Two peculiar Great Moravian swords

The Great Moravian period represents, in terms of swords, an epoch when high-quality swords of type X and Y appear in Czech and Moravian territories. Their increase is undoubtedly associated with the equestrian elite, which preferred these swords because of better functionality in cavalry combat. More information on this phenomenon is provided by Jiří Košta (eg Košta – Hošek 2014; interview with Jiří Košta).

Contrary to this progressive group of swords, there is certainly a group that maintains a traditional design with a shorter blade, a short guard and a multi-piece pommel. In this article we will focus on two swords that fit exactly into this group, and exhibit a rather atypical element – the organic components of the hilt.


Description

Two swords originating from Olomouc – Nemilany and Staré Město have a construction consisting of a double-edged blade – in case of Nemilany, we are speaking about high quality blade with inscription – and wooden hilt components, which were coated with metal sheet (Hošek et al. 2019: ID No 164 and 226). The guard of this type of sword was relatively short and did not exceed the width of the blade too much. The metal sheet that covered the wooden oval block could be decorated, as shows the example from Staré Město, which is inlayed with brass wire.

The most interesting discovery of the latest research is detailed observation of the tang ends, which show that there are holes and fragments of wood. Apparently a wooden pommel was pinned through the hole with a small peg. The pegs were probably also wooden, as there were no metal fragments in the holes. With some degree of certainty, we can estimate that the original pommels could be one or two-piece, while the upper hilts were similarly massive as lower guards and the pommel caps were pyramid-shaped or divided into three lobes. The dating of the Nemilany sword goes back to the 9th or beginning of the 10th century (Hošek et al. 2019: 195), while the Staré Město sword dates to the period from the second half of the 8th to the first half of the 9th century (Hošek et al. 2019: 245).

Analogies that combine relevant shape and materials are missing in the period Europe. Massive oval guards with inlays similar to the Staré Město example could be found at German swords from 8th and 9th century (Geibig 1991; Westphal 2002). Swords with antler or bone components represent a kind of analogy; they were known in a big portion of Europe (Scandinavia, England, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary) in the 9th – 10th century and they usually copy standard types of swords (Vlasatý 2017). The combination of metal and wood used for hilt components can be found at Migration Period swords until the 7th century (eg Davidson 1962: Fig. 49-53), however the time gap prevents any closer connection of the two groups. The application of the hole at the end of tang can be spotted at Alanian two-edged sabre from grave 52 of Dmitrievskoe hillfort, 9th-10th century (Pletneva 1989: 73).


Sword from grave 116/51 from the Staré Město – Na Valách. Hrubý 1955: Fig. 27.2.


The sword from Olomouc – Nemilany

The sword from Olomouc – Nemilany was found during the archaeological excavations of 1999. It was located in the grave of a young adult man and it also contained a knife, two buckets and eggshells (Hošek et al. 2019: 195-6, ID No 164). The sword cannot be typologically classified, it falls chronologically into the 9th – early 10th century. Today, the sword is only a blade with organic fragments of hilt and scabbard. The length of the sword in this state is 936 mm and weight 852 g. The blade, which is 800 mm long, 63.4 mm wide and 5-3 mm thick, consists of a steel core and welded steel blades. On the obverse side of the blade, ther is the inscription IVLFBERHTI, on the reverse side, there is a lattice – both elements were made of pattern welded rods. The fuller is at its widest point 32.5 mm wide and it ends 80 mm from the tip. The tang is 136 mm long. The grip, which was 100 mm long, 42-20 mm wide and about 5 mm thick, is still partially covered with wooden fragments. The lower guard consisted of organic material. It was about 15 mm high and its position was still visible at the time the grave was opened. The pommel was also made up of organic material whose fragments were preserved. At a distance of 20 mm from the end of the tang, there is a corroded remnant of a sheet approximately 2 mm thick, which covered the organic head. The pommel was attached to the tang using a peg which was inserted through the hole at the end of the tang. The sheath fragments consist of wood that has been lined with three kinds of twill fabric. Today the sword is deposited in the Archaeological Center in Olomouc under registration number 22/99-841-1.

The sword from Olomouc – Nemilany. Hošek et al. 2019: 195.


The sword from grave 116/51 from Staré Město

The Staré Město sword was found during archaeological excavations in 1951. It was located in the grave of a man of advanced age, which also contained spurs, two knives and a bucket (Hošek et al. 2019: 245-6, ID No 226). The sword cannot be typologically classified, it falls chronologically to the period from the mid-8th to the mid-9th century. Nowadays, the sword consists only of a blade, a guard, fragments of hilt and scabbard. The length of the sword in this state is 872 mm and the weight is 728 g. The blade, which is 727.5 mm long, 62 mm wide and 5-4 mm thick, has not been metallurgically examined, but X-rays confirmed that the fuller area consists of twisted pattern welding panels and that there is a circle (14.5 mm in diameter) 18 mm below the guard, whose interpretation is uncertain. The fuller is at its widest point 30 mm wide, runs through the entire length of the preserved blade and tapers to 20 mm. The tang is 114.5 mm long. The handle, which was 92.5 mm long, 32-22 mm wide and 6 mm thick, is still partially covered with wooden fragments. A very short and high oval-shaped guard was formed by a wooden base, which was covered all around with iron plate. This plate was inlayed with a wire (73.9% Cu, 25.7% Zn, 0.4% Sn) in branch or herringbone pattern. The top of the guard was covered with copper alloy sheet. The guard is 75 mm long, 34-30 mm high, the original thickness is about 31 mm. The pommel was also made up of organic material whose fragments were preserved. It was set at a distance of 22 mm from the end of the tang, where the tang tapers. It can be assumed that the pommel was attached to the tang by means of a peg which was inserted through a hole located 16.5 mm from the end of the tang and that the pommel was covered with a sheet. The sheath fragments consist of wood that has been covered with several layers of textile and leather. The sword has been poorly reconstructed and preserved in the past and is therefore in a very bad condition. Today the sword is stored in the Moravian Museum in Brno under registration number 116/51.

The sword from grave 116/51 from Staré Město – Na Valách. Hošek et al. 2019: 245.


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Bibliography

Davidson, Hilda R. Ellis (1962). The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England. Its Archaeology and Literature, Oxford.

Geibig, Alfred (1991). Beiträge zur morphologischen Entwicklung des Schwertes im Mittelalter : eine Analyse des Fundmaterials vom ausgehenden 8. bis zum 12. Jahrhundert aus Sammlungen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Neumünster.

Košta, Jiří – Hošek, Jiří (2014). Early Medieval swords from Mikulčice, Brno : Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

Hošek, Jiří – Košta, Jiří – Žákovský, Petr (2019). Ninth to mid-sixteenth century swords from the Czech Republic in their European context, Praha – Brno.

Hrubý, Vilém (1955). Staré Město: Velkomoravské pohřebiště „Na Valách“, Praha.

Pletneva 1989 = Плетнева, С. А. (1989). На славнно-хазареком пограничье (Дмитриевский археологический комплекс), Москва.

Vlasatý, Tomáš (2017). Meče s organickým jílcem. Projekt Forlǫg : Reenactment a věda. Available at: http://sagy.vikingove.cz/mece-s-organickym-jilcem/, cited: 15. 2. 2020.

Westphal, Herbert (2002). Franken oder Sachsen? Untersuchungen an frühmittelaterlichen Waffen, Oldenburg.

Petersen type M sword

Many Viking Age sword are richly decorated, which makes quality reconstruction very expensive. That is why I was asked by my colleagues to provide an overview of undecorated swords that would be more affordable to reconstruct. I chose Petersen’s type M for its simplicity and major representation among Scandinavian sword finds. Because this type is often overlooked these days, it certainly deserves our attention.


