Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Ulfberht Swords Reply to topic
This is a Spotlight Topic Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3 
Author Message
Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 818

PostPosted: Thu 14 Feb, 2019 4:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lolke Stelwagen wrote:
This is what I said: "The Weser sword proofs nothing about the entire lot".

So yes. It is evidence. But only for this one sword found in the Weser.

By the way, thanks for pointing to Pawel Kucypera and Jiri Hosek. More to read and perhaps to come back on "my beliefs".

How the Ballinderry sword come to be in Ireland? Well, what do you think yourself considering that it was found along with other Viking objects: a longbow, two spearheads, an axe head and a gaming board? Plus the sword being very wide, which is typical for Viking swords. That the sword was found in a bog points also to the rituals from Northern Europe.

At least you could say that It shows that Vikings used swords with Latin letter words on them.

It is presented here that "....HILTIPREHT, .. seems to connect to to a Norwegian craftsman of that name." But I am not so sure about that actually. Because, to make things more complicated as they already are with the combi Old Norse+Old Saxon for VLFBERHT; HILTIPREHT hides PREHT which is not a typo for BERHT, it is nothing less than genuine Old High German. Pointing to Central Germany. The Dutch borrowed this word and I can say in my own language "wat een prachtig zwaard": What a beautiful sword. And HILTI is also Old High German with the meaning of "to fight". This points in the direction of the Taunus mountains where it is believed where the Weser sword was made.

So...... The question is now: How did a Viking become the owner of a viking-type sword with a Old High German word on the hilt plus a Old Norse/Old Saxon word on the blade.

I must admit that all the facts considered it does not yet lead to the right place off manufacturing. It could even be that more than one smith was asked to make a sword as good as an VLFBERHT sword and knew what to do: get hold of either crucible steel from the east or produce it himself in a fashion that is hardly understood.

Any other views on this?


About the Balinderry sword having two inscriptions.
The most obvious speculation is off course that ulfberht was the blade manufacturer and that Hiltipreht made the hilt and pommel.

The name for a hilt is old norse is "hjalti" and the old norse name for battle is "hildr" which occurs in many female composite names.
The Old High German version of hildr (battle) should be hiltia, so that could work.
"Hilt" means hilt in Old English, but not in Old High German where it is Helza.
-preht could be a dialectical Frankish variant of -breht [so stil meaning "bright" ].
So Hilti-preht should just be on Old High German/Frankish "bright battle", so I don't know why people should speculate that the name is Scandinavian?
Alternatively if the name is English/Frankish composite the meaning of Hilti-preht could been "Hilt-bright".

So I don't see any Scandinavian connection with that name....

At some point this sword was probably exchanged as a gift to a Norwegian. Swords was probably among the leading gift exchange items in the germanic world.
Was the sword designed and made for being given in gift exchange to a Scandinavian?
or was the sword captured by other means and perhaps refitted to Scandinavian taste by this hiltipreht?

It is nonetheless fascinating that it carries two different inscriptions.
Later in the middle ages we now that sword production became very specialized, where blade-makers and blade-fitters were two entirely different things.
So many German produced blades were brought up and refitted to Scandinavian local tastes.
View user's profile Send private message
Lolke Stelwagen




Location: Netherlands
Joined: 06 Feb 2019

Posts: 5

PostPosted: Thu 14 Feb, 2019 7:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Niels Just Rasmussen"]
Lolke Stelwagen wrote:

The name for a hilt is old norse is "hjalti" and the old norse name for battle is "hildr" which occurs in many female composite names.
.


Now we also know the meaning of the name of the Merovingian king Childeric. Or in reconstructed Frankish: *Hildirīk.

"War king" (or something similar)

Never realized this before.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 818

PostPosted: Fri 15 Feb, 2019 7:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Lolke Stelwagen"]
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Lolke Stelwagen wrote:

The name for a hilt is old norse is "hjalti" and the old norse name for battle is "hildr" which occurs in many female composite names.
.


Now we also know the meaning of the name of the Merovingian king Childeric. Or in reconstructed Frankish: *Hildirīk.

