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Medieval Swords

Ulfberht

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Ulfberht

Postby nirathakthedestroyer » Fri Nov 16, 2012 3:17 pm

I have recently discovered a rare and very specific Viking sword carried only by a few, high-class warriors. It was called Ulfberht. No one knows how Ulfberht gets its name; some think that it was named after a person, possibly someone affiliated with the church. This is strange, because Vikings were strictly pagan, and despised anything to do with Christianity. However, the few Ulfberht swords that have been found- 171 in fact- all display two very distinct crosses (+). Possibly, the church was creating these weapons and selling them off as a way to make money.

These swords are not peculiar because of their scarcity, but rather because of their superior quality. In a sense, these swords were made of very high quality carbon steel. However, this steel was unheard of in Europe during the Viking times, because the smiths of the day could not create fires hot enough to melt and separate the good steel from the bad. So, almost all swords were brittle and often broke under stress, much like wall hangers today.

So how did Vikings get the steel to make these swords? Well, other regions of the world had the technology to make carbon steel- for instance, in the Middle East, they were making scimitars out of very high quality steel. The Vikings were known for having very extensive trade routes; it is possible that they traded or stole the knowledge needed to build better fires, possibly by kidnapping a smith.

There is one more interesting thing to note. The Ulfberht engraving was spelt two different ways on the swords we have discovered: +ULFBERH+T and +ULFBERHT+. The swords spelled +ULFBERH+T were made of the highest quality steel, while those spelled +ULFBERHT+ were made of poorer steel. This makes us think that the +ULFBERHT+ were fakes, possible made by an illiterate craftsman for illiterate buyers. These swords would have been brittle and would have snapped like a normal poor quality Viking sword. The +ULFBERH+T swords would have had an almost magical quality to them, for they bent and sprung back into shape (as we know carbon steel blades do today). Therefore, the Vikings feared them and might have even fled from them in battle.

I found out about this sword at NOVA. Check out the link below; you might have even watched it already! Enjoy.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/secrets-viking-sword.html
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Re: Ulfberht

Postby SanMarc » Fri Nov 16, 2012 3:33 pm

Ok, thanks for the link, seen the vid it's great!!

This needs to be in the Mideaval Section, And wellcome to the Board!!


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Re: Ulfberht

Postby etiennehamel » Fri Nov 16, 2012 3:47 pm

i don't want to be the bad guy here but i heard the video was somewhat innacurate on some point like the swords were not made of crucible steel, and the ulfberht was probably a forge or a man in germany which is plausible giving the fact that germans in these times were able to purify steel (remove the slag).

i did a thread about the video as well this week and also gave the info i was given by someone who actually know about those stuff and also knows the smith in the video viewtopic.php?f=10&t=14238

by the way welcome to the forum and i hope you won't feel bad about my post.
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Re: Ulfberht

Postby Luka » Fri Nov 16, 2012 7:58 pm

Since Ulfberht swords were made during a period longer than one man's life (probably during 9th and 10th century), it might have been a name of a first smith to make them but than it became a name of "company". Also it was definitely a Frankish company, not Scandinavian. Vikings imported or looted Ulfberht blades, sometimes already hilted and sometimes they hilted them with locally made fittings. About crucible steel, it might be that the blades were made of crucible steel imported from the East, as some tests indicate that tested blades are made from crucible steel. But I'm sure not all were crucible, some were made from refined european steel, sometimes maybe piled or folded as imported crucible was probably not imported in quantity large enough for obviously quite massive production of Ulfberht swords. Also it seems that both +VLFBERH+T and +VLFBERHT+ spelling was found on good quality Ulfberhts, probably made in original Ulfberht company.
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Re: Ulfberht

Postby SirThorfinn » Sat Nov 17, 2012 12:21 am

And don't forget Windlass makes a great reproduction. There's a nice review in the 'reviews ' section.
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Re: Ulfberht

Postby Jussi Ekholm » Sat Nov 17, 2012 7:46 am

I think this was good document in overall, when you are obsessed with something (like in this case swords), the documentaries usually fall a bit short. Had to watch it on youtube, don't know if it was a country problem at PBS site.

You must remember that the document is meant to general public, not for us sword nuts alone. There are some points that I don't like, but I understand they will appeal to general public.

Why there is a katana in the beginning? And comparison to bastard sword? At first I thought oh crap... but fortunately after the bad start it turned out to be a fascinating document. But I guess you need comparison stuff like that to appeal the masses.

I wish they would have gotten more Ric and forging in it. :) But after all it was only 60min documentary, and they had to try to cover the subject as widely as they could.

I think we have little under 30 Ulfberht swords in Finland from the sources I've read. Finnish archeologist Mikko Moilanen has done excessive study of them as well as other viking swords in Finland. He has made his graduation work focusing on blade inlays in viking swords. And has done seven swords that have blade inlays for experiments during that work using as close original means as possible. And I believe since that in 2006 Mikko has done many more swords featuring authentic inlays.

Here is a link to article on old archeology magazine where Mikko discusses the origins of the inlay work and how it possibly was done, several possibilities. Unfortunately for the 99,9% of you the article is in finnish... :) But you can at least see the pictures. Translating the metallurgy terminology into english might be a bit too hard for me, and I would make lots of errors in the process. http://koti.mbnet.fi/~arkeonyt/arkeonyt/AN%202006_3.pdf

Here is one picture of Ulfberht inlay in National Museum of Finland:
Image

One good book that has some information about Ulfbehrt swords is - Swords of the Viking Age by Ian Peirce.
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Re: Ulfberht

Postby nirathakthedestroyer » Sat Nov 17, 2012 1:05 pm

Thanks. That's actually quite interesting. I have always been interested in swords, and I have collected much knowledge over the years. However, I still feel like a novice compared to the lot of you! To bad I don't speak Finish...
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Re: Ulfberht

Postby etiennehamel » Sat Nov 17, 2012 5:16 pm

nice pictures thanks for sharing, too bad i don't speak neither read finish...i'm sure it would have been a very nice read :)
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