Thursday 1 February 2024

Medieval Ulfberht sword recovered from Polish river.

Workers carrying out a dredging operation in the River Wisła in Włocławek in central Poland in the second week of January 2024 recovered an example of a type of sword thought to be over a thousand years old along with a load of river silt. The sword is double-edged with a three-lobed pommel, which are distinctive features of these swords, and when viewed in x-ray could be seen to bear the inscription +VLFBERTH+, which have been found on about 170 similar swords from across Northern Europe and Scandinavia.

This is the eighth Ulfberht sword found in Poland; the country which has produced the largest number of these swords is Norway, with about 40 known to date. This has led to these swords sometimes being referred to as 'Viking' swords, although historians are fairly confident that they are of Frankish origin, and probably from the southern part of the Frankish realm, in southern Germany or possibly even France. These swords date from the ninth and tenth centuries, and are considered to be an intermediate stage between the earlier swords used across northern Europe and the knightly swords of Late Medieval Europe. They are typically made of superior steel to that used in earlier swords, which would have made them stronger and sharper.

The sword shortly after its discovery. Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments in Toruń.

A ninth or tenth century date for the sword would suggest it was in use around the time of the founding of the modern state of Poland, by the Piast Dynasty, who, according to legend, unified the Slavic tribes of the region, fought for independence from the area's German rulers, defended against raiders from Scandinavia, and introduced Christianity to Poland.

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