"War king" (or something similar)

Never realized this before.


The Scandinavian name Haraldr [like Danish King Harald Bluetooth] also is such a "chieftain" name in origin.

Haraldr is from the proto-norse compound *harja-waldaR [= Army-Ruler].
"harja" is in fact what is written on the Vimose Comb from 160 AD.
harja evolved into Danish "Hær" (German "Heer") meaning Army
WaldaR means power/ruler. [Old English weald, Old High German walt].
Cognate with Old Slavonic "volod" which also gives "Vlad" = Ruler, as in names like Vladislav, Vladimir.
View user's profile Send private message
Lolke Stelwagen




Location: Netherlands
Joined: 06 Feb 2019

Posts: 5

PostPosted: Sat 16 Feb, 2019 3:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:


The Scandinavian name Haraldr [like Danish King Harald Bluetooth] also is such a "chieftain" name in origin.

Haraldr is from the proto-norse compound *harja-waldaR [= Army-Ruler].
"harja" is in fact what is written on the Vimose Comb from 160 AD.
harja evolved into Danish "Hær" (German "Heer") meaning Army
WaldaR means power/ruler. [Old English weald, Old High German walt].
Cognate with Old Slavonic "volod" which also gives "Vlad" = Ruler, as in names like Vladislav, Vladimir.


While moving away a bit from VLFBERHT, it is still very interesting to know all of this as to understand in which setting the armory is to be put.

I always assumed that "harja" on the Vimose Comb was like a verb made from the noun "hair". Which was making perfectly sense to me. I know that Heer/Hær means Army but struggle a bit to understand that the runic inscription would rather mean "army" or even "warrior" as suggested elsewhere above the simple meaning of "combing your hair" on a comb.... Of course we can never be entirely sure about one or the other...



WaldaR is a very nice word used in a variety of combinations like Bretwalda (king of kings or broad-ruler or king of Brittens) and of course in one of the oldest known names for a Frisian King: Finn Folcwalding (ruler of people). Frisian in the Beowulf, but perhaps originating somewhere from current Danish territory. Although there is room for an other interpretation as well, since the modern meaning "to wield" is to hold and use a weapon. Holding a weapon against an entire folk? Sounds ambitious but perhaps that was the exact purpose Happy On the other hand, the meaning-change from "ruler" to "holding a weapon" is not unthinkable.

I was not aware of the Old Slavonic "volod" being cognate. But for sure Harry Potter's Voldemort seems not an invented name without background knowledge: "Ruler of Death". Who would have thought of that Happy
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 818

PostPosted: Sat 16 Feb, 2019 7:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lolke Stelwagen wrote:


I always assumed that "harja" on the Vimose Comb was like a verb made from the noun "hair". Which was making perfectly sense to me. I know that Heer/Hær means Army but struggle a bit to understand that the runic inscription would rather mean "army" or even "warrior" as suggested elsewhere above the simple meaning of "combing your hair" on a comb.... Of course we can never be entirely sure about one or the other...

WaldaR is a very nice word used in a variety of combinations like Bretwalda (king of kings or broad-ruler or king of Brittens) and of course in one of the oldest known names for a Frisian King: Finn Folcwalding (ruler of people). Frisian in the Beowulf, but perhaps originating somewhere from current Danish territory. Although there is room for an other interpretation as well, since the modern meaning "to wield" is to hold and use a weapon. Holding a weapon against an entire folk? Sounds ambitious but perhaps that was the exact purpose Happy On the other hand, the meaning-change from "ruler" to "holding a weapon" is not unthinkable.

I was not aware of the Old Slavonic "volod" being cognate. But for sure Harry Potter's Voldemort seems not an invented name without background knowledge: "Ruler of Death". Who would have thought of that Happy


Actually the meaning of the name is split:
1) Those is favour a name for for "comb".
2) Those who sees it as a personal name "harja" -> a non-compound name thus meaning "army".