Description

The type M (also known as R. 489) describes a sword variant standing between types F and Q. It is characterised by a simple hilt in the shape of the letter I. Sharply cut cross-guard and upper guard are usually straight and of similar height. From the front view, both the upper and cross-guard are of rectangle shape, with the cross-guard slightly bent in rare cases. The upper guard is of simple shape similar to cross-guard, and the tang is held in place by hammering it into a rivet shape; the upper guard is never ended by a pommel. Sides of the guards are usually straight, less often rounded. An important feature of type M swords is undecorated hilt. Blades are usually double-edged (single-edged variants make up to 15% of finds according to Petersen) and simple, although we also know of some Norse and Swedish blades made of patern welded steel (Androščuk 2014: 386–7; Petersen 1919: 118). Petersen notes that none of Norse blades carries an inscription, which according to our information is still actual. That said, there is a variant of ULFBERHT inscription on a blade from Eura, Finland (Kazakevičius 1996: 39). While the swords are of simple design, they are made of quality materials.

typM-framdalir
Type M sword from area of Framdalir, Iceland.
Source: Androščuk 2014: 68, Fig. 23.

Type M swords are in general up to one meter long, usually between 80 and 90 cm. The longest sword that we know of is 95 cm long. An average width of Scandinavian blades is 5,5-6 cm, sometimes up to 6,5 cm. Measured swords of average length weigh 1100-1200 grams. The shortest piece we are aware of weighs 409 grams and is 47,7 cm long, with blade having 38,5 cm in length and 0,48 cm in thickness (Peirce 2002: 86). This sword, said to had been found in a boy’s grave, seems to be a miniaturised, yet fully functional version. In order to outline anatomy of this interesting type, we chose six relatively well-preserved swords that we will describe in more detail.

C59045_DovreDovre, Norway (C59045). Well-preserved sword found in a grave in 2013. Total length of 89 cm, blade length is 77 cm and 5,9 cm wide. Fuller is visible 12 cm from cross-guard up to 6 cm from blade point. Length of the hilt is 12 cm, with grip being 9,3 cm long and 3,4 cm wide. Cross-guard’s length, height and width are 9,4 × 1,1 × 2,3 cm. Upper guard has the measurements 7 × 1,3 × 2,2-2,3 cm. Total weight 1141,1 g. Photo source: Vegard Vike, Museum of cultural history, Oslo.

C58919_FlesbergÅsland, Norway (C58919). A preserved sword placed in a grave, found in 2013. Total length 87 cm. Length of grip 8,5 cm. Length, height and thickness of cross-guard is 11,6 × 1,2 × 2,6 cm. Length, height and width of upper guard is 8,1 × 1,2 × 2,7 cm. Photo source: Elin Christine Storbekk, Museum of cultural history, Oslo.

C24244_ArgehovdMogen, Norway (C24244). Well-preserved sword found in a grave before 1937. Total length 85 cm, blade width 5,5 cm. Grip length 9,6 cm. Length of cross-guard 12,9 cm, length of upper guard 8,3 cm. Photo source: Peirce 2002: 86, Museum of cultural history, Oslo.

C53462_TelemarkTelemark, Norway (C53462). Partially corroded sword donated to museum in 2004. Total length 71 cm, damaged blade is 59,5 cm long and 5,8 cm wide. Length of grip 9,7 cm. Length and height of cross-guard is 10,5 × 1 cm, length and width of upper guard 6,8 × 0,8 cm. Photo source: Ellen C. Holte, Museum of cultural history, Oslo.

parisUnknown French location, possibly found in a river (Musée de l’Armée, Paris; J3). Very well-preserved sword found before 1890. Total length 90 cm. Blade is 75 cm long and 5,3 cm wide. Length of cross-guard 10 cm. Length of grip 12 cm. Photo source: Peirce 2002: 86, Musée de l’Armée negativ K23710.

T19391-rorosRøros, Norway (T19391). Well-preserved sword found in 1973. Total length 90 cm, blade is 78 cm long and 5,5 cm wide. Length, height and width of cross-guard 12,2 × 1,3 × 2,3 cm. Measurements of upper guard are 8,1 × 1,3 × 2,1 cm. Photo source: Ole Bjørn Pedersen, Museum of cultural history, Oslo.

We should also pay an attention to organic remnants found on type M swords. In general, we could say that many swords show traces of wooden panelling of the grip and wooden scabbard. Let’s examine several specific examples. The sword find from grave 511 in Repton, England was stored in wooden scabbard, that was inlaid with sheep’s fleece and covered in leather (Biddle – Kjølbye-Biddle 1992: 49). The scabbard was held by a hanging system, of which only a single cast buckle survived. The handle was made of softwood, which was then wrapped with a cloth strip. The sword from Öndverðarnes, Iceland (Kt 47) had a wooden grip wrapped in thin, plaited cord, and a wooden scabbard covered in textile (Eldjárn 2000: 326). Traces of leather cover were found at the tip of the scabbard, with remnants of sword belt slider located 3 cm below the cross-guard. In another Icelandic grave from Sílastaðir (Kt 98) – was found a sword with grip of wooden panels that were retracted below the cross-guard and wrapped with a cord at the upper guard (Eldjárn 2000: 326). This sword’s scabbard is wooden, inlaid with textile and covered in linen and leather; there are still several spots with visible profiled wrappings. There was a metal strip placed 12 cm below cross-guard, most likely used for sword belt attachment. The scabbard had a leather chape at the tip.

Organic components are also often present at type M swords from Norway. One of the Kaupang swords had a wooden grip wrapped with a leather cord or strap, and a wooden scabbard covered in leather (Blindheim – Heyerdahl-Larsen 1995: 61). Fragments of wooden grips and scabbards were simultaneously found with swords from Brekke (B10670), Hogstad (C52343), Kolstad (T12963), Støren (Androščuk 2014: 76, Pl. 111) and Åsland (C58919). The sword from Nedre Øksnavad (S12274) had a wooden grip and scabbard covered in textile. The sword from Eikrem (T12199), which is most likely of type M, had a scabbard made of spruce with parts held together by metal clamps and covered in leather and textile. The sword from Soggebakke (T16395) had a wooden scabbard. Swords from Hallem søndre (T13555), Havstein (T15297) and Holtan (T16280) had fragments of wooden grips. This is only a limited inventory that I was able to list during my short research. Yet it is an immensely valuable source that provides us with a decent idea of what the typical type M sword looked like.


typM-ondverdarnestypM-kaupang

Swords from Öndverðarnes, Iceland and Kaupang, Norway.
Source: Blindheim – Heyerdahl-Larsen 1995: Pl. 48; Eldjárn 2000: 326, 161. mynd.


 

Distribution and dating

When it comes to distribution of the swords, it seems that type M was mainly a Norwegian domain. In 1919, Petersen noted that that there are at least 198 type M swords known in Norway, of which at least 30 were single-edged (Petersen 1919: 117–121). Nonetheless, in the past 100 years, an immeasurable amount of new swords were excavated, and the number increases every year – such as in Vestfold, which is absent in Petersen’s list, we already have 42 finds (Blindheim et al. 1999: 81). Highest concentration of type M swords is in Eastern Norway and Sogn, where we know of at least 375 swords according to Per Hernæs (1985). Mikael Jakobsson (1992: 210) registers 409 swords in Norway. And current number will undoubtedly be even greater. We will most likely not be far from truth while claiming that type M is together with type H/I one of the most widespread Norwegian swords. The number of sword finds in neighbouring areas is disproportionate. From Sweden, we only know of 10 swords (Androščuk 2014: 69), at least 4 from Iceland (Eldjárn 2000: 330), at least 4 from Great Britain (Biddle – Kjølbye-Biddle 1992: 49; Bjørn – Shetelig 1940: 18, 26), 4 from France (Jakobsson 1992: 211), 2 from Denmark (Pedersen 2014: 80), 3 from Finland, 1 from Ireland and 1 from Germany (Jakobsson 1992: 211; Kazakevičius 1996: 39). Vytautas Kazakevičius (1996: 39) registers at least 9 type M swords from Baltic, at least 2 from Poland and 2 from Czech Republic. Jiří Košta, the Czech sword expert, denies there is a single type M sword find from Czech Republic and according to him, claiming so is but a myth often cited in literature (personal discussion with Jiří Košta). Baltic swords are rather specific – they are shorter and with a narrower single-edged blade, features causing them being interpreted as local product. It is safe to say we know of over 440 pieces, though the real count being much higher.

