The beautiful hilt of one of the Viking swords.

3,000 Viking swords have been found in Norway

A vast collection of 700 swords will soon be displayed at the NTNU University Museum.

In June, the Viking Age exhibition opens at the NTNU University Museum in Central Norway.

For at least five years, the museum in the centre of Trondheim will showcase the most exciting finds they have in their enormous collection of Viking Age artefacts.

Many have never been displayed before

“We’re going to display many items that people have never seen before,” promises Ellen Grav.

She is an archaeologist and the project leader for the exhibition.

Bildet viser Ellen Grav på kontoret hennes.
Ellen Grav will showcase many treasures from the Viking Age when a new exhibition opens this summer.

An extra treat the museum can offer is that they have 700 out of the approximately 3,000 preserved Viking swords in Norway.

Most have been found in men’s graves in Central Norway.

“A sword was something a fully equipped Viking soldier had to have,” says Grav.

Typically, a Viking would start with an axe and a spear.

Eventually, a sword would be added.

At that point, he had become a true warrior.

Norwegian-made Viking swords

Archaeologists researching the Viking Age see that the swords carried by Vikings were very different.

“Some of the swords are simple, clearly homemade. However, swords made in Norway during the Viking Age were not inferior. Some were exceptionally well-made by skilled Norwegian blacksmiths,” Grav says.

The Viking sword was not just a weapon; it was also a symbol. Here is the beautiful lower guard of a Viking sword hilt.

Norwegian blacksmiths in the Viking Age were able to build on a long tradition of blacksmithing that dated back long before the Viking era.

Ornate swords imported from the Kingdom of the Franks

Grav and her colleagues, who study Viking swords, have found that importing swords was also common during this period.

These swords often came from the British Isles or from the Frankish Empire – a realm that also included most of present-day Germany.

“Many of these swords are magnificent with beautiful decorations. Some of the most special are the Ulfberht swords,” Grav says.

Researchers know of around 170 such swords. Most have been found in Scandinavia. And all have the same inscription, namely the symbols and letters +VLFBERHT+.

Swords with the Ulfberth inscription were widespread in Europe during the Viking Age. Ulfberth is a Frankish name, possibly used as a ‘trademark’ on these swords. In 1889, Anders Lorange created this stunning illustration depicting four Ulfberth swords found in Norway.

These swords have a particularly high carbon content, making them extra strong.

Fake copies of Ulfberht swords with lower carbon content and inferior steel also exist.

The sword created a debt to a chieftain

Ornate swords like these had two functions.

“They were weapons. They were likely also used as gifts to form alliances, given by chieftains or other noblemen to secure important allies,” Grav says.

Ellen Grav explains that in the Viking Age, alliances were as crucial as family ties.

Alliances could be forged through marriage and by giving gifts.

“Receiving such a magnificent sword from a powerful man constantly reminded you of whom you owed allegiance to and whom you had to serve,” she says.

Had to be carried by free men

According to the Gulating Law, the oldest surviving Norwegian legal text, the sword was a mandatory weapon that free men had to carry when attending the assembly. They could also bring an axe and a spear.

In saga literature, swords are frequently mentioned.

This is largely because the sword was such an important symbol of power.

Some swords even had names and were believed to have magical properties.

Swords could be passed down through generations.

The ornate designs on the swords reveal their deeper symbolic significance in Norse society.

Viking Swords

  • Starting in the mid-700s, typical Viking swords became common.
  • These swords have been found in graves all over the country. Many are beautifully decorated. They provide insights into the warrior ideology of the Viking Age.
  • Many Viking swords had their own names.
  •  It is often difficult to determine whether a Viking sword was imported or made in Norway.
  • The Viking sword was initially held with one hand and functioned as a cutting weapon in battle. Towards the end of the Viking Age, they evolved into heavier two-handed swords.

Sources: Great Norwegian Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, and Ellen Grav

The archaeologist notes that Viking swords have been found all over Norway.

“Most have been found around the Oslofjord, in Rogaland, and here in Trøndelag. This coincides with the three main regions in Norway during the Viking Age,” Grav says.


Translated by Alette Bjordal Gjellesvik

Read the Norwegian version of this article on

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