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Early medieval double-edged swords from the territory of Bulgaria (800 – 1100)

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Introduction

In the following work, I want to focus on the revision of all swords and their construction elements, including the scabbard chapes from the territory of Bulgaria, dated to the period of the 9th to the 11th century. The list includes swords that can be classified in Petersen and Geibig’s classifications and scabbard chapes of Paulsen, Kazakevičius or Korzuchina typologies. The aim of the article is to summarize and analyze these objects on the basis of already created works. At the same time, with this article I would like to follow up on two previous ones, in which I dealt with the sword pommel from Păcuiul lui Soare (Viskupič 2022) and the cataloging of all known early medieval swords from Romania (Viskupič 2023).

The early medieval swords from Bulgaria is a rather overlooked topic, which Bulgarian authors naturally pay the most attention. Valery Yotov, who wrote several publications (2003; 2004; Yotov – Pavlova 2004: 26-27) and articles (2007: 321-327; 2016a: 241-254; 2016b: 103-122; 2018: 467-484) showed a more complex approach to this problem. In addition to V. Yotov, the topic was also addressed by other researchers whose works map individual finds (Parushev 2000: 31-32; Doncheva 2002: 141-144; Zlatkov 2014: 138-143, 148-155, 176-177; Popov 2018: 137-142; Sirakov 2018: 143-146) or are a synthesis of archaeological finds (Kamburov 2021: 89-116; 2023: 22-25).

The above-mentioned authors and the conclusions from their works were also widely used while writing this article.


Summary of finds

A smaller number of military objects are known from the territory of present-day Bulgaria, which are associated with the presence of the Norsemen in the territory of the lower Danube. The main problem is the fact that most objects have unknown circumstances of discovery, which greatly complicates their more detailed analysis. In addition to swords and their structural elements (scabbard chapes) that are discussed in the presented work, there are known finds of other military objects.

Axeheads are the most numerous among them (Yotov 2016: 249, fig. 10.9 – 10.12; Kamburov 2021: 107, fig. 18). The main problem is determining the function of the object itself, whether it is a battle axe or it was used for work purposes. Among the axeheads that were discovered in various places in Bulgaria, there are a few specimens that have parallels in Scandinavia, but it is not excluded that most of them may have originated in an Eastern European or nomadic environment (Yotov 2016: 249) and could have reached Scandinavia as imported objects. For a better understanding of these finds, more detailed research focused mainly on foreign analogies is definitely needed. Perforated axeheads, whose detailed analysis named Catalog of 8th-12th century perforated axes was published by Tomáš Vlasatý (Vlasatý 2023), represent another clue to determining the origin of these weapons.

In addition to axes, two spearheads are also known to have been found. One specimen comes from an unknown location in northeastern Bulgaria (Yotov 2016: 247, fig. 10.6), according to Yotov, it should originate from Gotland with analogies in Russia and typologically falls under Kirpičnikov type III or IV (Yotov 2007: 324; Kirpičnikov 1966b: 13-15, Tabl. VI: 1-2). The dating of type III is placed between the 9th and 11th centuries, and type IV is put to the 11th and 12th centuries (Kirpičnikov 1966b: 9, fig. 1). From Scandinavia, any analogies of this type are missing, while in terms of shape, this speahead would correspond to the period of the 11th – 12th centuries with a geographical expansion in the area of Prussia (personal communication with Tomáš Vlasatý), as the find from the Yrzekapinis/Klincovka (Клинцовка) site in the Kaliningrad region shows (Kulakov 2016: 16, fig. 4). The second specimen was discovered south of the Drăstăr fortress (Дръстр) with a cross/rosette ornament on the socket (Yotov 2016: 247, fig. 10.7). The closest known analogy to this type is a find from Gotland (Thunmark-Nylén 1998: Tafel 247: a-d; 2000: 195). Speaking of typological classification, it should be Petersen’s type M (Thunmark-Nylén 2006: 302).

The only known find of a shield boss, which, based on analogy from Scandinavia, Ukraine or Russia, can be classified under type R 562, or under Kirpičnikov type I (Vlasatý 2021b), comes from an unknown location south of the former Drăstăr fortress in the city of Silistra (Силистра). An interesting element is that the boss was made of copper (Yotov 2016: 249, fig. 10.8).

A find of a copper alloy decorative rosette, undoubtedly a part of the “Black Mound” type helmet, comes from the town of Pliska (Плиска). It has analogies in Belarus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, former Eastern Prussia, Russia and Ukraine (Kainov 2018: 47-52, fig. 1).


Historical links

The most widespread theory that justifies the presence of above-mentioned military objects in the lower Danube area is the one about the military campaign of Prince Svyatoslav and his retinue from Kyivan Rus in the years 968 – 971. This event is mentioned by two sources: Nestor’s chronicle, also known as Povest vremennych let (Primary Chronicle) and the Byzantine historian Leo the Deacon (Téra 2019: 206). Briefly, it can be mentioned that Svyatoslav’s campaign was mainly focused on Bulgaria, where his army occupied the Danube fortresses and from a place called Perejaslavec, whose exact location is the subject of debate among historians and archaeologists (Téra 2019: 206), gradually went to Preslav. Passing through the Stara Planina mountains, they reached Philippolis (today Plovdiv), decimated Thrace and went on to the Byzantine Empire, where further battles took place near Adrianopolis (today Edirne) and Arkadiopolis (today Lüleburgaz in Turkey). Byzantine emperor Iōánnēs Tzimiskēs and his army managed to stop Prince Svyatoslav’s campaign and forced to settle down in the fortress of Dorostolon (today Silistra), where after several months of fighting peace was concluded and Svyatoslav and his army left Bulgaria (Rychlík 2016: 69-70; Téra 2019: 209).

Another of the theories that explains the circumstances of the occurrence of weapons and their structural elements with alleged Norse origin in the area of the lower Danube is the action of the so-called of the Varangian Guard in the service of the Byzantine emperors. From contemporary sources, we learn about military assistance to the Byzantine Emperor Basil II from the Kyivan prince Vladimir I, who was supposed to send him up to six thousand of his soldiers, it is not excluded that these men also participated in the battles against the Bulgarian Tsar Samuil (Yotov 2003: 3; Androshchuk 2016: 109). It is also possible to assume the participation of the Varangian guard in the campaign in Bulgaria against the rebels led by Petar Delyan in 1041, in which the future Norwegian king Harald harðráði was also supposed to participate (Yotov 2003: 3).

According to Valeri Yotov, the appearance of some of the equipment attributed to the Norsemen on the territory of Bulgaria could also be related to the Pechenegs, who had both commercial and military contacts with Kyivan Rus (Yotov 2018: 473; Kamburov 2021: 92).

From the historical sources, in addition to Nestor’s annals, the work De Administrando Imperio of the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, created around 950, is a valuable source of information about the commercial or military trips of the Rus (in this case, Constantine probably meant Norsemen, as they are distinguished from Slavic in his work) to Constantinople (Téra 2019: 143). In one passage, it is mentioned how the Rus travel to the Danube and from there “(…) they go to Conop, from Conop to Constantia and then to Varnas, from Varnas they sail to the river Ditzina [Kamchija in Bulgaria]. All these places are in Bulgarian land (…).” (Mihăescu et al. 1970: 660-666). The presence of military units or traders coming from the north, respectively from Kyivan Rus, or members of the Varangian Guard can also be evidenced by the finds of specific wooden house constructions from the Romanian village of Nufăru (on the bank of the Sfântu Gheorghe branch of the Danube in Tulcea county), whose parallels from the 10th to 11th century are known from Novgorod or Staraya Ladoga (Yotov 2018: 468).


Typological analysis and dating

In the following part, I want to focus on the analysis of individual objects within their typological classification, including the chronological determination of swords and chapes, taking into account the above-presented historical contexts with which their occurrence on the territory of Bulgaria is connected.

For the typological classification of swords, I used Petersen’s typology, as was done by V. Yotov and Samuil Kamburov. In one case (pomme), Geibig’s typology was used. Classification of scabbard chapes is a more difficult task. This is a diverse group of objects, the distribution of which exceeded the borders of Scandinavia, but later they were created either as imitations of Norse specimens in local workshops or new groups of chapes were developed that no longer had anything to do with the Scandinavian environment. The above-mentioned authors were based on Paulsen’s typology (Paulsen 1953), however, as will be indicated in the text below, its application to some specimens is insufficient and for this reason I based their comparative analysis on several studies by different authors (Korzuchina 1950; Kazakevičius 1992; Hedenstierna – Jonson 2002; Tomsons 2012; Androshchuk 2014).

Information on metric data is not available for every find, and since I do not have the opportunity to examine them personally, I sourced the information from published works. There are eight examples of swords, including their structural elements, and sixteen pieces of the scabbard chapes that are known and can be found in the literature.


Swords

Eight finds of double-edged swords and their construction elements can be included in the observed period from the territory of Bulgaria: Burgas (Бургас), Gradešnica (Градешница), Kladnica (Кладница), Opaka (Опака), Sliven (Сливен), Veliki Preslav (Велики Преслав) and two specimens from unknown places in the northeast of the country (Yotov 2003: 7; Kamburov 2023: 23-24, fig. 8a,b,f,g, 9b). As in the case of other military objects, which are attributed to Northern or Eastern European origin, we cannot talk about grave finds even in the case of swords, the problem is the very fact that they are context-free finds, which greatly complicates their more detailed analysis. Nevertheless, their typological classification on the basis of Petersen’s classification of swords is not problematic, since in three cases the swords were preserved with a pommel and crossguard (Gradešnica, Opaka, Sliven) and in three cases we know of the existence of pommels, one of which was found in an unknown place in the northeast of Bulgaria, the second in Burgas and the third comes from Veliki Preslav. The second mentioned object was found relatively recently at the site in the Aquae Calidae fortress in Burgas. The pommel is an accidental find and is supposed to be visually similar to the sword pommel cap from Păcuiul lui Soare (Kamburov 2021: 112 and personal communication with Samuil Kamburov), which would mean that the pommel from Burgas thus falls under a type close to R or S within Petersen’s typology.

A three-lobed sword pommel cap from an unknown location in northeastern Bulgaria is classified in the literature as Peteren’s type S (Yotov – Pavlova 2004: 94, cat. no. 62; Kamburov 2023: 24, fig. 9b). Unfortunately, this object has not been properly published until today.

