Inspiration #6, a trader from Gotland

The sixth issue of our inspiration series introduces Radomír Jelínek, a well-known Slovak reenactor. Radomír aims to reconstruct a trader from Gotland in late 10th/early 11th century.

We can see from the photos that Radomír wears a brown tunic made from herringbone wool and hemmed with geometrically patterned silk. The tunic is belted with a girdle inspired by various Gotland finds. Its buckle, strap end and belt lamellae come from Rone and Hense graves, while hanging straps are derived from Ense. There is a bag on the belt decorated with sheet brass and silk, a purse based on a Birka find (Radomír currently works on a new one based on a find from Barshalder), a whetstone with a colourful mosaic, tinderbox based on a Birka find and a comb based on a find from Eskelhem. A small pattern-welded steel knife is hanging on his neck, adorned with silver and brass and based on a find from Rone. Then we can see a hammer pendant on a chain – Radomír intends to swap that one for a cross. He covers himself with a brooch-fastened, semi-circular brown cape from herringbone wool (Radomír wears three types of brooches based on Visby finds). There is a fur-hemmed woolen hat on his head, decorated with silk embroidery and a hat top replica based on Birka (the hat will be also decorated with ornamental posament). On his hands we can see some brass and silver bracelets with punched decoration. Finally his profession is symbolized by simple weighing scales which have been found in several locations (Visby, Akeback, Oja).

On his legs we can see wide breeches made according to Gotlandic pictures stones depictions and a find from Haithabu. Breeches are dyed with indigo and tansy. Shoes with two buttons are a replica of Dorestad shoes. There are white nålbinding socks covering his shins with a thin lace fastened with two small (2 cm) pins.

Weapons are also a part of this trader‘s costume. It is a sharp H type pattern-welded steel sword (unfinished) with Geibig type 3 blade (80 cm long and 6 cm wide), a sharp pattern-welded steel seax (Radomír owns two of these but plans to rebuild both, one of them is a Gotland find replica), a sharp pattern-welded steel spear of type I with brass crosspieces (according to a Gotland find) and a mace which is going to be replaced by a more authentic replica.

Aside from this Radomír plans to make a new silken printed caftan, maybe a new hat, satchel, purse, archer‘s equipment, strap divider for the sword with a belt according to Rone and Hense finds and crampons.


I would like to thank Radomír Jelínek for providing photos and a detailed description of his costume. Here we will finish this article. Thank you for your time and we look forward to any feedback. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.

Petersen type W sword

In the next article about swords, we would like to introduce the not yet well-known Petersen type W. As far as we know, this type of sword is rarely reconstructed among reenactors. In the following article we will describe, map and reveal this interesting type.


Description

Type W denotes a sword whose hilt consists of one-piece pommel and cross-guard cast from copper alloy. From the frontal look, the cross-guard is straight, with slightly rounded shorter sides. The one-piece pommel has a simple, semicircular shape with rounded edges and peened tang on the upper side of the pommel. When viewed from above, the shape of both components is lenticular, i.e. tapering towards the edges. Both copper-alloy components are hollow shells (see X-ray). All known components are characteristically decorated. The pommel is decorated by a series of lines that divide the pommel into four fields, which are filled with zigzag pattern. This pattern is well visible on the cross-guard as well. In two cases, cross-guards are decorated with concentric rings (Nedošivina 1991: 166). The decoration appears to be cast, although the lines (both dividing and those around the edge) might have been additionally highlighted. Some pieces have a shiny gold finish. The division of the pommel follows the type E and stands very close to the types U, V and X. Type W can be dated to the 10th century. Norwegian pieces date back to the first half of the 10th century (Petersen 1919: 157). Other swords with copper alloy components date back to this period, especially the Petersen type O, which were influenced by the same trend. In Eastern Europe, type W can be found in graves dating to the second half of the 10th century (Nedošivina 1991: 166).

typ_WDetail of copper alloy W type sword components. Found in 1816 at an unknown Norwegian site (B998). Author:
Svein Skare, Unimus.

The W type hilt is always a part of the double-edged sword. Swords of this type have relatively uniform dimensions. The complete swords are 878-930 mm long, with the blade always around 745-760 mm long. The blades are 50–60 mm wide and are embedded in prepared grooves on the undersides of the guards. The blades are usually without inscriptions, although the swords from Timerevo (grave 100) has a clearly readable Latin letter C on the blade (Nedošivina 1991: 166). The guards are 80–100 mm long, 12–18 mm high and 17–22 mm thick. The preserved pommels have a length of 58–67 mm, a height of 34–37 mm and a thickness of 19–21 mm (Androščuk 2014: 79–80 and self-observation). The handles are 85–105 mm long, which corresponds to the average width of the palms and testifies to the custom production. We were only able to find four pieces with preserved handles; in three cases, the tang forming the handle is covered with wooden scales, which in the case of the sword from Breivold (T3107) is additionally coated with canvas and wound iron wire. The fourth case, the sword from Klepp (S2453), has an antler handle. As far as sheaths are concerned, they can be assumed to have taken on standard forms. The Klepp sword has a preserved wooden scabbard with a leather cover, while the Timerevo sword (grave 100) is covered with fragments of a wooden scabbard (Nedošivina 1991: Рис I.I; see the picture here). At the end of the sword from Šestovica, a copper alloy chape has been preserved.

typ_W5
Detail of a preserved sword hilt from Breivold (T3107).
Author: Ole Bjørn Pedersen, Unimus.

