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E. Tucker





Joined: 06 Sep 2006

Posts: 3

PostPosted: Wed 06 Sep, 2006 10:07 pm    Post subject: Witham Sword Help         Reply with quote

Hello, Everyone.

I'm brand new around here. I've been intrigued by swords and armor for a while now, but it never advanced past the "just browsing" stage. It probably sprang from my fascination with Beowulf years ago in school, and continued with Tolkien. Anyway, last weekend I drove to Pennsylvania to attend the Renaissance Faire there. I got all dressed up in a borrowed outfit that vaguely resembled pirate garb. ( I actually borrowed it from my father, who is an avid 18th Century pre-Revolutionary America era reenactor and a very good gunsmith.) Once there, I browsed through the weapons and armor there, not really intending to buy anything, just there more out of curiosity. But I saw a sword there that called to me, and once I picked it up, I decided that I just had to buy it. It was probably the marking on the blade that did it. I know it's nothing of any great quality like some of the pieces of art on this site, but I love it anyway.

It is a reproduction of the River Witham sword with the runes etched in the blade. I'll try to attach a couple of pics so that everyone knows exactly which one I'm talking about, since there were apparently several found in the area. I've spent a few days trying to do a little research on it, and haven't been able to find much hard information. So, I'm hoping some of you will be able to help me. I'd like to know a little of the history about the sword such as:

Who would have carried it? (Viking, Norman, etc...)
What time period and area would it have come from?
Does anyone have any idea what the markings on the blade mean? ( I haven't been able to find a translation.)
Can someone direct me to a resource about how to care for this sword? (I've never owned a sword before.)

I appreciate any and all information you could give me or direct me to on this matter. I am just now taking an interest in the subject and don't really know where to begin.

Thanks in advance,
Ethan Tucker



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A picture of the original.

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A closeup of the markings on the blade of my reproduction.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Wed 06 Sep, 2006 11:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Can we see a photo or two of the entire reproduction? Who is the maker?
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Wed 06 Sep, 2006 11:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here are photos of the Witham sword I took in 2006 while visiting the British Museum. The conditions were not condusive to good photography and so limits the quality tremendously.

From the card:

Sword, English, late 13th century
Found in the River Witham, near Lincoln
M&LA 58,11-16,5



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Witham Sword from The British Museum

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Witham Sword from The British Museum

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Witham Sword from The British Museum

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Witham Sword from The British Museum

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E. Tucker





Joined: 06 Sep 2006

Posts: 3

PostPosted: Wed 06 Sep, 2006 11:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here are a couple of shots I took really quickly. I can try to get some better ones tomorrow when the light is better, but I'm not sure how good I can do. I'm the worst photographer ever. But hopefully these will do for now. As for the maker, I'm not sure. There are no markings on the blade, but I believe it's the CAS Iberia one. It's the one I've seen that looks the closest to what I have. I've seen a few other reproductions, but each of them had a little something different about them.

As you can see, there are a few rusting spots on the hilt and blade. I was told I could get them out with a little work, but I don't know what I'm going to need to do it, and how to maintain it.



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Jonathon Janusz





Joined: 20 Nov 2003

Posts: 467

PostPosted: Thu 07 Sep, 2006 4:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Welcome to the obsession of sharp and pointies Happy ! As far as proper care and feeding, may I suggest:

http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_care.html
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Jim Adelsen
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Location: WI
Joined: 28 Dec 2005

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PostPosted: Thu 07 Sep, 2006 8:08 am    Post subject: Re: Witham Sword Help         Reply with quote

Not real familiar with that blade, but those are not runes. Is it latin?
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www.thevikingmuseum.com
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Hugo Voisine





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PostPosted: Thu 07 Sep, 2006 9:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi,

To remove the rust I would use a "rust eraser" + some metal glow for finish. Works well for me.

