucible steel.
I have heard other views on the matter from people who are experienced in traditional steel making methods: -a very skilled steel maker may have been able to produce high carbon steel of a very clean quality with other methods.

-Personally I cannot say if the crucible method is the only viable way. Since I have heard it equally strongly both propagated and refuted by people whose experience and understanding in these matters is greater than mine, I must keep an open mind in regards of that question.


Last edited by Peter Johnsson on Thu 21 Nov, 2013 12:11 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 11:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

How do the Ingelri swords fit into this discussion? From what little I know, they are a little later, and are believed originally to come from the workshop of the German maker, Ingelri.
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Harri Kyllönen




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 12:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

edit. Nevermind... Everything I said was already said much better by others. Happy
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 2:03 pm    Post subject: Re: "Ulberht" our perceptions         Reply with quote

Craig Johnson wrote:

The idea for the show started along the lines of looking at the fakes verses the real Ulfberhts but this in a way misses the whole poiont of what they where and the story behind them.

When taking this line of thought for the show, had you looked at any of Dr. Stalsberg's work? Her work seems to show a definite trend that would invalidate the H+T slag free VLFBERHTs are the "originals". If you haven't read her research, its worth looking at. Essentially, the +VLFBERHT+ variant tends to show up in earlier contexts, and the +VLFBERH+T variant turns up in later contexts. Her dating method is open to criticism, since she bases it on hilt type. However, she definite shows that the H+T variants show up most frequently on later hilt forms, and that the HT+ variants tend to occur on earlier hilt forms This isn't a hard absolute rule, but its a definite trend, and to me it would seem to invalidate the idea of the H+T variants being the "originals"..

Roger Hooper wrote:
How do the Ingelri swords fit into this discussion? From what little I know, they are a little later, and are believed originally to come from the workshop of the German maker, Ingelri.

I don't know that anyone has done much research on INGELRII's as a group. That said, I have the metallurgical analysis on one INGEL-group example and it is a complex construction. The core is a piled low carbon iron, with a welded on hypereutectoid steel cutting edge. This construction method is essentially the same as the +VLFBERHT+ variant spelling group, which are all piled core construction with welded on cutting edges. It is worth noting that this one INGEL-group sword has a hypereutectoid edge.

A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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R. Kolick





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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 5:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i understand the lettering issue being latin not runic leading to the idea that they rant made by nordic smiths but how did they smith on the fine get the steel required to make such a fine sword the only furnaces that they have found to my knowledge capable of making such high quality steel is in the east where trade would have been rare with Europe with the exception of vikings (and why do people think that it was a monk or priest making the steel ones since the church had forbidden any trade with the "heathens" at this time) is it possible going with the +T are newer than the ones that are T+ theory is it possible that norse smiths using superior foreign steel used the name as a way to prove that they made superior blades rather than the clergy
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Harri Kyllönen




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 5:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I watched a documentary a while ago (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXbLyVpWsVM) that had a smith recreate the Ulfberth sword.
The documentary has this theory that vikings brought the steel itself and/or it's secrets from India through the eastern trade routes. It's based among others on the fact that a viking age Buddha statue from India was found in Sweden.
The documentary is a bit sensationalist but worth a watch if you can ignore some of the silly narration.
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 6:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

R. Kolick wrote:
i understand the lettering issue being latin not runic leading to the idea that they rant made by nordic smiths but how did they smith on the fine get the steel required to make such a fine sword the only furnaces that they have found to my knowledge capable of making such high quality steel is in the east where trade would have been rare with Europe with the exception of vikings (and why do people think that it was a monk or priest making the steel ones since the church had forbidden any trade with the "heathens" at this time) is it possible going with the +T are newer than the ones that are T+ theory is it possible that norse smiths using superior foreign steel used the name as a way to prove that they made superior blades rather than the clergy

As alluded to in Peter Johnsson's post, there have been bladesmith's on the web that have demonstrated a method that would have been available to Europeans as a possible counter-theory. It's called the Aristotle Furnace, and it gives a possible explanation for high-carbon slag free steel without having to use Indian Crucible steel.

Google Aristotle Furnace if you are interested.

A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Fri 22 Nov, 2013 7:36 am    Post subject: Ingelri         Reply with quote

Roger Hooper wrote:
How do the Ingelri swords fit into this discussion? From what little I know, they are a little later, and are believed originally to come from the workshop of the German maker, Ingelri.



Hi Roger

One possible interpretation of this, especially with the "me fecit" added could be the concept of "the angels made me".

The social and religious influences of the period would indicate that these inscriptions are more about the highest power associated with their making. Thus a legend or in the case of the Ingrelii the higher powers associated with the church.

Their maybe an association in the Ulfie blades along these lines as well with early leaders in the church but that seems a bit tenuous to me at this point in the research.

Craig
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Fri 22 Nov, 2013 7:51 am    Post subject: Re: "Ulberht" our perceptions         Reply with quote

Robin Smith wrote:
Craig Johnson wrote:

The idea for the show started along the lines of looking at the fakes verses the real Ulfberhts but this in a way misses the whole poiont of what they where and the story behind them.

When taking this line of thought for the show, had you looked at any of Dr. Stalsberg's work? Her work seems to show a definite trend that would invalidate the H+T slag free VLFBERHTs are the "originals". If you haven't read her research, its worth looking at. Essentially, the +VLFBERHT+ variant tends to show up in earlier contexts, and the +VLFBERH+T variant turns up in later contexts. Her dating method is open to criticism, since she bases it on hilt type. However, she definite shows that the H+T variants show up most frequently on later hilt forms, and that the HT+ variants tend to occur on earlier hilt forms This isn't a hard absolute rule, but its a definite trend, and to me it would seem to invalidate the idea of the H+T variants being the "originals"..


