London, Dec 27 (ANI): New research has revealed that many Vikings paid for fake swords, which had forged the mark of authentic ones, almost a thousand years ago.
According to a report in The Guardian, the research was undertaken by Dr Alan Williams, an archaeometallurgist and consultant to the Wallace Collection, the London museum, and, Tony Fry, a senior researcher at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in Teddington, south-west London.
The legendary swords found at Viking sites across northern Europe bear the maker's name, Ulfberht, in raised letters at the hilt end.
But, what has puzzled researchers that even some of the worst swords from the Viking era, found in fragments on battle sites or in graves, have the name 'Ulfberht' engraved on them.
Such is the similarity of the engraving on both type of swords, that the Vikings would have found it impossible to tell the difference when they bought a newly forged sword.
Both would have looked identical, and had razor sharp blades. The difference would have only emerged in use, often fatally.
Williams began to test the Ulfberht blades when a private collector brought one into the Wallace, and found they varied wildly.
The tests at the NPL have proved that the inferior swords were forged in northern Europe from locally worked iron.
But, the genuine ones were made from ingots of crucible steel, which the Vikings brought back from furnaces thousands of miles away in modern Afghanistan and Iran.
The tests at Teddington proved the genuine Ulfberht swords had a phenomenally high carbon content, three times that of the fakes, and half again that of modern carbon steel.
The contemporary fake Ulfberhts used the best northern metal working techniques, which hardened the metal by quenching - plunging the red-hot blade into cold water.
It enabled them to give the blade a keen edge, but made it fatally brittle.
In the 11th century, the Russians blocked the trade route, and the supply of crucible steel ended.
Evidence is emerging that the swords from burials are the fakes, or the work of less prestigious makers.
In fact, the work of the researchers has proved that many of the Ulfberht swords in some of the most famous weapons collections in the world are fakes. (ANI)