Those products can be found here :

http://www.reliks.com/search.ihtml?searchterm...amp;step=2
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Sep, 2006 1:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This sword is given a tenative date of the first half of the 12th century, based upon details such as the style of the cross and the inscriptions. Guards like this one appear earlier but their cross-sections tend to be square with trumpeted ends, whereas a later style appearing in the 13th century features an octagonal cross-section with trumpeted ends. The round cross-section as shown on this sword is commonly found in the late 11th-early 12th centuries. The meaning of the inlay is uncertain. A viking sword found in the Leppaaho grave finds bears very similar inscriptions on its blade. That particular sword has also been given a date of circa 1100AD. Due to its similarities the Witham sword is given a similar date. Another sword found at Whittlesea Mere, Cambridgeshire, England has another very similar inscription and is dated to 1050-1120. The inlays on the Withams blade are of yellow metal. Oakeshott thought this may be gold due to the swords overall magnificent quality but this is uncertain. This is one of the finest swords extant from this era and I don't think you would have found it in the hands of a lowly hedge knight. I think it was probably owned by someone of fairly high standing. Since it's given a post-conquest date it may have been owned by an important Norman personage.

This is possibly my favorite sword from the high medieval period. For the past year or so I've been trying to convince a certain smith to make me an exacting recreation of this sword. To our knowledge he's the only smith to have ever had the opportunity to do a hands-on examination of the sword when it was out of its vitrine. Hopefully one of these days he'll be able to work it into his schedule as this one is very high on my short list of must haves.
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Hugo Voisine





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PostPosted: Thu 07 Sep, 2006 6:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
For the past year or so I've been trying to convince a certain smith to make me an exacting recreation of this sword.


Tell me if the smith in question decides to replicate the sword... Wink
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E. Tucker





Joined: 06 Sep 2006

Posts: 3

PostPosted: Thu 07 Sep, 2006 9:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick Kelly wrote:
A viking sword found in the Leppaaho grave finds bears very similar inscriptions on its blade. That particular sword has also been given a date of circa 1100AD. Due to its similarities the Witham sword is given a similar date. Another sword found at Whittlesea Mere, Cambridgeshire, England has another very similar inscription and is dated to 1050-1120. The inlays on the Withams blade are of yellow metal. Oakeshott thought this may be gold due to the swords overall magnificent quality but this is uncertain. This is one of the finest swords extant from this era and I don't think you would have found it in the hands of a lowly hedge knight. I think it was probably owned by someone of fairly high standing. Since it's given a post-conquest date it may have been owned by an important Norman personage.


First of all, thanks to everyone for their help on this subject so far. I ran out to the hardware store earlier and bought some supplies, and have now shined it up into pretty good shape. It's been polished and oiled now, and looks great. Thanks for the information.

I'll have to look up this Whittlesea Mere sword. If a Viking sword was found with a similar inscription, is it possible that this was actually a Viking sword with Norman influence, or do you think it was definitely a Norman sword? The reason I'm so interested is that I am wanting to go the whole nine yards and recreate the look of whoever would have carried it. If anyone has a guess about what the man who would have carried this blade may have looked like, I would appreciate a link to some pictures, or just a general idea. I'm very interested in finding clothing and armor that will fit well with this sword, as well as finding out a little history about it. European history is not a strongsuit of mine, but I am very interested in learning.

Thanks,
Ethan Tucker
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Randall Moffett




Location: Northern Utah
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PostPosted: Thu 07 Sep, 2006 11:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't think it is a viking era sword. The overall shape of it and design is not viking. Like patric said the highest probabbility is a well off Norman noble. I agree with that very much. I was at the British Library a month ago and was being told it was likely to be 13th. I was not convinced 100% and Oakeshott is a fairly sturdy source to rely on for dating but there are some small aspects that could make it so. I think if you look at very late viking age swords you will notice a difference between the blade shape and furnature on the hilt. That is not to say it is imposible to have been a viking sword bu 12th century is about a half century late to be a viking as the last major viking force to England was 1066 Harald Hardraada.

