Fragments of 100 Viking swords unearthed in north Estonia ({{commentsTotal}})

Part of the hilt of the sword of the XI-XIII centuries from Läänemaa. Picture is illustrative.
Part of the hilt of the sword of the XI-XIII centuries from Läänemaa. Picture is illustrative. Source: Department for the Protection of Antiquities

Archaeologists have discovered fragments of about a hundred Viking swords, the largest find of Viking swords in Estonia to date, in northern Estonia.

The fragments were found in two closely located sites in a coastal area of north Estonia, in the territory of the ancient Estonian county of Ravala, late last autumn. 

The finds consisted of dozens of items, mostly fragments of swords and a few spearheads. 

Mauri Kiudsoo, archaeologist and keeper of the archaeological research collection of Tallinn University, told BNS the two sites were located just 80 meters apart. The swords date from the middle of the 10th century and are probably cenotaphs, grave markers dedicated to people buried elsewhere.

The reason why the swords were not found intact, Kiudsoo said, is due to the burial customs of the time. It is characteristic of finds in Estonia from the period that weapons were put into the graves broken or rendered unusable.

While the Ravala fragments constitute the biggest find of Viking-era weapons in Estonia, more important according to Kiudsoo, is the fact that the grips of the swords allow us to determine which type of swords they are. They have been identified as H-shaped double-edged swords. This type of sword was the most common type in the Viking era and over 700 have been found in northern Europe.

Kiudsoo said that by 1991, eight more or less intact type H swords and about 20 fragments had been discovered in Estonia but the number has risen to about 100. The overwhelming majority of the Estonian finds have come to light on the country's north coast, which lies by the most important remote trade route of the Viking era. 

Since the Ravala finds date from the middle of the 10th century they prove for the first time that type H swords were in use in the territory of Estonia in the 10th century, Kuidsoo said. 

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Editor: Helen Wright



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