Vikings’ bleeding-edge tech came from Afghanistan

By | January 12, 2009

Vikings' bleeding-edge tech came from Afghanistan

[Scientists] at the UK’s famous National Physical Laboratory (NPL) – birthplace of the Dambusters’ bouncing bomb and perhaps the internet – say they have used an electron microscope to analyse Viking swords. In a surprise twist, it turns out that the old-time Scandinavian pests, many of whom moved to England to become our ancestors, actually imported their best steel from Afghanistan.

“Sword making in Viking times was important work,” says Dr Alan Williams, a top archaeometallurgist at the Wallace Collection, a London-based museum of objets d’art which has a massive array of old arms and armour.

“On their travels, the Vikings were keen to pick up any innovative new means of improving their sword-making, but until now we haven’t known where they have sourced some of their materials. The results from NPL confirm for the first time that the material analysed was brought by the Vikings from the Middle East to the Baltic area – and thrown new light on an important trade route that was in use until the 11th Century.”

It seems that tiny samples of metal from Viking swords obtained by the Wallace Collection were analysed using the NPL’s scanning electron microscope. According to the NPL:

The results showed that the swords were made of imperfectly melted steel – consisting of a mixture of iron and carbonaceous materials heated together to give high-carbon steel. NPL’s results match descriptions of ancient sword making in Herat (now in Afghanistan) described by ninth century Arab philosopher and writer Al-Kindi. This links to a known Viking trade route down the Volga and across the Caspian Sea to Iran … until now it was not known that Vikings had brought crucible steel back to Scandinavia and integrated ancient Arab steelmaking methods with their own swordsmithing.

High-carbon crucible steel made for a particularly hard, sharp sword – quite literally bleeding edge technology around the turn of the first millennium. Back in those days, however, such steel was only available in the advanced civilisations of India and Central Asia. Ignorant barbarian northerners like the Vikings and the old-time Britons (at the time being mostly driven into Wales by the various ancestors of the modern English) couldn’t aspire to make such advanced kit themselves. But they could and did import it, according to the Wallace Collection and the NPL. …

via Vikings’ bleeding-edge tech came from Afghanistan • The Register.

6 thoughts on “Vikings’ bleeding-edge tech came from Afghanistan

  1. dave

    What a load of tripe,quality swords had been made by.quote”ignorant barbarian barbarians” for hundereds of years before the vikings.Have a look at the sutton hoo sword or vendel graves in sweden.Frankish blades we’re imported all around the world and were the best blades manufactured at the time.
    They were patten welding hundreds of years before the Japanese.


    1. Keith

      Here Here Dave, These ignorant barbarians helped to open up trading routes all over the then known world, as well as manage to found major cities (some still in existence)

      1. waadoshi the vikorcurai

        agreed, this is a load of crap. maybe some but not all of our ancestors steel could have been imported from Afghanistan. I regret the usage of ignorant barbarians in this post, it is annoying and obscene.

    2. Grimnirwher9

      Dave, they’re talking about steel, not swords. Did it ever occur to you that Vikings – and elder peoples – may have forged high-quality swords themselves from steel they imported from somewhere else?

  2. albert

    mais bien sur tout le monde sait que les viking allaient chercher leur lames au japon ou a pondichéry vers le 7 éme ou le 8 éme siécle.non ,mais c’est vraiement se foutre de la gueule du monde.

  3. Jared

    Where are these sword making arabs today? My people came from Asia and settled in Norway, Sweden, Finland and modern day Europe. We went on to colonize Vinland; even before Erik the Red named it so. Eber means colonizer. We are the Iberians. One has to remember who the real Israelite’s are.

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