Harja cannot mean hair, as Old Norse "hár" is from proto-germanic *hera.
Extensive list of hair in all the germanic languages: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/h%C4%93r%C4%85
also the variant *hazdaz. [perhaps the meaning of combed hair?] giving Old Norse haddr [ladies hair] or Old English heord [braid].
See: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/hazdaz

Russian Vladimir is actually loaned into Danish as "Valdemar".
Knud Lavard, Dux of Slesvig and son of former King Erik Ejegod, was murdered by King Niels's son Magnus in Haraldsted Skov in 1131.
Knud Lavard's Rus wife - Ingeborg of Novgorod - named their son born a weak after Knud Lavard's death, for "Valdemar" after her grandfather Volodymir (old form of Vladimir) "Monomakh" of Kiev.
Valdemar would become King Valdemar I the Great and married Sophia of Minsk.

Wield comes ultimately from Proto-Germanic *waldana [to rule], but through the derivative *waldijana [to conquer, to rule over]. In English you still "wield power" over someone when you assert your authority.
In Old Saxon: Wieldan.
Finn Folcwalding probably means "People-ruler", but alternatively it could also mean "People-Conquerer", if we take the derivative meaning. I still think the first meaning probably is the correct one....

The Finnsburg episode occurs both in the Finnsburg fragment and in Beowulf, which Tolkien studied extensively.

One of the leading characters - Hnæf - is the son of Hoc healfdene [half-dane] according to Widsith.
The Hocings are in my opinion Jutes allied with the Danes, thus having become Half-danes, whereas the "Free Jutes" are the ones invading lead by Hengist and Horsa.
A Hengest is one of Hnæf retainers - is he the same as Hengist brother of Horsa.
View user's profile Send private message
Jens Nordlunde





Joined: 06 Jan 2004

Posts: 30

PostPosted: Sun 17 Feb, 2019 8:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Recently I have been in contact with dr. Ann Feurbach in the US, who has been visiting some excavations in Europe. She now has a new theory about the sword, which she is working on, and now doubt will publish when she is finished, but as she wrote - it is all quite complicated.
View user's profile Send private message
Mark Lewis





Joined: 19 Apr 2014

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 366

PostPosted: Sun 17 Feb, 2019 9:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lolke Stelwagen wrote:
How the Ballinderry sword come to be in Ireland? Well, what do you think yourself considering that it was found along with other Viking objects: a longbow, two spearheads, an axe head and a gaming board? Plus the sword being very wide, which is typical for Viking swords.

Naturally I imagine it was most likely brought to Ireland by a Viking... I don't think it is controversial to suggest that Vikings were capable of getting ahold of foreign weapons one way or another.

Lolke Stelwagen wrote:
It is presented here that "....HILTIPREHT, .. seems to connect to to a Norwegian craftsman of that name." But I am not so sure about that actually... HILTIPREHT hides PREHT which is not a typo for BERHT, it is nothing less than genuine Old High German.

I know all this, hence why I brought it up...

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
It is possible to have a Scandinavian-Saxon hybrid name earlier than the Danelaw.
When Charlemagne massacred the Saxon nobility at Verden in 782 many of the survivors fled to Denmark. Ribe is an emporium from 704 AD and Hedeby from ~ 750 AD, so already active before Verden. So a mix origin smith could have worked at these locations or other places in the baltic...

So you can technically have a person with this name in the beginning of 800's, when we also see the first Ulfberht swords.


Ulfberht is a moving target! At the start of this conversation he was working for Haakon the Good in Norway in the 10th century, now maybe in Hedeby at the start of the 9th... Razz

Okay, so what exactly is our theory about the "original Ulfberht"? I don't mean to mis-represent anyone's opinion, but I would like to pursue some of the logical implications of the observations made here, and to compare them with the analysis of other researchers and the evidence that is currently available in the public domain...

Let's keep in mind Williams' actual hypotheses:

Quote:
The original maker of the «Ulfberht» swords was evidently a craftsman (or perhaps a craftsman/merchant) who had access to a source of high-carbon steel. This may well have been ingots of crucible steel imported from the Middle East via the River Volga. In which case, his location was probably in the Baltic area, where this trade route terminated, and where most of these swords have been found.

