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Eric S

Location: new orleans
Joined: 22 Nov 2009
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PostPosted: Thu 19 Oct, 2017 6:45 pm    Post subject: ULFBERHT blades new answers to old questions         Reply with quote

An interesting article.

Recently there has been a renewed interest in a group of Viking period swords referred to as «Ulfberht»
resulting in a flood of unsubstantiated claims and misinformation. In order to shed more light on this specific assemblage of swords, their historical context was examined in light of artefactual, numismatic, and textual evidence. The results provide strong evidence to indicate that those made of crucible steel with the characters written as «+VLFBERH+T», were made from ingots imported from Central Asia during the first half of the 10th century and they can be associated with the reign of Haakon the Good of Norway. This new information is important because it narrows the date range for certain sword styles, as well as historical events such as the introduction of Christianity to Norway, and the relationship between Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Central Asia. ANNA FEUERBACH & THOMAS HANLEY
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Mark Lewis

Joined: 19 Apr 2014

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PostPosted: Sun 29 Oct, 2017 10:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was initially excited when I saw this article appear in my newsfeed, but after reading I was left disappointed... The scholarship of this article seems shallow compared to the work of others on this topic (for example Stalsberg and Williams, whether or not you may agree with their conclusions), and the arguments put forward here seem logically flawed on multiple points.

The large number of Ulfberht swords (specifically the +VLFBERH+T variant) found in Norway is taken as an indication of their origin there, but no mention is made of the fact that vastly more Viking Age swords have been found in Norway than any other country. In this context, large numbers alone are likely evidence of differences in burial practices, and not manufacturing.

The authors ask who had the power to sustain the Eastern trade routes which brought large amounts of Muslim silver to Scandinavia, and suggest kings Harald Fairhair and Haakon the Good of Norway were in a position to do so. In this case, the weight of numbers points away from Norway however: a recent paper puts the number of silver dirhams found in Norway at 500, but 70,000 for Sweden and 30,000 in Poland (another paper puts the number at 80,000 for the tiny island of Gotland alone, and another 40,000 for mainland Sweden). Trade with the Muslim East was carried out extensively by Eastern Scandinavians without the intervention of Norwegian kings.

The interpretation of "Ulfberht" as a personal name is quickly dismissed, as this name was only used "centuries later in Frankish territories". To support this statement a reference to a specific page number is provided, yet the very next page refers to examples of the name Ulfberht (or equivalent spellings) in the 9th century - earlier than the 10th century dating suggested for the +VLFBERH+T inscriptions.

The authors instead claim that Ulfberht is a Christian invocation of some kind, similar to those "dating from between the 11th and the 13th centuries...characterized by a Christian cross at the beginning and sometimes at the end of the the inscription" - evidence from "centuries later" is now taken to be of key importance. More relevant evidence is omitted: Ingelrii- and Gicelin-inscribed swords (and others) are closer in date and also include crosses, and these are certainly proper names as they are often followed by the words "me fecit". Furthermore, Ingelrii in particular often appears without the additional text (as Ulfberht does), confirming that sword inscriptions can consist of a name alone.

Last edited by Mark Lewis on Sun 29 Oct, 2017 7:51 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Dan Howard

Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

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PostPosted: Sun 29 Oct, 2017 2:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Good response Mark. My thought process was similar when I read that paper. I've never heard of Mr Hanley but Ms Feuerbach's research is normally on more steady ground than this. Sloppy work.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Aaron Woods

Location: Indiana, USA/Norway/Isle of Lewis
Joined: 22 Oct 2017
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PostPosted: Tue 07 Nov, 2017 11:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This pdf may add some more insight into the subject.!/menu/standard/file/martens.pdf&ved=0ahUKEwjRlqm5z6PXAhVFUhQKHaSkAS84FBAWCCwwAw&usg=AOvVaw0unOPzd0-sysn0cWbrn76E
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