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Tyler C.

Location: Canada
Joined: 20 Aug 2019
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Posts: 80

PostPosted: Tue 30 Jun, 2020 8:20 am    Post subject: Gilling Sword Assembled wrong? / Viking Era Handle Forms         Reply with quote

Today I was looking at the Gilling Sword and the way the handle swells in the middle struck me as off. This started me wondering if the rings on the handle could be incorrectly ordered. To our modern aesthetic handles should swell in the middle and perhaps that influenced a conservator to assemble the rings in the order they are currently in. To me they look like they would easily slide inside each other and considering it was found in a river by a school boy I can imagine it was a jumbled and crumpled mess when it was purchased by the Yorkshire Museum. I'm guessing that each of the pressblech bands had to be made round again and therefore the top and bottom bands could be easily formed to match the guards like they do. Actually in some images the bands next to the guards even look like their edges that are not touching the guards are bent inward like what happens if if you form a parallel sided ring to a curved surface (see first image below). Another thing that makes me think something is off is ring D (see below) looks like it is smaller than E. If this grip was supposed to swell in the middle I would think it would be a more uniform swell instead of undulating. I wonder if the correct order for the rings is actually C, B, A, D, E.

Extending beyond this example, to me, ever time I see a viking style hilt with a swelling handle (reproductions) it looks off to me. Something about the shapes of the guards & pommel just ask for a waisted grip and anything else looks awkward. Of course that is just my opinion, but I can't recall seeing any counter examples to this. Does anyone have any examples from archaeology with a swelling handle? Do you think it's possible that the Gilling Sword is assembled incorrectly?

Thanks for your thoughts!

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Arne G.

Joined: 31 Jul 2014

Posts: 95

PostPosted: Tue 30 Jun, 2020 9:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To my mind "A" and "E" look correct, as they seem to my eye to match the curvature of the upper and lower guards. But the other three could be in any order, I suppose.

I should point out that the more wasp waisted type hilts seem to be more of a Migration Period thing, particularly with some of the Danish Bog Finds.

The only parallel I can find, though it dates from the Late Viking Age, is the sword from Korsødegården, Norway. Note that some organic elements of the grip survive, and it shows a steady taper from the cross to the pommel (see photo).

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Dewey H.

Location: Kentucky
Joined: 10 Aug 2005
Reading list: 20 books

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PostPosted: Tue 30 Jun, 2020 1:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow I was just looking at pics of this sword yesterday thinking the exact same thing. Even looking at great reconstruction with the swelling handle not looking correct.
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Mikko Kuusirati

Location: Finland
Joined: 16 Nov 2004
Reading list: 13 books

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PostPosted: Tue 30 Jun, 2020 3:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I do kinda get the impression that bands C and D might have swapped places... but that would only make the taper more even.

There are several Viking Age swords with enough remaining of the wooden grip or metallic grip ornaments to clearly indicate a tapered or cigar-shaped grip, for example pages 95 and 140-141 in Ian Pierce's Swords of the Viking Age, although the asymmetrically waisted shape - of which there's a beautiful example on page 44-45 - does seem to be much more common on surviving specimens.

(Personally, mostly on aesthetic grounds, when it comes to Viking Age weapons I tend to favor the waisted grip on swords with straight guards and a slightly convex tapered grip with curved guards. It just looks more natural to me, somehow.)

The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
-- R. E. Howard, The Road of Kings
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