So it is not surprising that many other swordsmiths tried to copy these swords, and also copy their maker’s inscription. One workshop, who made their swords with hardened steel edges, copied the spelling exactly, except for placing the terminal + in the wrong place [ie. after the T]. Other workshops, made swords of differing quality, and differing accuracy of spelling.

We've narrowed the range of possibilities quite a bit, down to our Saxon-Scandinavian fellow in Hedeby or other early emporium, around the year 800 or so, with his crucible steel (though we haven't independently confirmed that crucible steel was imported, or that it was available at the specifically hypothesized locations in the required time frame, and opinions differ on whether it was even technologically necessary). Williams proposed that he signed his swords with +VLFBERH+T on the basis of nine hyper-eutectoid swords, and a few more high-carbon blades which all use this spelling:

Quote:
The important point is that none of the variant spellings show the use of hypereutectoid steel, and all the blades employing hypereutectoid steels carry only one spelling namely +ULFBERH+T. [original emphasis]

Since you asked, the medium-carbon blade (~0.5%) from the Weser/Taunus is also inscribed +VLFBERH+T.

Already our timeline contradicts that suggested by Feuerbach and Hanley:

Quote:
...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.

Let's press on though! Williams doesn't address the dating of his nine swords in detail, and rightly points out the pitfalls of attempting to do so when, as in some cases, the only information available is hilt typology:

Quote:
it should be born in mind that any competent craftsman could have rehilted a sword – and this would have been all the more likely to have happened with a better than average steel blade. All the shape of the hilt can do is tell us when the sword was last assembled.

Still, it would be nice to get confirmation of an early crucible steel +VLFBERH+T appearing with an early hilt type... any luck here? Unfortunately not much: of Williams' nine, several have hilts that are dated to the 10th or 11th century, some are damaged fragments, and there is I think just one, a type H, that is often (but not universally) considered to have been in use in the early 9th century, but this type was long-lived and used well into the 10th century as well. We can speculate that it is of an early date, and that the others are early blades that were re-hilted later... but I was hoping for something more solid.

Can we find any supporting evidence from Ulfberhts that do have early hilts? Well, once again luck is not really with us... Let's hear from Robin up-thread:

Robin Smith wrote:
[Dr. Stalsberg's] 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...

The appropriate disclaimers have been given and any inferences are understood to be tentative, but it seems there is a correlation that is at least worth investigating. Stalsberg only summarizes the numerical results from a survey of 166 Ulfberht swords, so I've tried to collect more detail for my own interest... We're looking for early swords, so what types should we consider? There is pretty general consensus that Petersen's types A, B, C, D, K, special types 1 and 2, and maybe H were in use in the early part of the 9th century. H is tricky since it was definitely in use for a long time, and much later... I'll stick to the other easy ones. As far as I know, the current number of identified Ulfberhts with hilts of types A, B, C, D, or 2 is zero; I do know of five of type K and two of type 1. (Yes, I'm going to threadjack and talk about type K's again...)

So what spellings do we find on these? Two of the K's are incomplete, two have +VLFBERHT+, one has what looks like +VLFBERHⱵ. One of the 1's has +VLFBEHT+ and the other I gather has +VLFBERHT+ (only known to me by illustration). The VLFBEHT type 1 (medium-carbon, ~0.7-0.8%) was actually among those studied by Williams, mis-transcribed as +VLFBEH+T and relegated to group C, "swords with variant spellings and hardened steel edges".

Now these four we can read... maybe Ulfberht was having a rough day and muffed his crucible steel and his own trademark, or maybe Ulfberht Junior was having a go at the forge, but the implication from Williams' hypothesis is that these are probably some of the "copies" from "other workshops". So copying was happening very early indeed... but where? If it was taking place in Frankish territory so early, the misunderstanding that Ulfberht originated there is more forgivable; the fact that both type 1 Ulfberhts were found in the Rhine in South-Western Germany (100 km or so South of the Taunus mountains) is all the more misleading in giving the impression that Ulfberht's workshop may have been located in the Rhineland, as it is often declared to have been. On the other hand, maybe copies were being made in Scandinavia or the Baltic – closer to home after all, and Lolke has pointed out that the Ballinderry +VLFBERHT+ is very wide and must be a Viking sword. (What is the difference in the average width of a "Viking sword" and a "Frankish sword", by the way?)

