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Double-edged sword

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Overall length: 960 mm
Blade length: 815 mm

Donated by Royal Archaeological Institute, London

PE 1858,1116.5

Room 40: Medieval Europe

    Double-edged sword

     

    Medieval, About AD 1250-1330
    England

    A fine example of the classic ‘knightly’ sword

    This double-edged sword was found in the River Witham near Lincoln. It is an extremely well preserved example of the type of sword which was common from about 1300.

    When new this sword would have been a fine weapon, and probably owned by a wealthy individual or knight. It is likely that the blade was manufactured in Germany, which was the centre of blade manufacture in Europe at this time. The blade is made of steel, which combines a sharply honed edge with the flexibility not to shatter in use, and is inlaid with gold wire to form an inscription which is yet to be deciphered.

    Although the blade is most probably German, the sword is English, and would have been fitted with a hilt. The cross-shaped hilt is characteristic of swords of this period and is associated with Christianity. The sword is part of the ceremony of Knighthood, and the cross-shaped hilt of such swords, used by knights, acknowledge the Christian duties a knight must fulfil, defending the church.

    The blade is unusual as it has two fullers, or grooves, running parallel down its length on each side. A Viking origin has been suggested for the sword on the basis of the fullers, the pommel and the letter forms of the inscription. However, it is apparent that the pommel, inscription and the blade shape are more characteristic of Medieval European swords than those of Viking origin.

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    On display: Room 40: Medieval Europe

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