Swords of types R and S were divided by Petersen based on their dimensions, visually they are almost indistinguishable. Both types are characterized by a three-lobed pommel cap, which is attached to the base with two rivets. The crossguards have a straight or oval shape with flared ends. The upper guards and the pommel caps are curved. At the same time, both pommels and crossguards of this type are decorated with silver and copper alloy inlays with animal or geometrical motifs. The side lobes of the pommel cap can be separated from the central lobe by twisted silver wire and their decoration is done in the Jelling and Mammen styles (Androschchuk 2014: 75).

However, at first glance, the discussed pommel cap has a straight base and low side lobes, which significantly exceed the middle one. The surface is covered with silver with a braid motif (Yotov 2016: 244, fig. 10.2). The side lobes are decorated on each side with spirally curled lines that resemble eyes. The central lobe has an opening at the top, which is absent in the case of S type pommel cap. From this point of view, the pommel cap has more features of the Petersen’s type T. Swords of this type are characterized by a three-lobed pommel consisting of an upper guard and a pommel cap. The side lobes have the form of stylized zoomorphic heads. The central lobe is the highest, widest and thickest. The crossguards are almost straight, oval when viewed from above, sometimes slightly rounded on the sides and with a rectangular cross-section (Moilanen 2015: 253). Petersen divided type T into two groups based on decoration and weight (Androshchuk 2014: 76). The first group (T1) consists of swords with heavier guards. The pommels as well as the crossguards are covered with silver and decorated with braided and zoomorphic motifs. The second group (T2) are swords with light crossguards, which, together with the pommels, are decorated with geometric figures – triangles and rhombuses (Androshchuk 2014: 76; Moilanen 2015: 253). The attachment of the pommel to the tang is also different based on observations. In the T2 type, the pommel cap is attached to the upper guard with two rivets. The pommels of T1 type swords are fixed with tang that is peened on top of the pommel cap (Androshchuk 2014: 76). Based on the given data, we could assign the Bulgarian specimen to type T1. Yet another group of swords is classified under type T, for which a three-lobed pommel with a significantly high central lobe is also typical. The upper and lower guards are rounded on the sides, resembling the type T, as their ends are slightly curved. Like the pommel and crossguard, the grip is silver-plated. The silver surface is further decorated with engraved animal motifs, the engraved lines may sometimes have been filled with niello. In his studies, Mikko Moilanen called them simply “silver-plated” (Moilanen 2015: 265-268). Several such specimens come from Finland or Estonia, one is also known from Norway (Moilanen 2015: 266). The oldest finds date to the year 1000, while the Finnish swords with silver-plated handles are dated to various phases of the 11th century, but mostly to its second half, and the Estonian finds are dated between 1050 – 1110 (Moilanen 2015: 266). In Kirpičnikov’s classification, these heads belong to type II A, dating between the 11th and 12th centuries (Kirpičnikov 1966a: 50, fig. 10). According to Androshchuk, the assignment of these swords under type T is erroneous. At the same time, he adds that they are characteristic of Finland and the Baltics, they have nothing in common with Scandinavian ones, and their different decoration of the handles is the work of local workshops (Androshchuk 2014: 76). A very close analogy to the Bulgarian specimen is the hilt from the Russian site of Ratčino (Ратчино) in the Leningrad Region, as well as a grip with an absent crossguard found in the Lithuanian site of Pavirvite-Gudai, in grave no. 27 with dating to the 11th century (Shchedrina 2020: 211-212, 214, fig. 11.2-3).

Pommel cap from an unknown location in northeastern Bulgaria.
Source: Yotov 2016: 244, fig. 10.2.

Analogical sword hilts from Ratčino and Pavirvite-Gudai 27.
Source: Shchedrina 2020: 214, fig. 11.2-3.

From a typological point of view, the fragmentary find of the sword from Gradešnica is assigned to Petersen’s type Z (Zlatkov 2014: 143; Yotov 2016b: 108; Kamburov 2023: 23. fig. 8b). These types are characterized by a crossguard curved towards the blade and a two-piece pommel consisting of the upper guard bent in the opposite direction to the crossguard, ie up towards the pommel cap. The pommel cap is three-lobed, sometimes separated from the base by a twisted silver wire. In some cases, the side lobes have the shape of animal heads. Pommels and crossguards can be decorated with silver inlay (Androshchuk 2014: 84-85). Type Z swords are dated to the end of the 10th to the beginning of the 11th century (Androshchuk 2014: 86). According to J. Żak, type Z swords combine specific elements of type L or R-S swords, or their crossguard may be based on the curved crossguards of nomadic sabers (Żak 1960: 333-334). This type of swords has an unclear origin, in some cases they are described as Scandinavian, or as Rus, respectively they should come from the regions of Eastern Baltic (Kirpičnikov 1966a: 34). Their geographical distribution is quite wide, from Western Europe through Scandinavia to Eastern and Central Europe. A specimen very similar to the sword from Gradešnica is, for example, a find from the Swedish province of Dalarna (Serning 1966: Pl. 62-63).

According to Yotov, the sword from the Opaka site belongs to Petersen’s type K (Yotov 2004: 42). The following elements are characteristic of this type: the pommel is divided into five vertical parts (the specimen from Opaka has a division into six parts; Androshchuk 2014: 66, fig. 21; Zlatkov 2014: 140, cat. no. 40), which are mostly of the same width. The central lobe tends to be higher than the remaining four side lobes. The pommel can be made of two or one part. The crossguards are always straight with rounded ends, not pointed as in type O. The grooves between the individual lobes on the pommel can be filled with silver, more rarely copper wires. The pommel and crossguard is usually covered with inlay (which is probably not the case with the sword from Opaka) and the blades bear traces of inscriptions, however, the Bulgarian specimen has a blade decorated with the motif of a golden cross in a circle using the inlay method (Androshchuk 2014: 63-64). Type K swords are dated between the 9th and 10th centuries, while the oldest specimens can be dated to the 9th century, which is also confirmed by some depictions from the Frankish Empire (Androshchuk 2014: 66). Fedir Androshchuk divided type K into three categories – K1, K2, K3 (Androshchuk 2014: 64). According to him, the sword from Opaka belongs to the K3 variant, which he describes as follows: “The five-partite pommel and the upper guard are made of a single iron piece, with only decorative lines separating them. Both the pommel/upper guard and the lower guard are straight and oval shaped.” (Androshchuk 2014: 65). Type K swords are usually considered to be Carolingian products, Androshchuk attributes the Opaka sword to a rather Norwegian origin, adding that 14 finds of this type come from Norway. Other parallels are known from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Germany, former Prussia, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands (Androshchuk 2014: 66). They are completely absent in the territory of the former Kyivan Rus, this type is also not included in Kirpičnikov’s typology of swords from the former Soviet Union (Kirpičnikov 1966a: 20, fig. 1).

The sword from an unknown place in the Sliven area, which has been preserved almost entirely, is classified in the literature as Petersen’s type H (Yotov 2016b: 108; Zlatkov 2014: 139; Sirakov 2018: 144; Kamburov 2023: 23). However, these swords are characterized by a crossguard and upper guard with oval cross-sections. The pommel cap of the type H has a triangular shape and a wide base. The height of the pommel cap varies between 2.5 – 4.5 cm. The crossguard and the upper guard often have slightly convex, or on older specimens clearly grooved vertical sides. The pommel cap on common types is always attached to the base with two rivets (Androshchuk 2014: 56). Visually, however, the hilt of the Sliven sword shows characteristic features of the type V rather than the type H.

As stated by Petersen, swords equipped in two parts pommel with three lobes and straight crossbars can be classified as types A, D, E, R, S, T, U. He also added type V that was difficult include to any of the previous types. Type V swords are characterized by the round pommel caps that appear narrow and pointed in cross-section. Their height varies between 3-4 cm. The pommel cap is of the same thickness as the upper guard. Both guard are narrow in cross-section and taper towards the ends. Just like the pommel cap, the guards are usually decorated with silver and bronze wires with a stepped motif (Petersen 1919: 154-155). Based on this information, the question is raised whether the typological classification of the sword from Sliven should be re-evaluated and rather classified under type V.

It is not necessary to look very far for the closest analogy. A very similar specimen comes from the Romanian village of Albești (Constanța county), which is also classified as Petersen’s type V, but the difference is that the inscription Ulfberht is present on its blade, which is absent on the discussed sword from Sliven. The most numerous finds of type V swords come from Old Rus (25 pieces), Sweden (16 pieces) or Denmark (12 pieces), only 6 pieces are known from Norway, 3 pieces from Finland and only one piece from Iceland (Kainov 2012: 42). A total of 13 finds of type V swords were found in the territories inhabited by Baltic tribes (Kainov 2012: 42). Sergej Kainov is of the opinion that not all swords classified by Kazakevičius meet the same typological criteria of Petersen’s “classic” type V (Kainov 2012: 42, note 29). One type V specimen is also known from the Czech Republic, from the city of Olomouc in Central Moravia (Hošek, Košta, Žákovský 2019: 193-194). From the German site of Großenwieden in Lower Saxony, we know a sword with a straight bar, two-part pommel and the inscription +VLFBERH+T with remains of leather or fur in the pommel area and remains of leather straps both on the pommel and on the crossguard (Wulf 2015: 156-9, abb. 2-3). Within Geibig’s classification, it belongs to combination type 11, including Petersen’s types U, V and W (Wulf 2015: 165). At the same time, it is appropriate to mention that the number of type V swords is currently unknown, as no more detailed revision has taken place recently (personal communication with Tomáš Vlasatý).

Type V swords date back to the 10th century (Androshchuk 2014: 79). An interesting element on the sword from Sliven is the tang that has a hole with a size of 2.5 mm. If this hole was not created at the time of its conservation, but it is a modification that took place in the Early Middle Ages, it is not excluded that the hole was used to fasten bone or wooden scales forming the grip. However, such a method of perforating the handles is quite exceptional for double-edged swords (personal communication with Tomáš Vlasatý). For example, a sword from an unknown place in the Romanian part of Dobruja has two similar holes located on the tang (Yotov 2011: fig. 7). Another interesting feature on this sword is the two metal wedges protruding from the upper guard, touching the sidewalls of the tang. It is stated in the literature that the pommel cap of the sword is attached to the tang thanks to them (Zlatkov 2014: 139; Sirakov 2018: 144). From the personal communication between Tomáš Vlasatý and Metodi Zlatkov, information was interpreted to me that the wedges on the sword were not analyzed, nor was an X-ray taken of the sword (personal communication with Tomáš Vlasatý). One possibility for the function of the wedges is that the grip may have been constructed from multiple parts, and the wedges themselves are essentially fragments of long sections of the handle that ran from the upper guard to the crossguard. In the case of such a construction solution, this led to the extension of the holes either on the crossguard or the upper guard. The lining of the side parts of the handle is introduced into one or the other component and rests on the opposite metal part, which was primarily used to better manage vibrations (Vlasatý 2021a; personal communication with Tomáš Vlasatý). As an example of such a method of attaching the handle, we have documented it on two swords from the Polish site of Ostrów Lednicki – Petersen’s type H and type X.A/B.1 according to Oakeshott (Vlasatý 2021a). However, this method of fastening the grips is rare for the early medieval period and occurs more often from the 12th century. All parts of the four-part handle on both Polish swords are wooden, but if we take a closer look at the wedges of the Sliven sword, we can notice their oblique chamfering, identical on both sides of the tang. At the same time, from the attached photos of the discussed sword, we are not able to determine whether the holes in the crossguard or the upper guard extended or not.

