Mysterious Viking Sword Made With Technology From the Future?
Mysterious Viking Sword Made With Technology From the Future?

In Beyond Science, Epoch Times explores research and accounts related to phenomena and theories that challenge our current knowledge. We delve into ideas that stimulate the imagination and open up new possibilities. Share your thoughts with us on these sometimes controversial topics in the comments section below.

The Viking sword Ulfberht was made of metal so pure it baffled archaeologists. It was thought the technology to forge such metal was not invented for another 800 or more years, during the Industrial Revolution.

About 170 Ulfberhts have been found, dating from 800 to 1,000 A.D. A NOVA, National Geographic documentary titled “Secrets of the Viking Sword” first aired in 2012 took a look at the enigmatic sword’s metallurgic composition.

In the process of forging iron, the ore must be heated to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit to liquify, allowing the blacksmith to remove the impurities (called “slag”). Carbon is also mixed in to make the brittle iron stronger. Medieval technology did not allow iron to be heated to such a high temperature, thus the slag was removed by pounding it out, a far less effective method.

The Ulfberht, however, has almost no slag, and it has a carbon content three times that of other metals from the time. It was made of a metal called “crucible steel.” 

It was thought that the furnaces invented during the industrial revolution were the first tools for heating iron to this extent.

The difference in purity is seen by the consistency of the Ulfberht steel, almost free of slag. (Screenshot/NOVA/National Geographic)

Modern blacksmith Richard Furrer of Wisconsin spoke to NOVA about the difficulties of making such a sword. Furrer is described in the documentary as one of the few people on the planet who has the skills needed to try to reproduce the Ulfberht.

“To do it right, it is the most complicated thing I know how to make,” he said.

He commented on how the Ulfberht maker would have been regarded as possessing magical powers. “To be able to make a weapon from dirt is a pretty powerful thing,” he said. But, to make a weapon that could bend without breaking, stay so sharp, and weigh so little would be regarded as supernatural.

Furrer spent days of continuous, painstaking work forging a similar sword. He used medieval technology, though he used it in a way never before suspected. The tiniest flaw or mistake could have turned the sword into a piece of scrap metal. He seemed to declare his success at the end with more relief than joy.  

It is possible that the material and the know-how came from the Middle East. The Volga trade route between the Viking settlements and the Middle East opened at the same time the first Ulfberhts appeared and closed when the last Ulfberhts were produced.


  • RockyMissouri

    Wondrous, and incredible….!!

  • TapestryMood

    Absolutely fascinating.

    • rg9rts

      They had golf clubs that can’t be explained either

      • TapestryMood

        LOL..they crossed to the damnbetcha;-)

        • rg9rts

          and kilts too

  • rg9rts

    We are so full of our modern selves that it astounds us the our ancestors weren’t as stupid as we thought. Like every generation , sex, drugs and rock&roll is their invention.

  • velocicat

    The blast furnace existed in the later Middle Ages in Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden, at the least. That sort of furnace could reach the 3000F temperatures needed for Ulfbehrt-forging during the period when this beautiful blade was made.

    I vacationed in Door County, Wisconsin, last year and am still kicking myself for forgetting to stop by Richard Furrer’s forge — his recreation of the Ulfbehrt blade was a wonderful thing to watch.

  • Richard M

    The Chinese had Blast Furnaces many centuries before that. The Vikings may have learned the art from China?

    • velocicat

      Hard to say, but the Silk Routes were in use between Europe and China for as much as two millennia by the close of the Medieval period, so it wouldn’t be impossible that certain technologies had traveled from one to the other. The only reason I’d doubt that the technology came via China is that it would likely have appeared all along the trade routes, instead of mainly at the eastern and western ends. Really the blast furnace is the next logical progression from the bloomery, which was extant throughout the Mediterranean region in ancient times, and there was a particular type of forge that developed from the bloomery, a kind of middle step between bloomeries and full-on blast furnaces, a few centuries prior to the Ulfberht blade forgings.

      • Richard M

        We know that India traded commodities and ideas with China. We know that India traded thoughts and ideas with Rome. We know the Vikings were prolific travelers, raiders and traders. For instance , we know they crossed the Caspian after coming down the Volga, in order to trade with Persians.

        So it isn’t much of a stretch. Marco Polo was looking at silk and paper and noodles. Viking traders would have had their focus on items with military applications. Lars and Eric likely found a sword in China, better than any they’d ever seen. So of course they would want to know how to duplicate it.

        After all, if your sword does to your enemy’s sword, what Beatrix Kiddo’s sword did to the sword of the last standing member of the Crazy 88’s, you have a huge advantage in a fight. If your whole army has such swords, you’d be nearly invincible.

        • velocicat

          That’s one of the beauties of seeing what our ancestors had and did and where they went — they had so much more than most moderns imagine, and traveled distances that would surprise most people today. A small square of silk was worth the modern equivalent of ~$20,000 a couple of millennia ago — it was a sign of great status to have a small square pinned to your toga. And for sure weaponry and armory techniques were hot commodities — arguably iron weapons were mainly what handed Rome supremacy over the early Celts, who early on had copper swords that had to be straightened after every blow.

          It would be fascinating to learn whether the Ulfberht blades were mainly carried by one or two clans of Vikings and what battles were fought with them — I’d say if someone finds a cache of bent and broken swords somewhere between Russia and Scotland, they may have found the remains of one of the losing teams.

  • BOB


    • Fortyniner

      Bobby – do you have your mom’s permission to use her computer while she’s out?

× close