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Home > Auctions > 25th February 2020 > Viking or Norman Sword with Copper Inlaid Pommel

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LOT 0458

GBP (£) 3,000 - 4,000
EUR (€) 3,590 - 4,790
USD ($) 3,890 - 5,190

Sold for: £3,750
(Inc. bp*)

Viking or Norman Sword with Copper Inlaid Pommel

10th-11th century AD

A fine double-edged sword with tapered pattern-welded 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 with battle nicks on the sides and near the point; the hilt comprises a flat tapering tang and a thicker and shorter pommel of 'tea-cosy' form (type B), decorated with an inlaid circumferential band around its lower edge; the lower guard is reaching a medium length; traces of rusting to the hilt and along the blade. 974 grams, 93cm (36 1/2"). Fine condition. Rare.

From an important private family collection of arms and armour; acquired on the European art market in the 1980s, and thence by descent; believed from the Danube river; 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; Roesdahl, E., Wilson D.M., From Viking to Crusader: The Scandinavians and Europe 800 to 1200 (22nd Council of Europe Exhibition), Copenhagen, 1992; Peirce, I., Swords of the Viking Age, Suffolk, 2002; the sword belongs to the well known type X of Petersen (Petersen, 1919, pp.158ff) and Oakeshott type XI (1991, pp.53 ff.), with good parallels in various similar Viking and Norman age specimens (Peirce, 2002, pp.115 ff.); another of the most evident parallels is the sword from Tissø, Denmark, today in the National Museum in Copenhagen, also a water find; other two excellent specimens of this typology may be seen at the Musée de L'Armée, Paris (Peirce, 2002, pp. 118-121); the overall proportions of our specimen are positively eye-catching and it is strikingly similar to a pattern-welded sword found, with a large number of other objects, at Camp de Péran, Côtes-d'Armor, France, in a 10th century context, probably linked with the early Norman settlers in Normandy or Norman raids in Breton Lands (Roesdhal, Wilson,1992 p.321, cat. no.359). It is in fact probable, that there was a connection between the severe damage caused by fire at the castle of Camp de Peran (near Saint-Brieuc) and the presence of the Vikings in Brittany in the first half of the 10th century; the dates are compatible, considering that in 911 AD, Rollo created the Duchy of Normandy with the Frankish Kingdom investiture; so far there is no evidence as to whether the Vikings were the attackers or had taken up a defensive position there; in this latter case the destruction of the fortifications may have occurred when Alain Barbetorte attacked the site in 936 AD; a large quantity of objects was found during excavations in the 1980s, including a sword similar to our specimen, pattern-welded, with missing point, 75cm long; two spearheads, in iron, an iron axe, an iron stirrup, an iron pot made in the same way as a pot from the Viking grave on the Ile de Groix (Roesdhal, Wilson, 1992, p.321, cat. no.360), and other small items.
The present example is distinguished by having a slender blade, generally long in proportion to the hilt, with a more or less narrow fuller running to within few inches of the point. In classic examples there is a very little taper to the edge, though in well-preserved examples the point is quite acute. However, since so many samples from rivers or ground show so much corrosion at the point, in many surviving examples the point appears to be spatulate and rounded. As in all the other types of swords, the form of the pommel and the cross guard varies considerably. For instance, the early Viking swords of this category had a shorter cross-guard, destined to be elongated in later ages. Originally Oakeshott was limiting the use of such swords in the period between 1100-1175 AD, but now we can consider, all variants included, a 10th-12th century AD date range of full use of such swords. The B type pommel is indicative of the category. There is a depiction of William the Conqueror in the Bayeux Tapestry with a 'tea cosy' pommel sword.