When it comes to dating the finds, Petersen argues that first type M swords appear in Norway around the half of 9th century and prevail until the beginning of 10th century (Petersen 1919: 121). Recent archaeological finds from Eastern Norway, Kaupang especially, show that they were being placed in graves during first half of 10th century (Blindheim et al. 1999: 81). Two Swedish datable pieces come from the 10th century (Androščuk 2014: 69), which is also the case of two swords from Iceland (Eldjárn 2000: 330). Polish finds can be dated to 9th century (Kazakevičius 1996: 39). Type M swords are thus widely present from both geographical and chronological perspective, and one can only argue if the similarity is just a rather randomness caused by simple design.

typM
Type M sword distribution in Eastern Norway and Sogn.
Source: Blindheim et al. 1999: 81, Fig. 9, according to Hernæs 1985.


Intepretation

Generally speaking, a sword is a clear symbol of elite status and power. It is evident that Old Norse people, like people anywhere else, tended to compare to one another, be it in skills or wealth. This often resulted in quite a heated dialogue, in which men attempted to triumph in greatness of their qualities (so called mannjafnaðr). Swords undoubtedly played a role of wealth and status symbols in such situations. Looking from a broader perspective, one can find the answer in Norway that was multipolar in 9th and 10th century – ruling families were attempting centralisation, which resulted in creation of society with a strong feel for expressing its independence or importance through adopting the elitism model of sword ownership and its placing in graves. This led to Norway providing us with immense amount of sword finds, which is unprecedented. Social tensions affected everyone to a point, but only a few had the wealth to invest large in exclusive weaponry. “Simpler”, yet fully functional type M swords can be perceived as cheaper alternative that provided free men of lesser wealth with ability to improve reputation and identity of their families in times with no clear social stratification. This is supported by their look and amount present in both male and female graves (Kjølen, C22541).

„Simple iron parts without any precious metal decoration make up the hilt of the sword. It is a pragmatic sword, probably worn with pride, but not by the highest strata of society. Such simple and unpretentious swords seem to be the norm in mountain graves, and they were probably made or at least hilted in Norway.“ (Vike 2017)

 

Type M swords seem to be utility weapons that could had played a representative role to their owners. Two rare Norse swords – a sword from Strande (T1951) and sword from Lesja (C60900) – suggest that they were handed down for at least 50 years and were modified to match the latest fashion. This approach is also the case of other Viking Age swords (Fedrigo et al. 2017: 425). The swords from Strande has type E pommel, which was additionally attached to tang along with typologically younger cross-guard of type M (Petersen 1919: 78, Fig. 66). The sword from Lesja consists of blade with tang, to which a cross-guard of older sword style (type C) was attached together with type M upper guard (Vike 2017). It is also important to add that the sword from Lesja was found on an iceberg, where it most likely served a reindeer hunter 1000 years ago.

Lesja, Norway (C60900). Very well-preserved sword found in 2017 on an iceberg. Type C cross-guard with type M upper guard. Total length 92,8 cm, length and width of blade 79,4 × 6,2 cm. Thickness of blade 0,45 cm. Length of hilt 13,4 cm, grip is 10,1 cm long. Cross-guard measures 7,5 × 1,7 cm. Total weight 1203 g. Photo source: Vegard Vike, Museum of cultural history, Oslo.


I hope you liked reading this article. If you have any question or remark, please contact me or leave a comment below. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.


Bibliography

Androščuk, Fedir (2014). Viking Swords : Swords and Social aspects of Weaponry in Viking Age Societies, Stockholm.

Biddle, Martin – Kjølbye-Biddle, Birthe (1992). Repton and the Vikings. In: Antiquity, Vol. 66, 38–51.

Bjørn, Anathon – Shetelig, Haakon (1940). Viking Antiquities in Great Britain and Ireland, Part 4 : Viking Antiquities in England, Bergen.

Blindheim, Charlotte – Heyerdahl-Larsen, Birgit (1995). Kaupang-funnene, Bind II. Gravplassene i Bikjholbergene/Lamøya. Undersøkelsene 1950–1957. Del A. Gravskikk, Oslo.

Blindheim, Ch. – Heyerdahl-Larsen, B. – Ingstad, Anne S. (1999). Kaupang-funnene. Bind II. Gravplassene i Bikjholbergene/Lamøya: Undersøkelsene 1950–57. Del B. Oldsaksformer. Del C. Tekstilene, Oslo.

Fedrigo, Anna et al. (2017). Extraction of archaeological information from metallic artefacts—A neutron diffraction study on Viking swords. In: Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 12, 425–436.

Hernæs, Per (1985). De østnorske sverdfunn fra yngre jernalder : en geografisk analyse. Magistergradsavhandling i nordisk arkeologi – Universitetet i Oslo, Oslo.

Jakobsson, Mikael (1992). Krigarideologi och vikingatida svärdstypologi, Stockholm : Stockholms Universitet.

Kazakevičius, Vytautas (1996). IX–XIII a. baltų kalavijai, Vilnius.

Pedersen, Anne (2014). Dead Warriors in Living Memory. A study of weapon and equestrian burials in Viking-age Denmark, AD 800-1000, Publications from the National Museum. Studies in Archaeology & History Vol. 20:1 1. (Text), Copenhagen.

Peirce, I. G. (2002). Catalogue of Examples. In: Oakeshott E. – Peirce, I. G. (eds). Swords of the Viking Age, Woodbridge, 25–144.

Petersen, Jan (1919). De Norske Vikingesverd: En Typologisk-Kronologisk Studie Over Vikingetidens Vaaben. Kristiania.

Vike, Vegard (2017). A Viking sword from Lesja. UiO Museum of Cultural History, Oslo.
https://www.khm.uio.no/english/research/collections/objects/15/sword_lesja.html

Jakobsson’s Hilt Typology

Jan Petersen’s revolutionary thesis De Norske Vikingesverd (1919) became a basis for many authors, who attempted to adjust or complete the work, or replace it with a typology of their own. Such an example is Mikael Jakobsson, who chose a different approach in his thesis Krigarideologi och vikingatida svärdstypologi (Stockholm, 1992), which we analyse in the text below.

kniha

The book Krigarideologi och vikingatida svärdstypologi [Warrior ideology and typology of Viking Age swords], which is a published doctoral thesis of the author, is a reputable and very thorough work. Personally, I see its main benefit in advanced analysis using data collected from majority of Europe. His goal is not a revision of Petersen’s hilt typology – with which he basically agrees – but a categorisation of broader hilt groups based on similarities in construction. Jakobsson labels these categories as “design principles”. While Petersen worked with three principles (a group with multi-lobed pommel, a group with simplified pommel, a group of unclassifiable types), Jakobsson expanded the list to six, respectively seven types:

  1. Triangle pommel
  2. Three-lobed pommel
  3. Five or more-lobed pommel
  4. Absenting pommel
  5. Curved guard
  6. Single-pieced pommel
  7. Unclassifiable

 

Design principle 1 : triangular pommel

Jakobsson’s triangular pommel corresponds to Petersen’s main sword types A, B, C, H and I, plus his special types 3, 6, 8 and 15. The swords using this design principle comprise a substantial part of swords finds portfolio – at least 884 pieces (48%) according to Jakobsson. This equals to 529 swords in Norway (60%), 147 in Sweden (17%), 81 in Finland (9%), 4 in Denmark (0,5%), 94 in Western Europe (11%) and 29 in Eastern Europe (3%). Their origin can be traced to continental swords with pyramid-shaped pommels. This principle emerged in Scandinavia sometime between the half and end of 8th century under the influence of Carolingian swords and remained there until the end of 10th century.

princip1-typyPetersen’s sword types corresponding with Jakobsson‘s design principle 1.

princip1-rozsireniDistribution of design principle 1 pommels, areas of archaeological finds marked with black.

