Hundreds Of Viking Sword Fragments Discovered In Estonia

Hundreds Of Viking Sword Fragments Discovered In Estonia
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Hundreds Of Viking Sword Fragments Discovered In Estonia

There are no spear-like Viking spears. During the period 800-1200 AD, most Scandinavians began leaving the lands of their birth in search of a better life.

In pursuit of spoils and wealth, the Vikings took to the sea and started attacking coastal regions. The Vikings raided and traded across the British Isles and many parts of Europe at that time, settling occasionally. They traveled to Alaska, Russia, Iceland, and Greenland as well.

ERR, the English-language service for Estonian Public Broadcasting, reported an unusual find last week. Archaeologists uncovered two caches holding the fragments of approximately 100 Viking swords.

The discovery was made in the northern part of the country, in the area which held the territory of the old Estonian country of Ravala.

The fragments were in two separate caches, but the sites were located close to each other. Inside there was a multitude of items, most of which were fragments of broken swords and a few spearheads.

Two sword hilts on exhibit in Hedeby Museum. The sword on the left is from a Viking Age burial at Busdorf, Schleswig-Flensburg; Petersen type S, with silver and copper inlay work.
Two sword hilts on exhibit in Hedeby Museum. The sword on the left is from a Viking Age burial at Busdorf, Schleswig-Flensburg; Petersen type S, with silver and copper inlay work.

Archaeologist Mauri Kiudsoo, a keeper of the archaeological collection of Tallinn University, said that the two sites were only about 80 meters apart.

The swords appear to date from the middle part of the 10th century and were probably used as cenotaphs, grave markers for people who were actually buried somewhere else, such as those who fell in battle and had to be buried where they were or those who died while elsewhere on missions of trade or diplomacy.

Swords from the Viking age, found in Sæbø, Hoprekstad, Vik i Sogn, Sogn og Fjordane county, Norway. Exhibited at Bergen Museum.
Swords from the Viking age, found in Sæbø, Hoprekstad, Vik i Sogn, Sogn og Fjordane county, Norway. Exhibited at Bergen Museum.

The reason the swords were in pieces, according to Kiudsoo, is that the practice of the time involved burying weapons that were broken or otherwise beyond use.

Despite the fact they’re in pieces, historians could still easily identify what sort of weapons they were by looking at the shape of the grips.

The grips revealed that the swords were H-shaped, double-edged swords of the type that was most common during the Viking era. Hundreds of swords of this type have already been found in various parts of Northern Europe.

The Viking sword hilts found in Estonia.
The Viking sword hilts found in Estonia.

By 1991, eight more-or-less intact examples of this type of sword had already been discovered in Estonia, and the number has risen to around 100 in the years since then. Such relics are usually discovered along the country’s northern coastline, near an important trade route for the Vikings.

Historically, Viking warriors were known to raid the area which is now Estonia, according to Ancient Origins, and they erected hill forts and outposts for trade in the vicinity.

They were always located near the coast, however, as the marauding Vikings never made any significant advancement into the country’s interior, which was held by Finnic tribes.

This find represents the largest of such caches ever found in Estonia, but, more importantly, according to Kiudsoo, the grips were what allowed archaeologists to determine what type of weapons they were, and, by extension, to have firm proof that the H-shaped weapons were in use in the area during that time.

By the middle of the 10th century, the Danes had been Christianized and united under one king, according to History; at the same time, a second Viking age began with increased large scale raiding on the coasts of Europe and Britain, driven by successful military action in a number of parts of Europe and taking advantage of political instability.

Estonia served as a staging post for the trade routes that went through Russia to Persia.

The Vikings first came to raid, but eventually, they ended up establishing trade relationships with the natives and even established some permanent trading posts.

Perhaps finding the two caches of sword fragments will stimulate further investigation and excavation in the area, leading archaeologists to new finds and a deeper understanding of both the Vikings and of what life was like in Estonia during that period of time.


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P. Natasha Covers Classical Archaeology news and has been with Histecho since 2017. She has a Master's degree in MA Archaeology from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program. A California native, she also holds a Bachelor of science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.