1,000-Year-Old Viking Sword Discovered in Iceland by Men Hunting Geese
A group of hunters tracking geese in Skaftárhreppur, South Iceland, brought back more than just birds on their latest trip – they found a 1,000-year-old Viking sword lying completely exposed in the sand. The double edged sword is in a remarkable condition considering its age.
“Meant to go to a goose area, but ended up finding a sword that I think once belonged to [Viking settler] Ingólfur Arnarson,” Árni Björn Valdimarsson posted on his Facebook page.
Credit: Árni Björn Valdimarsson
Ingólfur Arnarson was the first Norseman to settle in Iceland and live out the remainder of his life there. According to the Icelandic Book of Settlements, ‘Landnama’, Arnarson arrived with his wife in 874 AD. Records state that when he saw Iceland ahead of him, he left it in the hands of the gods to decide which part of the landmass he should settle.
“He then threw the carved pillars of his high seat overboard and swore that he would build his farm wherever they came ashore,” reports The Saga Museum. “After having thrown them into the water, Ingólfur came ashore at what was subsequently known as Ingólfshöfði, where he raised a house and spent his first winter. He sent out two of his slaves, Vífill and Karli, to look for the carved pillars. They searched along the coastline for three years before finally locating them in a large bay in the southwest of the country… Ingólfur moved to the place where the pillars came ashore. He called the place Reykjavík (literally ‘steam bay’) because of the large amount of steam that rose from the nearby hot-springs.”
A painting depicting Ingólfr Arnarson, the first settler of Iceland, newly arrived in Reykjavík (public domain)
According to Grapevine.is, the newly-discovered sword was passed to The Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland, which will now carry out further testing and preservation work on the sword.
“We date the sword at this stage to circa 950 AD or even prior to that,” the agency’s director general Kristín Huld Sigurðardóttir told RT.com. “We are very excited here as this is only the 23rd sword from Viking times found in Iceland.”
Last year, another Viking sword was discovered, that time by a hiker in Norway. The 1,200-year-old weapon was pulled out from underneath some rocks. Researchers speculated that, due to the high cost of extracting iron, the sword likely belonged to a wealthy individual and would have been somewhat of a status symbol, to “show power”. Viking swords often had handles that were richly decorated with intricate designs in silver, copper, and bronze. The higher the status of the individual that yielded the sword, the more elaborate the grip.
While both these sword discoveries are rare and exciting, they do not bear the mark of a Viking Ulfberht sword. The super strong Ulfberht swords, of which about 170 have been found, were made of metal so pure that scientists were long baffled as to how they mastered such advanced metallurgy eight centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution.
An Ulfberht sword displayed at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, Germany. (Martin Kraft/Wikimedia Commons)
Top image: The 1,000-year-old Viking sword discovered in Iceland. Credit: The Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland.