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Ulfberht - Secrets of the Viking Sword - 1000 years ahead of it's time

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posted on Oct, 11 2012 @ 04:06 PM
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 years later.

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. 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
Ontario Canada

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.

posted on Oct, 11 2012 @ 05:44 PM
I love ancient weapons, great thread pal!

posted on Oct, 11 2012 @ 05:55 PM
Translated the wiki page for you matey, interesting article....

posted on Oct, 11 2012 @ 06:02 PM
reply to post by JohnPhoenix

If you really like theses swords, Ive got some SCA buddies you need to meet, and yes they often recreate a archeologically found item, just as it would have been created originally.

Cool thread I hadnt heard about this sword before
Star and Flag for bringing it to my attention

posted on Oct, 11 2012 @ 06:34 PM
What a very thought provoking thread!
I loved reading everything and enjoyed it thoroughly.

I was terrible in History class in high school but if you were my teacher I would have sat up straight and asked lots of questions.

Regards, Iwinder

posted on Oct, 11 2012 @ 06:45 PM
This might be the reason the "Beserkers" were so successful and terrifying in battle.

The second link is a long read but very very good in my opinion only.
Regards, Iwinder

posted on Oct, 11 2012 @ 07:00 PM
I wonder though why they are calling them Viking swords when the inscription is not written with the viking alphabet called Futhark but with Roman Latin letters. So with the cross thingy it is understandable that they would put that on a sword if they were christian and but the didn´t become christian until 100 years after they started making the swords. So a lot of things don´t add up here. These are most probably not viking swords but swords made in certain numbers for certain people that where perhaps christian and had knowledge of the latin alphabet. But most certainly they are not Viking swords.

posted on Oct, 11 2012 @ 07:57 PM
reply to post by JohnPhoenix

I caught that PBS show last night. Anyone into traditional metal making from a bygone era has got to watch it. The blacksmith rekindles an ancient process in detail. His craftsmanship is at least equal to the sword-smiths of old.

Fascinating details of manufacture, history of swords in battle and the warriors who used them. Includes demonstrations by modern swords men and archeological finds of swords and the skulls they cleaved. Really interesting was the ritual bending of a vanquished opponents sword so they couldn't use it against you after they died.

posted on Oct, 11 2012 @ 08:11 PM
"The Riddle of Steel, Conan" Great swords...But dont forget the Katana, which was around the same time. Japanese sword tech was very high..excellent steel quality (dont ask me where they got the raw iron from??), continually folding and beating of the metal formed the Katana. (c1000ad)
The Chinese fighting sword was also a high quality weapon, check out the latest reproductions slicing a side of beef in half with one swing.
Im sure the Moors scimitar was also of high quality, as was the European Crusaders broadsword. (c1000ad)
Certainly enough people were killed with them during the crusades.

posted on Oct, 11 2012 @ 08:36 PM
S&F sir, which I don't do often. Well done.

Interesting read. Threads like these keep me around here. Takes both thought and effort.

posted on Oct, 11 2012 @ 09:09 PM
Always liked the look of these:

In excavated condition (the upper half of the blade missing), the blade of late pattern-welded construction with a wide shallow central fuller, one side cut with the inscription 'Vlfberh+t' in characteristically large capitals originally inlaid in contrasting iron, the reverse with traces of a further inscription, fitted with robust guard of rectangular section, and one-piece pommel of so-called 'tea-cosey' type.

edit on 11-10-2012 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 11 2012 @ 10:02 PM
The Dogon tribe of Africa (Mali) which are descendants of ancient Egypt
Had the technology of making quality steel thousands of years before Asia,Europe, or Middle East.
There last smelt was in 1995 and is amazing. Threads & video of it on ATS.
On phone & can't load links & pics now.


posted on Oct, 11 2012 @ 11:04 PM

Originally posted by woogleuk
Translated the wiki page for you matey, interesting article....

Thank you woogleuk I What did I do wrong with the translator?

