Norwegian Farmer Stumbles Upon 1,000-Year-Old Viking Sword

The well-preserved artifact may belong to a special class of high-quality, engraved weapons

The 14.5-inch artifact was likely made between 900 and 1050 C.E. Rogaland County Council

A Norwegian farmer recently came across what he thought was a chunk of scrap metal in his field. Just before throwing it away, he took a second look: He realized the object had a distinct shape, complete with a hilt and a blade. It turned out to be a 1,000-year-old Viking sword.

The family farm belonging to Øyvind Tveitane Lovra—who’s also a ferryboat engineer and local politician—is located in Suldal, Norway, in the southwestern county of Rogaland. In accordance with Norwegian law, Lovra turned his find over to the Rogaland County Council. After examining the artifact, experts concluded the iron sword belongs to the Viking Age, dating back to between 900 and 1050 C.E.

As Rogaland archaeologist Lars Søgaard Sørensen says in a statement from the council, swords were key status symbols for Vikings, the Scandinavian seafarers who colonized parts of coastal Europe between the 9th and 11th centuries. He adds that while a Viking sword is already a rare find, this one could be particularly valuable.

Experts glimpsed what may be an Ulfberht inscription on the sword's blade. University of Stavanger Archaeological Museum

The weapon is surprisingly well-preserved, possibly because it was embedded in dense clay. Measuring about 14.5 inches, the sword retains its handle, cross guard and about half of its original blade, according to Live Science’s Tom Metcalfe. Even so, the weapon is encrusted in rust and buildup.

To get a better look at the artifact’s shape, researchers from the University of Stavanger’s Archaeological Museum scanned it with an X-ray. The imaging revealed what appears to be an inscription carved into the blade. This engraving suggests the weapon could be an Ulfberht sword—a special class of medieval Frankish weapon.

The iron artifact was discovered on a family farm in Suldal, Norway, near the country's southwest coast. Rogaland County Council

As Sigmund Oehrl, an archaeologist at the University of Stavanger, says in the statement, “Ulfberht” was the name of a weapons manufacturer that produced high-quality swords in the Frankish Empire (located in present-day Germany and France) during the Viking Age and early Middle Ages. While some 4,000 Viking Age swords have been found in Europe, only around 170 have Ulfberht inscriptions. Forty-five of those marked swords were unearthed in Norway, though Lovra’s discovery is the first Ulfberht weapon to be found in Rogaland.

“Material analyses of those weapons show that they were not only made from the best raw materials available in Europe and beyond, but that the smiths were also at the very highest technical level,” Oehrl tells All That’s Interesting’s Amber Morgan.

Next, specialists will work to conserve the artifact and conduct a more thorough examination of its inscription, per the statement.

As for its journey to the Suldal farm? Lovra thinks the sword arrived on a day remembered in local folklore, when Vikings sailed into Lovrafjorden, a fjord in Suldal, and presented the lady living at the farm with fine things.

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