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The Vlfberht sword blades reevaluated


Stalsberg, A. 2008: The Vlfberht sword blades reevaluated., Stavanger.
The Frankishs name Vlfberht is welded on at least 166 Viking Age sword blades found in the Frankish Realm (16-19 ex.) and elsweher in Europe (148-151 ex.) (Fig. 1). Vlfberht is regarded as a blacksmith. Since he had a signature and thus was literate, it is unlikely that he was a blacksmith, but rather an overseer or head of the smithery. The smiths were slaves, who only exceptionally were literate. The initial cross in the signature indicates a bishop or an abbot (Fig. 5), who were in charge of the armament industry. The meaning of the second cross is not solved. The smiths probably forged blades for certain army units. The capitulary bans of selling weapons to pirates are taken as proof of such weapons being exported from the Frankish Realm. However, they banned sale to pirates already in the Realm. Monasteries were repeatedly forbidden to let merchants get weapons, which is improbable if there was a legal export of weapons. Enemies, like Arab and Viking pirates could get weapons by smuggling, ransom and plundering of arsenals and fallen enemies. The conclusions are based on analyses of the chronological and geographical distributions of the variants of signatures and reverse marks (Fig. 2 and Maps 1-7).

Anne Stalsberg, Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, The Norwegian University of Technology and Science (NTNU), N-7491 TRONDHEIM, NORWAY. Telephone: (+47) 73592170.

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