Norwegian Viking Age Swords – Typology
Remains of a Viking sword from the Island of Ingøy, Northern-Norway, classified as a Type H sword in the Peterson typology. (Photo: Kystmuseene.no)
The sword was one of the most important weapons in the Viking Age together with ax and spear. Viking swords are found throughout Scandinavia, but the majority counting about 3500 have been found in Norway.
The reason is that the pagan burial customs of putting swords into graves were more common in Norway than in Sweden and Denmark. Several Viking swords are also found in the British Isles, Mainland Europe, Russia and the Baltics.
A typical sword has a blade that measures 70 to 90 centimeters (27.5 – 35.4 in) – and may have one or two edges. Single edges were common at the start of the Viking Age, but in the 800s and 900s AD, two edges became common.
The Norwegian archaeologist Dr Jan Petersen was the first who systematized Viking Age swords. In 1919 he published his doctoral thesis: “The Norwegian Viking Swords: A Typological-Chronological Study of Viking Age Weaponry”. (Editor’s Note: Directly translated from Norwegian)
Petersen categorized the swords into types A – Æ dependent on the shape of the hilt, as well as several subtypes.
The book is still the standard and dependable work on Norse sword typology and is still a very useful guide.
Dr Petersen’s Viking Sword Typology
From the late Merovingian period and early Viking Age, ca 700-800 AD
From the end of the Merovingian period and start of the Viking Age, ca 700-800 AD. Both single and double edged swords are found.
Common in Norway about 800-850 AD. Normally found as single edged swords in Western Norway.
Ca 850-900 AD. Normally richly decorated with silver and bronze. The type is probably of foreign origin. The heaviest of the Viking swords with its massive hilt.
Ca 800-850 AD. Typically decorated with dotted ornaments. Most common in Central and Eastern Norway.
Ca 800-850 AD. Found with both single and double edges. Most common in Eastern Norway.
Rare sword only found in Eastern Norway.
Ca 800-950 AD. The most common of the Norwegian Viking Age swords. Found with both single and double edges, often with silver and bronze inlays.
Ca 850-950 AD. Most findings in Eastern Norway.
Ca 800-900 AD. Foreign origin.
From the end of the 800s and the start of the 900s. Normally decorated with silver ornaments. Anglo-Saxon origin.
From ca 850 to the start of the 900s. The most common of the Viking swords following Type H. Almost never decorated.
Rare sword from ca 850-900 AD.
Late Viking Age, ca 900-950 AD. Foreign origin.
Ca 900-950 AD. The hilts are covered with silver and bronze. Imported.
Ca 950-1000 AD.
From the mid 900s. Imported. Sometimes with inscription on the blade.
900-950 AD. Imported. Mostly richly decorated. Some have inscription on the blade, mostly an “Ulfberht” inscription”, supposed to be made by master blacksmiths in French areas. Found all over Scandinavia.
Ca 950-1030 AD.
Early 900s. The hilts are made of cast bronze.
Late Viking Age, 950– 1050 AD.
Ca 1000 AD.
Late Viking Age, ca year 1000 until the end of the Viking Age in year 1066, maybe into the Middle Ages.
Late Viking Age, ca year 1000 until the end of the Viking Age, maybe into the Middle Ages.
Text by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews
Thanks to Jarlesmuseumsblogg