A Step Closer to the Mysterious Origin of the Viking Sword Ulfberht
The universe is full of mysteries that challenge our current knowledge. In "Beyond Science" Epoch Times collects stories about these strange phenomena to stimulate the imagination and open up previously undreamed of possibilities. Are they true? You decide.
Ulfberht was like a Medieval luxury brand for swords—but unlike your Gucci purse, the swords were of such high quality they were almost … mystical.
An Ulfberht sword displayed at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, Germany. (Martin Kraft/Wikimedia Commons)
Dozens of these swords—made with metal so strong and pure it’s baffling how any sword maker of that time could have accomplished it—have been found in Europe, along with some knock-offs. They are all marked with the Ulfberht name and two crosses, though some of the imitations are missing a letter here or there.
New research brings us closer to the source of the swords, to the kiln in which these legendary weapons were forged.
A previous theory held that the swords may have their origin in the Middle East or Asia, but surprisingly it seems the materials were sourced closer to where they were found, in Central Europe.
At the time the Ulfberht swords were forged (approximately 800–1000 A.D.), equally perplexing swords made of a substance called Damascus steel were being produced in the Middle East out of a raw material, known as Wootz steel, from Asia. Both Damascus steel and the Ulfbehrt’s so-called “crucible steel” had high amounts of carbon.
Ulfberht’s Perplexing Composition
Carbon can make or break a sword; if it’s not controlled to just the right amount, the sword will be either too soft or too brittle. But with just the right amount, carbon greatly strengthens the blade. The Ulfberht has a carbon content about three times higher than that of other swords of its time. It would have been astoundingly stronger and yet more flexible than other swords, as well as light-weight. It also had almost no impurities, known as slag. This would have allowed for a more even distribution of carbon.
It was thought, before Ulfberht was discovered, that the capability to remove slag to such a degree only became possible during the Industrial Revolution. Iron ore must be heated to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit to accomplish this, a feat the Ulfberht makers apparently accomplished 800 years ahead of their time. With great effort and precision, modern blacksmith Richard Furrer of Wisconsin forged a sword of Ulfberht quality using technology that would have been available in the Middle Ages. He said it was the most complicated thing he’d ever made, and he used methods not known to have been used by people of that time.
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