Home > Auctions > 26th November 2019 > Viking Sword with Ringerike Style Lobed Pommel

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LOT 0428

GBP (£) 5,000 - 7,000
EUR (€) 5,830 - 8,170
USD ($) 6,450 - 9,030

Bid History: 7   |   Current bid: £6,750
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Viking Sword with Ringerike Style Lobed Pommel

10th century AD

A Petersen Type R sword, shallow-fullered tapered blade with a width of about 5.6cm at the cross-guard; the point and edges well preserved with traces of battlefield use clearly visible along the length; the tapered fullers are 2.3cm at the cross-guard; a straight lower guard with silver-inlaid Ringerike Style three-strand interlaced bands; short tapering grip, pommel with narrow upper guard and five radiating lobes
with bands of braided silver wire between the lobes, continuation of the inlaid silver ornament across pommel and guard. 1.4 kg, 91cm overall (35 3/4"). Fine condition. A nice example of a well used sword.

Property of a Suffolk gentleman; acquired before 2000; accompanied by an academic report by specialist Dr Raffaele D'Amato.

See Wilpert, J., Die Römischen Mosaiken und Malereien der Kirchlichen Bauten vom IV.bis XIII Jahrhundert, Freiburg, IV, 1916; Petersen, J., De Norske Vikingsverd, Oslo, 1919; Bjorn A., Viking Antiquities in England, with a supplement of Viking antiquities on the Continent of Western Europe, Oslo, 1940; Oakeshott, E. Records of the Medieval Sword, Woodbridge, 1991; Peirce, I., Swords of the Viking Age, Suffolk, 2002.

This sword has good parallels in various similar Viking age specimens. One very similar sword has been published by Petersen (1919, p.141, fig.113) and Peirce (2002, pp.96-97), found at Hedemarken, Norway, and dated also to the 10th century AD, being such typology diffused from 900 onwards (but not unknown before). Like our specimen, the sword of Hedemarken presents on the guard and pommel interlace decoration, but entirely in copper, like the most swords of this category. Pommels of swords of type III Wheeler, have been found in England: one in Norfolk, currently in the Norwich Castle Museum; another in London, a pommel found in 1868 and currently at the British Museum (Bjorn, 1940, part 4, p.78). Sometimes the swords of type R show also inscriptions on the blade, like the sword of Hedemarken. The inscription usually reads +ULFBERHT+, recalling the fabrica or workshop where this sword was produced, a Frankish one, located in the territories of the Frankish Kingdoms and then of the Holy Germanic Roman Empire restored by the Ottonians. This workshop was probably located in a region near the modern Solingen, in the Rhineland, beginning its activity in the late 9th century to produce fine blades of steel, like this one, without using the cumbersome and complex technique of pattern welding, that actual lettered inscriptions began to be inscribed upon blades (Oakeshott, 1991, p.5). Some of the Ulfberht swords have well-made mono-steel blades using good quality high-carbon steel. Some evidence suggests that this steel was a crucible steel. The process for making this steel would have been unknown to northern smiths in the Viking age. The steel could have come through existing trade routes from Middle Eastern or Asian lands, where the process was known. However, the evidence for the blade material being crucible steel in Ulfberht blades is still not solid at this time. It may simply be well-made bloomery steel created using processes known also to Viking smiths. The evidence points more to a production inside Carolingian workshops. Indeed, notwithstanding such swords are classified as 'Viking; and bear Germanic decorations on hilt and guard, we should not forget that they were done in Central European workshops, and acquired by the Norsemen through booty, gifts to their leaders or commercial changes. To the hilts and pommels, the Viking craftsmen added their personal taste and decoration, like the one in Ringerike style. This is the reason why swords of such types are often visible in the hands of the Carolingian and Western Christian warriors in the iconography of 9th-early 11th century, as in the paintings of the Roman Church of Saint Clemens, representing the sacrifice of Abraham, dated to 847-855 AD (Wilpert,1916, pl.213).

The sword is in excellent condition and probably from an excavation. The slim, slightly boat-shaped cross-guard is flared at the ends and both lateral faces are entirely covered with embedded, scrolled and spiralled interlace, picked out in copper, inside the copper lines there is a further decoration with applied silver and the eye-catching effect is further enhanced by a series of small punch holes, especially on the pommel. The pommel and upper guard are decorated in a similar manner. This wonderful pattern in Ringerike style was made on the hilts of such swords by casting and chasing the sides of pommels and guards comprising copper-alloy decorative cross-pieces of interlaced pattern, punching them with minute dots and lines, usually terminating in a circle at each end, or panels of crossed circles along both sides. The cutting edges of our sword are not bearing traces of much honing, however, as in the Hedemarken sword, there are nicks in evidence indicating that this sword was a well-used weapon.

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Bid History: 7   |   Current bid: £6,750

Lot No. 0428

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Auction Venue:
The May Fair Hotel London
Stratton Street
Mayfair London, W1J 8LT

Viewing from noon Monday 25th November 2019
Champagne Reception: 6pm - 9pm

Tuesday 26th November 2019 (Day 1)
Lots 1-660 (Antiquities)

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