The Vikings Bent Swords When They Buried the Dead

Posted by Ms Elly on

The Vikings Bent Swords When They Buried the Dead

When the archaeologists started to unearth any Viking burial site, something interesting is about to come up. Although swords were considered to be one of the most powerful and desired weapons to any Viking warriors, they were sometimes bent and buried with the deceased. 

Honestly speaking, the practice of sword bending did not come from the Viking Age. It actually predated Viking Age. According to the scholars, one of the first bent swords ever found dated back to circa 826-600 BC. Burials in places of Anglo Saxon and across Europe also contained bent swords. They were probably heated and bent double or twisted beyond repair. In some burials, mail was also scattered and dispensed around the grave. 

Regarding the Viking community, they did sometimes bent their swords when they buried the dead. But the reasons behind this practice remained a mystery. The Vikings could have learned this practice when they came to new lands around Europe but the reasons for this practice might be different from others. Because in the Viking Age, swords were considered a symbol of power, wealth, and high social status. 

King Ragnar with sword

King Ragnar with Viking Sword (Cre: "Vikings" TV Series)

Swords, to the Vikings, could cost a lifetime fortune. Unlike spears or axes (which could be owned by anyone in the community), swords could only belong to the high-rank warriors or the noble family. To be buried with a sword meant to have lived a life full of honor and achievements. While the archaeological evidence showed that the Vikings often left the swords intact in burials, a few were bent.

The reasons why some swords were bent could be like this:

The Vikings wanted to prevent the grave robbers to possess a perfect sword. If the intact swords fell into the hands of the enemies, something tragic could happen. Or if these swords fell in the hands of the greedy ones, they could sell the swords. 

Viking sword bent

Viking sword heated and bent. Artifact in Swedish Museum

Another reason was that because the Vikings believed the burial goods came to the afterlife of the deceased, they prevented the deceased from using the sword in the afterlife. In this case, the deceased ones were likely to be the enemies of the Vikings who made the burial grave. This was a way to make sure the enemies were unable to fight in the afterlife. 

Some people claimed that the Vikings considered the sword as something soulful, just like the way the Vikings viewed their ships as friends. So a sword had been a friend with the deceased ones for a lifetime, it was about time for the retirement. Accordingly, the practice of bending the sword was a way to salute to the old friends (the deceased and the sword also). 

Viking sword got bent when buried in the grave

Another artifact of Viking bent sword found 

Later, some archaeologists stated that the practice of throwing the weapons into lakes and rivers was a way to keep the swords away from the hands of grave robbers but could still make offerings to the deceased. Maybe that's why the archaeologists found out a lot of artifacts at the bed of Tissø lake in Denmark. 

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