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LOT 0473

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Viking Petersen Type X Single-Handed Sword

10th-12th century AD

A Viking or Norman Sword with a fine double-edged tapered blade, still retaining well-defined cutting edges and fullers, although the latter being extremely shallow with vague boundaries; traces of employment in fight are visible on the sides and on the point; the blade of the weapon is pattern-welded; the hilt is in excellent condition, comprising of a flat tapering tang and the typical, lower, thicker and shorter pommel of 'tea-cosy' form, with the lower and wider guard reaching a considerable length; overall, the hilt is plain, carrying no form of decoration, and yet, when all of its components are considered as a whole, the effect produced is one of harmony, balance and quality; the sturdy tang provides tremendous strength to the hilt of this long-bladed weapon. 853 grams, 92cm (36 1/4"). Fine condition. Very rare.

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

See Petersen, J., De Norske Vikingsverd, Oslo, 1919; Oakeshott, E. Records of the Medieval Sword, Woodbridge, 1991; Gravett, C., Medieval Norman Knight, 950-1204 AD, London, 1993; Peirce, I., Swords of the Viking Age, Suffolk, 2002.

This sword belongs to the known type X of Petersen (Petersen,1919, pp.158ff) and finds good parallels in various similar Viking age specimens. A very similar sword, with a similar hilt, is the Hagerbakken sword (s. Petersen, 1919, fig.124). A second parallel can be represented by the sword kept in the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, at the Downing College, Cambridge, found in the River Great Ouse and dating from c. 950-1000, an example is in excellent condition except for the large hole below the cross-guard, which presents iron inlays with inscriptions. Another good parallel is the sword from Vammala (Peirce, 2002, p.132), although the pommel of this latter is tiny than in our sword and yet most precisely formed, being of a 'tea-cosy' type in transition to a 'Brazil nut'. These are types of swords having simpler kind of ornamentation, and they occur in greater numbers, giving on the whole a domestic impression, though it is difficult to fully understand their origin of production, i.e. if local or imported in Viking countries. Contrary to types like B, C and F, these types belong to the late Viking Age, and they also represent a later period than type M, almost simultaneous with type Q, but preceding the last familiar type, type Æ. Our sword belongs to later and most usual of the two variants of type X, with its lower, thicker and shorter pommel and a lower and wider lower guard that at times can reach a considerable length, but that can also be quite short as in type M for example. The cross-section of the hilt is here evenly wide, with rounded ends, and not cut sharply across, which is otherwise usual with type M. The first group has upper hilts [pommels] that can reach a length of 7.8 cm. and a height of 5.1 cm. The second group has pommels with a length between 5.0 cm and 6.5 cm., the height is from 2.7 cm - 3.5 cm. The lower guard varies in length between 10.7 cm to an entire 17.7 cm. The height in the first group is up to 2.0 cm. and in the second group from 0.7 cm to 1.4 cm. At the time when Petersen wrote his huge work he knew not less than 49 specimens of this type, of which this later variant was the most usual. With respect to the actual typological development of the type, it is evident that the taller, slimmer pommels were the early ones, and the small, thick, blunt pommels were the later ones (see for instance the swords of type XI,1-2, Oakeshott,1991, p.54), with the smaller, thicker pommels following the longer lower guards. In particular we shall mention here the sword C 12217 from Sandeherred (Petersen, 1919, fig.129), where the transition to medieval swords has already begun. In this last sword the underside of the already begun to become convex.

Blade and handle are very well preserved. Most probably our specimen is coming from a river or a battlefield. The piece is in excellent condition. According to the actual archaeological evidence, type X embraces a very extensive time period. It has been a usual statement given by archaeologists when they speak of this type, that generally it belonged to the end of the Viking Age. One has evidently thought in terms of the medieval forms, with the long straight guards and a more or less rounded pommel. It is however, not that simple, according to Petersen. It is evident that individual swords of the X-type belong among the latest of our swords from the Viking Age, i.e. the 11th and the 12th century. But it is equally evident that the first forms of this type appeared already in the first half of the 10th century. Equally certain, however, is that this type lasted until the very end of the Viking Age. Petersen pointed first one find as mentioned from Nomedal in Hyllestad, and also the over mentioned find c. 1292 from Hagerbakken, V. Toten, where the sword has that long lower guard and represents the best parallel for our sword. These are without doubt at least from the end of the 10th century, most likely even from the beginning of the 11th century. Also another find St. 2589 from Vestly, Lye, Stav. with axe blades of a marked M type, must belong to the last part of the Viking Age. With regards to the additional finds we must believe that these are thought to complete the remaining parts of the 10th century. Based on the available material it is difficult to determine with any more specificity, but we should observe that some swords represented on the Bayeux tapestry and employed by the warriors there represented show such typology (Sword of Harold, Gravett, 1993, p.12). The swords with tea-cosy pommels were popular among the early Normans and late Vikings (Gravett, 1993, p.5, sample from Wallace collection in British Museum; s. also pp.13-14; pl.A,F).

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