Can a sword of the ancients, stand up to the metallurgy of today?
Sometimes it takes a little channel surfing to learn something new, which happened to me last night. After watching The Big Bang Theory, I happened upon a PBS broadcast of, Secrets of the Viking Sword.
The show followed the construction and forging of what was known as an Ulfberht sword. The Ulfberht sword was considered the most advanced weapon the Viking people ever used in combat and was a terror at the time. While the weapon looked and acted like many other swords of the era, the Ulfberht was unique for the time period due to its creation method. The sword could bend at harsh angles without breaking, the blades kept their edge even during long periods of use and it was lighter and longer than most swords common to the region. All of these advancements were due solely to the weapons advanced forging and forming processes. The manufactures of the time used the advanced Crucible method of ore smelting.
Crucible smelting is commonly used process today, wherein a clay pot is used to hold iron ore, then it’s sealed and heated to very high temperatures. This allows for the steel within to be smelted with less slag and which helps to make the core metal harder and less brittle. The process as we know it came from regions within Iran about 1000 years ago, which makes the finding of such weapons among the Vikings so interesting.
It shows that the Vikings would have needed to have open trade with the Middle East of that time and gives researchers more insights about the Vikings themselves. This process is not only difficult to master, it was also very uncommon to be trained to outsiders of Middle Eastern cultures! So from this we learn that the Vikings were far more advanced metalworkers than historians first thought and that the Vikings not only had friendly trade with the Middle East, they even shared cultures openly.
While the show aired, I found it to be very interesting and I’m in no way a history buff. But after watching a modern blacksmith craft a sword in the same manor, while learning about the Vikings, I couldn’t turn away from the show. It was very entertaining overall and I would tell anyone out there with even the slightest interest in Vikings, weapons smithing, swords or even odd ball historic facts to check it out.
It was worth the watch.