Hi Robin

Yes I have looked at her research some and have been meaning to study it further have just not had the time Happy I think she may well be on to helping us sort them over time. She may have been the one that brought up the ulf being a form of title or chosen name for early church leaders. I need to track that down again.

The key element, that I think her research bears out as well, is that it is not one place making special blades that are then copied, but rather they are variants on a sword of legend made by many smiths over time. In a modern example we have Excalibur. There are many designs and version none of which probably look anything like what the sword in the earliest forms of the legend told to another would have looked like.

As for the show idea it was something Ric had to deal with mainly as TV production rarely is about the important part to historians or craftspeople trying to sort something out ts far more about the perceived hook they want to present to the audience which often matters more than if it is true or not. We did our best to inject the reality as we have found it into the story they wanted to tell.

The creation of these swords would have been something both meaningful and expensive in the time and the wide distribution of them and varied examples speak to a cultural impetuous far beyond just a really nice sword that is being copied.

Best
Craig
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Michael Pikula
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PostPosted: Fri 22 Nov, 2013 9:07 am    Post subject: Re: "Ulberht" our perceptions         Reply with quote

Robin Smith wrote:
H+T slag free VLFBERHTs are the "originals".


If you have the opportunity to find and check out a copy of "Excavations at Helgo XV" there is a report of an +VLFBERH+T which is composed of a core with a forge welded edges containing silica. Interesting read if you get the chance.

I think that the individual nature of the material that was worked with should be considered, and every piece should be considered as an individual. While there may be trends in what we find and the research conducted, we are only getting a small glimpse into a world long past.

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Harri Kyllönen




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Nov, 2013 9:42 am    Post subject: Re: "Ulberht" our perceptions         Reply with quote

Craig Johnson wrote:
As for the show idea it was something Ric had to deal with mainly as TV production rarely is about the important part to historians or craftspeople trying to sort something out ts far more about the perceived hook they want to present to the audience which often matters more than if it is true or not. We did our best to inject the reality as we have found it into the story they wanted to tell.


I'm sure most history enthusiasts realized that it's a dramatiziced documentary with a kernel of actual knowledge and smithing skills Happy
Most good documentaries need a layman audience to fund themselves and it's cool that people get interested in the topic even that way.
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Nov, 2013 10:31 am    Post subject: Re: "Ulberht" our perceptions         Reply with quote

Michael Pikula wrote:
Robin Smith wrote:
H+T slag free VLFBERHTs are the "originals".


If you have the opportunity to find and check out a copy of "Excavations at Helgo XV" there is a report of an +VLFBERH+T which is composed of a core with a forge welded edges containing silica. Interesting read if you get the chance.

I think that the individual nature of the material that was worked with should be considered, and every piece should be considered as an individual. While there may be trends in what we find and the research conducted, we are only getting a small glimpse into a world long past.

I know of a similar example from Gnezdovo that is an H+T made of a low carbon core and welded edges.

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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Nov, 2013 10:41 am    Post subject: Re: "Ulberht" our perceptions         Reply with quote

Craig Johnson wrote:
Hi Robin

Yes I have looked at her research some and have been meaning to study it further have just not had the time Happy I think she may well be on to helping us sort them over time. She may have been the one that brought up the ulf being a form of title or chosen name for early church leaders. I need to track that down again.

The key element, that I think her research bears out as well, is that it is not one place making special blades that are then copied, but rather they are variants on a sword of legend made by many smiths over time. In a modern example we have Excalibur. There are many designs and version none of which probably look anything like what the sword in the earliest forms of the legend told to another would have looked like.

As for the show idea it was something Ric had to deal with mainly as TV production rarely is about the important part to historians or craftspeople trying to sort something out ts far more about the perceived hook they want to present to the audience which often matters more than if it is true or not. We did our best to inject the reality as we have found it into the story they wanted to tell.

The creation of these swords would have been something both meaningful and expensive in the time and the wide distribution of them and varied examples speak to a cultural impetuous far beyond just a really nice sword that is being copied.

Best
Craig

Stalsberg does talk quite a bit in her paper about the likely origin of the name, though it seems to me she focuses mostly on the crosses. Apparently the use of crosses flanking a name is the sign of Bishop.

It is too bad that documentary makers do this so often. I have heard the same thing essentially from some paleontologists I have communicated with. They say documentary makers come to them with an idea (before even consulting an expert), and only use expert interview material that supports the idea that they started with. Anything that contradicts their idea gets left on the cutting room floor.

Academics and experts, whether in swords or dinosaurs, need to hold these documentary makers to be more accountable. Maybe the public is not aware in the ambiguity that is a fundamental part of these fields, but how can they be if they are never exposed to it?

A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Harri Kyllönen




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Nov, 2013 11:17 am    Post subject: Re: "Ulberht" our perceptions         Reply with quote

Robin Smith wrote:
Academics and experts, whether in swords or dinosaurs, need to hold these documentary makers to be more accountable. Maybe the public is not aware in the ambiguity that is a fundamental part of these fields, but how can they be if they are never exposed to it?


Agreed. But all that CGI, live action and hiring smiths / academics etc. is going to cost a lot of money. Which requires sufficient ratings.
The average viewer expects a "cool story". The only time he's seen a sword was in Game of Thrones.
I'm inclined to support the popularization of ancient arms because it will benefit us all bringing more cash to the hobby/science.
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