Viking Age Swords from Telemark, Norway: An Integrated Technical and Archaeological Investigation

Irmelin Martens, Eva Elisabeth Astrup, Kjetil Loftsgarden, Vegard Vike


Viking Age Swords from Telemark, Norway. An Integrated Technical and Archaeological Investigation provides a metallographic analysis of 21 Viking Age swords found in the county Telemark in southeastern Norway. The book is the result of a collaboration between archaeologist Irmelin Martens and chemist Eva Elisabeth Astrup.

220 swords have been found in Telemark, and they are a mix of domestic Norwegian and imported European types. The difficulties in determining which ones were made in Norway are complicated by and closely connected to the specific skills Norwegian blacksmiths had mastered with respect to both blade construction and inlay decoration.

The metallographic investigations revealed five construction types for sword blades, of which four, requiring different technical levels of smithing, may well have been mastered by Norwegian blacksmiths at that time. Combined with x-ray radiographic studies, the metallographic investigations indicate that new techniques were indeed introduced and disseminated among weaponsmiths during the Viking Age.

The findings are also probably representative for the combined total of more than 3000 swords found in all areas of the country. The majority are domestic types, and their great number obviously reflects the organization of sword production and influenced blacksmiths’ social standing.

Author Biographies

Irmelin Martens

Irmelin Martens (born 1932) holds a in archaeology and is a former professor in Nordic Archaeology at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo. She has carried out comprehensive fieldwork and research on iron extraction, house-sites and settlements, and have a wide experience in museum and fieldwork administration.

Eva Elisabeth Astrup

Eva Elisabeth Astrup (born 1940) holds a Dr. philos in chemistry and is former head of the Conservation department at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo. Astrup has been a lecturer on conservation of wood at UNESCO’s conservation courses in Rome. She has a vast experience in investigating objects of different materials and of production techniques, i.a. «Goldworking Techniques» in the publication The Hoen Hoard (Norske Oldfunn XX, 2006).

Kjetil Loftsgarden

Kjetil Loftsgarden is an associate professor at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo. His main area of expertise is the Late Iron Age – Early Middle Ages, focusing iron and iron production, trade, meeting- and market places, as well as the consequences of climatic and environmental changes in Iron Age Scandinavia. Loftsgarden is chief editor of the journal Viking and chair of the editorial board of the international book series, Viking Special Volumes.

Vegard Vike

Vegard Vike is an archaeological conservator at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo. He has 20 years of experience in the preservation and care of archaeological finds. Vike is specialised in the study of Viking Age weapons, as well as the use and experimental production of these, and is co-author of Vikings at war (Casemate Publishers, 2016).

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December 20, 2021


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