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Stratum plus. 2005-2009. №5

N. A. Plavinski (Minsk, Belarus)

The Swords of the Viking Age on the Territory of Belarus

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Pages: 58-70

The swords of the Viking Age on the territory of Belarus have not become subject to special research so far. Not only swords but also sword chapes are considered in this article. A special attention is paid to the archeological complexes where they were found.
Eight swords and their fragments of the Viking Age were found on the territory of Belarus. The oldest sword comes from a coin-and-artifact hoard from Brilevskoye field dated back to the time between 890 and 892. The sword belongs to Jan Petersen’s type H (fig. 1). One more sword of type H with the inscription ULFBERHT on the blade comes from Vitebsk surroundings (fig. 2).
A sword of type V with the inscription ULFBERHT was occasionally found in Polotsk, at the site where one of the barrow cemeteries was located (fig. 3). The second sword of this type was found in one of the barrows at Gorodilovo cemetery (fig. 4). The third sword of type V comes from an Eastern Lithuanian cemetery Gurkovichi (fig. 5). All of them can be dated back to 10th century.
A fragment of inscription in the form of horseshoe-like sign is traced on a partly preserved blade of the type Y sword from Grodno (fig. 6:1). Judging by the inscription, the sword can be dated back to 10th – early or first half of 11th century. Crossguards of the swords were found in Volkovysk and at the hill fort of Franopol (fig. 7:1, 2).
Apart from swords, 4 sword chapes are known on the territory of Belarus (fig. 8). The sword chape from hill fort of Franopol belongs to the type «with the Germanic four-legged animal» after Peter Paulsen (fig. 8:1). The finds from Jurovichi (fig. 8:4) and Gorodishche at the River Menka (fig. 8:3) belong to the type of «chapes with palmette».
All the swords of the Viking Age found on the territory of Belarus belong to the types wide spread in Eastern Europe. One can assume that in 10th century the sword was already a common weapon among the members of military retinues.
The finds of swords and sword chapes are concentrated along the main-line river routes (fig. 9). The swords found at the early-formed state centers (Polotsk, Vitebsk and Gorodishche at Menka) testify to the process of early states’ union formation in North and Central Belarus.
The sword chapes from Jurovichi and Gorodishche at Menka mark the arrival of the blade weapons’ details made by Baltic armourers to the territory of Belarus as early as the second half of 10th –first half of 11th centuries. The wide usage of swords and sword chapes of the Baltic types became peculiarities of the armament complex of the Western Rus’ lands in the second half of 11th  – 13th centuries.

Keywords: Swords, Viking Age,  Belarus, ULFBERHT


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