Design principle 2 : three-lobed pommel

The design principle 2 includes variants of type A, types D, E, L, Mannheim, Mannheim/Speyer, R, S, T, U V and Z, older variant of type X and special types 1, 2, 6, 13, 14 and 19. This principle is present at least on 492 swords (26%). This corresponds with 188 swords in Norway (37%), 58 in Sweden (12%), 43 in Finland (9%), 18 in Denmark (4%), 75 in Western Europe (15%) and 110 in Eastern Europe (23%). The origin can be traced to Merovingian swords, with the three-lobed pommel being based on a pommel with animal heads on the sides. This principle appeared in Scandinavia at the end of 8th century under the influence of Early-Carolingian swords, and supported by English influence in 9th century, it remained there until the beginning of 11th century.

princip2-typyPetersen’s sword types corresponding with Jakobsson‘s design principle 2.

princip1-rozsireni
Distribution of design principle 2 pommels, areas of archaeological finds marked with black.

Design principle 3 : five and more-lobed pommel

Jakobsson’s design principle 3 includes Petersen’s sword types O, K and the five-lobed variant of type S. This principle is the least numerous with only over 88 swords (5%) and is tighly connected to the design principle 2. In Norway, there are 44 swords (49%), 4 in Sweden (5%), none in Finland, 1 in Denmark (1%), 26 in Western Europe (30%) and 13 in Eastern Europe (15%). Like design principle 2, also the design principle 3 is based on Merovingian pommels with animal heads on pommel sides. It arrived in Scandinavia at the beginning of 9th century and remained until the half of 10th century. The topic five and more-lobed pommels is vaguely analyzed, as there are more than fifty cast bronze pommels that are not included.

princip3-typyPetersen’s sword types corresponding with Jakobsson‘s design principle 3.

princip3-rozsireni
Distribution of design principle 3 pommels, areas of archaeological finds marked with black.

Design principle 4 : absenting pommel

With its distinctive upper guard instead of a traditional pommel, design principle 4 includes main types M, P, Q, Y, Æ and special types 5, 17 and 18. We know of at least 712 swords (39%) belonging to this design principle. It is notable that the type M alone is the most numerous of all sword types with more than 432 finds (17%). As for the principle 4, we know of 631 swords in Norway (89%), 23 in Sweden (3%), 14 in Finland (2%), 2 in Denmark (0,3%), 28 in Western Europe (4%) and 14 in Eastern Europe (2%). Design principle 4 was in use from 9th century to sometime during 11th century.

princip4-typyPetersen’s sword types corresponding with Jakobsson‘s design principle 4.

princip4-rozsireni
Distribution of design principle 3, areas of archaeological finds marked with black.

Design principle 5 : curved guard

This design principle of swords consists of main type L, Q, T, Y, Z and Æ, variants of types O, K and X, plus special types 7, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19. The number of swords belonging to design principle 5 is somewhere over 482 pieces (26%). In Norway, we know of 312 finds (71%), 32 in Sweden (7%), 23 in Finland (5%), 3 at maximum in Denmark (1%), 45 in Western Europe (10%) and 70 in Eastern Europe (6%). Design principle 5 was in use during the same period as design principle 4 – from the beginning of 9th century till the end of 11th century.

princip5-typyPetersen’s sword types corresponding with Jakobsson‘s design principle 5.

princip5-rozsireni
Distribution of design principle 5, areas of archaeological finds marked with black.

Design principle 6 : single-pieced pommel

The distinguishing attribute for design principle 6, containing sword types X and W, is a single-pieced pommel with absenting upper guard. There are over 211 swords (11%) of this kind, with 69 found in Norway (33%), 25 in Sweden (12%), 46 in Finland (22%), 8 in Denmark (4%), 51 in Western Europe (24%) and 12 in Eastern Europe (6%). While Jakobsson suggested design principle 6 coming into use at the end of 9th century or the beginning of 10th century, Jiří Košta proved on a set of type X swords from Moravia area of Mikulčice that this principle could had been in use in Central Europe as early as 9th century. This principle turned out to be dominant and substantial for following medieval weapons.

princip6-typyPetersen’s sword types corresponding with Jakobsson‘s design principle 5.

princip6-rozsireni
Distribution of design principle 6, areas of archaeological finds marked with black.

Unclassifiable

Out of the total of 1900 included swords, as much as 97% can be classified into one or more of the previous six design principles. The remaining 3% (around 60 swords) cannot be categorised as such, because they are either a combination of some of two principles or represent a completely standalone category.

nezaraditelnePetersen’s sword types corresponding with Jakobsson‘s unclassifiable category.


As the research shows, it is possible to see a certain evolution of the individual sword types, with a new type of sword per circa each new generation. On contrary, if we categorise the swords by Jakobsson’s design principles – thus working a wider group of sword types based on clearly defined attributes – the length of usage increases to over 100 years, in some cases even up to 200-250 years, i.e. 6-8 generations. Such a prolonged usage of similar manufacturing process undoubtedly must have a deeper meaning. At least in 10th century, all principles were used simultaneously, so it is not possible to connect different manufacturing processes with different chronology. The same goes with geographical distribution, as all principles were used in the similar area, and with practical features – design principle 1 has no connection between the pommel type and blade type, so we can come across both single- and two-edged swords. Jakobsson therefore suggests the popularity of six different principles being tied to something else entirely – to different strategies for reproducing a symbolical value tied to a physical form.

The symbolical value of swords goes hand to hand with their ownership and usage. The fact that the sword principles emerged in such volatile times filled with war, and that the swords are often found in graves suggests that their owners were perceived as sovereigns and combat capable figures. A sword is therefore a multi-layered expression of independence and legitimate membership of higher society (see The sword biography). This value was undoubtedly reflected by the visage of the sword, with some types or even whole principles being more suitable for such a presentation than others. Individual principles might have held a meaning we are not able to grasp anymore nowadays.

More traditional constructions (most of the principle 1, 2 and 3 swords) consist of heavier, usually decorated multi-pieced pommels and short guards, which are good especially for footed combat. In contrast to this conservative construction with deep roots in previous generations of Germanic weapons, there are lighter, less decorated swords with simple pommels, longer guards and better usage in mounted combat (principle 6, especially the type X). Their owners could had expressed their allegiance to continental aristocracy and fashion which the local elite promoted. This could also be the case of principle 5, which seems to be of Anglo-Saxon origin, with its features being widely replicated at least in Viking-Age Scandinavia. Principle 4 might had been more suitable for a part of population wishing to show their identity of sword owners but could not afford the previously mentioned principles. That is why Petersen‘s type M is the most common sword of the Early Middle-Ages (see Petersens type M swords).

Last but not least, it is important to mention that the weapon distribution throughout Scandinavia was not uniform, and that there were notable differences between rich centres and less important peripheries. In closed communities, such as Iceland and some Scandinavian regions, the weapons were widespread among the population, but swords were held by only the richest and in small numbers. In major centres such as Uppland, Central Sweden (also known as society dividing model), the weapons were mainly owned by warrior nobility, circa in ratio 14 Petersen’s types per 100 swords. In this societal model, the presence and absence of weapons among the wider population is crucial. In contrast to this model stand the peripheries settled by seldom stratified population attempting to demonstrate its power. Such a demonstration usually takes form of cumulation of vast number of weapons (also known as society uniting model), which is based on quantity and quality. This can be seen both in number of swords found in Norway, counting over several thousands, and relatively high diversity of sword types, being 10-13 Petersen‘s types per 100 swords in some areas. The vacuum created by absence of a central ruler is filled by number of lesser chieftains who represent their sovereignty by possession of exclusive equipment. Such a type of society, which uses more swords, preserves this trend and puts even more swords into circulation. Other reasons for the creation of Norwegian model could be interpreted by well-equipped militia, but also in other ways. According to Jakobsson, all the models are as a matter of fact a reflection of the same reality.

Jakobsson‘s work is a semiotic approach to material culture. He attempts to outline a complex relation between a symbol and a context and does not resort only to a single explanation. His approach to the subject is by both analysing the sword categories from broader historical perspective and by considering each of the specific weapons by the local and minor relevance. Despite its useful analyses and extensive appendixes, the book does not receive enough attention after more than 25 years. Nevetherless, Jakobsson‘s research should be revised in order to confirm or disprove its up-to-dateness.

Tomáš Vlasatý
Slaný, Bohemia, 2nd May 2019


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The forms of Norwegian sword grips

While self-learning about swords from Early Medieval Norway, I noticed quite a number of specimens having well-preserved organic remnants of hilts and sheaths. Because normally these components do not remain, I considered useful to gather these materials into coherent articles to enrich sword enthusiasts. In this article we will follow up on Norwegian sword hilts from the Viking age, however we think that the Norwegian material can be used for pointing out all the sword hilt types used in Early Medieval Europe.