Edit: STOP.

If you look at all the post before this one, every one had very quality comments that asked another thought provoking question. Thank You. I bet the ATS community could answer all these questions. I wanna know. The subject of swords and technology is always a Win Win.

Next step: Lightsabers.

edit on 11-10-2012 by JohnPhoenix because: sp

posted on Oct, 11 2012 @ 11:39 PM
reply to post by Iwinder

Or it could have been that they were giant long haired naked men overdosed and angry on amanita muscaria.

posted on Oct, 12 2012 @ 12:27 AM

Originally posted by JohnPhoenix
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 German Wiki entry corroborates some of the information in your post and disagree's with other bits.

Here is the Google translation of the pertinent part, I will leave it to you to verify source accuracy

Erroneous representation in the media

Since the 19th Century there are many sword-myths, which according to the principle rather urban legends represent, but still find themselves into the media. There is now a tendency to transfiguration of the old blacksmithing, both Europe and the Middle and Far East is concerned. [12]

There was in the past reports [13] that went out, citing work by Alan Williams from the 1970s assumed that "Ulfberht" swords recognizable by their inscription + VLFBERH + T and have a high level for their production time carbon content, the the material was tough and yet elastic. These reports, however, have a number of factual errors:

The measured by Williams carbon content of about 1.0% (which it then as an indication of crucible steel explained) could also be detected in the Essen Ceremonial which proven from local Gärbstahl exists. The uniform distribution of carbon in European steel (unlike carburization of iron, where only the surface of the material is rich in carbon), was among others Stefan Maeder occupied.

According to JD Verhoeven carbide are as vanadium and molybdenum in significantly increased amounts to 0.3% typical for special Indian iron ores , which in original Wootz blades were found. [14] This evidence remains at European blades from today.

The second mistake: carbon steel is brittle, low-carbon steel is ductile and has a tendency to warp - wrong "Ulfberhte" from iron would bend, which in lesser quality swords and often did. For here is the (unoccupied by sources and physically impossible) effort legend according to which Damascus steel united two opposite properties such as high hardness and elasticity in itself.

It is further claimed that, unlike conventional swords, which had an iron core and blade edges of steel, passed the edge and the core of the "Ulfberht" swords entirely of steel. If you let the technical purpose of the damascening ignored, here is the apparent ignorance of the fact that in Europe already in the course of the 10th Damascening century increasingly abandoned and blades only from refined steel produced, with all-steel swords as Kompositklingen can be detected. [15]

Also, as of 11 Century high-quality steel available in large quantities due to the improvement of the smelting furnace technology. For the use of crucible steel in the European arms so there's still no reproducible sound evidence, because the small amounts of slag and steel pests (sulfur, phosphorus), uniform distribution of the carbon and its high content could, through recent research results, with about that time the most modern technology to produce bloomery.

Finally, the claim that fake "Ulfberht" swords were evident from the fact that the inscription on the second cross behind the T had and the H in front of the R state ("+ VLFBEHRT +") not verifiable, because the spelling + VLFBE H + RT Nowhere is historically occupied (Stalsberg see page 6) and should be considered a mass media disinformation.

12.Mythos Damaszener Stahl
13.Spiegel Online: „Markenpiraterie im Mittelalter - Wikinger fielen auf billige Schwert-Kopien herein“
14.The Key Role of Impurities in Ancient Damascus Steel Blades
15.Kirpichnikov, A. N., Bergman, L. T., Jansson, I. 2001: A New Analysis of Viking Age Swords from the Collection of the Statens Historiska Museer, Stockholm, Sweden. Russian History/Histoire Russe

Hope that helps

Edit: My apologies, I somehow completely failed to notice this was already posted.
edit on 12-10-2012 by Drunkenparrot because: added content

posted on Oct, 12 2012 @ 12:38 AM
First i've heard of these swords. But interesting stuff, will probably look more into them in due time. Great read, great sources, everything a excellent thread should consist of! Thanks again! I also, love ancient weapons, find them quite fascinating.