Some V type swords have metal grips, so the question arises whether these wedges could serve to fix this type of grip or at least some of its metal parts (personal communication with Tomáš Vlasatý). Determining the exact function of the wedges on the hilt of the Sliven sword is rather difficult under these circumstances. In order to be able to understand their meaning, it is necessary to make a more detailed analysis of this sword.

Sword from Sliven. Illustration of the position of the wedges under the upper guard.
Source: Sirakov 2018: 18, fig. 1.

From the Veliki Preslav site a sword pommel comes that was discovered on the site of a former large representative building among ceramic material dated to the 11th-12th century (Vitljanov 1996: 35). Stojan Vitljanov dates the pommel of the sword to the 12th century and assigns it to Kirpičnikov’s type IV (Yotov 2004: 45). In V. Yotov’s publications Викингите на Балканите there is a typological classification under type A according to Oakeshott (Yotov 2003: 7). The one-piece pommel from the Veliki Preslav site has a lenticular shape (Yotov 2004: 44, fig. 15, cat. no. 427), while in the literature this type of pommel is sometimes referred to as a “Brazil nut-shaped pommel”. Smaller pommels of this shape are sometimes confused with Petersen’s type X, which, however, have a straight underside, and conversely, Brazil nut-shaped pommels are characterized by curved sides and are significantly longer (Moilanen 2015: 269). In Geibig’s classification, Oakeshott’s type A corresponds to combination type 16, variant I. The pommels of this type are characterized by an upper edge that curves towards the blade and meets the convex base at an acute angle. The top and base tend to be equally convex, creating an elongated pointed oval. There are also examples of pommels where the size of the bulge of the upper edge can differ from the opposite side (Geibig 1991: 70). Swords with Brazil nut-shaped pommels are widespread throughout Europe – e.g. Scandinavia, Russia, the Baltics and thanks to their simple shape, they could have been made in several places (Moilanen 2015: 269). The closest analogy to the object under discussion can be a grave find of a sword from the Romanian city of Deva, dated to the 2nd half 10th to the beginning 11th century and which also has a pommel of the same type (Gáll 2013: 96, Tab. 20). According to Yotov, the dating spans from the 11th century to the first half of the 12th century (Yotov 2003: 7). The chronology of these swords/pommels has a wide scope. Oakeshott’s type A is dated to the period 1000 – 1150 (Moilanen 2015: 269).

The remaining two finds consist only of double-edged blades with a tang (Kladnica and an unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria) which are rather difficult to classify in the observed period and category, but nevertheless there are several characteristic traits that can at least minimally help in the analysis of the objects.

Stoyan Popov assumes that the blade of the sword from Kladnica may belong to the so-called double-edged Viking swords on the basis of a fuller, but the absence of a crossguard and pommel makes this possibility difficult, as well as its chronological classification. Popov suggested the dating to the wide period of the 10th – 12th centuries (Popov 2018: 140). The sword was given to the National Archaeological Museum in Sofia as a gift from the Kladnica Monastery on September 15, 1922 (Popov 2018: 141, note 4). The length of the blade itself reaches 73 cm, it is straight and does not particularly narrow towards the tip. In Geibig’s classification, based on these data, it could fall under type 2 or 3, dating mainly to 9th-11th century (Geibig 1991: 84, abb. 22).

The second specimen is similar, its typological classification is ruled out due to the absence of a crossguard and a pommel. Based on the fuller, it can be assumed that the blade was made somewhere in Western, Northern, Central or Eastern Europe. Yotov dates this object between the 10th and 11th centuries (Yotov 2004: 45), in a broader sense between the 10th century and the beginning of the 12th century (Yotov 2003: 7).

In the collection of the Archaeological Museum in Plovdiv, 4 swords are exhibited, which are the property of the private collection of collectors Bojko Vatev and his father. The collection of the Vatev family gathered elements of weapons from different periods – from the late Bronze Age to the Middle Ages. Among the collected weapons (number of about 4800 pieces), swords count more than 50 specimens. There are 4 specimens of early medieval double-edged swords, that can be – based on their pommels – called types N, X, V, S?. However, these objects have not yet been published anywhere (Kamburov 2021: 111). At the same time, their authenticity is questionable, since the swords from the existing photos appear to be very well preserved and, even from a typological point of view, they are rather special specimens (personal communication with Samuil Kamburov and Tomáš Vlasatý).

It is appropriate to mention the sword that comes from Govežda (Говежда), Montana region in the northwest of Bulgaria. A very well-preserved double-edged sword with a relatively long, slightly curved crossguard and a short tang, on which is placed a semi-lenticular pommel with a straight edge at the top, bulging towards the grip. The blade of the sword is straight, tapering towards the tip. A fuller runs through the middle. The total length of the sword reaches 982 mm (Zlatkov 2014: 144-145). The pommel corresponds to Geibig’s combination type 17, variant I (Geibig 1991: 74, abb. 18), or to Kirpičnikov’s type III (Kirpičnikov 1966a: 50, fig. 10). The suggested dating of pommels of this type expects the starts in the second half of the 11th century, with a boom in the 12th-13th centuries (Tomsons 2012: 144). Zlatkov dates the sword from Govežda to the end of the 11th or to the first half of the 12th century (Zlatkov 2014: 145).

Sword from Govežda. Source: Zlatkov 2014: 144, cat. no. 42.


Scabbard chapes

Sixteen examples of the scabbard chapes can also be assigned to the finds of swords. These are openwork or solid chapes with round asymmetrical rhombic, triangular or more complex shapes and convex or concave arms. The cross-section of the chapes is elliptical and they were all made of bronze (Yotov 2007: 325). Individual chapes have been discovered in different parts of Bulgaria, but primarily the majority comes from the northeast of the country. Some come from archaeological excavations, where the place of their discovery is also known. The remaining specimens have unknown discovery circumstances and the place of discovery is just approximate. As part of the typological classification, V. Yotov sorted out individual chapes according to Paulsen’s typology into five categories:

  1. germanische Vogelmotiv (Germanic bird motif) – Miladinovci, Zavet and an unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria (Yotov 2016b: 111, fig. 13.1-3).
  2. germanische Vierfüßlermotiv (Germanic four-legged beast motif) – Pavlikeni, Stana and surrounding places Varna (Yotov 2016b: 111, fig. 14.1-3).
  3. orientalische Palmette (oriental palmette) – Čirpan-Rupkite, Gigen, Madara, Miladinovci, the vicinity of the city of Razgrad and two specimens from an unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria (Yotov 2016b: 112, fig. 15.1-7).
  4. Kreuz und Ranke (cross and tendril) – an unknown place in the northeast of Bulgaria (Yotov 2016b: fig. 16.2).
  5. Niedrige (type of low chapes) – an unknown place in the northeast of Bulgaria (Yotov 2016b: 113, fig. 16.3).

The first category of chapes belongs to the Paulsen type with a bird motif, which are divided into two groups – Eine skandivanische Gruppe (Scandinavian group) and Eine schwedisch-warägische Gruppe (Swedish-Varangian group). The latter was divided into four more subgroups (a, b, c, d). Out of the Bulgarian finds, four specimens should fall into this category: Miladinovci (Миладиновци), Zavet (Завет), an unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria and an unpublished find from an unknown locality. However, only the chape from the Zavet locality, an unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria, and the unpublished find from an unknown location can definitely be included in this category. The surface of the chape from Miladinovci is smooth and shiny, which makes it much more difficult to determine the motif. Visually, according to its shape, it can be assigned to one of Paulsen’s animal motifs of the “Germanic bird motif” or “four-legged beast motif”.

The chape, which was discovered at the site of the fortress near the town of Zavet, is characterized by the geometric silhouette of a bird when viewed from above. Upper side of chapes can show small differences, as some of them possess a small animal head, and the lower sides stay oval or have a cylindrical projection sticking out of it. Paulsen assigned these chapes to the bird motif type and to the Scandinavian group. Based on his researches, Vytautas Kazakevičius came to the conclusion that this group is rather of Baltic origin and thus they are products of local craft workshops, imitating the Scandinavian group. The closest known parallels come from Poland, Lithuania and the Kaliningrad region (Janowski 2007: 159). Within the framework of the typological classification, the specimen from the Zavet corresponds more to Kazakevičius’s type I and subtype I2b (Kazakevičius 1998: 292). The dating of these chape types is usually given at the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th century (Janowski 2007: 161-162).

An unpublished find from an unknown place in Bulgaria is stored in the Archaeological Museum in Varna (personal communication with Samuil Kamburov), it is probably a bronze chape with a simple silhouette of a bird with spread wings and tail, without a more detailed depiction of feathers. Sometimes these types of chapes are decorated with a circled dot ornament. The upper part is shaped in the form of a bird’s head in profile, some specimens in this part have an indicated eye in the form of a circled dot ornament. Typologically, this is Paulsen’s Swedish-Varangian group, subgroup d (Paulsen 1953: 22, 28-34, abb. 20-26). This type is undoubtedly a Scandinavian product.