We start by quick recapitulation of how we define the hilt and handle of these swords. The sword is composed of a blade and hilt components which are mounted on the blade’s tang. The hilt components are the lower guard (fremra hjaltit) and a pommel, which can be one-pieced or two-pieced. In case of the one-pieced pommel, the tang goes through and is riveted at its top. However, in case of the multi-pieced pommel, the tang is usually riveted to the upper guard (efra hjaltit) and then the cap of the pommel is riveted to the upper guard by two rivets. Uncovered part of the tang between the lower guard and the pommel provides the space for a handle (meðalkafli). Now we will explore the ways of covering the tang to enable comfortable and smart use of the sword.

Viking Age sword terminology. Created by Jan Zbránek and Tomáš Vlasatý.

During a fairly thorough exploration of the Unimus catalogue I was able to find four main hilt forms. We can notice that most of the hilts are anatomically shaped, widening towards the lower guard.

Wooden handle
A tang covered with a wooden handle of an oval cross-section – that seems to be the most common variant used in the Viking Age, which also has great variability. The handle could be made of two identical scales, a cylinder with a burnt-in gap or a cylinder with a cutting that would be covered with a narrow piece of wood when mounted on the tang. The material seems to be the wood of broad-leaved trees (i.e. T16054 and T20736, and the pre-Viking B4590 seems to have a birch handle as well). In contrary to Pre-viking periods, the profiling of the handles in terms of finger copying bumps is not documented. Some swords seem to have only an unwrapped wooden handle, in other cases the wooden handles are wrapped in leather, fabric, metal or a combination of these.

  • Leather wrapping
    We have evidence that the wooden base was wrapped with a leather cord (C57001) or a strip of leather (T14613). The shape cannot always be reconstructed exactly, at least in one case the wrapping leather does not have a specified shape (C23127, Ts2954). Identical leather wrapping can be found on Swedish and Icelandic swords.

  • Cloth wrapping
    We can sometimes detect thread (S3821), textile strap (B5161) or cloth plus iron wire wrapping (T3107). Some of the finds are wrapped in unspecified textile (S11782, T12962, T21998). Identical methods of cloth wrapping can be found on Swedish swords as well.

  • Wire wrapping
    Silver, gold or copper alloy wire was a quite popular and very spectacular option for wrapping (C5402, C22138, C23486, C58882, T19225) as manifested on S and Æ types. This variant is also mentioned in written sources (vaf), specifically in the context of elites around the ruler and rich farmers (Falk 1914: 23). As we can see, the wrapping was typically executed with orderly separation of thin wires and two pairs of coiled wires opposite to each other, thus creating the fishbone effect. The wires are often entwined into curls of thicker wire at the ends of the handle. Wooden handles were quite minute under the wire, making the resulting handle rather subtle. This can arise some questions regarding possible special designation of such swords, for example combat swords fit for stabbing (personal debate with Roland Warzecha).

  • Metal ferrules on the handle
    Usage of bronze pre-cast or plated ferrules at the ends of wooden handles was equally popular (B1481, B11477, C1194, C1977, C5464, C8095, C9981, C11301, C16107, C18494, S5371, T8257, T16054, T20913). Pre-cast ferrules are crown-shaped and their tongue-like protrusions often depict animal or humanoid heads. These ferrules are probably mentioned even in written sources under the name véttrim (Androshchuk 2014: 31). Some hilts have simple ferrules spread on the inner surface of the handle (B878, B11477).

rukojetiDiverse variants of Norwegian sword handles.
B8118, C57001, T3107, C58882, T16054.

rukojeti-svedsko
Swedish analogies. Taken from Androshchuk 2014: 104-105.

 

Antler handle
As far as I know, there was only one sword in the Viking age (S2453) with its grip made of antler scales. Handles made of this material are very rare in neighbouring Sweden too, where only two specimens (Androshchuk 2014: Jä 12; Holm 2015) were found. The antler scales of Swedish swords were riveted on the side with tiny iron rivets.

rukojeti-paroh
Antler handles from Norway and Sweden.
S2453 (left), SHM 12426 (right).

Straw / bast wrapping
According to the Unimus catalogue, a single-bladed sword was found at Tussøy (Ts3639) whose handle was wrapped in straw or bast. This modification seems to be completely unique and I know of no parallels to it. Due to insufficient description, we can provide no detailed information. In addition, Sveinulf Hegstad, the photo archivist University of Tromsø, provided me with a current photo of the object and there is no organic trace left.

Metal handle
Pre-cast or forged handles are found on some of Petersen’s type D swords in Norway (i.e. B5774, C4072. C8095, C24887, T14309). These swords, being among the heaviest of all Viking swords, can be dated to 800-950 AD. They are composed of triple-lobed, two-pieced pommel, guard and typically also a metal handle. These handles are massive products of metal casting or smithing and their surface is covered with geometric or animal decor. The lower layers of the profiled decoration are decorated with copper alloy, the upper layers with silver. These handles are also sometimes decorated with ferrules on the handle tops (véttrim). According to Petersen, there were 11 swords of this type in Norway in 1919 (Petersen 1919: 70-75), while Hernæs filed up to 16 specimens by 1985 (Hernæs 1985). The Petersen type K sword from Nodland (S4262) also uses copper alloy grip and probably copies the type D in this feature.

rukojeti-kovoveD type swords with metal handles.
B5774, C4072. C8095, C24887.


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Bibliography

Androshchuk, Fedir (2014). Viking Swords : Swords and Social aspects of Weaponry in Viking Age Societies, Stockholm.

Falk, Hjalmar (1914). Altnordische Waffenkunde. NVAOS. No.6., Kristiania.

Hernæs, Per (1985). De østnorske sverdfunn fra yngre jernalder : en geografisk analyse. Magistergradsavhandling i nordisk arkeologi – Universitetet i Oslo, Oslo.

Holm, Olof (2015). A Viking Period sword from Skäckerfjällen with a decorated antler grip. In: Fornvännen 110:4, 289-290.

Petersen, Jan (1919). De Norske Vikingesverd: En Typologisk-Kronologisk Studie Over Vikingetidens Vaaben, Kristiania.

Bronze Anglo-Saxon Sword Pommels

In the last months, I have been in touch with Dr. Lee Jones, the early medieval sword enthusiast and collector (http://vikingsword.com). Our cooperation led to two articles published on these websites (see Private Sword with a Wooden Hilt and A Curonian Sword from a Private Collection). This time, Mr. Jones shared another interesting piece from his collection. This article will describe it, as well as the closest analogies, since it seems that the type is rather vaguely defined.

bronze-sword bronze-sword2 bronze-sword3 bronze-sword4bronze-5-lobe-hilt-dbronze-5-lobe-hilt-cbronze-5-lobe-hilt-bbronze-5-lobe-hilt-abronze-5-lobe-blade-dbronze-5-lobe-blade-bThe sword owned by Mr. Jones.


The sword owned by Mr. Jones

The sword, that can be seen above, belongs to Mr. Lee Jones “for several decades” and was probably bought in an auction or at Ebay as other swords in his collection. As far as we can judge, it seems to be a genuine piece that shows the application of original technology.

In the current state, the sword is 676 mm long and weighs 531 grams. The iron blade, which is in poor condition with severe losses, is 540 mm long, 36.8-25.0 mm wide (36.8, 33.3, 29.9, 27.9, 26.8, 25.0 mm taken at roughly 100 mm intervals) and 5.2-3.5 mm thick (5.2, 6.4, 3.8, 4.7, 4.1, 3.5 mm taken at 100 mm intervals). The blade seems to be somewhat lenticular in cross section; towards the hilt the remain is thickest at the midline, proceeding towards the tip the faces of the blade become fairly flat. If the corrosion is hiding a fuller, then it must be quite shallow. There is no evidence of pattern welding or inlays.

