Friday, October 28, 2016

Probably came up the Volga in a longship from Miklagård

 The extreme nature of the ornamentation on this sword, combined with the unusual (for Scandinavia) motifs coupled with the apparent lack of a fuller (lenticular, 'grooveless' sword blades being a common hallmark of swords from Constantinople) may indicate that this sword was manufactured in Byzantium and may have belonged to a Varangian Guardsman or may have been gifted to a Nordic person held in esteem by the Romans. For a similar example of slightly different form but with very similar decoration see:

With double-edged blade of gradual taper; inlaid on both sides in gold and silver with decorative patterns, one side bearing a gradually tapering geometric-architectural design in five stages and the other bearing a gradually tapering palmette design. The hilt comprising down-curved cross guard, sturdy tang and five-lobed pommel riveted to the upward-curving upper guard; the cross-guard, upper guard and pommel all inlaid in silver with decorative knotwork and tracery and in gold with dots. 

Overall length: 94 cm (37"); Blade length: 80.6 cm (31.75")

This rare Viking sword, the hilt of Petersen Type O, has a cross-guard with decorative devices reminiscent of those on one of the three swords that were found in the rich ship burial of about 900 at Hedeby in Denmark when it was subsequently excavated in the 1950s. More of these ‘rabbit ear’ or ‘knotted rope’ characters may be found on three of the ‘Hiltipreht’ group of swords, namely one in the Wallace Collection, London (Inv. No. A456), the Ballinderry sword in the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin (Inv. No.1928.382) and the example from Malhus in the Trondheim Museum, Norway (Petersen, Abb.89). 


  1. So you think that they are actually Byzantine blades because there is no fuller? Or might they be Byzantine STYLE swords? Keep in mind that I don't know. It would be interesting if they could test the actual steel and compare.

    1. Steel and style, plus the known habit of the Byzantines to hire Scandinavians as bad ass mercenaries, and for those mercenaries to retire back to Scandinavia once their service had enriched them. Heck, one of those ill mannered Norsemen even carved his name on a bannister in the Hagia Sofia in runes.