To illustrate the anatomy of this type of sword, we will show four well-preserved examples:

typ_W1Bikavėnai, Lithuania. Overall length 930 mm, blade width 50 mm, handle length 105 mm, guard length 85 mm, guard height 18 mm. Wooden pieces of the handle. Photo and description: Kazakevičius 1996: 64–67.

typ_W2Östveda, Sweden (SHM 25370). Overall length 878 mm, blade length 743 mm, blade width 50–31 mm, guard length 100 mm, guard height 14 mm, guard thickness 22 mm, pommel length 60 mm, pommel height 37 mm, pommel thickness 20 mm, handle length 86 mm, handle width 20–26 mm, total weight 892 g. Photo and description: Androščuk 2014: 79, 337–338, Fig. 35.

typ_W3Šestovica, grave 42, Ukraine. Total length 890 mm, total length of hilt 145 mm, blade width 60 mm, guard length 85 mm, guard height 17 mm, pommel length 60 mm, pommel height 35 mm. The tip of the sword is covered with a chape. Photo & description: Androščuk – Zocenko 2012: 212, Fig. 151; Jana Korkodim, Wojtek Szanek.

kleppKlepp (S2453), Norway. Overall length 899 mm, total length of hilt 139 mm, blade length 760 mm, blade width 58 mm, guard length 100 mm, guard height 12 mm, guard thickness 21 mm, pommel length 59 mm, head height 36 mm, head thickness 21 mm, handle length 91 mm. By: Unimus.


Distribution

Generally speaking, the type W does not have too much representation among European swords – we currently register 18 pieces. However, distribution is interesting and deserves attention. Not surprisingly, we know the highest number from Norway. While Petersen knew 8 Norwegian W type swords (Petersen 1919: 156), Hernæs already knew nine of them and this number still seems to be current (Hernæs 1985). Only four of them have partially preserved blades, the rest being hilt components. In Sweden, we know one sword and two hilt components (Androščuk 2014: 79). We also know two components – one pommel and one guard – from the Schleswig region, Germany (Geibig 1991: Tab. 164: 4-5). There are two representatives from Timerevo, Russia (graves 100 and 287), where we find one complete sword and one fragment of the pommel (Nedošivina 1991: 166–167, Рис. I.I). We know one complete sword from the Lithuanian site Bikavėnai (Kazakevičius 1996: 64–67) and one sword from the Ukrainian Šestovica (Androščuk – Zocenko 2012: 212).

Several hybrid pieces stand very close to the W type swords and they do not fit to standard typology. First and foremost, a fragment of a two-piece pommel cast from copper alloy, found  during a settlement excavation in Pohansko, Czech Republic, in 2015, has to be mentioned (Košta et al. 2019: 215-6, Fig. 57-8). This piece is decorated with typical W type zigzag decoration. Another hybrid piece is the sword from Latvian Bēnes Kaijukrogs, which uses H/I type shape, but the components are cast in copper alloy and decorated with a zigzag pattern typical of type W (personal discussion with Sergei Kainov). The third hybrid piece is a detector finding of a one-piece pommel from Ukraine, which corresponds to a typical pommel of type W, but instead of a typical decor, it is decorated with a pit decoration typical of type E (personal discussion with Sergei Kainov). Three Latvian pieces that were mapped by Artūrs Tomsons (2019: 70) could be labeled as close to W type; their shape corresponds to type V pommels, but they are cast in bronze and decorated with patterns typical for R-S types. Significantly, hybrid pieces combine elements of types that stand very close each other. The total does not include finds from the United Kingdom (Jakobsson 1992: 213; Żabiński 2007: 65), since all these swords have iron components and therefore do not meet the basic W type criterion.

The hybrid piece from Pohansko, Czech Republic (Košta et al. 2019: Obr. 57-8).

The hybrid piece from Bēnes Kaijukrogs, Latvia (source: Sergei Kainov).

The hybrid piece from Ukraine (source: Sergei Kainov).

