“Vikings” the word originated centuries ago from a Scandinavian word “Viking”, which means pirate and raiders. It is believed that Vikings were the people native to the region now known as Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Inhabitants of the rural lifestyle, most Vikings depended on agriculture for their living, some of these Northmen would choose to go on overseas expeditions. These voyages were conducted to raiding more civilized nations for wealth and women; the more genteel ones were actually aimed towards trade. During these expeditions, they invade and took over many areas of Europe, and it is also believed that long before Columbus, it was the Vikings that discovered America.
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The Significance of Swords in Viking History
Weapons were a part of all Scandinavian men’s lives from childhood to the grave. Whether rich or poor, it was their prized possession. War was not limited to kings and warriors, even commoners were called to the battlefield when required to protect their kings.
Viking Sword (also known as Ulfberht Swords) were very expensive, and not everyone could afford them. One sword that king Hakon gave to Hoskuldar (chapter 13 of Laxdæla saga) was equaled the value of a half mark of gold. This is how valuable swords were during the Viking age. Ordinary Vikings could get only small knives and axes, whereas more prestigious weapons like swords and lances were placed under the ownership of elite Vikings and kings.
As discovered by archaeologists, the Viking burial ritual had each warrior was buried with his weapon. Although swords in the grave are the identification of a noble warrior, it is difficult to say the same for bodies buried with knives and axes because these small weapons were also used as tools.
The Vikings has a strange belief about swords, it was believed that humans and swords became one and were incomplete without each other. According to their belief, blades gave their power to man, and man provided his life force to his sword.
The Nordics often chose to name their different weapons. These names were coined after their forefathers, and sometimes after animals. For instance, they were named Gunnlogi, meaning Battle Flame or War Flame, Kernbut, meaning Millstone-breaker, and animals like bear, meaning ferocity. They had faith in the magical qualities of these names, and it was believed that the warriors would show the spirit and heritage of these names when in combat on the battlefield.
Characteristics of the Viking Sword
Bastard Sword were dangerous, but at the same time, they were known for their intricate artwork.The hilts of the swords were incredibly decorated; made from horns and bones of animals or some precious metal such as gold, silver, and platinum.
The blades were sharper and shinier than any ordinary sword and light in weight (weighing in at around 1000 to 1200 grams). Blood grooves ran around the edge. These reduced the use of metal while manufacturing blades, and helped maintain their weight and flexibility.
Archeologists find it challenging to determine the exact material of the blades, but due to the traces of nickel in the finds, it is assumed that these blades were made from iron ores.
The bladeswere imported from France, but hilts were made in Scandinavia to add a touch of Viking culture.
The pommels were inlaid with precious metals and intricate designs. They were made to be handled single-handedly. Even though the sword was lightweight, it remained well balanced due to the courtier weight pommel. With all these qualities, Viking swords were double-edged to deeply wound enemies. But there was a slight difference between the two sides. The front edge was called the long edge or true edge, and the rear one is called the short or false edge. Although physically, both edges appear identical, only the one holding the sword decides which side the front is and which is the back. Additionally, the front side is used for power attacks, while the rear was used for angled attacks. In legend these swords were sharp enough to cut an anvil into two halves.
Sword sheaths were made of wood, covered with leather, and padded with wool inside. Unique swords had two highly decorated handles on their sheaths, one at the outer end and the other near the hilt.
Why is the Ulfberht Sword So Important Part of Viking History?
The Ulfberht swordssynonymous with Viking weaponry (manufactured from the 9th to 11th centuries)symbolized status, wealth, and success. They performed better than most other swords. The Ulfberht was the closest thing to a “brand”. Even today, many pieces are preserved, but not all of those are original; some are imitations of the real Ulfberht swords. They are made from a little lower quality than the original ones.
The Ulfberht sword was not for everyone to carry, and neither could every warrior afford them. As all such blades were owned by wealthy Vikings, Ulfberht was on the top among the swords in importance and performance.
These swords were made only in the kingdom of Francia (around modern-day France and Germany), and Vikings were so addicted to their performance, that they imported these. With a brand like Ulfberht and a warrior like a Viking, winning any combat was impossible. Sanctions were applied on the export of Ulfberht swords, just to limit their access to Vikings.
Along with all the killing techniques that Vikings knew, these Ulfberht swords were an added advantage to defeat any enemy.
During that era, warriors wore mail coats, but the blades of these swords could pass through those coats and give a die-cut to the enemy.
The secret to such a magical quality of the Ulfberht sword was the distribution of carbon in its blades. While making steel swords, carbon is mixed with iron to produce steel. If the bladesmith added too much carbon, then the sword became stiff and easily breakable. On the contrary, if the bladesmith added too little carbon, the blade became too soft to fight. The Ulfberht swords have the exact amount of carbon required to create an impossible sharpness and flexibility.
It is believed that the procedure may have involved techniques which Arab smiths used in making Damascus steel. But the amount of carbon and the exact process to make those swords is still a secret.
Through these swords and other weapons like arrows, spears, knives, etc., Vikings were able to conquer most of the parts of England and Russia.
Although exact techniques of making Viking swords are still unknown, many stores make replicas of these swords. And at battling blades, you can find various designs of Viking swords that are pretty near to the original ones. For the Viking buff there is something with your name on it in our array. We’re sure of it.