Weapons Expert Diary - Viking Longsword

July 21, 2010

Weapons historian Kristopher Skelton worked closely with the Deadliest Warrior game development team to accurately re-create warrior weapons. This is the first diary in an ongoing series about the weapons you can use to slice and dice your opponents in the game.

Viking - LongswordWhen we think of Viking raiders, we usually imagine hordes of muscle-bound men running into a burning village with a shield on one arm and a sword in the other. In this installment in our series about the weapons of the Deadliest Warrior, we'll take a closer look at the Viking longsword.

During the Viking period (roughly 750 to 1050AD) iron smelting was not an exact science. Foundries produced soft iron, and hard (but brittle) steel. The brilliance of the Norse blacksmith was the discovery that when these two metals were welded together they could forge a blade that was springy and tough like iron, but held a sharp edge like chisels, axes and other steel tools. Many of the examples in museums and private collections show detailed patterns where these welds were made, including swirls and "snakes" that run the length of the blade.

Generally, swords in this period ranged in length from 28 to 40 inches, and weighed around three pounds - including cross guard and handle. While Vikings are frequently portrayed as large, muscular warriors, they were still human men, and subject to limitations of human endurance. The Viking's weapon needed to be designed to allow for long periods of hacking, slashing and stabbing villagers who were poorly armed and untrained for combat, but great in number compared to the raiding party. Armor evolved to make slashing attacks less dangerous, and the sword became more tapered for thrusting through mail and gaps in heavy plate. The emerging superpowers in England and France had frequent contact with the Norsemen and patterned their weapons after the Vikings' style, which became the pattern used for knights' swords.

Were Viking swords tough enough to hack through a Spartan's shield and armor? Were they fast enough to challenge the legendary katana one-on-one? Let us know what you think!