The hilt is 136 mm long in the mid-line. The upper part of the hilt is formed by the five-lobed pommel and adjacent upper guard that are each cast in copper alloy. As they are loose, we can see they are semi-hollow castings. The intended display surfaces are smooth and in very good condition. The pommel is 65.6 mm long, 28.9 mm high (central lobe; 19.4 and 18.6 mm for intermediate lobes, 10.8 and 10.5 mm for outer lobes) and 18.9 mm thick (central lobe; 16.4 and 16.0 mm for intermediate lobes, 13.0 and 12.2 mm for outer lobes). The thickness of the wall of the pommel varies from 2.8 to 5.0 mm at edge. The upper guard of concavo-convex shape copies the curvature of the pommel. There is a raised ridge line on the surfaces of the guard. The length of the upper guard is 74.0 mm, while it’s height is 8.7 mm and the thickness 20.5 mm (central; 14.6 mm peripheral). The grip area tang shows no traces of organic material. The tang in that area is 88 mm long, 17.0-10.0 mm wide (17.0 mm at cross-guard, 12.9 mm mid, 10.0 mm at pommel) and 5.1-4.2 mm thick (5.1 mm at cross-guard, 4.9 mm mid, 4.2 mm at pommel). The curved, convexo-concave cross-guard is of iron showing moderate corrosion; the scale and cross section are consistent with the upper guard and in one place there is a suggestion of a ridge line. The cross-guard is 106.6 mm long. The height of the cross-guard is 24.1 mm (greatest extent including the arc), or 8.9-11.2 mm (8.9 and 9.3 mm peripheral, 11.2 mm central), if the arc is not taken in account. The thickness of the central part of the cross-guard is 17.3 mm and it continuosly tapers to 12.9 / 14.5 mm in the middle and 9.8 / 10.4 mm at the ends.


Broader perspective

The sword of Mr. Jones is quite rare and the searching for close analogies is not possible without dificulties. Especially the cast 5-lobed pommel seems to be almost absent in the literature. Before anything else, let us describe the sword from the perspective of current sword typologies.

Petersen’s typology
The sword type with curved guards and peened 5-lobed cast pommel is not present in Jan Petersen’s typology (Petersen 1919). However, there are some types that stand very close to the sword owned by Mr. Jones. 15 types or variants of Petersen’s typology (main types L, O, K, Q, T, X, Y, Z, Æ; special types 7, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19) apply the curved cross-guards, from which at least 12 types or variants (main types L, O, P, Q, Y, Z, Æ; special types 7, 14, 15, 16, 19) use curved cross-guard and curved upper guard/pommel at the same time. At least 5 types or variants (main types L, O, Z; special types 14, 19) use curved cross-guards, curved upper guards and lobed pommels at the same time.

There are at least two Petersen hilt types that use components cast in copper alloy: type O and type W. At least four Petersen’s types or variants (K, O, R, S) apply 5-lobed pommels connected to upper guards by two rivets or a semicircular rivet. Specifically, a 5-lobed variant of types R and S have a very similarly looking pommel. However, none of these four types or variants uses the construction with the peened tang. From a construction point of view, the closest types are L and Z, as they use curved cross-guards, curved upper guards and lobed pommels that are sometimes peened. Moreover, the general shape of the pommels of these types is quite close to the pommel of the sword owned by Mr. Jones. Even there is no identical example in Scandinavia, this approach of searching for analogies tells us there was a tendency to use mentioned features in Europe of 10th and 11th century.

petersen-typologyPetersen’s typology, vizualized by Jones 2002: 18-19.

Jakobsson’s design principles
Swedish archaeologist Mikael Jakobsson (1992) arranged Petersen’s types into 6 so-called design principles, the larger groups of hilts that use the same features, and enriched Norwegian-centric Petersen with many useful distribution maps. In this context, we will mention the principle 2, 3 and 5.

Design principle 2 represents 3-lobed pommels, including also types L and Z. According to Jakobsson, this principle can be dated between late 8th and early 11th century and it contains no less than 26% of European swords. The principle is widespread across the Europe; 37% of examples come from Norway, 12% from Sweden, 9% from Finland, 4% from Denmark, 15% from Western Europe and 23% from Eastern Europe.

The principle 3 is described as a group of swords that use 5-lobed pommel. According to Jakobsson, this principe is the least frequent, counting just 5% of European early medieval swords. 49% of examples were found in Norway, 5% come from Sweden, 30% from Western Europe and 15% from Eastern Europe. Jakobsson undestands principle 3 as a development of the principle 2 and the usage can be dated to period between early 9th and mid 10th century in Scandinavia.

Design principle 5 comprises swords with curved cross-guards. Swords with this feature represent 26% of early medieval European swords. In Scandinavia, they can be dated to the period from early 9th to late 11th century. 71% of examples come from Norway, 7% from Sweden, 5% from Finland, 1% from Denmark, 10% from Western Europe and 6% from Eastern Europe.

The sword of Mr. Jones can be described as a sword that belongs to design principles 3 and 5. More or less close analogies can be found in all three named categories. The advantage of Jakobsson’s work lies in the fact that he maps the bigger groups of swords within Europe.

jakobssonJakobsson’s design principles, taken from Jakobsson 1992: 27, Fig. 1.

Wheeler’s typology
In his book, Sir Mortimer Wheeler described 7 Scandinavian hilt forms that occur in Britain (1927: 31-37, Fig. 13). Even though it rather reduces the actual reality, it is still being used by British academia. The sword of Mr. Jones stands close to Wheeler’s type V and VI, which visually corresponds to Petersen’s types L and Z. Type V is said to have very curved guards and a peened pommel with a big central lobe, while type VI has slightly curved guards and 3-lobed pommel that is riveted to the upper guard. Type V is therefore a closer choice. The final remark of this section is that swords of the British origin are imprecisely categorized, leading to the constant need of classifying uncommon swords as variants.

WheelerWheeler’s typology, taken from Wheeler 1927: 32, Fig. 13.

Geibig’s combination typology
German scholar Alfred Geibig presented his study on early medieval blades and hilts in 1991 (Geibig 1991). His typology of hilts, which comprises of combination of differently shaped hilt components, is based upon detailed study of several hundred swords from what is now Germany. The book made Continental corpus accessible and the careful and precise work led to conclusion that it is considered to be one of the most solid studies in the field. Geibig classified 19 combination types, dated to the period between 9th and 12th century.

The combination type 7 describes the form of the hilt that is visually identical with the sword of Mr. Jones. According to Geibig, the 5-lobed pommel rests at the pommel guard and both these components are attached by the exposed peened tang. According to Geibig, this combination type is equal to Petersen’s type L, even though there is a little different shape of the cross-guard: type L cross-guards are more pointed from the top view, while combination type 7 cross-guards are rounded.
geibig
Geibig’s combination type 7, taken from Geibig 1991: 47, Abb. 8.

Cast pommel : the identification problem

The sword might seem to a closed case with the result it belongs to type L. The problem occurs when we realize that cast pommels do not belong to Petersen’s type L swords. In the most recent article about Petersen’s type L swords (Aksdal 2017), there is no mention about copper alloy pommels. I have contacted the Mr. Jostein Aksdal, the author of the article, asking him for definition of the sword. His response was that the curvature of the pommel and attachment correspond to Petersen’s type L, but the presence of cast components and 5-lobed pommel prevent the sword to be labelled as Petersen’s type L sword. Mr. Askdal suggested the sword could be what he calls “British version of type S”. His final conclusion is worth of quoting:

My experience is that Viking Age sword chronology needs more detailed studies, identifying sub-types and local-regional types of swords from the Viking Age.

Therefore, we should follow this advise and have a look what the British archeological material has to offer.


An analysis

To our surprise, the material is quite impressive and offers good analogies, but it is poorly described as a whole. We will try to mention the swords that have curved guards and 5-lobed pommels. A closer attention will be given to cast elements.