posted on Oct, 12 2012 @ 02:04 AM

Originally posted by gort51
"The Riddle of Steel, Conan" Great swords...But dont forget the Katana, which was around the same time. Japanese sword tech was very high..excellent steel quality (dont ask me where they got the raw iron from??), continually folding and beating of the metal formed the Katana. (c1000ad)
The Chinese fighting sword was also a high quality weapon, check out the latest reproductions slicing a side of beef in half with one swing.
Im sure the Moors scimitar was also of high quality, as was the European Crusaders broadsword. (c1000ad)
Certainly enough people were killed with them during the crusades.

The Katana design is Korean, but when the Korean's stopped warring and became a non-warrior society the advancement of the Katana design was taken over by the Japanese who took the development of the Katana to the next level. They pretty much perfected the Katana and added the blood grooves. Though it is highly debated, there have been Katana style swords found in Korea that predate those in Japan. Not taking anything away from the Japanese, they did make the Katana far superior then what it had been.

There have been many great swords designs throughout the ages that make all others look like pocket knifes.

The ones you mentioned are a few of them, another one that comes to mind is the Roman sword (short sword?) and the lightsaber

posted on Oct, 12 2012 @ 04:37 AM
Excellent thread I too love old weaponry and technology and never knew this existed! and since i'm off to Norway in a couple of weeks this certainly got me in the mood

Shame they didn't use it at the Battle of Stamford Bridge!

posted on Oct, 12 2012 @ 07:35 AM
I'd like to respond to some posts from above. I faithfully reported what I learned in the video though I realize History is often written by those with an agenda who seek to make their view dominant - even if perhaps not historically accurate. Perhaps too this info may be at fault because of sloppy fact checking or this info is correct and the older sources can be proven flawed. I think it's sad we may never know the truth and are left to hope they give it to us straight.

Iwinder - Thanks for the berserker info. Good reading

binno - You make some good points. They claimed these were Viking swords because they were always uncovered with Viking remains. They said they did not find any references to Ulfbehrt in Viking writing which helps deepen the mystery. I wonder if it's possible Vikings liberated these swords from fallen foes and used them for their own - If I were fighting I wouldn't leave excellent weapons lying around if they were better than my own, I'd use them. But then there are no references to this sword in other cultures either - it seems the creators were either very lax on record keeping or they really didn't want to be in the spotlight. I do hope new findings shed light on this.

gort51 - The video does mention the Katana and scimitar as being very good quality swords that existed at that time. I think they highlighted the Ulfberht because it has such an air of mystery about it. I'd like more details on how the class of steel used in those weapons stacked up to the Ulfberht.

thepupils - Thanks, the The Dogon tribe of Africa looks like it's well worth looking into to. I'll do it.

Drunkenparrot - Interesting that that Wikipedia article seems to refute some of this Nova show's information. It makes me wonder who's right and where they got their facts from - why each one chooses to believe as they do. I wonder how hard a time it would be to double check at least the references used on the Wikipedia article ( since it's in German which I can't read) I'd love to know the reason for these discrepancies.

If anyone wants to dig in and help me uncover more info it would be very appreciated.

I think I'll e-mail the sword maker Darrell Markewitz and ask if he would visit this thread and answer some questions. I assume he's got to be an expert in his field and has lots of knowledge of these weapons. What's interesting is in the video, he says it took all of his skill sets to re-create this sword and he had to be extremely careful at every stage because so many things could go wrong causing the sword to fail either chemically or physically in some way.

Edit: I e-mailed Darrell. I'll let you good folks know when I get a reply.
edit on 12-10-2012 by JohnPhoenix because: sp

posted on Oct, 12 2012 @ 08:47 AM
reply to post by JohnPhoenix

typical jerman technology

this sword, tanks, jet fighters, V2 rockets, goliaths, and so on....

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