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DieChecker

The Ulfberht Swords

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I was watching this Nova special on Netflix and wanted to discuss/share.

http://video.pbs.org/video/2284159044/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_sword

Apparently these Ulfberht swords were the most effective, expensive, high status swords for the time in Europe. They appear to be made of a much finer steel then the local swords. Who made them is a mystery. What the word "Ulfberht", that was engraved/inset into the blade means is also a mystery.

The metallurgy needed to make this steel did not exist in Europe for almost 1000 years after these blades were created. It is supposed that the steel came out of the Middle east as the steel has similarities to the Damascus steel, which itself is also surrounded by mysterys.

A very interesting show...

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I have heard in re: other kinds of steel -- particularly Toledo and Damascus steel -- that their particular strength or quality is a result of trace elements and proportions of them unique to local sources (rather than skill of the fabricators) of iron that are more or less quickly mined out. This seems to me likely to be a case of that. But that's just the opinion of a non-science-y dude like me. I'm certainly not likely to know more than the people making an episode of Nova.

...but I totally want to see this episode, though.

--Jaylemurph

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Interesting story thanks for posting

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A good sword was so valuable that it was not difficult to believe by some that they were imbued with magickal qualities. Take a look at the forging of a traditional Japanese katana for example.

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"Ulfberht" = Albert the wolf. Makers name or name of sword owner. High end swords in Northern Europe in those days were "pattern welded". This is similar to how katana are made, I think.

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Posted (edited)

"Ulfberht" = Albert the wolf. Makers name or name of sword owner. High end swords in Northern Europe in those days were "pattern welded". This is similar to how katana are made, I think.

The expert on the show said they were forged out of a single piece of crucible steel. And crucible steel was unknown in Europe at the time. But was being done in the far middle east and India. The Vikings could have gotten such steel by way of their Volga trade route that ran to the Black Sea and then over to Iran.

The show did say that the name was probably Frankish in origin, but it is unknown if the swords were actually made by the Franks or not. The Franks certainly did not have crucible steel, or even traded with nations that had crucible steel.

Edited by DieChecker

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"Ulfberht" = Albert the wolf. Makers name or name of sword owner. High end swords in Northern Europe in those days were "pattern welded". This is similar to how katana are made, I think.

My understanding is that it's not the same thing. Particularly as the cutting edge side of the katana's blade is traditionally comprised of nearly 1000 layers of the same steel folded over and over again to increase endurance and the ability to retain a razor-sharp edge. This can be seen by the outward appearance of layers in the blade. I have an 1890s era Katana that still retains a very sharp edge.

cormac

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Posted (edited)

My understanding is that it's not the same thing. Particularly as the cutting edge side of the katana's blade is traditionally comprised of nearly 1000 layers of the same steel folded over and over again to increase endurance and the ability to retain a razor-sharp edge. This can be seen by the outward appearance of layers in the blade. I have an 1890s era Katana that still retains a very sharp edge.

cormac

Yes, it's not exactly the same. Pattern welded swords are twisted not folded, though it gives a similar effect, though not to standard of katana. The Sutton Hoo sword is pattern welded and a scan, which I cannot find, of the blade shows a similar pattern to katana, though no hamon of course. That sword, as you will know, is Angle, and predates the Viking age, though there were items found with it that are Byzantine. Though by what route they got to Anglia can never be known.

Edited by Tutankhaten-pasheri

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The show did say that the name was probably Frankish in origin.

And further proof that the Franks were Germanic. I mention it because some dispute this, generally the French.......

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Around the 10th century, the use of properly quenched hardened and tempered steel started to become much more common than in previous periods. The Frankish 'Ulfberht' blades (the name of the maker inlaid in the blade) were of particularly consistent high quality.[14] Charles the Bald tried to prohibit the export of these swords, as they were used by Vikings in raids against the Franks.

Sword Middle_Ages

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Posted (edited)

I found that earlier by using google. I suspect that these swords are labeled as Frankish chiefly because the are using Frankish script.

The show said how there were 200+ of these swords, but the expert on the show said that only about 1 in 3 were crucible steel. The rest were very likely local made knock offs. One way that the knock off could be determined was with the spelling of Ulfberht.