Of the total of 18 pieces, 8 are swords or fragments thereof, while the remaining 10 are separate copper alloy components. W type swords have been found in 7 countries, so they are relatively scattered compared to total numbers. The main distribution area is Northern and Eastern Europe, where swords are located in important sites.

typ_W4W type sword distribution, according to Jakobsson (1992: 228).


Reconstruction

In this chapter, we would like to present five successful reconstructions of the Petersen type W made by various European swordsmiths.

Blade width 68–40 mm. Weight 1540 grams, balanced 170 mm from the guard. Producer: Tomáš Zela, 2017.

Reconstruction of the sword from Šestovica 42. Weight 1200 grams.
Producer: Dmitry Chramcov, 2015.

Reconstruction of the sword from Šestovica 42 compared to the original.
Producer: Wojtek Szanek, 2016.

bobrProducers: Petr Floriánek, Radek Lukůvka, 2018.


Producer: Arma Epona.

Acknowledgments

This work exists thanks to the initiative of Tomáš Břenek from the group Goryničové, who owns the reconstruction made by Tomáš Zela. Since this type has not yet been seen on the Czech battlefields, there was a need to point out the finds and their distribution. We would like to thank every persistent enthusiast who was not discouraged by waiting. Sergei Kainov, who pointed to two Russian findings, and Ferenc Tavasz, who helped me with his advice, also have their merit in the article.


Here we will finish this article. Thank you for your time and we look forward to any feedback. 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.

Androščuk, Fedir – Zocenko, Vladimir = Андрощук Ф. O. – Зоценко В. (2012). Скандинавские древности Южной Руси: каталог, Paris.

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.

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.

Košta, Jiří et al. (2019). Velkomoravské meče z Pohanska u Břeclavia okolí – nová revize. In: Památky archeologické CX, 173-235.

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

Nedošivina N. G. = Недошивина Н. Г. (1991). Предметы вооружения, снаряжение всадника и верхового коня тимеревского могильника // Материалы по средневековой археологии Северо-Восточной Руси, Москва: 165–181.

Tomsons, Artūrs (2019). Zobeni Latvijas teritorijā no 7. līdz 16. gadsimtam, Rīga.

Żabiński, Grzegorz (2007). Viking Age Swords from Scotland. In: Studia i Materiały – Studies and Materials, Acta Militaria Mediaevalia III., Kraków – Sanok: 29–84.

Inspiration #3, A Woman From Birka

The third episode of inspromat is reserved for rich female costume from Birka. This time we will look at the costume of Russian reenactor and my friend, Lida Gubareva.

Lida sets her costume in the first half of the 10th century in Birka. Most of the equipment consists of replicas of items from grave Bj 965, which contains a coin, so the grave can be dated after the year 913. Despite that, Lida does not consider her costume ideal for the reconstruction of clothing from Birka, because the equipment incorporates also replicas of objects that were found elsewhere. Lida also told me that she is making a new caftan and overdress, and apologized for not knowing all the numbers of the graves, because she reconstructs three periods at the same time.

On the photographs, we can see three different underdresses that have a shape of a simple tunic. The first one (blue) is made of 100% wool woven in diamond twill. It is dyed with indigo and has hems of silk twill, whose warp is dyed with buckthorn and weft with indigo. Silk panel at the neck is decorated with two tablet woven stripes made of silver and silk, which are inspired by tablet woven strip from grave Bj 965. Second underlying dress (yellow) is made of polychrome silk and is hemmed with blue silk. The hems have tablet woven stripes as well. Third underlying dress (green) is made od simple linen and hemmed with silk which is dyed with madder and soda.

Overdress (apron, hangerock) have trapezoidal shape and are made of 100% woolen twill, dyed with indigo. Over these clothes, Lida wears crimson-red caftan, which is made of 100% wool, woven in 2/2 twill, dyed with madder. The weft is slightly darker than the warp. The caftan is hemmed with Sasanian silk with motifs of medallions depicting lions and phoenixes. Her second caftan, the yellow one, is linen and lined with silk. It has a hem of polychrome silk and beaver pelt.

Oval brooches are replicas of the find from several graves in Birka, including Bj 965. All other bucklesnecklaces and pendantsear spoon or needle-case are replicas of finds from Birka. Two exceptions are the Friesian comb with a case and crosses that are inspired by the find from Rügen. The costume is complemented by scarf with a knot, which is an interpretation of “knot” that can be seen on Valkyrie figures from Scandinavia.

I would like to thank Lidia Gubareva for granting me permission to use her photographs and for detailed description of her costume.


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.

Inspiration #2, A Man From Birka

In the second episode of inspiromat we will stay in Birka, but this time we focus on male costume. For this reason I asked my Russian friend Konstantin Shiryaev who willingly provided me his photos with description.

The costume is based on finds from Birka, particularly grave Bj 644, but he also uses finds from surrounding regions. This is a costume of rich warrior in the mid-10th century. Konstantin says that his costume will never be done, and he intends to continue improving it.

