And no one in Europe would know how to do this for centuries. Alan williams: The material used was a novel material, not found anywhere else in Europe in the middle ages. Richard furrer: The biggest mystery is where did they get this raw material? We have no archaeological evidence book of any crucible steel production in Europe until 800 years later. Narrator: so how did these norsemen, widely viewed, to this day, as barbarians, get this cutting-edge technology? Contrary to their image, the vikings were advanced in many ways. They were highly skilled navigators and traders who are believed to have extended their reach as far as North America and Central Asia.
This seems to be a completely different material. The first thing that strikes you is that there are none of these long, grey slag inclusions, which make the metal brittle. The uniformity is more like a modern steel than it is a medieval one. And it has got a carbon content of about three times as much as the medieval steel we looked at a moment ago. I thought it was very odd. I couldn't think of a reason for. Narrator: The only swords Williams found that were made make of this clean, high-carbon steel were those marked as Ulfberht. The metal, known as "crucible steel gave the swords capabilities far ahead of their time. But it could only be made by melting iron at high temperatures.
These long inclusions—perhaps looking a bit like sausages—these are inclusions of slag, the non-metallic part of the ore which has never been separated from the iron. The slag makes the iron brittle, which doesn't, actually, give you a terribly good sword. Narrator: Medieval blacksmiths in Europe didn't make slag-free steel, because their fires weren't hot enough to fully liquefy the iron. In modern times, metals are melted at temperatures over 3,000 degrees. This separates out the slag and allows more carbon to be mixed in evenly. But in the viking era, carbon could only be introduced incidentally, mainly through the coal in the fire, and the only way to remove the slag from the metal was to try to hammer out the impurities with each strike. Of the thousands of European swords from the middle Ages that have been found, all were thought to have been made from this inferior steel, until Williams analyzed the Ulfberht. Alan williams: One or two swords I looked at seemed to be different. They were made of steel, which I'd never seen, before or since, in a medieval object.
Ballpoint Pens, writing drawing, viking, direct
Smelted iron was the source for swords, weapons, armor, for thousands of years. Narrator: From about 800. C., 'til today, humans have made weapons from steel. The process starts with iron, which is found in the ground as ore. The crushed ore is heated to separate the iron from the rock. But, on its own, iron is too soft to yield a strong weapon. The trick is to add carbon, most commonly from coal or charcoal.
This hardens the metal and turns it into steel. But not all steels are created equal. First, williams examines day a sample, encased in acrylic, from a typical viking-age sword. Not only does it have low carbon, it has impurities, known as "slag that weaken it further. Alan williams: Medieval iron is both soft and brittle. This is a sample of a sword of modest quality.
Narrator: In northern Wisconsin, ric Furrer is starting out on the task of a lifetime. He's one of the few people on the planet who has the skills to unravel the mystery of how the Ulfberht was made. Richard furrer: I'm drawing a full-scale paper model of the sword blade that I'm going to try to recreate. This Ulfberht inlaid sword was popular about 1,000 years ago, and nobody has made a recreation metallurgically accurate since then. I hope to figure out if I can recreate accurately how these blades would have been made back then. Narrator: There are mysteries about everything related to the making of the Ulfberht.
Richard furrer: These were, to a large extent, secrets. You didn't want to give away your manufacturing technology for your weaponry to anybody else. So, we have to look at the artifact and then reverse engineer. Sometimes it's a matter of removing a 32nd of an inch here or adding it there orsubtleties that you don't think matter that can, in fact, make a huge difference in how the blade performs. The trick is to piece together from enough archaeological evidence to figure out what the proportions of these blades should be and then the chemistry. What is the material that these were made out of? And that is new information, why they're metallurgically different. Narrator: In London, one of the world's leading experts on historic steel weaponry, alan Williams recently made a discovery about the Ulfberht that shocked scientists and sword makers alike. Alan williams: i've been fascinated by armor and swords for a very long time and have always wanted to find out what they were made of and how they were made.
