The viking sword is 77 cm (30 inches) long and made of iron, found in Norway. Credit: Hordaland County Council.

A hiker has found a 1,200-year-old Viking sword in Norway. The discovery was originally made three years ago at Haukeli, but the sword was delivered to local authorities and the county conservator in Hordaland recently.

Discovered by Accident

It was originally found by outdoor enthusiast Gøran Olsen during the summer of 2012. Just beside the road at a local area known as Haukelifjell. It was a truly great surprise for Olsen who couldn’t quite believe it was an ancient sword, just lying there between some rocks. He then had it hanging on the wall at home until he recently contacted local authorities.

The archaeologist at the county conservator received the over 1,200-year-old sword in October. Although Olsen who found the sword knew it to be old, he didn’t quite know how old. But after both the Nordvegen History Centre Avaldsnes and the Archaeological Museum had examined the sword, it was a confirmed to be a typical Viking sword.

A Typical Viking Sword

The archaeological experts believe that the sword is approximately 1,200 years old, but emphasize that the “typological dating” should be taken with reservation. As the dating method is based on other findings that are known from the period around 750 CE to 800 CE. And there are several swords of this kind, a known standard from that period.

Rygh type 491 Viking sword.

The sword is 77 centimeters (30 inches) long and has a 5 centimeters (2 inches) wide blade. It is identical to many contemporaries swords from the period. These identical swords are known as “Rygh type 491”, as seen in the picture to the right.

How the sword looked in pristine condition 1,200 years ago we can imagine based on other findings. The sword had what is called a guard and hilt (hand protection and handle) made out of iron. These are however unfortunately gone.

Swords Were Very Costly to Make and a Sign of High Status

Among the three Viking age countries of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden; Norway is at the top of Viking sword findings. But these are often only rusty fragments. There may be 2-3,000 sword from the Viking Age (793–1066 C.E.) in Norway.

The archaeologist says that being equipped with weapons was a necessity for longer travel at that time, but that a sword was reserved for the upper layers of society. Others would have borne an axe or a spear. Axes were simpler to create, while swords more was a much more specialist task.

Indeed, according to customs at the time, all free Norse men were required to own weapons, as well as permitted to carry them at all times. The Hávamál (a collection of Old Norse poems from the Viking age), purported to be sage advice given by Odin, states “Don’t leave your weapons lying about behind your back in a field; you never know when you may need all of sudden your spear.”

The man who lost this sword 1,200 years ago probably carried it in a sack on his back or perhaps on a horse. Since to walk in the mountains with a sword dangling around was probably not optimal.

The sword is now submitted to the Bergen Museum.

Hiker finds 1,200-yr-old Viking sword in Norway
Viking Swords: Rygh 1885