Understanding Viking sword-making techniques
17 Jan 2019



Using neutron diffraction at ISIS to investigate pattern-welding on Viking swords.




​The Vikings have a well-deserved reputation as fearsome warriors, and their weapons were indispensable tools for their plundering raids. Swords from this era often showed a decorative pattern on the surface, produced by pattern-welding - welding together thin strips of iron and steel that were twisted and forged in various ways. More than two thousand Viking swords have survived until today, often badly corroded. An international group of scientists used neutron diffraction at ISIS to perform a non-invasive investigation of three Viking swords from the National Museum of Denmark. They were able to characterise the blades in terms of composition and the manufacturing processes involved, and their study shows how the effects of past conservation treatments can either help or obstruct the extraction of archaeological information.

Related publication: A Fedrigo et al. “Extraction of archaeological information from metallic artefacts—A neutron diffraction s​tudy on Viking swords" Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 12 425-436 (2017), DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2017.02.014​

Contact: de Laune, Rosie (STFC,RAL,ISIS)