Correction Products, writing drawing, viking, direct
Narrator: Buried for centuries, only corroded skeletons of the once glorious blades remain. Jon anders risvaag: They don't look very much today, but in their time, the Ulfberht was the weapon of the upper strata. You would certainly notice a person carrying a weapon like this. This would be a very precious, very beautiful object, and a deadly one, obviously. Narrator: The secret of the Ulfberht's construction has been lost for nearly 1,000 years, but can a modern day blacksmith recapture that technology and bring this remarkable sword back to life? Richard furrer: to do it rightit is the most complicated thing i know how to make, and it's that challenge that drives. I don't need a sword, mattress but i, i have to make them, not because i can't do anything else, but because i can't do anything else.
They are so admired as fighters that people, to this day, reenact their battles. In viking times, most men fought with axes and spears, but those who could afford it used swords for close combat. The Ulfberht's combination of strength, lightness and flexibility was an advantage. Alan williams: The swords were far better than any other swords made, for before or since, in Europe. And these must have been extraordinarily valuable to their contemporaries, because of their properties. Narrator: Thousands of viking swords have been found, most discovered in rivers or excavated from viking burials across Scandinavia and northern Europe, but only 171 have been identified as Ulfberhts. Jon anders risvaag (Norwegian University of Science and Technology the swords, as they are todayit's very hard to see that this was actually a state-of-the-art weapon.
perfectly designed for its day. Fredrik charpentier ljungqvist (University of Stockholm They were a luxury, rare and expensive. It was the rolls royce of the swords. Narrator: Produced only from about 800 to 1,000. D., this viking sword was made from a pure steel, not seen again in Europe for nearly 1,000 years. This high-tech weapon of its time was inscribed with the mysterious word "Ulfberht." Carried by only a few elite warriors, the Ulfberht represented the perfect marriage of form and function in the chaos that was a viking battle. Niels lynnerup (University of Copenhagen It's not, "People, divide you up and have a nice duel one to one." The fight was very violent, chaos, people moving around, striking out whenever possible. Some people were struck multiple times and from all kinds of angles. Narrator: The vikings spread out from Scandinavia, colonizing vast expanses of Europe, from the 8th through 11th centuries.
John clements (Association of Renaissance martial Arts i think the katana is oliver a beautiful weapon. It's a fine weapon. It slices, it cuts, it thrusts, it dices, it makes julienne fries. It's wonderful, but it has been exaggerated. Narrator: Exaggerated, because sharpness alone is not enough. John clements: you see demonstrations of a sharp sword like this cutting material, all the time, and you think it's impressive because, "Oooh, look what it does!" But that's really not that impressive, and here's why. This is a wide medieval bastard sword, and this one's blunt. It's got no real edge to it, no edge sharpness, but watch what I'm going to do with. A really good sword is not just about cutting with a really sharp edge.
Runes - my little norway
Secrets of the viking Sword, pbs airdate: October 10, 2012, narrator: The vikings were some of the fiercest warriors of all time, and a select few carried the ultimate weapon, a sword nearly 1,000 years ahead of its time, built by a mysterious craftsman, from. The sword was known as the "Ulfberht.". Alan williams (The strange wallace collection, london The swords were far better than any other swords made, before or since, in Europe. Narrator: The secrets behind its design, creation and use have been lost, but now, the world's largest steel company and a modern day blacksmith divine its mysteries and bring the Ulfberht back to life. Richard furrer (Door county forgeworks to do it rightit is the most complicated thing i know how to make, and it's that challenge that drives. Narrator: A millennium after its time of glory, discover the secrets of the viking Sword, right now on this nova/National geographic special. Master swordsman John Clements has cut with some of the most famous swords ever made, from Damascus steel blades to the legendary samurai sword, the katana. Forged by master craftsmen, from the 14th century onward, the samurai sword is renowned for its elegantly curved blade and impressive cutting ability.