Vikings, gotta love em. This hearty warrior like people have a love of life, lore and weapons. We all know of Thor's Hammer in Viking mythology but
it turns out Vikings were Masters of the Sword. Not just any sword - The Ulfberht. Best sword made at the time who's technology is rivaled only 1000
A Ulfberht is a sword made with superior steel. It has a very even carbon distribution to make the iron strong, it has very little slag which could
cause a sword to break, it was flexible and could hold it's edge. The sword is made to be as light weight as possible yet as strong as possible
without breaking due to it's unique fluted design. The Ulfberht swords were inscribed with the word +vlfberh+t. Only the best warriors could afford a
Ulfberht. This sword helped make the Vikings the elite warrior conquers they are known to be. These swords were produced between 800 AD to 1100 AD.
But until recently, it was unknown how Vikings actually made them - seeing as they did not possess the technology to produce one! This technology
would not be rediscovered for industrial use for 1000 years.
Ulfberht swords are made from Crucible steel. Crucible steel is a manufacturing process that gets the steel hot enough to effectively separate slag
(impurities) from the molten iron. The iron and carbon combined to produce steel was smelted inside of a crucible (sealed tight container) in an
almost 3000 degrees oven. en.wikipedia.org...
A technology the Vikings did not posses. But this technology was used by others
at the time in the form of Damascus steel from swords in India. However the Damascus swords and the Ulfberht bear little resemblance.
The answer lies in the Scandinavian land trade route to Asia where along this trade route a crucible oven was discovered. It was previously unknown
that the Asians had this technology. Interesting thing is this trade route was only open between the years of 800 AD and 1100 AD - the same time frame
the Ulfberht sword was made. It is believed that the Vikings may have gotten the raw materials and crucible oven technology from the Asians but it was
only this one foundry the Ulfberht foundry that used this technology for their swords. That Ulfberht foundry is lost to history (it was never found in
Viking territory). All other swords found with buried vikings or their fallen foes were of inferior steel. It is not known if any Asian swords were
made with this technology.
Although it is not known exactly what the name Ulfberht means it is believed to be of Frankish origin. The addition of the crosses in the name are
also a mystery. One theory is that these swords may have been made by the Catholics who were in the business of making war against their foes (the
pagan Vikings) and these swords were smuggled to the Vikings so they would have an edge in battle. (The Catholics were known for making weapons and
supplying armies.) This is thought because only bishops, popes and high ranking clergy in the Catholic religion were allowed to place crosses at the
beginning of their names. It may also simply be the the creators of this sword liked the style.
+vlfberh+t (Ulfberht with the crosses added) inscribed on the swords were a brand name. This is believed because other swords have been found with a
similar inscription - +vlfberht+ with the cross after the last T. These are believed to be knockoffs sold to the public by a rival foundry. A
metallurgical study of 44 specimens from Ulfberht swords found that those with the +vlfberh+t inscribed had consistently a better quality of steel
than those that had the +vlfberht+ with the cross after the last T inscribed.
I got all this information just now when I found the latest Nova tv show called Secrets of the Viking Sword airing in my area. I would post a Youtube
link but there isn't any yet so it's all from memory.
Here is a link to Nova about the show.
-A modern-day swordsmith reverse engineers the ultimate weapon of the Middle Ages — a
sword both prized and feared. Aired October 10, 2012 on PBS
Since these swords have been known about for some time, there are reproductions you can buy - Interestingly, none have the inscription with the
spelling as in the original swords +vlfberh+t, They all use the inscription the knockoffs that were sold at the time used +vlfberht+. I seriously
doubt you would also get the quality of steel used in the original.
There is a Wikipedia article on these swords but it's in German I believe and for some reason I cannot translate it.
(perhaps it's not German) Even this article shows a picture of the knockoff.
The sword smith in the Nova TV show does attempt to recreate the sword faithfully as a sword maker would make a Ulfberht in Viking times. His sword
does bear the proper inscription and is made with the right type of quality steel. He even builds a crucible oven from scratch. It was a fascinating
process watching this legendary sword come to life.
This is the guy from the Nova video I saw who reproduced this sword: Darrell Markewitz of the Wareham Forge in
Sorry, I can't find a picture of his reproduction, you'll have to wait for the Nova video being posted online - I'll keep my eye out.
And yes, I want one. LOL It is unknown if he takes orders for these but something tell me to doubt it.