Paulsen considered the place of their production to be Birka, Gotland, but also the area around Kyiv (Paulsen 1953: 33). In Birka, during archaeological research, a fragment of a casting mold was discovered in the soil layer from the second half of the 10th century, which may therefore indicate the possibility that the Swedish location could have been one of the centers of production of this group (Kainov 2009: 92; Paulsen 1953: 27, abb. 22). Analogies of the chapes of the Swedish-Varangian group, subgroup d are known from Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Baltics, Poland, Germany, Ukraine and Russia (Paulsen 1953: 28-33, abb. 20-26; Kainov 2009: 91-92). According to Paulsen, the chronological classification for these types is the second half of the 10th century (Paulsen 1953: 33). According to Androshchuk, they appear already in the first half of the 10th century and were used until its end, with the exception of some Baltic regions where their use is documented as early as the 11th century (Androshschuk 2014: 118). Kainov dates the Russian finds to the first half of the 10th century, or rather to the second quarter of the 10th century, he connects their distribution to the territory of Rus with Scandinavia and claims that they did not appear here before the 930s (Kainov 2009: 93). Dating the Bulgarian specimen is difficult due to the absence of information about the find. If we take into account the state of research on the above-discussed chape type and other specimens from the territory of Bulgaria, then the second half of the 10th century is the most likely possibility of determining the chronological horizon when this chape could be found in the area of the lower Danube (personal communication with Samuil Kamburov).

The chape from an unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria is a relatively rare specimen, which has a different motif on each side. One side corresponds to Paulsen’s bird motif, while the other side presents a four-legged beast ornament.

Let’s look first at the side with the bird motif in which Paulsen saw the depiction of the bird. The view of such an interpretation was changed by the discovery of a chape from the Black Earth in Birka during archaeological excavations in 1990-1995. The chape is a unique find, which has on one side a depiction of a bird of prey with its head turned in profile, and on the other side a motif of a bird intertwined with a man is clearly visible, which has been compared with a scene depicted on a figure stone at the Gotlandic site of Hammars III, in the parish of Lärbro. The scene is interpreted as a mythological theme of Óðinn stealing the mead of poetry from the giant Suttungr, drinking it transforming himself into an eagle while fleeing (Ambrosiani 2001: 12, fig. 1.2.-1.4.). Fedir Androshchuk perceives more Eastern parallels in this depiction. He interprets the connection of the man held by the bird as a late antique and medieval legend about the ascension of Alexander the Great, with the fact that this theory may be further supported by, for example, Scandinavian trade or military activities towards the east. Alternatively, another interpretation of the bird motif could be a connection with the character of the blacksmith Vǫlundr from the poem Vǫlundarkviða, who was captured by King Níðuðr. After taking revenge on the king by killing his sons and raping his daughter, Vǫlundr escapes from captivity using some machine made of bird feathers (Helmbrecht 2012: 175). However, it is not excluded that the meaning of these symbols for the society of that time was completely different from how we interpret it today, and therefore its understanding may be an impossible goal.

Androshchuk classifies this chape as type 3c, with a Borre/Jellinge/Mammen style motif depicting a bird and a beast (Androshchuk 2014: 116, fig. 71c), possibly as a combination of bird, beast and man (Androshchuk 2014: 124). According to Paulsen, the dating is given between the 10th and 11th centuries, and he places their origin in the north of Europe, with the fact that they were also imitated outside the territory of Scandinavia (Paulsen 1953: 17). In the territories inhabited by Baltic tribes, this type of chapes spread from Scandinavia, and later their imitations were created here, which Kazakevičius classifies under types Ib2 (to which the specimen from the Zavet also belongs) and Ib3 (Kainov 2009: 95). Parallels of the Bulgarian specimen are known from Sweden, the islands of Gotland and Öland, as well as from Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Russia and Germany (Kainov 2009: 95).

The other side of the chape is decorated with a motif of a four-legged animal intertwined with a snake. Typologically, it can be classified under Paulsen’s type germanische Vierfüßlermotiv, divided into four groups: Eine skandivanische Gruppe des 10. Jahrhunderts (Scandinavian group from the 10th century), Eine schwedische Gruppe des 10. Jahrhunderts (Swedish group from the 10th century), Ortbänder mit Tierstil des Ostseekreises (Chapes with an animal motif from the Baltic region) and Ortbänder mit Vierfüßlermotiv und Palmette (Chapes with a four-legged beast and a palmette). This chape from an unknown location shows elements of the groups Eine skandinavische Gruppe des 10. Jahrhunderts or Eine schwedische Gruppe des 10. Jahrhunderts. In Androshchuk’s classification, it belongs to type 6b (Androshchuk 2014: 117, fig. 75). The Scandinavian group is dated to the first half of the 10th century and has parallels in Denmark, England, Norway, Germany, Russia, Iceland and Sweden (Paulsen 1953: 35-42). There is also a theory according to which the chapes of this type should be representations in the artistic style of Mammen, the spread of which in Scandinavia is dated to the second half of the 10th century (Kainov 2009: 96-97), at the same time, there is also the discovery of a fragment of a similar chape from Birka, which was found in a layer dated between 950 – 970 (Ambrosiani – Androshchuk 2006: 5; Kainov 2009: 96). Paulsen dates the Swedish group to around 950 and puts their place of production in Uppland, Sweden. We know chapes of this type from various areas: Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia (Paulsen 1953: 45-47, abb. 42-43, 47). The combination of two different types of chapes in one object is quite unusual, there is only one analogy that matches the Bulgarian specimen, which Tomáš Vlasatý pointed out to me. An identical chape with a bird motif and a four-legged beast comes from the Lithuanian site of Katyčiai, Šilutės district, in the Klaipėda region, which Vytautas Kazakevičius classifies in his typology under intermediate type I/II, dating to the 11th century (Kazakevičius 1998: 295, 11. pav. a,b).

To the second group, other chapes identified as a type of four-legged beast were included, namely the finds that come from the sites of Pavlikeni (Павликени), Stana (Стана) and from an unknown place near Varna.

The chape from Pavlikeni with an stray find. Its surface bears decoration in the form of a braid motif of a stylized palmette, creating rhombic lines. This type is relatively rare and the only known parallel is a stray find from the Swedish site of Vreta , in the parish of Västerhaninge in Södermanland (Androshchuk 2014: 118, 375). However, the find from Vreta has a cylindrical protrusion on the lower side, and its upper part is also broken off. Paulsen assigns the Swedish specimen to the germanische Vierfüßlermotiv type (Paulsen 1953: 35-47), so Yotov, Zlatkov as well as Kamburov puts the find from Pavlikeni to the same type according to Paulsen (Yotov 2004: 48, 5, cat. no. 435; Zlatkov 2014: 149; Kamburov 2021: 106). Androshchuk is of the opinion that both should should, under current circumstances, rather be assigned to special types that do not yet have a specific typological classification (Androshchuk 2014: 118). The dating of the specimen from Pavlikeni is placed in the second half of the 10th century (Zlatkov 2014: 149).

The specimens from the Stana fortress and an unknown place near Varna are practically the same, the only difference is that the find from the Stana fortress was preserved in a fragmentary state, yet the motif is clear on one side. Yotov eventually assigned it to Paulsen’s type germanische Vierfüßlermotiv and the group Ortbänder im Tierstil des Ostseekreises (Yotov 2004: 49, 7, cat. no. 437). Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson defined this group as a motif of a bound anthropomorphic figure and divided them into four subgroups (A, B, C, D) depending on the representation of the head. In some cases the figure appears human, in others it has animal features, and in one case the head is clearly animal. Subgroup A consists of chapes with a zoomorphic head. Subgroup B has an anthropomorphic head. Subgroup C bears a zoomorphic head similar to those on oval brooches of type P48, made in the Borre style. Subgroup D consists of chapes where the motif is distorted or misinterpreted (Hedenstierna-Jonson 2002: 104, 106-107, fig. 3-5). Both Bulgarian specimens can clearly be classified under subgroup B, with the depiction of an anthropomorphic head. We know the closest parallels of Bulgarian finds from Germany – Nimschütz, Ukraine – Koroston, Kherson, Šestovica (Hedenstierna-Jonson 2002: 106, fig. 4.1-4.4) and Russia – Gnëzdovo (Kainov 2009: 97-101, fig. 10.1). According to N. Eniosova, the center of the production of chapes with an anthropomorphic head could be in the area of the middle Dnieper, which were cast by craftsmen familiar with Scandinavian artistic traditions (Kainov 2009: 101). Paulsen dates it to the first half of the 10th century with a close connection between the Hedeby and Birka emporiums (Paulsen 1953: 48). Ambrosiani considers them to be the earliest types of chapes of the Viking Age with a spread throughout Scandinavia with a center of production in the Baltic Sea region (Ambrosiani 2001: 24). Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson dates the subgroup A (zoomorphic head) from Birka Garrison to the second half of the 10th century (Hedenstierna-Jonson 2002: 109-110). The Bulgarian finds are dated to the second half of the 10th century and are associated with the military intervention of Prince Svyatoslav and his troops in the Balkans in 968-971 (Kamburov 2021: 99). According to one theory, the interpretation of the motif at the chapes of this type is supposed to represent Óðinn (Kainov 2009: 99) and according to Ch. Hedenstierny-Jonson, it is a depiction of the crucified Christ, as an analogy given by a stone image from Jelling, Denmark, dated between 960 – 1050 (Hedenstierna-Jonson 2002: 107-108).

The typology of scabbard chapes according to P. Paulsen.
Taken from: Kainov 2009: 80, fig. 1.

The third group of chapes differs significantly from those discussed above. The chapes no longer have openwork decoration but are closed, their surface is smooth, with a relief composition of plant ornament located mostly in the lower part. This type of chapes is cast from a copper alloy. However, it is a very diverse group that differs mainly in decoration. Their most widespread distribution is in Eastern Europe and the Baltics, while they are completely absent in Scandinavia. Gali F. Korzuchina classified these chapes as type V (Korzuchina 1950: 67-69, Tab. 1) and Paulsen under the oriental palmette type, which he further divided into four groups: Eine warägische Gruppe (Varangian group), Eine warägisch-baltische Gruppe ( Varangian-Baltic Group), Eine baltisch-ostpreußische Gruppe (Baltic-East Prussian Group) and Eine ostpreußische Gruppe (East Prussian Group) (Paulsen 1953: 59-96).

From Bulgaria, finds from the following localities fall into this category: Čirpan-Rupkite (Чирпан-Рупките), Gigen (Гиген), Madara (Мадара), Miladinovci (Миладиновци), a chape from the vicinity of the city of Razgrad and two specimens from an unknown place in the northeast of Bulgaria.

The finds from the Čirpan-Rupkite (Philippopel) and Madara sites were first published in 1931 by Géza Fehér, suggesting that they may be of Eastern European origin (Kamburov 2021: 101). Later, Peter Paulsen also included them in his work, who assigned these specimens to the Varangian group (Paulsen 1953: 59, 63, abb. 67, 69), in which he saw imitations of the Norse chapes with the preserved zoomorphic character of the upper extremity but with a significant eastern influence in the form of the palmette plant motif (Paulsen 1953: 59). Samuil Kamburov also sees a rather Eastern (perhaps Byzantine) origin in this type of chapes (personal communication with Samuil Kamburov).

