Viking Swords

Viking battle scene
Viking Sword in Battle

Viking Swords Introduction

The sword was an ancient Norse warriors most valued weapon. Swords were the Vikings most efficient and deadly weapons and were also symbols of their status. Swords were so valued that the medieval Nordic warriors would pass them down from generation to generation and even give them names. In the Middle Ages swords were very expensive due to the great skill required to make them; most Vikings could not afford one.

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On this page we provide information about Viking swords. Most of what we know about this Viking weapon comes from archaeological discoveries and research of such literature as the Norse Sagas. This information includes how swords were made, used in battle, and how the Vikings kept their swords battle ready.

Viking Swords - Description

The ideal sword was light, strong, easy to handle, flexible, and had two sharp edges. Most Vikings would fight with their sword in one hand and their shield in the other. If the sword was not light the Norseman would soon tire in the heat of battle. Most Viking swords were light, weighing a little over two pounds (approximately one kilogram); however some were as heavy as four pounds (approximately two kilograms).

Blades ranged from 24 to 36 inches (approximately 60 to 90 centimeters) long and were typically 1.5 to 2.3 inches (4 to 6 centimeters) wide. The blade was made with a slight taper; this brought its center of balance more towards the grip.

Attached to a swords blade is the hilt which consist of many parts including the grip, guard, pommel, shoulder, and tang. As the Viking Age progressed the size, shape, and construction of the components of the hilt changed. This progression makes the dating of discovered swords easier since certain styles were popular during certain date ranges.

How Viking Swords Were Made

Keeping a sword light while also making it strong and flexible was no easy task in the Viking Age. A skilled blacksmith with the right materials was required. There have been several archaeological finds of inferior Viking swords which serve as proof that skilled blacksmiths were not always available or affordable. Skilled blacksmiths used a pain-staking method called pattern welding to forge a sword. This process involved the heating and twisting of different types of iron bars, and slowly welding them together into a blade. The different types of iron soft (low-carbon) and hard (high-carbon) made for a strong flexible blade. Pattern welding not only made the blade strong and flexible but also beautiful. The different types of iron made beautiful patterns on the surface of the blade. Towards the end of the Viking Age advances in the iron making process made pattern welding unnecessary; however many blacksmiths continued to use the method.

What the Vikings did to Maintain Their Swords

The Vikings were warriors; their weapons saw a lot of action. Over time even well constructed swords would become dull, dented, and even broken. There is archaeological evidence of swords being repaired. Many swords have been discovered that had been broken in two and then welded back together.

The Norse Sagas provide information about swords becoming dull, being damaged in battle, and being repaired. The Vikings had to frequently sharpen their swords to keep them battle ready. This was a task that most of them probably did themselves; however their is mention of professional sword sharpeners in the Norse Sagas. The Norse Sagas also mention swords breaking and bending in battle and how sometimes Norsemen would stand on their blades in order to straighten them.