FIG.1:
On the head, we can see a circular four-piece woolen cap (type B) dyed with oak bark. Silk on the hem is dyed with natural indigo. Konstantin also wears linen shirt dyed with natural indigo. The shirt is fringed with patterned silk. The shirt is girded with a replica of belt from Garrison in Birka. On his belt a knife hangs in a leather sheath and a replica of the bag from Eperjeske 3. A similar find of bag was found in grave Bj 644. The lid of the bag is decorated with gilded silver plate. On his legs, we can see wide linen trousers (påsbyxor), with shape based on finds from Haithabu, woolen leg wraps and leather boots of type 8 from Haithabu.

FIG.2:
On his head, we can see a conical felt cap (type A) with silk sewn onto it. Hat is decorated with silver terminal and a beaver pelt hem. Then, we can notice a red woolen tunic, based on the finds from Bernuthsfeld and Guddal. The tunic is decorated with patterned silk and silver embroidery and is girded with replica of belt from grave Bj 1074. Over the tunic. he wears rectangular blue woolen cloak which is lined and has a hem made of beaver pelt. The pin used to clasp the cloak is a replica from grave Bj 644. This somewhat unusual way of wearing the cloak is based on the positions of pins in Birka, Finland and Russia. Konstantin is holding a replica of battle axe from grave Bj 644. Over the previously described linen trousers, he wears red woolen leggings pinned with replicas of bronze hooks from grave Bj 905.

FIG.3:
Costume in this figure is the same as in Figure 1. The only difference is the woolen caftan, which is decorated with a patterned silk and 12 bronze buttons. Konstantin says that the silk part of his caftan is the only fabric on his costume, which is machine-dyed, and therefore intends to sew a new one. At the waist, we can notice replica of seax from grave Bj 644 (Konstantin adds that this is the old version of the seax and now works on a new one).

FIG.4:
Battle version of the costume. On his head there is a helmet, which is inspired by a fragment of Tjele helmet. At the waist, we can notice the sword type H in a wooden sheath. Type H swords are the dominant swords in Birka. On the back, there is a wooden shield, its front is covered in leather. Hands are protected by gloves, which are made of leather and felt (left mitten is only made of wool).

FIG.5:
Another picture of battle costume, this time with a single-piece helmet. In accordance with Ibn Fadlan’s report, he has an axe, sword and seax. We can notice that his shoes are lower and his leg wraps are fixed with decorative garters.

I would like to thank Konstantin Shiryaev for granting me permission to use his photographs and for detailed description of his costumeHere we will finish this article. Thank you for your time and we look forward to any feedback. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.

Inspiration #1, A Woman From Birka

This article will start a series of articles that will focus on concrete costumes. The aim of this series is to inspire reenactent audience.

We will start with my Belarusian acquaintance Julia Kovalevskaja, who was the first to provide her photos and description of her costume. Julia’s costume represents a rich woman from Birka in the second half of the 10th century. She considers her attempt to be a reconstruction.

Costume consists of linen underwear (there are three in the pictures – white, blue and light purple), which is closed by a replica of the brooch from the grave Bj 642 at the neck. Over the underwear, Julia wears a blue woolen apron (hangerock) woven in diamond twill weave. The apron is decorated with decorative wool laces along the seams. On the linen loops, there are two oval brooches type P55, which were discovered in graves Bj 865, 959 and 960. Julia wears a green woolen caftan woven in diamond twill weave, which is lined with linen and closed by a replica of the trefoil brooch from the grave Bj 954, over the outer dress. In some photos we may notice a fur vest, which has no background and comes exclusively from Julia’s imagination. The uppermost layer is a dark green woolen shawl woven in a complex diamond twill weave. On the head we can see woolen (diamond twill and lined with linen) hood or woolen or silk caps with woolen / linen cords.

Accessories include a bone comb with a case (which is not based on Birka material) and a knife, both hinged on brooches. There are many silver, gold and glass beads around her neck and between the brooches, which are based on various finds from Birka. On a separate cord, she wears a replica of the cross from the grave Bj 660.

Author: Xenia Luchkova.

Author: Xenia Luchkova.

Author: Xenia Luchkova.

Author: Xenia Luchkova.

Author: Xenia Luchkova.

Author: Olga Tarasevich

Author: Olga Tarasevich

Author: Bouzin.

Author: Allbelphoto.

Author: Allbelphoto.

Author: Allbelphoto.

Author: Allbelphoto.

Author: Allbelphoto.

 I would like to thank Julia Kovalevskaja for granting me permission to use her photographs and for detailed description of her costume. 


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.

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.


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Bibliography

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https://www.khm.uio.no/english/research/collections/objects/15/sword_lesja.html