Just for comparison, let's look at a map of Ulfberht finds provided by Alfred Geibig and see what he thought of some of these swords (this is without the benefit of Williams' later metallurgical research of course.) The two type 1's are in that cluster of five "originals" on the Rhine there, though Geibig points out elsewhere that the mis-spelled VLFBEHT might represent a copy; the Ballinderry sword is labelled as original too. The "copies" down in Croatia are two more of our type K's; one in particular was singled out by Geibig as quite possibly both a copy and the earliest confirmed Ulfberht. The remaining two type K's are from Norway, but I think one is not shown on this map.



Now this is when the typological issues start to bother me, since type K, type 1, and the similar type 2 are generally considered to be originally or mostly Frankish. (Yes, yes, I know typology is not law, anyone anywhere can in theory be using or making a sword of any shape... except a broad blade like the Ballinderry sword of course, that could only be Viking.) As I've already mentioned, a fair number of these swords have Frankish names in Latin characters on their hilts, or characteristic Carolingian-style ornamentation – this includes the Ballinderry sword and both of the type K Ulfberhts from Norway – similar hilt shapes can be seen in Carolingian art as well. The remaining type K Ulfberhts are both from Croatia, where this type (including yet another one with a Frankish name and ornament) and related earlier ones make up a very disproportionate number (>50%, vs. ~1% in Norway) of Viking Age swords there, many found in elite graves and often with other Carolingian metalwork – the Croats were Catholic but still buried grave goods.

It is not impossible that none of the first crucible steel swords made by Ulfberht the Saxon-Scandinavian survived with their original hilts intact, and all the really early imitations from Scandinavia that did survive coincidentally ended up acquiring Carolingian-style hilts, and two happened to very quickly get lost in the Rhine, and a couple more were soon given to the Croatians with all the other Frankish type K's found there...

Alternatively, we might at least entertain the modest proposal that Ulfberht swords originated in Frankish territory, perhaps the Rhineland, and some were initially fitted with fine Carolingian-style hilts appropriate for their quality and prestige. Such weapons were naturally suitable gifts for the friendly warrior-elite of the Croatian state, developing under Carolingian influence, and of course they would appeal to any Viking who acquired one, either licitly or illicitly – Carolingian capitularies suggest the latter was an issue of ongoing concern. As far as I know, the metallurgy of only one of the possibly earliest Ulfberht swords has been studied to date, and it was not made of crucible steel. So far, the circumstantial evidence points somewhat towards +VLFBERHT+ being the originally intended spelling – not altogether surprising since the opening/closing cross is pretty well standard in other inscriptions, and "+T" is the notable exception. Irregularities (VLFBEHT, VLFBERHⱵ) do appear early on however, either through error or imitation... the apparently later correlation between "+T" and the highest quality blades is of course still very interesting!

Jens Nordlunde wrote:
Recently I have been in contact with dr. Ann Feurbach in the US, who has been visiting some excavations in Europe. She now has a new theory about the sword, which she is working on, and now doubt will publish when she is finished, but as she wrote - it is all quite complicated.


Looking forward to it! Happy


Androshchuk (2007): "The rural Vikings and the Viking Helgö."
Androshchuk (2010): "Swords and some problems of the chronology of Viking Period."
Feuerbach, Hanley (2017): ''Ulfberht' blades: new answers to old questions."
Geibig (1991): "Beiträge zur morphologischen Entwicklung des Schwertes im Mittelalter."
Lehmann (2015): "Archäometrische Analysen am Ulfberht-Schwert."
Stalsberg (2008): "The Vlfberht sword blades reevaluated."
Williams (2009): "A metallurgical study of some Viking swords."
Williams (2011): "A note on the analysis of Viking swords."
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Dan Howard




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

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,249

PostPosted: Sun 17 Feb, 2019 2:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Lewis wrote:
It is not impossible that none of the first crucible steel swords made by Ulfberht the Saxon-Scandinavian survived with their original hilts intact

AFAIK there are no Ulfberht swords confirmed to have been made from crucible steel. They are made from hyper-eutectoid steel. It was assumed that they were crucible steel because, at the time, they didn't realise that hyper-eutectoid steel could be produced in other ways.

Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
View user's profile Send private message
Mark Lewis





Joined: 19 Apr 2014

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 366

PostPosted: Sun 17 Feb, 2019 7:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Mark Lewis wrote:
It is not impossible that none of the first crucible steel swords made by Ulfberht the Saxon-Scandinavian survived with their original hilts intact

AFAIK there are no Ulfberht swords confirmed to have been made from crucible steel. They are made from hyper-eutectoid steel. It was assumed that they were crucible steel because, at the time, they didn't realise that hyper-eutectoid steel could be produced in other ways.

Yes, not disagreeing... that paragraph was offered as devil's advocate: the quoted premise is I think not well supported by evidence that I am currently aware of, and the subsequent premises are improbable on face value.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 818

PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2019 7:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Lewis wrote:

Ulfberht is a moving target! At the start of this conversation he was working for Haakon the Good in Norway in the 10th century, now maybe in Hedeby at the start of the 9th... Razz


Nah I never thought Ulfberht was "working for Haakon the Good" in Norway in the 10th century.
I just kept the possibility open that one with a mixed Scandinavian-Saxon could have worked more or less everywhere in the trade route from the East all the way to York. I actually thought Hedeby and perhaps York as more likely place in 9th century.
BUT since my entire premise for my idea was the "proof" that Ulfberht swords was from crucible steel, then what Dan's said makes it irrelevant. If not crucible steel, then the ulfberht swords could easily have been made in Frankia [though many could have been locally rehilted].

So about viking sword type -> the big question is whether they can be assigned to geographical areas?
You can assign types to chronology, but geographical (states) areas are so much harder and recipients of these swords in gift exchange could come from many areas of Europe. Many of those recipients also being very mobile and being buried places potentially far from their homeland as well. Swords made for a gift exchanges might even be made in foreign taste making the picture even more muddled.

It can get even worse if this of my suspicions are correct.
Danish burials in the late Germanic Iron Age and Viking Age are generally cremation or burials without weapons [except for a bundle of arrows we see in some elite graves].
What if the chamber graves associated with the Jelling Dynasty [Gorm the Old and Harald Bluetooth] are actually burials of foreign warriors in service of these kings. Those foreign warriors being buried according to their custom by their follow compatriots.
So all the chamber graves swords found in Denmark could then be "non-Danish" types [whether Slavic or whatever].
Gorm the Old and Harald Bluetooth had very strong association [and intermarriage] with the Wends and some of the chamber graves also show fighting axe-types you also find in the east baltic.
View user's profile Send private message
Mark Lewis





Joined: 19 Apr 2014

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 366

PostPosted: Tue 19 Feb, 2019 11:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Nah I never thought Ulfberht was "working for Haakon the Good" in Norway in the 10th century.

Sorry, didn't mean to put words in your mouth! Wink

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
So about viking sword type -> the big question is whether they can be assigned to geographical areas?

You raise very valid concerns, and 10th century Denmark seems a challenging case as the sample size is dis-proportionally small to begin with, and on top of that you have plausible reasons (and circumstantial evidence) to suspect that the grave finds are not going to be representative anyway.

On the other hand, I do think a large and relevant subset of type K's is a quite special case where the distribution of finds and stylistic evidence is highly suggestive of a Frankish origin. The complicating factors that you mention for Denmark specifically don't really apply... We know (to the extent we can "know" anything in archaeology) some were gifted away — to the Croatians — there is no ambiguity. The gifted swords are not decorated in "foreign styles" or exceptional in any way — they are "peas in a pod" with swords found within Francia, and comparable to other artistic objects there. So are the relatively small number of relevant swords found in Scandinavia or Ireland, whether they were gifts or plunder is unknowable but the apparent origin is the same either way.