Yotov as well as other researchers followed the typological classification created by Korzuchina and Paulsen (Doncheva 2002: 142; Yotov 2004: 5; Zlatkov 2014: 151-154; Kamburov 2021: 101-102). Paulsen originally placed their production in the Baltics, but Korzuchina drew attention to the fact that he mixed two types into one and she herself expressed the opinion that one group of chapes was produced in East Prussia, while the other, in which she also included finds from Bulgaria, must have originated somewhere in the area Danube, which she demonstrated by the similarity of the plant motif representation in its lower part with the palmette motif on the Old Hungarian tarsoly plates from graves dating to the end of the 10th century from the territory of Hungary (Korzuchina 1950: 68). In Hungary, however, these plates are dated mainly to the first half of the 10th century (Virágos 2022), at the same time, the revision created by Erwin Gáll corrects the dating of the use of the plates in a broader scope between the years 920/930 – 970/980, with the fact that this time horizon should not be considered stable (Gáll, Lezsák, Novichikhin 2018: 66). Paulsen later suggested that the place of production of the Varangian group chapes may have been in or around Kyiv (Paulsen 1953: 59). When examining Lithuanian finds, Vytautas Kazakevičius came to the conclusion that this type could have entered the Baltic environment from the south of the Slavic territories of Russia or from Hungary or Bulgaria (Kazakevičius 1992: 100).

The Bulgarian finds also differ from each other in terms of decoration. All of them end with a cylindrical projection. There are significant differences in decoration, five specimens have the upper side in the form of a stylized zoomorphic head (Čirpan-Rupkite, Gigen, Madara, Razgrad area, NE Bulgaria). The find from Miladinovci is finished on the upper side with a kind of geometric object, which has not been preserved in its entirety, and another piece from an unknown location in the northeast of Bulgaria has the upper side broken off, so it is not possible to determine how this part was constructed. The plant pattern in the lower part of the objects is distinguishable in only four cases (Čirpan-Rupkite, Madara, the vicinity of Razgrad and NE Bulgaria). In the case of finds from the Gigen and Miladinovci sites, we can talk about more difficult to identify motifs, the character of which carries elements of a stylized plant motif. A similar motif is also found in the lower part of a chape from an unknown location in northeastern Bulgaria, with the difference that its central part is decorated in the form of a bird with outstretched wings and a head turned in profile, pointing towards the top of the chape.

The closest analogies to the Bulgarian specimens come from different locations. The chape from Kyiv (Paulsen 1953: Abb. 68) with palmette ornament as well as the zoomorphic head on the upper side are identical only to the find from Madara and an unknown place near Razgrad (Zlatkov 2014: 151; Yotov 2004: 51, cat. no. 440) . The chape from Kyiv differs from the Bulgarian ones only in that it has four holes in the center of the piece. A similar decoration of the lower part of the chape from Čirpan-Rupkite can be observed on a chape from the Russian site in Tatarstan, Bilyarsk (Paulsen 1953: 60, abb. 70). The closest analogy to the Miladinovci chape is a find from the Galician site of Podhorce (today Пидгирци – Pidhirci in the Lviv region of Ukraine), which was found as early as 1874 together with the remains of a Petersen’s type V sword and a number of other objects, including military ones, in a local mound (Liwoch 2005: 47, 53, fig. 16, photos 17-18). From a typological point of view, the chape from Podhorce falls under Kazakevičius type III (corresponding to Paulsen’s oriental palmette type) and subtype IIIc, which are widespread especially in the western part of the Baltics (Liwoch 2005: 54). The remaining Bulgarian specimens have no known analogies yet.

Paulsen dates the chape of the Varangian group to the second half of the 10th century, with the find from Philippopel (Čirpan-Rupkite) dating between 960 – 970 (Paulsen 1953: 65, 67). According to Korzuchina, the chapes of type V are dated between the end of the 10th and the first half of the 11th century, and she dates the younger specimens to the end of the 11th and the 12th century (Korzuchina 1950: 67).

In my opinion, the typological classification of Bulgarian specimens from the available material seems problematic and insufficient due to the absence of analogies, but for the needs of the article in which I primarily focused on compiling a catalog of all known finds, it was not my ambition to create a new classification grouping for individual types. For this reason, I proceeded to use Paulsen’s type of oriental palmette without naming his groups.

The fourth category includes a U-shaped chapes from an unknown location in the north-east of Bulgaria. Based on Paulsen’s typology, it corresponds to the Kreuz und Ranke type, which he divided into two subgroups – Eine warägisch-livländische Grupe (Varangian-Livonian group), Eine kurländisch-ostpreussiche Gruppe (Curonian-Eastern Prussian group), at the same time, he named three subgroups (a, b, c) for the second group. Korzuchina classifies them under type IV and puts the place of production in Gotland or the Baltics, with the fact that the decoration was significantly influenced by the “Eastern” artistic style (Korzuchina 1950: 66). Artūrs Tomsons is convinced that the place of their production should have been somewhere in the eastern Baltic, since apart from Courland and western Lithuania they are widespread in the entire Baltic region (Tomsons 2012: 211). He classified the Latvian finds as type V and divided them separately into three groups. Kazakevičius classified this type of chapes under type V with subtypes Va and Vb, expressing the opinion that Paulsen’s division is inaccurate for the Lithuanian finds, at least in the case of his subtypes b and c, since they are similar and the criteria for differentiation are relatively unclear (Kazakevičius 1992: 102). Based on Kazakevičius’s division, subtype Vb could thus correspond to the Bulgarian specimen, which is decorated with a plant motif or a cross motif, and at the same time, in some finds, the three-leaf motif on the top of the central projection predominates (Kazakevičius 1992: 104). These chapes date back to the 11th century, but some random finds may date back to the 12th century (Kazakevičius 1992: 105). The closest analogies come from Lithuania, Latvia and Gotland. They are absent on the territory of the former Kyivan Rus (Korzuchina 1950: 67).

The fifth category is made up of chapes also originating from an unknown location in the north-east of Bulgaria, which Yotov assigned to Paulsen’s group of Niedrige type chapes, divided into three groups: mitt Palmette (with palmette), mit Kreuz (with cross), ohne Kreuz und Palmette (without cross and palmette). According to Paulsen, this group of chapes is not derived from Scandinavian forms of the 10th-11th centuries, but appears as a new, foreign form in the 11th century, probably with an overlap into the 12th-13th centuries (Paulsen 1953: 131). G. F. Korzuchina notes that they are most widespread in the Baltics. Other finds are known from Gotland or Sweden and she classifies them under type VIII (Korzuchina 1950: 68). In this case too, the origin is placed in the Baltic region (Tomsons 2012: 221). Kazakevičius classified these specimens under type VI with subtypes VIa, VIb, VIc (Tomsons 2012: 190, 100. att.) and Artūrs Tomsons classified them under type VI (Tomsons 2012: 190. 101. att.).

The typology of scabbard chapes according to V. Kazakevičius. Source: Kazakevičius 1998: 289.

The scabbard chape, which comes from the Veliki Preslav site and was discovered at the site of the inner city, near the northern wall, can also be included in the monitored period (Yotov 2003: 20). According to Yotov, the dating is rather chaotic, as in the Bulgarian written text it is dated to the 12th – 13th century, but in the English version of the text it is dated to the end of the 10th century and to the 11th century (Yotov 2003: 20). The closest analogies to this chape can be found the Central Europe, as evidenced by a similar chape from Dobroměřice in the district of Louny, Czech Republic; this piece belongs to the type 1, variant B according to the classification of R. Koch, or variant 210 according to S. Krabath. This type of chapes is usually dated to the 11th – 12th century, with a rare overlap into the first half of the 13th century, and is most widespread in Germany (Korený 2012: 945, fig. 2).

Scabbard chape from Veliki Preslav (left).
Scabbard chape from Dobroměřice (right).


Summary

From the 24 analyzed objects (including an unpublished pommel from Burgas), we can state that 7 finds come from unknown locations in the northeast of Bulgaria (5 chapes and 2 swords). In one case, we record an unpublished chape, the place of discovery of which is unknown and it is only known that it is kept in the archaeological museum in Varna. The other 3 specimens have at least an approximate area of discovery known (Sliven, Razgrad and Varna). For 13 finds, we can state the place where they were discovered.

Since in neither case were the objects found in the grave, these are accidental finds, while we must not forget that some of them were discovered by detectorists.

As for the geographical distribution of individual finds, their greatest concentration is located in the north-east of Bulgaria (16 specimens – 4 swords and 12 chapes). Two chapes come from the north (Gigen and Pavlikeni), one sword and one pommel from the southeast (Sliven and Burgas). Moreover, there is a sword in the northwest (Gradešnica), a chape in the south of Bulgaria (Čirpan-Rupkite) and a sword blade from the southwest (Kladnica).

If we take into account the state of research and information in contemporary sources in the case of the above-discussed subjects, we can assume that part of these militaries could have been introduced to the territory of Bulgaria in a certain historical context – the military campaign of Svyatoslav I from 968 – 971, the invasions of the Pechenegs, as assumed by V. Yotov, military activities of the Varangian Guard in the service of the Byzantine emperors, but trade contacts cannot be ruled out.

The chronological horizon of these objects can be different, despite the fact that some of the swords or chapes could have been made during the first half of the 10th century, their appearance on the lower Danube cannot be assumed earlier than the end of the 10th to the beginning of the 11th century.

Despite the fact that some of the analyzed objects are presented in the literature as Scandinavian in origin, only a very small part of them could have been made in Scandinavian workshops and their origin should rather be sought somewhere in the Baltic regions or in the territories of Kyivan Rus. At the same time, the appearance of these militaria (including axeheads, spears, etc.) may not be a clear indicator of the physical presence of the Norsemen on the territory of Bulgaria and may not be evidence that their bearers were representatives of a certain ethnic group, originating from the same area where the given objects were produced (Kamburov 2021: 90). The question is also raised whether some scabbard chapes could be made directly in the lower Danube region, as suggested by some researchers (Korzuchina 1950: 68; Kazakevičius 1992: 100; personal communication with Samuil Kamburov). Finds of structural elements of swords and sabers, including half-products and waste in the form of crossguard, different types of scabbard chapes or pommels, have been preserved in Pliska and Preslav sites, which, however, according to S. Kamburov, are not related to the Varangians (personal communication with Samuil Kamburov).


