Drawings of Anglo-Saxons


Drawings of objects

Anglo-Saxon Swords

Sword from Brighthampton (AN1966.81)

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Sword drawn by Laurie age 8

Laurie age 8

What are the different parts of an Anglo-Saxon sword?

Sword drawn by Matthew age 10

Matthew age 10

Anglo-Saxon swords were made of iron and had two sharp blades - one on each side of the sword.

They had a pommel at one end near the grip (or handle). The pommel helped balance the weight of the sword so it was easier to use.

Below the grip, there were guards to protect the hand.

The Anglo-Saxons carried their swords in scabbards which may have been decorated, like the sword above.

Click on picture to see larger version

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How were Anglo-Saxon swords made?

Pattern welded blade (AN1928.514)

Anglo-Saxon swords were made by a process called pattern welding.

Steel, which is a mixture of iron and carbon, makes a better and sharper sword than iron. In the Anglo-Saxon period steel was very difficult to make and not very good. So the Anglo-Saxon's used a mixture of steel and iron in their swords.

They used steel on the outside of the sword to give a strong and sharp blade. The inside of the sword was made of rods of iron twisted together.

The twisted iron created a decorative pattern which can be seen in the centre of some Anglo-Saxon swords (like in the picture below).

Click on the pictures to see a bigger versions.


Pattern welded sword (AN1928.514)

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Where there different types of Anglo-Saxon swords?


Seax (AN1914.456) Click here to see wedge shape Click here to see blade and fuller

The Anglo-Saxons also used a type of sword with only one sharp edge or blade, known as a seax. They could be as long as other swords and possibly had similiar fittings on the hilt (for example a pommel and guards).

Click on parts of the picture above to take a closer look at:
the wedge shape and
the blade and fuller or
click HERE to see a bigger picture of the whole sword.

The blade above (AN1914.456) was found broken in the River Thames, near Old Shifford in Oxfordshire, so we do not know what hilt fittings it had. This seax also had a triangular or wedge shape, which is a feature of the seax. It also has a grove near the top, known as a fuller, which made the weapon lighter. This is also known as a blood groove and was supposed to make it easier to pull the blade out of a victim!


Late Anglo-Saxon Swords

This sword (AN1985.45) was found at Goring-on-Thames in Oxfordshire and is a typical late Anglo-Saxon sword, dating to the 10th or 11th centuries. We know this because of the curved guards and decoration.

Anglo-Saxon sword (AN1985.48) Click here to take a closer look at the blade and guards Click here look at the decoration

Click on parts of the picture above to take a closer look at:
the blade and guards and
the decoration on the hilt or
click HERE to see a bigger picture of the whole sword.

Abingdon Sword (AN1890.14)


Decorated Swords

This sword (AN1890.14), found near Abingdon in 1874, is another example of a late Anglo-Saxon sword.

The pommel and guards of this sword are decorated with silver engraved with various patterns.

Abingdon sword pommel (AN1890.14)

This sword would have been used by a very rich or important person.

Viking Swords  
Viking Sword (loan from Pitt Rivers Museum) Click here to see the pommel Click here to see the guards Click here to see decoration on top of the hilt

This is a Viking sword and dates to about the same time as the two late Anglo-Saxon swords.

From this sword (Pitt Rivers Museum), we can see that Viking swords were similar to Anglo-Saxon swords. They were made in the same way and were similiarly decorated.

Click on the picture above to take a closer look at:
the decoration on the hilt,
guards, and
pommel or
click HERE to see a bigger picture of this sword.

This sword (Pitt Rivers Museum) has an inscription on the blade which appears to say "+ULFBERHT". Ulfberht is the name of the maker of this sword. This name is also known from lots of other Viking swords.

Click on picture to take a closer look at the inscription.

Inscription on viking sword blade (On loan from Pitt Rivers Museum)

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Who would have worn and used these swords?

Swords took alot of time and effort to make. Therefore they were relatively expensive and not that common. They would have been worn by important and wealthy men, such as kings and lords, known as theigns to the Anglo-Saxons.

Swords are sometimes found in burials with men but not always. Swords may have been heirlooms, handed down from one generation to the next. Christians did not bury people with swords.

We do not know how often swords were used by the Anglo-Saxons, but they were certainly used during battles and skirmishs.

Find out more about Viking weapons and what happened when the Saxons met the Vikings.

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