Similar observations can be made for types 1 and 2 found in Scandinavia, most of the decorated examples can be compared directly with swords and other metalwork found in Francia.

A specific case where you could make (I think) a very plausible argument for a gift exchange is the "king's sword" from Hedeby... we have discussed it previously, I'm sure! It's not an Ulfberht, and its decoration is noticeably different from the "Ballinderry family" of type K's, so it doesn't directly pertain to the points I was making before. It is (nearly) unique but there is one decorative detail of a hooked cross that is exactly matched on another sword from — yet again! — Croatia, and this one with another Latin/Frankish name on its hilt. Circumstantial evidence for a Frankish origin or influence appears around every corner.

Leaving aside specific artifacts with stylistic similarities, we can look at more general distributional trends... without ignoring the issues of sample size and bias, we can still observe that percentage-wise the number of finds of types K, 1, and 2 are lowest in Norway and Sweden, higher in Denmark, higher again in Germany. Not proof, but easily consistent with a Frankish product disseminating outwards.

We can look for other geographic trends as well... For example, there are some earlier swords with five lobed-pommels that seem like possible precursors of the "classic" type K. There aren't many surviving specimens, but the ones I know of are all from the South: Croatia and Austria. There are variants with six or seven-lobed pommels that are otherwise similar; apart from a couple notable exceptions from the Kilmainham graveyard, once again almost all the examples I know of are from Germany, Austria, Croatia... none are from Scandinavia proper. A reasonable hypothesis is to see a style of hilt that has developed in Francia and only relatively small numbers, mostly of a common variant, reached Scandinavia. Of course some similar hilts could very well have been manufactured in Scandinavia, but this doesn't contradict a view of the type as "mostly or originally Frankish".
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 818

PostPosted: Thu 21 Feb, 2019 7:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Lewis wrote:
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Nah I never thought Ulfberht was "working for Haakon the Good" in Norway in the 10th century.

Sorry, didn't mean to put words in your mouth! Wink

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
So about viking sword type -> the big question is whether they can be assigned to geographical areas?

You raise very valid concerns, and 10th century Denmark seems a challenging case as the sample size is dis-proportionally small to begin with, and on top of that you have plausible reasons (and circumstantial evidence) to suspect that the grave finds are not going to be representative anyway.

On the other hand, I do think a large and relevant subset of type K's is a quite special case where the distribution of finds and stylistic evidence is highly suggestive of a Frankish origin. The complicating factors that you mention for Denmark specifically don't really apply... We know (to the extent we can "know" anything in archaeology) some were gifted away — to the Croatians — there is no ambiguity. The gifted swords are not decorated in "foreign styles" or exceptional in any way — they are "peas in a pod" with swords found within Francia, and comparable to other artistic objects there. So are the relatively small number of relevant swords found in Scandinavia or Ireland, whether they were gifts or plunder is unknowable but the apparent origin is the same either way.

Similar observations can be made for types 1 and 2 found in Scandinavia, most of the decorated examples can be compared directly with swords and other metalwork found in Francia.

A specific case where you could make (I think) a very plausible argument for a gift exchange is the "king's sword" from Hedeby... we have discussed it previously, I'm sure! It's not an Ulfberht, and its decoration is noticeably different from the "Ballinderry family" of type K's, so it doesn't directly pertain to the points I was making before. It is (nearly) unique but there is one decorative detail of a hooked cross that is exactly matched on another sword from — yet again! — Croatia, and this one with another Latin/Frankish name on its hilt. Circumstantial evidence for a Frankish origin or influence appears around every corner.

Leaving aside specific artifacts with stylistic similarities, we can look at more general distributional trends... without ignoring the issues of sample size and bias, we can still observe that percentage-wise the number of finds of types K, 1, and 2 are lowest in Norway and Sweden, higher in Denmark, higher again in Germany. Not proof, but easily consistent with a Frankish product disseminating outwards.

