ulfberht sword

Sword, ca. 850–900. Germanic or Scandinavian. Lent by Laird and Kathleen Landmann, 2006 (L.2006.57)

The double-edged blade of the Viking sword is inlaid in iron with the name of the swordsmith Ulfberht, who probably lived in the Middle Rhine region of Germany in the tenth century (fig. 3). His work was held in such high regard that his blade-making style and signature were copied by other craftsmen for generations.

Ulfberht Sword

Ulfberht (from the Old Norse ‘wolf’ and ‘bright’) is the name given to unusually high quality swords used in the Viking era, thought to be named after the blacksmith or forge where they were created.

They were superior because they were forged from solid ingots of crucible steel (the purest form of steel which was even superior to ‘Damascus’ steel) that were sourced from India.

Only 171 examples have ever been discovered but of these only a few have been proven to be genuine Ulfberhts!

(The picture shows a modern recreation)

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Secrets of the Viking Sword

The Vikings were among the fiercest warriors of all time. Yet only a select few carried the ultimate weapon of their era: the feared Ulfberht sword. Fashioned 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, 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? Now, NOVA uses cutting edge science and old-fashioned detective work to reconstruct the Ulfberht and finally unravel the “Secrets of the Viking Sword.”