Catalog

Swords and scabbard chapes are arranged in alphabetical order in the catalog presented below.

Geographical distribution of localized finds of swords and their structural elements (blue) and scabbard chapes (orange) on the territory of Bulgaria.

Swords

Burgas (Бургас)
The pommel cap was supposed to have been discovered at a site in the Aquae Calidae fortress in Burgas, eastern Bulgaria.
Storage location: ?
Inventory number: ?
Metric data: ?
Description: ?
Dating: ?
Typological classification: It should be an R/S type according to Petersen.
Literature: Kamburov 2021: 112; personal communication with Samuil Kamburov.

Gradešnica (Градешница)
The find of a fragmentary double-edged sword comes from around the village of Gradešnica, in the region of Vraca in northwestern Bulgaria.
Storage location: Regional historical museum – Vraca (Регионален Исторически Музей – Враца).
Inventory number: Г-290.
Metric data: length – 227 mm; blade width at the base – 48 mm, circa 4 mm are missing; length/height/width of crossguard – 115/39/20 mm; length of grip – 64 mm; length/height/width of the pommel – 95/47/23 mm; weight – 516 g.
Description: Discovery circumstances are not available. The find consists of only a small part of the blade, a crossguard, a tang and a two-part pommel. A relatively small part of the blade has been preserved, considerably corroded, which has a damaged edge on both sides. The fuller is wide and well defined. The crossguard of the sword is heavy and thick, bent towards the blade, widening towards the ends, which are rounded. In its center there is a small protrusion towards the blade. The tang is thin, slightly tapered towards the pommel. The pommel consists of two parts – the upper guard and the heavy pommel cap. The upper guard is curved upwards towards the pommel cap and has an elliptical shape. The pommel cap is convex, five-lobed and damaged at both ends from the lower side. In some places, traces of incrustations are visible (Yotov 2004: 43; Zlatkov 2014: 142-143).
Dating: second half of the 10th century – first half of the 11th century.
Typological classification: Type Z according to Petersen.
Literature: Zlatkov 2014: 143.

Sword from Gradešnica. Source: Zlatkov 2014: 142, 41.

Kladnica (Кладница)
The sword comes from a hillfort near the village of Kladnica, Pernik region.
Storage location: National Archaeological Museum, Sofia (Националният археологически музей, София).
Inventory number: 2096.
Description and metric data: The sword currently consists only of a corroded blade with a tang. The total length of the object is 85.5 cm. The tang of the handle reaches a length of 12.5 cm, the width varies from 2.5 to 1 cm in the direction from the blade to the tang tip. The cross-section is rectangular. One of the arms of the blade is narrower, with a width of 1.2 cm, and the other reaches a width of 2 cm. The thickness of the sword at the tang level 0.5 cm. The length of the blade itself is 73 cm, the width tapers from 5.3 to 4.7 cm. The tip is rounded. The fuller is rather weakly visible, it starts 3 cm from the shoulders and ends about 4 cm before the tip. Its width is approximately 2.5 cm. The weight of the blade is 740 g.
Dating: 10th – 12th century.
Typological classification: Due to the absence of a crossguard and a pommel, a typological classification is impossible. Geibig blade type 2 or 3.
Literature: Popov 2018: 140.

Sword from Kladnica. Source: Popov 2018: 140.

Opaka (Опака)
The well-preserved sword is said to have come from detector activity and was discovered near the former medieval fortress near the village of Opaka in the Tărgovište region, northeastern Bulgaria.
Storage location: Regional History Museum, Dobrich (Регионален Исторически Музей, Добрич).
Inventory number: Ac 3234.
Metric data: total length – 895 mm; blade length – 775 mm; blade width at the base – 55 mm; blade thickness at the base – 12 mm; fuller length – 720 mm; width of the fuller at the base – 18 mm; length of crossguard – 100 mm; crossguard height – 8 mm; crossguard width – 19 mm; pommel length – 49 mm; pommel height – 25 mm; pommel width – 14 mm; weight – 864 g.
Description: The sword consists of a straight double-edged blade, a straight crossguard, a tang and a pommel. It has been preserved almost entirely, only about 30 mm of the tip is missing. The fuller is distinct and extends from the crossguard towards the tip. It gradually narrows and disappears a few centimeters before the tip. Roughly 100 mm below the crossguard, in the fuller, there is a golden cross in a circle filled with the inlay method (10.5 × 11.5 mm). The crossguard of the sword is straight, rectangular. There are vertical grooves (approx. 11?) on its surface. The tang tapers from the crossguard toward the pommel and probably passes through the pommel to which it is riveted. The pommel is probably made of a single piece of iron and decoratively divided into two parts by a horizontal groove. The surface of the pommel is decorated with six vertical grooves.
Dating: second half of the 9th century – 10th century.
Typological classification: Type K according to Petersen.
Literature: Paroushev 1999: 31; Zlatkov 2014: 141.

Sword from a fortress near the village of Opaka. Source: Zlatkov 2014: 140.

Sliven (Сливен)
The circumstances of the sword’s discovery are unknown, it is only known that it was found somewhere in the Sliven area.
Storage location: Regional History Museum, Sliven (Регионален Исторически Музей, Сливен).
Inventory number: 3627.
Metric data: total length – 760 mm; blade length – 610 mm; blade width at the base – 59 mm; blade thickness at the base – 5mm; blade thickness at the breaking point – 3.3 mm; fuller width – 22-23 mm; crossguard length – 91 mm; crossguard height – 11.5 mm; crossguard width – 19.3 mm; upper guard and pommel cap (length, height, height) – 71×45×22 mm; weight – 922 g.
Description: The sword is in relatively good condition. It was preserved with a double-edged blade, from which the tip and a significant part of the blade with a fuller in its lower part are missing. The hilt consists of a crossguard, a tang and a two-part pommel. The edge on the blade is also slightly damaged. The fuller is clearly visible, wide, without inscription. The crossguard is straight, hexagonal. The tang of the grip runs from the crossguard towards the pommeů, to which it tapers. The pommel consists of two parts, the upper guard and the pommel cap that are fastened together with rivets. The upper guard is oval. The pommel cap is flat and has the shape of a hemisphere. The pommel is said to be attached to the tang by two wedges protruding from under the upper guard, pointing towards the crossguard. The wedges are tapered at the ends. The tang has a 2.5 mm hole in the place closer to the crossguard. The crossguard as well as the pommel bear traces of decoration. The motif, which cannot be fully recognized today, was created from silver, copper and brass wire.
Dating: second half of the 9th century – 10th century.
Typological classification: according to previous commentators, Petersen’s type H.
Note: The sword hilt bears elements characteristic of Petersen’s type V, which would also mean shifting the chronology to the developed 10th century.
Literature: Zlatkov 2014: 139.

Sword from an unknown location in the Sliven area. Source: Zlatkov 2014: 138.

Veliki Preslav (Велики Преслав)
The sword pommel from Veliki Preslav, Shumen region, northeastern Bulgaria. It was discovered during the survey of a large representative building in the southern part of the inner city, among ceramic material from the 11th – 12th centuries.
Storage location: Archaeological Museum, Preslav (Археологически музей, Преслав).
Inventory number: ?
Metric data: ?
Description: The semi-circular pommel with an elliptical cross-section has a rectangular opening on the bottom, which was used to place it on the tang.
Dating: 11th century – first half of the 12th century.
Typological classification: Oakeshott A, Geibig’s combination type 16, Variant I.
Literature: Vitaljanov 1996: 35; Yotov 2003: 7; 2004: 45, cat. no. 427.

Sword pommel from Veliki Preslav. Source: Yotov 2003: 7.

Unknown location in northeastern Bulgaria
Storage location:
Archaeological Museum, Varna (Археологически музей, Варна).
Inventory number: ?
Metric data: ?
Description: The circumstances of the find are unknown. The pommel cap has three lobes, the two lateral ones are significantly smaller than the central one and have an oval shape. The central lobe is also oval, narrowing upwards. Between the central lobe and the two side lobes there are grooves that may have been filled with silver twisted wire in the past. The pommel cap is made of iron and its surface is covered with silver. From the available photo, it is possible to notice the braid motif located on the central lobe, dominating almost the entire surface, which turns into spirals on the sides. The upper part of the middle lobe is damaged on both sides and lacks silver overlay that fell out and thus reconstructing the entire ornament is impossible. Underneath the ornament there is a framing in the form of a horizontal line, from which small protrusions extend vertically towards the ornament, tilted to the right. Another frame is placed under this motif, this time the pattern is in the form of a so-called herringbone. The side lobes are lined on the inner side with the same line with projections, as is the case under the braid ornament of the central lobe. The hem stretches from the lower end of the lobes to the upper part, the space between them is filled with a motif resembling a spiral. On the top of the pommel cap there is a hole that was used for the rivet with which it was attached to the base. There are two small protrusions on the underside of both side lobes.
Dating: 10th century – start 11th century.
Typological classification: Type T1 according to Petersen / Type II A according to Kirpičnikov. It shows features characteristic of the so-called silver-plated type according to Moilanen.
Literature: Yotov – Pavlova 2004: 94.

Pommel cap from an unknown location in northeastern Bulgaria.
Source: Yotov – Pavlova 2004: 81, cat. no. 62.

Unknown location in northeastern Bulgaria
Storage location: Archaeological Museum, Varna (Археологически музей, Варна).
Inventory number: ?
Metric data: blade length – 46 cm.
Description: The find of a fragmentary double-edged blade comes from an unknown place in northeastern Bulgaria. The circumstances of the discovery are not known. The blade has been preserved without a tip, crossguard and pommel, only with a tang, which is relatively wide at the shoulders of the blade and narrows towards its end. The fuller is clearly visible.
Dating: 10th century – beginning 12th century.
Typological classification: Due to the absence of a crossguard and a pommel, a typological classification is impossible.
Literature: Yotov 2003: 7; 2004: 45.

Double-edged sword blade from an unknown location in northeastern Bulgaria.
Source: Yotov 2003: 7.


Scabbard chapes

Čirpan-Rupkite (Чирпан-Рупките)
The bronze chape is a stray find from the Karasura fortress, in the Čirpan-Rupkite area, Stara Zagora region.
Storage location: ?
Inventory number: ?
Metric data: length – 9.3 cm; width – 4.6 cm.
Description: The chape is formed on the upper side by a thin projection in the form of a zoomorphic head with well-defined eyes, from which the arms extend downwards, the edge of which is decorated with a thin line. Two symmetrically placed three-leafed palmettes emerge from the edging on both sides. From the shoulders, the chape narrows down and ends with a cylindrical projection. The ornament in its lower part has a leaf motif in the form of a turned heart, below which a wavy line extends to the sides.
Typological classification: chape with an oriental palmette motif according to Paulsen.
Dating: the second half of the 10th century – the beginning of the 11th century.
Literature: Yotov 2003: 26; 2004: 51, cat. no. 439; personal communication with Samuil Kamburov.

