X.4 Late Viking Age to early Norman sword with "tea-cosy" pommel variant

Use "hot spots" in orange to zoom to Hilt (22 kb), Inlay (16 kb) or Pattern (25 kb); or Overall View (21 kb JPG)

Find place  Unknown, possibly northern France
Collection Private 
 Length Overall: 94.5 cm. Blade: 80.2 cm.
 Date 950 to 1050 AD
 Condition Excavated with moderate pitting, still solid and straight, most likely a river find.

Late Viking to early Norman sword of unadorned iron (the grip is an inaccurate modern reconstruction; the naked tang may be seen in the close-up JPEG zoom) of Petersen type X with a pattern welded and inlaid blade. The pommel is a variant of the "Tea-Cosy" or "mushroom" form, being generally of uniform thickness with flat faces parallel to the flats of the blade. The crossguard is an iron bar with slightly rounded ends and about the same thickness as the pommel. This sword and a number of other Viking swords (pictured on page 24 of Oakeshott's Records and numbered X.1 through X.4) and later medieval swords (these are listed as Multiple Miscellaneous 9-12 on page 224 of Records with an incorrect sale date of 1981) were sold at Sotheby's London on 1 November 1983. The swords in this collection were cleaned on a single side only, with the opposite side (shown only in the JPEG hilt zoom view) retaining a corroded black brown surface, later varnished. Though auction houses jealously guard the identity of the seller, some details slip out and Oakeshott notes the later medieval swords, similarly cleaned on only a single side, were from a "French" collection. While this does not guarantee that this sword was found in France, other evidence favors such a possibility. Oakeshott indicates in Sword in the Age of Chivalry, page 82, that Tea-Cosy Pommels have been found in the Seine River and in coastal regions from the Baltic coast of Germany to the mouth of the Loire in France, and further postulates that these pommels may well be characteristic of areas colonized by Vikings in the Tenth Century. Petersen (1919) reports an ubiquitous distribution for type X. The drawing from Laking (1920), partially reproduced above and to the left, of one of the depictions of William the Conqueror in the Bayeux tapestry shows a pommel with a profile exactly the same as this sword and several swords with similar pommels rest in the Musée de l Armée at the Hôtel National des Invalides in Paris.

Though reportedly unknown in assuredly British material in Lang and Ager's radiographic study (1989), Viking Age swords with inlays and pattern-welded blades are frequently seen in material from "continental" Europe. Lorange (1889) included detailed color lithographs of several from Norway, an example of which may be seen in this detail of plate 5 (37 kb), and Ypey (1983) presented line drawings of many found in the Netherlands. The present (X.4) sword shows, in its central shallow fullered zone, three bands of pattern-welding, of straight herringbone character, which may be focally discerned only on the cleaned side. The pattern changes to straight and non-twisted in the area of the inlay near the hilt, where six short strips are placed perpendicular to the length of the blade across the fuller at about 2 cm. intervals. The uncleaned side clearly has inlay work which may not be discerned owing to corrosion.

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 Copyright © 1997, 1998 by Lee A. Jones