We can look for other geographic trends as well... For example, there are some earlier swords with five lobed-pommels that seem like possible precursors of the "classic" type K. There aren't many surviving specimens, but the ones I know of are all from the South: Croatia and Austria. There are variants with six or seven-lobed pommels that are otherwise similar; apart from a couple notable exceptions from the Kilmainham graveyard, once again almost all the examples I know of are from Germany, Austria, Croatia... none are from Scandinavia proper. A reasonable hypothesis is to see a style of hilt that has developed in Francia and only relatively small numbers, mostly of a common variant, reached Scandinavia. Of course some similar hilts could very well have been manufactured in Scandinavia, but this doesn't contradict a view of the type as "mostly or originally Frankish".


We had gone through the K-swords in this thread (had forgotten some of the stuff I wrote myself Wink .
See: http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=320...p;start=22

I does seem very possibly that this type is Frankish (though off course the style could have been locally copied).
The vine ornamentation seen in some of these K-swords is typically Christian (maybe even specifically Carolingian) and was as far as we know not used in decorations by pagan Scandinavian, who had their own animal ornamentation styles.

The reason I raised the issue was that it would be tempting to call several sword types for "Norwegian"; but we can't really know that just because we find swords preserved in big number in Norway and not in the surrounding areas.

More and more archaeology in Denmark shows that Denmark had a huge iron production in the Germanic Iron Age and probably also significant in the viking Age.
If all swords types are assigned as "foreign", then it gives a picture where Danes are supposed to have imported all weapons, which totally contradicts with archaeological finds around central places, where a huge weapon and armour production likely took place. They might have copied Frankish styles or had their own style, but we just can't say anything concrete with the small numbers of swords preserved (where many could be non-danish burials).

If we say for a through-experiment that Danes had a tradition were weapons were inherited, then it makes sense we don't generally find them in graves.
If the chamber-graves are of foreign warriors (having no heirs around them to pass the weapon on to), then it makes sense that these graves do contain weapons.

Some of these warriors could alternatively be thrall-warriors in service of the King (domestic or foreign)
As thralls they have per definition no kin and thus no one to pass their wealth on to. Thralls still had personal belongings and money [and received pay for their services], so it makes sense that their wealth were then buried with them.

We know from later middle ages that some Scandinavian rulers chose thralls/lower class to fill their hird, instead of the older comitatus system of surrounding yourself with warriors of the nobility.
Example of this is Norwegian King Sverre Sigurdsson (King 1884-1202) who build a formidable elite bodyguard of lower class men.
View user's profile Send private message
Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
Joined: 11 Jun 2007
Likes: 7 pages

Posts: 2,247

PostPosted: Sun 24 Feb, 2019 3:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Lewis wrote:


Alternatively, we might at least entertain the modest proposal that Ulfberht swords originated in Frankish territory, perhaps the Rhineland, and some were initially fitted with fine Carolingian-style hilts appropriate for their quality and prestige. Such weapons were naturally suitable gifts for the friendly warrior-elite of the Croatian state, developing under Carolingian influence, and of course they would appeal to any Viking who acquired one, either licitly or illicitly – Carolingian capitularies suggest the latter was an issue of ongoing concern. As far as I know, the metallurgy of only one of the possibly earliest Ulfberht swords has been studied to date, and it was not made of crucible steel. So far, the circumstantial evidence points somewhat towards +VLFBERHT+ being the originally intended spelling – not altogether surprising since the opening/closing cross is pretty well standard in other inscriptions, and "+T" is the notable exception. Irregularities (VLFBEHT, VLFBERHⱵ) do appear early on however, either through error or imitation... the apparently later correlation between "+T" and the highest quality blades is of course still very interesting!


Only logical conclusion, if you ask me...
BTW, below is a picture of happy me with one of the Croatian Ulfberhts behind me. Happy



 Attachment: 45.46 KB
[ Download ]
View user's profile Send private message
Ivar Losna




Location: Norway
Joined: 02 Mar 2019

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sat 02 Mar, 2019 5:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Since the topic is still open, does anyone know of someone capable of recreating a proper Ulfberht sword?
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Ulfberht Swords
Page 3 of 3 Reply to topic
Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3 All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2019 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum