A DEADLY WEAPON AND SYMBOL OF POWER – JEWELLERY FOR A MAN, WITH MAGICAL PROPERTIES. THE SWORD GAVE POWER TO THE WARRIOR, BUT THE WARRIOR’S STRENGTH COULD ALSO BE TRANSFERRED TO THE SWORD. THAT IS HOW THEY WERE BOUND TOGETHER: MAN AND WEAPON, WARRIOR AND SWORD.
This sword was found in Langeid in Bygland in Setesdal in 2011. It is a truly unique sword from the late Viking Age, embellished with gold, inscriptions and other ornamentation. The discovery of the sword has not been published until now, when it is being displayed for the first time in the exhibition TAKE IT PERSONALLY at the Historical Museum in Oslo.
The sword must have belonged to a wealthy man in the late Viking Age. But who was he and what magic inscriptions are set into the decoration – in gold? Was the owner of the sword in the Danish King Canute’s army when it attacked England in 1014-15?
In the summer of 2011, archaeologists from the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo discovered a Viking burial ground in Langeid in Setesdal in southern Norway. In one of the graves they made a startling discovery.
“Even before we began the excavation of this grave, I realised it was something quite special. The grave was so big and looked different from the other 20 graves in the burial ground. In each of the four corners of the grave there were post holes,” said excavation leader Camilla Cecilie Wenn of the Museum of Cultural History.
The post holes reveal that there was a roof over the grave, which is a sign that the grave had a prominent place in the burial ground. But when they dug down in the coffin in the bottom of the grave, there were few traces of gifts for the afterlife, only two small fragments of silver coins. The coins were from northern Europe; one was probably from the German Viking Age, judging by how it was embossed, while the other was a penny minted under Ethelred II in England dating from the period 978-1016.
“But when we went on digging outside the coffin, our eyes really popped. Along both sides, something metal appeared, but it was hard to see what it was. Suddenly a lump of earth fell to one side so that the object became clearer. Our pulses raced when we realised it was the hilt of a sword! And on the other side of the coffin, the metal turned out to be a big battle-axe. Although the weapons were covered in rust when we found them, we realised straight away that they were special and unusual. Were they put there to protect the dead person from enemies, or to display power?”
Dating of charcoal from one of the post holes shows that the grave is from around the year 1030, at the very end of the Viking Age. “And that fits in well with the discovery of the English coin.”