Northern Europe, Viking culture, ca. early 10th century CE. An incredible hoard of five iron artifacts: a large, Petersen Type X sword, a horse bit, an axe, a chisel, and a socketed spearhead. The horse bit is composed of two thick iron wires looped around each other on one end and around two iron rings on the other. The axe and chisel are both of simple form, the kind of tools that any Viking would be happy to keep on a belt. The spearhead has a tapering, cylindrical socket and a broad, leaf-shaped blade with a thin, sharply-delineated ridge. The sword has a rounded, half-moon-shaped pommel with rounded corners. The lower guard is a separate piece that can move around the tang, although when used it would have been held in place by the bone, wood, or leather that formed the handle. The blade is long and straight, sharp on both edges, and ends in an abruptly tapered point. Swords of this type have been found throughout the Viking world, from Eastern Europe to the British Isles to Iceland. Size of sword: 4.85" W x 37.25" H (12.3 cm x 94.6 cm)
A Viking's sword was a hugely valuable object, passed down through families as an heirloom, and probably the most expensive item that a Viking could own. For example, from the hundreds of items found in Viking burials in Iceland, only sixteen are swords; they are more common in other parts of the Viking world, especially in Norway, but were still a high-status item. A sword given by King Haakon the Good (king of Norway from 934 to 961 CE) to the Icelander Hoskuldur in the Laxdaela Saga was worth a half mark of gold, or the value of sixteen dairy cows, which was a tremendous sum for the time.
Together, these items constituted a Viking hoard. They were treasured items for someone, left behind in antiquity - whether as votive deposits, or, more likely, with the intention of returning to acquire them at a later date. Who knows what may have happened to that original hoarder, who was indefinitely waylaid by some circumstance of life a thousand years ago?
Provenance: ex-Green collection, acquired in the UK
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