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Extract from Records of the Medieval Sword by Ewart Oakeshott
Most swords of the Viking Age come into this category, and X (ten) has been chose to define the type, rather than 1 (one) because in the definitive anaylitical study of the swords of the Viking Period present by Dr Jan Petersen in 1919. [sic] He classified the latest of the Viking hilt-styles (hose with brazil-nut shaped pommels) as Type X (letter X). Since most of these Viking swords with brazil-nut pommels, as well as those which are rather vaguely called ‘Pilzformige (mushroom-shaped)’ by German archaeologists, all fall neatly into the first category of the typology of swords which I presented in 1960. I began my typology where Petersen left off, with X – number Ten. At the same time I, perhaps unwisely, renamed the ‘Pilzformige’ or mushroom pommel (which it wasn’t, being D shaped in elevation and flat in plan, not like any mushroom or toadstool known to botany) as ‘of tea cosy form’. This, to non-tea-orientated continental students must have made little sense. However, in an English context it is perfect. The laid-down ‘lazy D’ is just like a tea cosy. Those which are flat in plan are like on empty, those of a stouter and more rotund shape are like a tea-cosy with a teapot inside it. In the quarter-century which has lapsed since I named, or mis-named, this pommel form it is pleasant (tom em) to find that in fact the name has been very generally adopted.
So, Type X is the ‘typical’. of there is such a thing, Viking sword with its great variety of hilt-forms and styles; and it goes on into the 12th century. Indeed, one may say it goes on into the 18th century as far as blade-shape goes, but there is no doubt it is seldom found as a blade-shape in any blade made new later than c.1200. Of course, many very old blades continued in use, re-hilted according to changes of fashion, as long as the sword was used.
Four typical Viking swords, dating beteween c. 750 – 1050
Blade-length: 80.2 (31&5/8′)
Pommel-type: Behmer’s Type VIII
Date: c. AD-750
Condition: Excavated, but very good. Some very large pits.
2. Type X
Blade-length: 76 cms (31&3/4″)
Pommel-type: Wheeler’s Type VII
Date: 9th century
Condition: Excavated, but excellent. More corrosion near point.
3. Type X
Blade-length: 76cms (29&1/2″)
Pommel-type: Petersen’s Type A
Date: 9th – 10th century
Condition: Excavated. Considerable corrosion, especially near to point.
4. Type X
Blade-length: 80cms (31″)
Pommel-type: Petersen’s Type X
Condition: Good, excavated. Considerable pitting.
Publication: Catalogue, Sotheby’s, Nov. 1, 1983, London
These four Viking Swords were sold at Sotheby’s in London on November 1st 1983. Lots 100, 101, 102 and 103.
1. A fine pattern welded blade with a hilt of very early Viking form, if not late Migration Period, decorated with closely-set vertical silver wires inlaid in the iron.
2. This is a most interesting and unusual sword. The fine pattern-welded blade patterns are, alternating, the ‘BLODIDA’ (Blood-Eddy) and ‘ANN’ (like rows of mown hay) of the Norse poetry, very clearly defined. One side (shown in the photograph) has a conventional broad shallow fuller, but the other has no fuller, but close alongside the edge (right side of this photograph) runs a very narrow groove, from the hilt almost to the point. The tang of the blade, as you can see, is offset towards this edge of the sword. THe offset tang and groove near the edge are characteristics of back-edged swords, from the Norse Saxes to 19th century sabres, yet this is an otherwise conventional double-edged blade. About 1cm of the point is missing. The cross and pommel are decorated with strips of gold ribbon, engraved with tiny chevrons, inlaid in the iron of the well preserved hilt.
3. This has a a pattern-welded blade with the ‘ANN’ pattern all the way down the fuller. The pommel is extremely flat in profile.
4. A much plainer sword with an undecorated iron hilt. There seems to be traces of iron-inlaid letters in the blade, but it also looks as if it is pattern-welded. Since, as far as we know from surviving example, pattern-welded blades were never inlaid in iron, so it is difficult to reconcile these two possibilities. The blade is rather heavily corroded and I found it difficult to maker out whether it was pattern-welded or inlaid. But it did seem to be both. This is a good example of an aberrant specimen; but when one considers that though some hundreds of surviving pattern-welded blades have been examined, very many thousands, which are not available for study, were made in the centuries between say AD 250 and 850. So who shall say with honesty that ‘no PW blade was ever inlaid in iron lettering, because I have never seen one.”
Type: X (short)
Collection: Ex D.Acre Edwards. Now Private
Blade-Length: 23′ (58.5 cms)
Condition: Excavated (probably a river-find). The blade is good with a little corrosion under the patina. The pommel and cross are of copper, maybe once gilt; but when I handled it in 1961 I couldn’t see any traces. There is a cross patee engraved on the faces of the pommel, and each broadly-splayed end of a the cross guard is engraved with a little grotesque figure, a large round head with legs coming from under its chin, enclosed within a circle with tendrils going back towards the ecusson. The figure is so strongly akin to the ‘Babewyns’ in English manuscripts of the period c.125-1320 that it is inevitable that one should suggest an English origin for the hilt. The blade may of course be alot older. There is in the fuller on each side an inscription of three letters, o s o. Comparison with other sowrds (ie. No. XI.1 here) which have to be dated to the 12th century points clearly to a date c.1125-75 for the blade – a good example of an old blade re-hilted c.1270 plus or minus a decade or so.
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