Swords already labeled as Petersen’s type L
To contradict the Mr. Aksdal’s argumentation, we have to state there already are swords with cast components and 5-lobed pommels in his own article, classified as Petersen’s type L swords. In the museum of Norwich, a decorated 5-lobed sword pommel cast in bronze is stored (Bjørn – Shetelig 1940: 61; Davidson 1962: 55-56). The pommel is classified as a part of a Petersen’s type L sword (Aksdal 2017: 87, Catalogue B:26). The second example is the sword from Surrey (1996.0604.1; British museum 2018), which has 5-lobed pommel and guards cast in bronze. Again, the sword is categorized as Petersen’s type L by Mr. Askdal (2017: 87, Catalogue B:34). To be fair, these pommels are rather asymetrical and their lobes are more pointed, compared to the sword of Mr. Jones. To sum up, the sword from Surrey still represents one of the closest analogies.

casted_type_L
The pommel from Norwich (left) and the sword from Surrey (right).
Taken from Davidson 1962: Fig. 41a and British museum 2018.

type L
The distribution of type L swords in Great Britain.
Aksdal 2017: Fig. 8.

Loose cast pommels
Searching for loose cast pommels, we have found 94 examples dated to 9th-12th century Britain. We can divide them between several types according to their construction and general shape:

  1. pommel attached to the upper guard, without exposed peened tang
    1. Petersen’s type O (Petersen 1919: 126-134) / Geibig’s combination type 9 (Geibig 1991: 50-52, Abb. 10)
    2. Petersen’s type R (Petersen 1919: 140-142) / Wheeler III (Wheeler 1927: 34, Abb. 13:3)
  2. pommel attached to the upper guard, with exposed peened tang
    1. lobed
      1. with curvature
      2. without curvature
    2. not lobed
      1. with curvature
      2. without curvature
  3. one-pieced pommel with exposed peened tang
    1. Petersen’s type K (Petersen 1919: 105-110) / Wheeler IV (Wheeler 1927: 34, Abb. 13:4) / Geibig’s combination type 6 (Geibig 1991: 44-47, Abb. 7)
    2. Petersen’s type L or Z (Petersen 1919: 112-121, 175-177) /  Wheeler V or VI (Wheeler 1927: 35, Abb. 13:5-6) / Geibig’s combination type 7 (Geibig 1991: 47-48, Abb. 8)
    3. Petersen’s type X (Petersen 1919: 158-167) / Geibig’s combination type 12 (Geibig 1991: 56-60, Abb. 13)
    4. Geibig’s combination type 14 and 15 (Geibig 1991: 63-70, Abb. 15-16)


Distribution of loose cast pommel from 9th-12th century in Britain.
Click the map for an interactive Google Map.

As we can see, cast pommels were used for various typologically and chronologically different hilts, and therefore we can speak of a kind of tradition. The tradition is more obvious when we realize that cast pommels occur in the period from the earliest phase of Anglo-Saxon period to at least High Medieval. 94 pieces are made of copper alloy, 1 piece is cast in lead. The pommels depicted on our map are loose, found separated from the sword or just with a fragment of tang, which is also striking. According to Anglo-Saxon living history expert Paul Mortimer, such a big number is not coincidence and the pommels could be violently torn off during a ritual destruction, for example.

We can also notice that lobed curved pommels attached to upper guards with exposed peened tang represent a majority of the loose pommel. On the map, there are 60 finds that are mostly concentrated in East and West Midlands, East of England, Yorkshire and the Humber and South East England regions. This distribution corresponds to the distribution of Petersen’s type L swords quite well. There are at least two more pommels of this form in the private collection of Mr. Justin Mercier. This kind of popularity can mirror the fact that hollow upper guards and pommels peened to the tang could be done more easily than other types of constructions. It is surprising there are such an huge amount of sword pommels that are not described in the literature. On the website of Portable Antiquities Scheme, the pommels of this type are described as croissant-shaped pommels, Petersen’s type L pommels or Wheeler’s type VI by contributing editors.

The regular lengths of type 2.1.1. pommels are 44.8-65 mm, while the maximum height reaches from 20.6 to 32.2 mm. The pommels have thicknesses of 14-23.7 mm; the thickness of the casing is 2-5 mm. The weight is around 27.4-77.55 g (some heavier pieces include fragments of tangs). The pommel of the Mr. Jones’s sword is slightly longer, but other dimensions do match precisely.

sword-pommelsLoose cast pommels of the type 2.1.1. The source of the pictures: PAS.
See the full resolution here.


Loose cast guards
In addition, we can shortly discuss the cast guards. In the following list, we have collected 6 cross-guards and 14 upper guards cast in copper alloy in 9th-12th century Britain. The following division was made:

  1. Cross-guard (6 pieces)
  2. Upper guard
    1. Guard with curved upper part (11 pieces)
    2. Guard with straight upper part (3 pieces)


Distribution of loose cast guards from 9th-12th century in Britain.
Click the map for an interactive Google Map.

Again, copper alloy components are distributed across the same regions. Regarding the cross-guards, every piece is unique. The number of cross-guards is lower that the number of upper guards, which may suggests that the cast cross-guards could have been used less often. That could correspond with the fact that the sword of Mr. Jones combines an iron guard and a cast upper guard and pommel.

The upper guards are divided to two categories. The category 2.1. is the most interesting for us, as the upper guard of the examined sword falls into this group. The most of guards in this category were dated to Late Middle Ages by the PAS website, but we believe this is incorrect. Not only two finds are dated to Early Medieval period, but they closely resembles the type L upper guards in shapes, proportions and sizes (see for example Aksdal 2017: Tab. 1-2). In this group, we can find curved and mostly hollow guards with a small rectangular hole for the tang. They are 56.78-87.7 mm long, 6.54-21.05 mm high and 12.77-22 mm thick. The guard of Mr. Jones’s sword fits in these categories. However, there are also some difference: the ends of guards are not flattened and there is no evidence of the central raised ridge line.

The upper guard of Mr. Jones’s sword is 74 mm long, while the pommel is 65.6 mm long, so the difference in lengths is 8.4 mm. We have already told that the length of loose pommels varies between 44.8-65 mm. In proportion to loose upper guards, the difference is 11.98-16.54 mm. The thicknesses of loose components are comparable (14-23.7 mm : 12.77-22 mm). The future examination can reveal whether the loose pommels and loose upper guards do fit or not.

guardLoose cast upper guards. The source of the pictures: PAS.
See the full resolution here.

For the next part of the analysis, we have to ask whether there is any complete sword that applies curved guards and peened cast 5-lobed pommel.

Wallingford Bridge type
In 1967, Vera Evison published an interesting study about an unmapped type of Anglo-Saxon swords that stand close to Petersen’s type L and Z (Evison 1967). The main feature that differentiates this type from Petersen’s is a differently shaped guard. Mrs. Evison called the examined group Wallingford Bridge sword type and suggested they were made in souther England in 10th-11th century. Even though there are only 9 examples in England (7 of which were found in the River Thames) and they rather resemble Petersen’s type Z / Wheeler’s type VI when it comes to the construction, we believe the study is an important step forward to show the complexity of local and transitional variants. If the concept is correct, then the sword of Mr. Jones and the pommels of the type 2.1.1. stand between Petersen’s types L, S and Z, not only by the form, but also by the chronology, just as Wallingford Bridge type does. Generally speaking, type L is the closest and it should be legit to call Mr. Jones’s sword type L variant until a more precise typology is invented.

wallingfordWallingford Bridge type swords (Evison 1967: 162, Fig. 1).

In the Evison’s article, we can find a reference to the sword from Mileham, which seems to be a second close analogy to our sword (Evison 1967: 185, Fig. 3b, 6a). This sword has copper alloy hilt components, including a richly decorated guard and an one-pieced pommel of our type 3.2. To our knowledge, there are no closer published paralels of Mr. Jones’s sword than swords from Surrey and Mileham. Therefore, the sword of Mr. Jones can be called unique in that regard.

mileham
The sword from Mileham (Evison 1967: Fig. 3b, 6a).

Auctions
In 2012, a discussion about loose cast 5-lobed pommel arised on MyArmoury.com. Shane Allee, a member of the forum, posted a picture of the sword, that was sold on Ebay more than 15 years ago. The sword seems to belong to the same type as Mr. Jones’s sword. However, we do not have any particularised information about the sword.

unknown-auction
The sword sold on Ebay.