The inscription "+ULFBERH+T" is found only on the crucible steel swords.

The inscription "+ULFBERHT+" is associated only with the inferior quality swords.

NOVA_SOVS_ulfberht_t614.jpg?a3ca5463f16dc11451266bb717d38a6025dcea0e

Edited by DieChecker

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Two of the more well-known inlaid maker's marks are Ulfberht and Ingelrii. The marks are often augmented with crosses on either end of the inlay and with inlaid geometrical patterns on the reverse side of the blade. The Ulfberht inscription appears on swords dating from roughly the years 800 to 950, while the Ingelrii inscriptions was used from roughly 950 through 1050. The sketch (left) shows the ULFBERHT inlay, but the artist has made the inlay much more visible than is typical to the naked eye.

So many swords are found, manufactured over such a wide span of years, that these swords clearly are not the work of two smiths named Ulfberht and Ingelrii. They are thought to be the products of families of sword makers, or perhaps associations of sword makers. The swords are believed to have been made in Frankish lands along the lower Rhine in what is now Germany, a region that has made fine swords and cutlery from medieval to modern times.

Because many of these blades are found, widely distributed throughout the Viking lands, it is believed that the Ulfberht and Ingelrii swords were prized in the Viking age and thought to be superior to other swords. It's possible that the original Ulfberht invented a new way to make a blade, using a uniform steel having a higher carbon content than the pattern welded blades. It's further possible that he chose to identify his blades with the inlay, despite the fact that the inlaid letters are extremely hard to distinguish in normal light, as is seen in the modern reproduction blade seen above. Only when the blade is etched does the inlay stand out in sharp relief.

Ulfberht's success brought forth imitators, and it appears that Viking-age smiths made counterfeit Ulfberth (and later, Ingelrii) blades. Some of the surviving blades bearing these inlays are clearly inferior copies. In some cases the inscription is spelled wrong or is otherwise corrupt. One surviving blade is inlaid with Ulfberht on one side and Ingelrii on the other, a double counterfeit! The best indication of a genuine blade appears to be the metallurgical quality, an area which has received insufficient research. Additionally, it is likely that additional Ulfberht and Ingelrii blades remain to be identified, since the inlays are sometimes not visible to the naked eye and are revealed only by X-ray analysis.

viking_sword

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Great show. I learned a lot. A great starter point for thought trail research. BTW the whole Germanic French thing.... more Franco Germanic than Germanic Franco... LOL. I jest. Anyways excellent show. And the sword maker on the show was from northern Wisconsin my stomping grounds I'm my youth so huge props for that. Ill stop back later for actual discussion if there is any.

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For a marauding , raping and pillaging group of guy's, i find it hard to believe these Vikings, knew and were capable of producing such technologically innovative swords.. more than likely the Greeks of Constantinople, paid them off with swords for service..

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Posted (edited)

For a marauding , raping and pillaging group of guy's, i find it hard to believe these Vikings, knew and were capable of producing such technologically innovative swords.. more than likely the Greeks of Constantinople, paid them off with swords for service..

Well, it is like saying that due to their invading and genocide, the nazis could not have possibly had the technology to produce Tiger tanks or jet aircraft. The Vikings did produce their own weapons, and also built some of the best and most beautiful ships ever seen.

This is the Oseberg ship from 8th or early 9th century

f1b7cf4d2cb0.jpg

And their very close relatives, the Angles, were capable of producing wonders such as this several hundreds of years before the Viking period even began.

The Sutton Hoo belt buckle

7e055c7d0cd0.jpg

A not so dark "dark age"

Edited by Tutankhaten-pasheri
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I think we would be surprised how much the ancients moved around. Now I'm sure it wasn't large groups all the time but someone with itchy feet wants to see what is over the next hill. He ends up in a distant land in need of a superior weapon which his tribe back home can make. "you give me shiny rock I get you sharp sword". he makes his money and doesn't come back. Olaf thinks he can make a sword just like it "BAM" it make look like a Dyson but it ain't

Now we have a bunch of "experts" scratching their heads "wha wha where did this come from?"

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Tutankhaten-pasheri..