Chape from Čirpan-Rupkite. Source: Yotov 2003: 26.

Gigen (Гиген)
The bronze chape was discovered during regular archaeological research at the site of a medieval settlement built on the site of the former Late Antiquity city of Oescus, under the eastern wall of the city basilica near the village of Gigen, Pleven region.
Storage location: Regional History Museum, Pleven (Регионалният исторически музей, Плевен).
Inventory number: A3165.
Metric data: height – 83 mm; width – 42 mm; thickness – 14 mm.
Description: The well-preserved chape has an upper projection that appears to be in the form of a stylized palmette (animal head?), from which it expands downwards to the sides. The edge of the shoulders is bordered by a narrow relief band that opens to the top. The surface is flat. The decoration is identical on both sides, in its center there is a circular projection above which there are three holes on the left, right and below, probably used for rivets, with which the chape was attached to the scabbard. From the shoulders, the object gradually narrows downwards, ending with a cylindrical protrusion. The relief ornament in the lower part of the chape has the shape of a tip pointing towards the holes, it has been identified as the shape of a stylized palmette.
Typological classification: chape with an oriental palmette motif according to Paulsen.
Dating: 10th century to the middle of the 11th century.
Literature: Yotov 2003: 17; 2004: 51, cat. no. 441; Kamburov 2021: 101.

Chape from Gigen. Source: Yotov 2003: 17.

Madara (Мадара)
The bronze chape comes from Madara, Shumen region.
Storage location: National Archaeological Institute with Museum, Sofia (Национален археологически институт с музей, София).
Inventory number: 2875.
Metric data: length – 98 mm; width – 45 mm; thickness – 16 mm; weight – 53 g.
Description: The finish is in relatively good condition, with the same ornament on both sides. The upper edge of the shoulders is lined with a line of relief bands pointing and narrowing upwards, ending in a projection in the form of a stylized palmette (animal head?). The chape tapers downwards from the shoulders, ending with a cylindrical protrusion. The motif of the relief palmette in the lower part has the shape of a trefoil in the middle, from which volutes extend to the sides.
Typological classification: chape with an oriental palmette motif according to Paulsen.
Dating: second half of the 10th century – first half of the 11th century.
Literature: Zlatkov 2014: 151.

Chape from Madara. Source: Zlatkov 2014: 151.

Miladinovci (Миладиновци)
A bronze openwork chape is said to be discovered at the site of the Miladinovci fortress, Tărgovište region (Yotov 2003: 10).
Storage location: private collection.
Metric data: ?
Description: The surface of the chape is smooth and shiny, which greatly complicates the distinction of the motif and its typological classification. The shape can be visually assigned to one of Paulsen’s groups: Eine skandivanische Gruppe des 10. Jahrhunderts or Eine schwedische Gruppe des 10. Jahrhunderts, which fall under the type germanische Vierfüßlermotif or to the group Eine skandivanische Gruppe, which belongs to the type germanische Vogelmotif. The upper part of the chape has the shape of an animal head with prominent eyes. From the head downwards, the object expands to the sides, from the shoulders it continues downwards, copying the blade of the sword to its tip. The chape thus narrows and is finished in the form of a cylindrical projection.
Typological classification: unclear, probably belongs to some group of germanische Vogelmotiv or germanische Vierfüßlermotiv types.
Dating: second half 10th to the beginning of the 11th century.
Literature: Yotov 2003: 10; 2004: 47, cat. no. 434.

Chape from Miladinovci. Source: Yotov 2003: 10.

Miladinovci (Миладиновци)
The bronze chape comes from Miladinovci fortress, Tărgovište region.
Storage location: Archaeological Museum, Varna (Археологически музей, Варна).
Inventory number: 4900.
Metric data: length – 96 mm; width – 49 mm; thickness – 15 mm; weight – 47.3 g.
Description: One side of chape has been preserved almost entirely. The edge of the arms is decorated in the form of three relief lines that point upwards and end with a rhomboid projection that has not been preserved in its entirety. Towards the bottom, the chape narrows and a cylindrical projection with two horizontal grooves extends from it on the lower side. The relief ornament on the lower side has a pointed character with two smaller oblique grooves closer to the top and two longer oblique grooves closer to the sides of the chape. Visually, it looks like a stylized plant ornament in the form of a palmette.
Typological classification: chape with an oriental palmette motif according to Paulsen, or Kazakevičius type III, subtype IIIc.
Dating: second half of the 10th century – first half of the 11th century.
Literature: Zlatkov 2014: 153.

Chape from Miladinovci. Source: Zlatkov 2014: 153.

Pavlikeni (Павликени)
The bronze chape comes from an unknown place near the town of Pavlikeni, Veliko Tărnovo region. The chape is a random find.
Storage location: Archaeological Museum, Varna (Археологически музей, Варна).
Inventory number: 5118.
Metric data: length – 67 mm; width – 44 mm; thickness – 14 mm; weight – 38 g.
Description: The bronze chape has been preserved almost entirely. The opening is oval. The upper projection is broken off, so it is not reliably possible to determine how this part was shaped. The shape of the chape narrows downwards from the shoulders, the underside is oval, without a cylindrical projection. The surface of the chape is decorated with an intricate braid motif of a stylized palmette, with traces of gold coating in several places. The frame around the opening is decorated on each side with a herringbone line. There are four holes on the surface, which were probably used to fix the tip to the scabbard.
Typological classification: a special type according to Androshchuk (Androshchuk 2014: 118, fig. 78b).
Dating: second half of the 10th century.
Literature: Zlatkov 2014: 149.

Chape from Pavlikeni. Source: Zlatkov 2014: 149.

Stana (Стана)
The bronze chape comes from the fortress on the Stana plateau, east of the city of Novi Pazar, Shumen region.
Storage location: Pliska Archaeological Reserve (Археологически резерват Плиска).
Inventory number: ?
Metric data: height – 41 mm; width – 42 mm; thickness – 9 mm.
Description: The chape is a stray find. Only a fragment with an ornament has survived. The upper and lower parts are absent. The motif on the chape is completely smooth on one side, only in the upper right corner is it possible to clearly observe a braid ornament with grooves. On the opposite side of the chape, the decoration has been preserved in relatively better condition. The decoration is a complex braid ornament with a probably anthropomorphic motif in the form of a human head, on which there are distinct whiskers.
Typological classification: corresponds to type B according to Hedenstierna-Jonson (Hedenstierna-Jonson 2002: 104, 106, fig. 4).
Dating: second half of the 10th century.
Literature: Yotov 2003: 12; 2004: 48, 6, cat. no. 436; Kamburov 2021: 98-100.

Chape from Stana. Source: Yotov 2003: 12.

Zavet (Завет)
The bronze chape comes from a fortress near the town of Zavet, Razgrad region.
Storage location: Archaeological Museum, Varna (Археологически музей, Варна).
Inventory number: 5705.
Metric data: length – 60 mm; width – 42 mm; thickness – 7 mm; weight – 20.6 g.
Description: Openwork bronze chape with oval opening. The frame around the opening has a decoration in the form of two lines with a herringbone motif. The top part is broken off. The lower side has an oval shape and widens upwards towards the shoulders, from which it further narrows at the ends, but on one side the herringbone motif as well as the upper part of the central motif are broken off. The ornament on the surface of the chape has a zoomorphic character. It represents a stylized bird, seen from above. Its head and beak are shaped like a rose with three almond-shaped arms. Wings in the form of circles extend from the short body to the sides, the body narrows downwards, and two smaller circles extend from it to the sides, from which two horizontal partitions, representing the limbs, pass to the wall and end on both sides. The bird’s body is finished with a fan-shaped tail with outlined lines representing feathers.
Typological classification: Kazakevičius’ type Ib2.
Dating: 10th century to the beginning 11th century.
Literature: Zlatkov 2014: 148.

Chape from Zavet. Source: Zlatkov 2014: 148.

Unknown place in the vicinity of Razgrad
The bronze chape comes from an unknown location near Razgrad in the Razgrad region in northeastern Bulgaria.
Storage location: private collection.
Metric data: ?
Description: This is the same specimen as the find from the Madara site. The chape is in very good condition, with the same ornament on both sides. The upper edge of the shoulders is lined with a line of relief bands pointing and narrowing upwards, ending in a protrusion in the form of a stylized palmette. The chape tapers downwards from the shoulders, ending with a cylindrical protrusion. The motif of the relief palmette in the lower part has the shape of a trefoil in the middle, from which volutes extend to the sides.
Typological classification: chape with an oriental palmette motif according to Paulsen.
Dating: end of the 10th century – middle of the 11th century.
Literature: Yotov 2003: 16; 2004: 51, cat. no. 440.

Chape from an unknown place in the vicinity of Razgrad. Source: Yotov 2003: 16.

Unknown place in the vicinity of Varna
The bronze chape comes from an unknown location near the port of Varna in northeastern Bulgaria.
Storage location: Archaeological Museum, Varna (Археологически музей, Варна).
Inventory number: 4980.
Metric data: length – 55 mm; width – 41 mm; thickness – 12 mm; weight – 22.2 g.
Description: The chape cast from bronze has been preserved without the upper part. The opening is oval. The arms are extended to the sides, from where they point down, where the chape gradually narrows and ends with a cylindrical protrusion. The ornament consists of an anthropomorphic figure with a braid motif, preserved only on one side of the chape. The depiction represents an anthropomorphic figure with outstretched arms and legs wrapped in interlaced ribbons, standing on a face located on the underside of the chape, facing a cylindrical projection. This is the same type that was found in the fortress of Stana.
Typological classification: corresponds to type B according to Hedenstierna-Jonson (Hedenstierna-Jonson 2002: 104, 106, fig. 4).
Dating: second half of the 10th century.
Literature: Zlatkov 2014: 150.

Chape from an unknown place in the vicinity of Varna. Source: Zlatkov 2014: 150.

Unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria
The bronze chape comes from an unknown location in the north-east of Bulgaria.
Storage location: The chape is part of a private collection.
Metric data: ?
Description: The openwork chape, made of bronze, has a different motif on each side. On one of the sides there is a motif resembling a bird with outstretched wings. The body is formed from several intertwined lines. A belt winds around the body, over the limbs and over the wings, which at the end expands into an open tail in the form of three feathers. A loop is wrapped around the tail. The limbs are band-shaped and reach the edge of the chape.
The other side of the chape is decorated with a motif of a four-legged animal intertwined with a snake. However, the motif is only visible in the right part of the chape, where it is possible to notice the torso of the animal’s body curled into the shape of the letter S and its ribbed filling. Around the animal’s body in some places, a thinner belt line representing a snake winds. The remaining part of the tail is practically smooth. The upper side of the chape is formed on both sides into the shape of an animal head, from which the arms extend downwards. The sides pass from the shoulders down, where they taper and meet at the bottom, which is finished in the shape of a cylindrical projection. The frame on the side with the bird motif is decorated with fluted grooves.
Dating: second half of the 10th century.
Typological classification: Paulsen’s type germanische Vogelmotiv, group Eine skandivanische Gruppe and type germanische Vierfüßlermotiv, group Eine skandivanische Gruppe des 10. Jahrhunderts, which correspond to Androshchuk’s types 3c and 6b (Androshchuk 2014: 116-117, fig. 71c, 75).
Literature: Yotov 2004: 46, cat. no. 432; personal communication with Samuil Kamburov.

Chape from an unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria.
Source: Yotov 2004: 47, cat. no. 432.

Unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria – chape with a bird motif
A bronze chape with an unknown archaeological context was discovered at an unknown location in the northeastern part of Bulgaria.
Storage location: Regional historical museum, Shumen (Регионален исторически музей, Шумен).
Inventory number: 22570.
Metric data: length 89 mm; width 46 mm; thickness 12 mm; weight – 59 g.
Description: Well-preserved chape with the same motif on both sides. On the edges of the opening, there is decoration in the form of volutes, which point towards the top of the chape, which narrows and ends in the form of a stylized palmette or a zoomorphic head. The chape tapers downwards. A characteristic cylindrical protrusion protrudes on the underside. The central motif is a flying bird, probably some kind of bird of prey. The head is turned in profile, the beak is directed towards the top of the chape. Wings are outstretched and the tail is spread out like a fan in the form of four feathers. Like its wings, its body is covered with tiny dots representing feathers. There are still two holes on his body from one side and the other. These were probably used to attach the tip to the sheath. On one side, two more holes are visible next to the bird’s wings. The motif on the lower side has the shape of two horizontal arms that slope downwards from the side walls, from where two vertical arms extend upwards, towards each other, and their top ends in a rhomboid object, with the point pointing towards the fan-shaped tail of a bird of prey.
Typological classification: chape with an oriental palmette motif according to Paulsen.
Dating: second half of the 10th century – first half of the 11th century.
Literature: Zlatkov 2014: 152.

Chape from an unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria.
Source: Zlatkov 2014: 152.

Unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria
The find of the bronze chape comes from an unknown location in the north-east of Bulgaria.
Storage location: Archaeological Museum, Varna (Археологически музей, Варна).
Inventory number: 4983.
Metric data: length – 78 mm; width – 47 mm; thickness – 13.5 mm; weight – 68 g.
Description: The upper part of the chape was not preserved. On one side, the edge of the arms bordered by a line of relief bands has been preserved almost entirely than on the other side, where only fragments of the arms remain. The chape narrows downwards and is finished with a ring decoration from which a cylindrical projection protrudes. The lower part of the chape on the side with better preserved arms is decorated in the form of a palmette plant motif. On the other hand, this motif is faintly distinct and has a rather triangular shape.
Typological classification: chape with an oriental palmette motif according to Paulsen.
Dating: second half of the 10th century – first half of the 11th century.
Literature: Zlatkov 2014: 154.

Chape from an unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria.
Source: Zlatkov 2014: 154.

Unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria
The bronze chape comes from an unknown location in the north-east of Bulgaria.
Storage location: Archaeological Museum, Varna (Археологически музей, Варна).
Inventory number: 4982.
Metric data: length – 35 mm; width – 35 mm; thickness – 14 mm; weight – 22.5 g.
Description: The chape is relatively well preserved, in the shape of the letter U. The top edges are straight, with holes for the rivets with which the chape was attached to the scabbard. On the inner side, the arms pass downwards, where they open into semi-circular protrusions that end in a triangular shape, the one on one side is higher, on the other side smaller. From the exterior side, the chape narrows downwards and ends with a cylindrical projection. The surface of the object is decorated in the form of a plant motif.
Typological classification: Paulsen’s type Niedrige with palmette.
Dating: end of the 10th century – 11th century.
Literature: Zlatkov 2014: 155.

Chape from an unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria.
Source: Zlatkov 2014: 155.

Unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria
The chape is cast in bronze and comes from an unknown location in northeastern Bulgaria.
Storage location: private collection.
Metric data: length – 6.3 cm; width – 3.7 cm.
Description: The upper edges are straight on the sides and the central projection ends in the shape of a petal or a cross. The chape narrows downwards and on its lower side there is a rhomboid protrusion, the lower edge of which is finished flat. The motif on the front is difficult to recognize, as there is only a redrawing of the chape. The edging of the motif on the sides towards the top opens into a vegetal ornament, probably in the form of a palmette, the central leaf of which points downwards, to what resembles a stylized heart motif.
Typological classification: Paulsen’s type Kreuz und Ranke.
Dating: end of the 10th century – middle of the 11th century.
Literature: Yotov 2003: 23; 2016b: 113, fig. 16.2; personal communication with Samuil Kamburov.

Drawing of the chape from an unknown place in the north-east of Bulgaria.
Source: Yotov 2003: 23.

Unknown location in Bulgaria
The find of the bronze chape probably comes from an unknown location on the territory of Bulgaria.
Storage location: Archaeological Museum, Varna (Археологически музей, Варна).
Inventory number: ?
Metric data: ?
Description: The openwork chape has an upper projection in the form of a bird’s head in profile. In the attached photo, it also appears to have a hole representing an eye. The arms of the chape slope considerably down to the sides, from there the shape of the object narrows towards the tip, which is rounded. The decoration in the form od circled dots extends from the end of one arm side, passes through the lower side and continues to the end of the other arm. The central motif has the form of a bird with outstretched wings. These are connected to the inner side walls. The head is bordered by the lower edge of the opening and on one side it is possible to notice the decoration in the form of a circled dot, the same decoration is also found in the middle of the bird’s body. Towards the end of the tip, the tail opens wide, like a fan, and connects to the side walls of the chape.
Typological classification: Paulsen’s type germanische Vogelmotiv, group Eine schwedisch-warägisch Gruppe, which corresponds to Androshchuk’s type 3a.
Dating: second half of the 10th century.
Literature: Unpublished, personal communication with Samuil Kamburov.

Scabbard chape from an unknown location in Bulgaria. Source: Kristián Jócsik.


Acknowledgment

In this way, I would like to especially thank Samuil Kamburov from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences for consulting and introducing some unpublished information that he willingly provided. Thanks also go to Tomáš Vlasatý from the Project Forlǫg for consultations and the opportunity to publish this article on this portal. My thanks also go to Radoslav Čambal from the Archaeological Museum in Bratislava for his useful advice when compiling the article, as well as to Kristián Jócsik from the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra for providing a photograph of the unpublished scabbard chape find from the collections of the Archaeological Museum in Varna.


Literature

Ambrosiani, Björn (2001). Birka Studies 5. Eastern Connections, Part One: The Falcon Motif, Stockholm.

Ambrosiani – Androščuk 2006 = Амбросиани, Бьёрн – Андрощук, Фёдор. Вооружение и восточные контакты Бирки. In: Русь на перехресті світів (міжнародні впливи на формування давньоруської держави) ІХ-ХІ ст., Чернiгiв, 2006, 3-16.

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

Androshchuk, Fedir (2016). What does material evidence tell us about contacts between Byzantium and the Viking world c. 800 – 1000? In: Byzantium and the Viking world, Uppsala, 91-116.

Doncheva 2002 = Дончева, Стела. Накрайник за ножница на меч от североизточна България. In: Acta Musei Varnaensis, 1, Оръжие и снаряжение през Късната античност и Средновековието IV–XV в. Варна, 2002, 141-144.

Gáll, Erwin (2013). Az Erdélyi-medence, a Partium és a Bánság 10-11. századi temetői I-II, Szeged.

Gáll, Erwin – Lezsák, Gabriella M. – Novichikhin, Andrei (2018). Fragmentul de plăcuță de geantă de la Andreevskaia Shchel (Anapa, Federația Rusă). Observații privind răspândirea genților decorate cu plăcuțe în secolul al X-lea. In: Revista arheologica Ser. NS, vol. 14, 1, 59-78.

Geibig, Alfred (1991). Beiträge zur morphologischen Entwicklung des Schwertes im Mittelalter, Neumünster.

Hedenstierna-Jonson, Charlotte (2002). A group of Viking Age sword chapes reflecting the political geography of the time. In: Journal of Nordic Archaeological Science 13, 103-112.

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Zlatkov 2014 = Златков, Методи. Меч от Сливен – Sword from Sliven, Меч от Опака – Sword from Opaka, Меч от Градешница – Sword from Gradeshnitsa, Меч от Говежда – Sword from Govezhda, Накрайник за ножница на меч, украсен със стилизирана птица – Sword scabbard chape with a stylized bird, Накрайник за ножница на меч, украсен със сложна плетеница – Sword scabbard chape with complex decorative motifs, Накрайник за ножница на меч, украсен с две лица – Sword scabbard chape with two faces, Накрайник за ножница на меч от Мадара – Scabbard chape from Madara, Накрайник за ножница на меч с изображение на птица – Sword scabbard chape with a bird, Накрайник за ножница на меч от Миладиновци – Sword scabbard chape from Miladinovtsi, Накрайник за ножница на меч от АМ-Варна, инв. № 4983 – Sword scabbard chape with complex decorative motifs from Varna Archaeological Museum, Inv. No. 4983, Накрайник за ножница на меч от АМ-Варна, инв. № 4982 – Sword scabbard chape from Varna Archaeological Museum, Inv. No. 4982 In: Цар Самуил (✝ 1014) в битка за България, Българска академия на науките – Национален археологически институт с музей, София, 2014 – Tsar Samuil (✝ 1014) in battle for Bulgaria, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences – National Institute of Archaeology with Museum, Sofia, Sofia, 2014, 138-155.

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