Conclusion

In the first part of this article, we tried to describe an unusual sword from a private collection. The uniqueness of such a sword led us to a type that stood aside completely unnoticed. The closest analogies were found in 10th-11th century Britain, a country where the mixture of styles created a variety of transitional swords that apply different contructions, shapes and materials altogether. Nevetherless, it will require a brilliant mind and a huge time reserve to arrange the swords in a realistic way.

I hope you liked reading this article. If you have any question or remark, please contact me or leave a comment below. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.

Stone carving from Eberston, Britain. Taken from Grove 1938: 256, Fig. 5.


Bibliography

Aksdal 2017 = Aksdal, Jostein (2017). Dei anglosaksiske sverda : L-typesverd i England og Skandinavia. In: VIKING – Norsk Arkeologisk Årbok, Vol: LXXX, 59–88.

Bjørn – Shetelig 1940 = Bjørn, Anathon – Shetelig, Haakon (1940). Viking Antiquities in Great Britain and Ireland, Part 4 : Viking Antiquities in England, Bergen.

British museum 2018 = Sword from Surrey, Shepperton, Museum number 1996,0604.1. Electronic source, http:// www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=84 887&partId=1&searchText=1996,0604.1&page=1, visited 31th October 2018.

Evison 1967 = Evison, Vera I. (1967). A Sword From the Thames at Wallingford Bridge. In: The Archaeological Journal 124(1): 160–189.

Davidson 1962 = Davidson, Hilda R. Ellis (1962). The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England. Its Archaeology and Literature, Oxford.

Geibig 1991 = Geibig, Alfred (1991). Beiträge zur morphologischen Entwicklung des Schwertes im Mittelalter : eine Analyse des Fundmaterials vom ausgehenden 8. bis zum 12. Jahrhundert aus Sammlungen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Neumünster.

Grove 1938 = Grove, L. R. A. (1938). Five Viking-Period Swords. In: The Antiquaries Journal, 18(03): 251–257.

Jakobsson 1992 = Jakobsson, Mikael (1992). Krigarideologi och vikingatida svärdstypologi, Stockholm : Stockholms Universitet.

Jones 2002 = Jones, Lee A. (2002). Overview of Hilt & Blade Classifications. In: Oakeshott E. – Peirce, I. G. (eds). Swords of the Viking Age, Woodbridge: 15–24.

Petersen 1919 = Petersen, Jan (1919). De Norske Vikingesverd: En Typologisk-Kronologisk Studie Over Vikingetidens Vaaben. Kristiania.

Wheeler 1927 = Wheeler, R.E.M. (1927) London and the Vikings. London Museum Catalogues: No 1, London.

Available literature

Dear reenactor or fan of the past,

I believe you share the love for books with me and you willingly collect them just as I do. I spent many years by writing this blog and by gathering literature. In this post, I would like to offer you brand new books that represent my selection of top titles that I personally use for research. They are carefully chosen and should not be missing in the library of a passionate reenactor. I am also able to advise or obtain literature that is not on the list. If you are interested in a book, just write me via Messenger or to email ceskyreenactment@gmail.com. Paypal or direct bank transfer are preferred options of payment. 

Any of these books can be sent anywhere in the world. I use Czech Post for sending the parcels. Partially combined shipping is available. The shipping possibilities are these:

  • 15 EUR for up to 2 kg parcel (non-registered mail without tracking number)
  • 20 EUR for 0.5-2.99 kg parcel (registered mail with a tracking number)
  • 25 EUR for 3-4.99 kg parcel (registered mail with a tracking number)
  • 30 EUR for 5-6.99 kg parcel (registered mail with a tracking number)
  • 35 EUR for 7-8.9 kg parcel (registered mail with a tracking number)
  • 40 EUR for 9-11 kg parcel (courier shipping)

Early Medieval swords from Mikulčice

 

The book, written by Jiří Košta and Jiří Hošek, represents an excellent description of 20 swords from Continent Europe of 9th and 10th century. It contains brilliant archeolometallurgical analysis and dimensions. Scabbard fragments are included.

Fully in English.
335 pages, 149 figures.
Price: 35 EUR
Weight: 2 kg
Available


Viking Dress Code

 

The book Viking Dress Code by Kamil Rabiega gathers the archaological evidence on clothing of Viking Age Scandinavia. It represents a valuable guide not only for beginners, but also for veteran reenactors.

Fully in English.
235 pages, 158 figures.
Price: 29 EUR
Weight: 0.5 kg
Available


Great Moravia and The Beginnings of Christianity

 

The prominent catalogue maps Moravian and Bohemian area of the 9th and 10th century and brings the most exclusive objects of Great Moravian culture in the most  extensive manner that was ever published in English.

Fully in English.
535 pages, more than 500 figures.
Price: 35 EUR
Weight: 2.5 kg
Available


Early Medieval Axes from Territory of Poland

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The book written by Piotr Kotowicz includes 891 axes discovered in Poland and an extraordinary typology. The book is the best in the field of Early Medieval axes.

Fully in English.
268 pages, 47 illustrations, includes a CD with the catalogue.
Price: 50 EUR
Weight: 1 kg
Available


Wolin. The Old Town II. Studies on Finds

_

The book edited by Marian Rębkowski represents the second part of first evaluation of Wolin finds in English language. The books consists of studies describing wooden, metal, amber, clay and bone finds from the site, and therefore is a very useful source for any reenactor interested in Wolin and Northern Poland in Early Medieval period.

Fully in English.
575 pages, 213 figures.
Price: 39 EUR
Weight: 2,5 kg
2 pieces available


Valsgärde 1, 2 & 4

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The book describes 3 graves from the prominent Swedish site Valsgärde. Viking Age graves from Valsgärde stand in the shade of Vendel Period graves, yet they are rich and similar to Birka graves. This is the very first publication of the Viking Age graves from Valsgärde in English. It includes boats, riding equipment, swords, a shield with a preserved handle, a cauldron and many others.

Fully in English.
194 pages.
Price: 37 EUR
Weight: 1 kg
Available


Viking-Age Runic Plates

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The book written by Sofia Pereswetoff-Morath offers an unique view into Old Norse mentality through the scope of healing runic plates from the Viking Age. The book contains more than 40 runic plates that are archeologically and linguistically described.

Fully in English.
373 pages, 65 figures.
Price: 35 EUR
Weight: 1 kg
2 pieces available


Die Wikingerzeit Gotlands III:1-2

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The book written by Lena Thunmark-Nylén is the primary literature about Viking Age Gotland. It contains an extensive description of finds from this island and their parallels in the Viking world.

Fully in German.
2 parts, 724 pages.
Price: 45 EUR
Weight: 2.5 kg
Available


Bewaffnung und Reiterausrüstung des 8. to 10. Jahrhunderts in Mitteleuropa

 

The book contains various fascinating papers that are connected to arms, armour and riding equipment of 8th-10th century in the Central Europe, covering axes, swords, chainmails, spears, spurs, saddles, brooches and many others.

German and English.
477 pages.
Price: 35 EUR
Weight: 2 kg
Available


Pohřebiště v Lumbeho zahradě na Pražského hradu

 

The book written by Jan Frolík is the describes the richest Bohemian cemetery – Lumbe´s garden at Prague Castle. It contains fantastic manuals that show the jewellery production step by step. Very recommended to any Slavic enthusiast.

Czech, English summaries.
2 parts, 293 + 460 pages.
Price: 50 EUR
Weight: 2.5 kg
Available


Viking Swords

 

The book written by Fedir Androshchuk includes 832 Viking Age swords discovered in Sweden. True masterpiece. The book is the best in the field of Early Medieval swords.

Fully in English.
701 pages, 301 illustrations.
Price: 50 EUR
Weight: 2.5 kg
Available


Die Vendelzeit Gotlands II: Tafeln

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The book arranged by Birger Nerman is the crucial literature about the Vendel Period Gotland. It contains the overview of the material culture, mainly weapons and jewellery.

Fully in German.
600 pages.
Price: 50 EUR
Weight: 3 kg
On demand.


Kuml og haugfé

 

The book is the primary literature about Viking Age Iceland. It describes 350 graves and their inventories, which is the unique material that can be compared with Family sagas.

Icelandic, English summary.
660 pages, more than 400 images.
Price: 60 EUR
Weight: 2.5 kg
On demand