Comparing the Nazi's to the Vikings, is like chalk and cheese, mate.. the Vikings were the traders, adventurers and swords for hire.. whereas the Nazi's drew upon 2000 years of German and European civilization for their technology and power.. an interesting point is that the 'Ulfberht' stamped on the blades of these swords was written in Latin and not in Viking runes, suggesting that the swords were cast by foreigners at great cost and probably from ingots obtained from the east.. You mentioned the Viking boats and I must agree with you that they were well designed built and suited for the way of life of a pirate and marauder..

Cheers..

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Tutankhaten-pasheri..

Comparing the Nazi's to the Vikings, is like chalk and cheese, mate.. the Vikings were the traders, adventurers and swords for hire.. whereas the Nazi's drew upon 2000 years of German and European civilization for their technology and power.. an interesting point is that the 'Ulfberht' stamped on the blades of these swords was written in Latin and not in Viking runes, suggesting that the swords were cast by foreigners at great cost and probably from ingots obtained from the east.. You mentioned the Viking boats and I must agree with you that they were well designed built and suited for the way of life of a pirate and marauder..

Cheers..

While it isn't fair to say they were /only/ pirates and marauders, it's also extremely disingenuous to suggest the Vikings /weren't/ sometimes vicious pirates and marauders, as if they were a group of noble but misunderstood mercenaries. We have centuries of reports of their ruthlessness, theft, rapes and murder.

--Jaylemurph

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Posted (edited)

The show said that it is possible that the Ulfburht Swords used latin letters, for the same reason we do, on our money. A almost mystical sense that using the letters of a more ancient people bestows more power/authority.

Edited by DieChecker

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Posted (edited)

The show said that it is possible that the Ulfburht Swords used latin letters, for the same reason we do, on our money. A almost mystical sense that using the letters of a more ancient people bestows more power/authority.

It appears whoever did the research for 'the show' didn't do a very good job (or they used the same retarded writers as the History channel)...

The Carolingian or Frankish script was developed under the influence of Charlemagne, who did much to further the religious and cultural life of his time. In 789 he decreed the use of Carolingian writing as a standard copying style to replace the national hands that had become largely illegible and corrupt.

26-27-Carol-mini-majus-9-10.jpg

Carolingian Minuscule and Majuscule 9th–10th Century

Dictionarytoday

Edited to add link

Edited by Pax Unum

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It appears whoever did the research for 'the show' didn't do a very good job (or they used the same retarded writers as the History channel)...

I believe they meant such in as far as if the swords were made by the Scandanavian Vikings, who I believe were using a runic script at the time, then the strange symbols would be mystical. Naturally if the Franks made the swords they would use their own letters.

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I was watching this Nova special on Netflix and wanted to discuss/share.

http://video.pbs.org/video/2284159044/

http://en.wikipedia....ki/Viking_sword

Apparently these Ulfberht swords were the most effective, expensive, high status swords for the time in Europe. They appear to be made of a much finer steel then the local swords. Who made them is a mystery. What the word "Ulfberht", that was engraved/inset into the blade means is also a mystery.

The metallurgy needed to make this steel did not exist in Europe for almost 1000 years after these blades were created. It is supposed that the steel came out of the Middle east as the steel has similarities to the Damascus steel, which itself is also surrounded by mysterys.

A very interesting show...

Thank you for the link. A very interesting show.

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For a marauding , raping and pillaging group of guy's, i find it hard to believe these Vikings, knew and were capable of producing such technologically innovative swords.. more than likely the Greeks of Constantinople, paid them off with swords for service..

I understand your train of thought there. But people tend to make things (especially weapons) with more advanced technology in times of war.

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The swords could have been made from Damascus steel which in turn is made from wootz steel, which was developed in India.

The technology for developing wootz steel originated in south india, mainly during 300 BC.

Kerala and Tamil Nadu (southern most states of india) have preserved the ancient steel making techniques.

Ancient Europe and Ancient Middle east had long and rich history of trade with south india, mainly with the Malabar coast and ancient Tamil kingdoms.

The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea of details the ports in the Indian sub continent in detail. it is quite possible that the ancient steel making techniques would have been transferred upward to north india and further and across the oceans to the ancient middle east and ancient Europe, with the Greek & roman traders.

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