RPM
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Thu 07 Sep, 2006 11:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oakeshott disagrees with the British Museum regarding the dating of this sword. Looking at my post above, one can see that the British Museum lists it as "Sword, English, late 13th century"
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Fri 08 Sep, 2006 5:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't see this as a viking sword at all. I think the Leppaaho sword is termed "viking" because of its find place. A date of 1100AD puts it into the high middle ages, not what we consider to be the classic "viking age". I believe there were other objects associated with the Leppaaho grave finds that also more firmly established an 1100 date. There are several Leppaaho swords with hilt styles very similar to the Witham as well. These details along with the blade inscription, is why Oakeshott determined the sword to have a similar date rather than a later 13th century one. Either way I don't think this sword would fit into a classicly nordic interpretation.
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Shawn Henthorn




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PostPosted: Fri 08 Sep, 2006 6:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is definatly what I consider a classic knightly sword. It is one I have considered getting from CAS but the 3.5 lbs seems a bit heavy for me.


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Randall Moffett




Location: Northern Utah
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PostPosted: Fri 08 Sep, 2006 8:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would like to get a nice 3-3.5 pounds sword but would like it to be a hand an a half. This one might allow a second hand perhaps? I have never seen the CAS repo in person actually.

Nathan,

That is funny. I looked at my pictures and it was there too.... I guess the person there just knew I would be someone to spar with regarding the dates before I even had a chance to see what the plaque said. I had a nice trip there, got to see some stuff in storage too. Many cool things in the back, a shame more does not get outfor viewing!!!

RPM
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Larry Lim




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PostPosted: Fri 15 Sep, 2006 8:06 pm    Post subject: Re: River Witham Sword         Reply with quote

Pertaining to the River Witham sword, the caption from the book "Swords And Hilt Weapons" read:

"Wheel-pommel sword with blade inlaid in latten with Roman and Lombardic letters, English, c.1250-1330. Found in the River Witham in Lincolshire in 1825..."

Larry
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Dan Dickinson
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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jun, 2007 9:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I though I'd revive this thread as I'm considering having a custom version of the Witham sword done. Since my own photos didn't turn out, I would appreciate any other photos, measurements, etc than anyone might have,
thanks,
Dan
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 25 Jun, 2007 8:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some of the replicas really have changed the character of the original font. The "X" appears distinctly Romanian style (13th-14th century) in the CAS Iberia version, although medieval Romanian text scripts (O, C, foreign improvisation of W, etc.) are most consistent with the museum photos' overall script.

I am puzzled by the claims of runes and Lombardic character. There is no resemblance to Rovasiras whatsoever. I suspect the end marks are just decorative trademarks or representative of something simple such as 2 row barley. The abundance of the clear "X" is very inconsistent with Saxon or Scandinavian.

Has anyone attempted translation of it?

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Joep Klijs





Joined: 19 Mar 2005

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PostPosted: Tue 26 Jun, 2007 4:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The inscription appears to have more in common with ancient Greek than Latin. There are only very few words in latin that begin with ¨X¨ and none that begin with ¨W´.
In fact, the first glossary I opened only listed ¨Xiphias¨ which clearly has Greek origins and means ¨swordfish¨, so there could be a connection with swords in general.
The inscription clearly does not consist of entire words because there are too many consonnants. In latin inscriptions it is very common to use one character to represent an entire word (common examples of this can be found on roman gravestones). My guess is that it is an inscription in ancient Greek according to a Roman form. My ancient Greek is a little rusty and I´m working right now so I don´t have the time to translate.
Or maybe the X could be the Latin number ¨10¨, but I seriously doubt it.
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Joep Klijs





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PostPosted: Tue 26 Jun, 2007 5:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Further research shows that there are a number of ancient Greek words for weapons that start with ¨X¨.

Xiphidion (GR): (1) shortsword; (2) dagger.
Xiphos (GR): sword.
Xyelè (GR): curved dagger; sickle.

I don´t see any evidence to support the claim that there are runes in the inscription. The characters at the beginning and the end are definitely not runes. The W is still a bit puzzling, but it could be the first letter of a name that is Germanic in origin or it could be a form of the greek Omega (which is also written as a sort of w).
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