Historical, i.e., archaeological findings show that swords were a valuable weapon made only for those who could afford them. Some of the sagas from Iceland even offer very precise pricing when it comes to buying a new sword.
For example, in the times of old, you would have had to offer sixteen milking cows in return for a sword! This was a value only a few could offer, especially at those times.
Possessing a sword automatically meant that the owner was most probably a member of a higher ranking in society at those times and also a matter of pure prestige.
Swords were probably the most valuable item any Viking could possess, and they were passed on from generation to generation, from fathers to sons.
Young Viking boys were trained from their earliest days to use swords. Typically, they would be given a model sword made of wood, and boys would thus start learning to use the weapon they would later inherit from their fathers.
So swords were considered very valuable, not only because of their sentimental value but in some cases also because of the added value of the grips of the swords, made of precious metals or ivory, sometimes even containing precious stones which were believed to have healing powers.
When talking about the main parts of the swords, we can divide the sword into a hilt and a blade. The hilt consists of a pommel, a grip, and a crossguard. Viking swords were usually double-edged; however, these two edges weren't identical in terms of usage.
Viking warriors referred to them as the "front" and the "back" edge, the front being the one in line with knuckles and used for direct attacking.
An illustration of a Viking wielding a sword and a shield. Source: Gioele Fazzeri / Unsplash
Welding a sword
The bladesmiths of that time used two kinds of iron, the one with more carbon, for strength and the sharpness of the edge, mixed with the one with less carbon, for maintaining flexibility.
Several layers of iron would be put to a stack and then welded together in a repeated process until the blade was formed. Edges of the blade had to be repaired or sharpened during the functional life of a sword.
According to some historical evidence and archaeological findings, but also to some sagas, Viking swords suffered damage, would become dull, and would also suffer from erosion. However, Viking swords improved in quality and endurance in some later phases as bladesmiths were able to get larger amounts of material that better suited the warriors' needs.
New blades were made of a single piece of steel, and the were edges polished with stones and other sorts of abrasives to keep them sharp.
The decoration wasn't functional, but still, it was an important part of creating a sword. Inlays made of gold, silver, or iron were used just as decoration, but sometimes they would be used as the maker's signature.
Famous swords throughout the Viking age
One of the most famous and notable swords is the one found in the 19th century in Norway, in the Sogn region, called the Sæbø sword.
The Sæbø sword has been dated to the 9th century, and it has an inscription on its blade. Despite the blade being in poor condition, it was identified that it contained a runic inscription.
Another example of a famous sword, also from the 9th century, was also found in Norway – it was one of the heaviest and longest swords of the Viking age.
Furthermore, the Ulfberht swords have gained a very important status in history, mostly (and probably) due to the fact that they represent a sort of transition from a typical Viking sword to a knightly sword.
A total of 170 swords were found all over Europe, in the areas where the Vikings were active, and all had their blades inscribed with the word "+Vlfberht+," which is a Frankish family name.
These swords were made between the 9th and 11th centuries, so the name Ulfberht, or Vlfbreht, was used as a brand name or a style used by bladesmiths throughout the centuries when they were created.
Most Ulfberht swords were found in Norway and Finland; however, their origin is in the region of the river Rhine in the western part of Germany. This was (and still is) a matter of historical presumption because of the form of the personal name Ulfberht.
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