The Mysterious Viking Sword From the Future


Screen Shot Ulfberht sword

As most of us know by now, the Vikings were the most feared warriors of all time. Yet only a select few carried the ultimate weapon of their time: The feared Ulfberht sword.

This sword was like from the future. Forged with a metal so hard that is was almost unbreakable. Using a process that would remain unknown to the Vikings’ rivals for centuries, the Ulfberht was a revolutionary high-tech tool as well as a work of art. Considered one of the greatest swords ever made, clearly in class of the Japanese swords. And it remains a fearsome weapon more than a millennium after it last saw battle. But how did Viking sword makers design and build the Ulfberht, and what was its role in history?

The Viking sword Ulfberht was made of metal so pure it baffled archaeologists. It was thought the technology to forge such metal was not invented for another 800 or more years, during the Industrial Revolution. About 170 Ulfberhts have been found, dating from 800 to 1,000 A.D. A NOVA, National Geographic documentary titled “Secrets of the Viking Sword”, first aired in 2012, took a look at the enigmatic sword’s metallurgic composition.

In the process of forging iron, the ore must be heated to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit to liquefy, allowing the blacksmith to remove the impurities (called “slag”). Carbon is also mixed in to make the brittle iron stronger. Medieval technology did not allow iron to be heated to such a high temperature, thus the slag was removed by pounding it out, a far less effective method.

Original Ulfberht sword

The Ulfberht, however, has almost no slag, and it has a carbon content three times that of other metals from the time. It was made of a metal called “crucible steel.”

It was thought that the furnaces invented during the industrial revolution were the first tools for heating iron to this extent. Modern blacksmith Richard Furrer of Wisconsin spoke to NOVA about the difficulties of making such a sword. Furrer is described in the documentary as one of the few people on the planet who has the skills needed to try to reproduce the Ulfberht.

To do it right, it is the most complicated thing I know how to make,” he said.

He commented on how the Ulfberht maker would have been regarded as possessing magical powers.

To be able to make a weapon from dirt is a pretty powerful thing,” he said.

But, to make a weapon that could bend without breaking, stay so sharp, and weigh so little would be regarded as supernatural. Furrer spent days of continuous, painstaking work forging a similar sword. He used medieval technology, though he used it in a way never before suspected.

The difference in purity is seen by the consistency of the Ulfberht steel, almost free of slag

UBS

The tiniest flaw or mistake could have turned the sword into a piece of scrap metal. He seemed to declare his success at the end with more relief than joy. It is possible that the material and the know-how came from the Middle East. The Volga trade route between the Viking settlements and the Middle East opened at the same time the first Ulfberhts appeared and closed when the last Ulfberhts were produced.

More  More

 

Advertisements

Feel free to leave a reply!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s