Home > Auctions > 26th November 2019 > Viking Petersen Type S Sword

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LOT 0429

Estimate
GBP (£) 4,000 - 6,000
EUR (€) 4,670 - 7,000
USD ($) 5,160 - 7,740

Bid History: 1   |   Current bid: £4,000
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Viking Petersen Type S Sword

10th century AD

A double-edged Viking Sword of type S, following the classification of the Petersen (1919, pp. 173ff.); with a well tapered double-edged broad pattern-welded blade, with well preserved cutting edges, although traces of battlefield use are clearly visible along the length; the fuller is wide, shallow and well defined, however, ending in the area of the point; the pommel showing the three lobes typical of this category; while the slim guard has boat-like shape with splayed ends formed of solid iron (what it is not characteristic of all guards); two rivets are fastening the short upper guard to the pommel from bottom, with the attachment holes still visible; a beautifully well-balanced weapon. 1.1 kg, 92.5cm (36 1/2"). Fine condition, some restoration. Very rare.

Provenance
From an important private family collection of arms and armour; acquired on the European art market in the 1980s, and thence by descent; believed originally from Stralsund, Germany; accompanied by an academic report by military specialist Dr Raffaele D'Amato.

Literature
See Petersen, J., De Norske Vikingsverd, Oslo, 1919; Peirce, I., Swords of the Viking Age, Suffolk, 2002.

Footnotes
This sword finds good parallels in similar Viking age specimens, like the one preserved in the Chertsey Museum, England (10th century, s. Peirce 2002, pp.98-99), or the one in National Museet in Copenhagen (10th century, s. Peirce 2002, pp.100-101). Petersen, among the twenty-two samples of S typology shown, published a similar sword from Arhus (1919, fig.114). In all these swords, the three-lobe pommel (or the five lobes pommel, like in the specimens of Oslo, River Thames and Søborg Castle, s. Peirce, 2002, pp.102-107) is the main characteristic (s. in particular Petersen, 1919, figs.114-116), although they are sometimes, differently from our specimen, highly decorated in Ringerike style with silver and copper inlays on the guard, hilt and pommel. From the beginning, the Viking swords diversified into a complex array of forms and shapes, many of them showing such fine hilt decorations of carved gold and silver, with shimmering twisted wire accents and inlays. On the swords from Copenhagen and Chertsey are visible also the inscriptions +VLFBERT+T and + MFBERIT + on the blade, showing that many of such swords were produced in the famous workshop of the Frankish and Germanic Empires. Here no inscription is visible, neither traces of decoration have survived on the guard and lower face of the upper guard, although it seems that are suggestions of an iron-inlaid inscription on the blade. If our sword is a river-find, this can be explained with the corrosion of it and the disappearing of the original possible inlaid. The upper guard and the pommel are riveted together, which is commonly observed for this type and most others with two piece upper hilts. It is believed that Type S swords arose in the 10th century from the older type D Viking swords (Petersen, 1919, pp.106-111). The S types retain the large bulbous central lobe of the D types but have a more semicircular shape. Viking swords of Type S are commonly found in Nordic countries and Eastern Europe, with only a small number found in Western Europe.

Our example is in excellent condition. Although there appears to be no certainty with regard to its find-place, our specimen is coming from excavation of a grave or river, where it was deposed and ritually bent. As with other Viking swords, the type S was designed for cutting, not thrusting. The curvature of the wide tip allows for slicing tip cuts. According to Kirk Spencer, Assistant Professor of Science and History at The Criswell College in Dallas, Texas, the pronounced distal taper makes the blade of such swords lively enough for good control and placement, and the thin edge geometry produces very clean cuts through soft targets. Probably such swords would have been less effective against mail armour that would have been seen on the battlefield. The pronounced distal taper would take critical inertia out of the blade producing shallower cuts and the thin edge would be more likely to roll or chip. The hilts of such swords were covered with organic material like leather, ivory, horn, rope. In the sword of Chertsey, upon the robust tang and adjacent to the cross are traces of horn grip. In the sword from Thames the almost parallel tang is completely bound with fine silver wire, like other samples from Scandinavia. At each extremity of the grip of Thames sword there is a circle of plaited silver wire which may well have help to hold a leather grip in place, also. The swords of Viking Age appears in the archaeological record with the enlargement of their "pommel caps" and the uniting of the sandwiched components into solid upper and lower guards. As a matter of fact, the earliest solid guards even have false rivet heads decorating them. Some of the earlier forms even had beautiful pattern welded blades, preserved also in later specimen, like this one. The style and the decoration on the type S swords are all very different. In the hands of Viking warlords, these magnificent "ancient heirlooms" must have been breathtaking. In this sense, they symbolise all that is frightening and beautiful in the Viking culture, a culture that is itself a fitting and glorious epitaph to the sword as the magical companion of ancient heroes.


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Bid History: 1   |   Current bid: £4,000

Lot No. 0429

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Viewing from noon Monday 25th November 2019
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Tuesday 26th November 2019 (Day 1)
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