Jump to content
Doug Lester

What I learned (?) one the History (Hilarity) Channel today

Recommended Posts

Oh absolutely. Viking age swords were by and large made from terrible materials. But I remember seeing somewhere on the history channel that claimed outright the vikings had virtually no technology and virtually no trade lines. My point was, the history channel skews facts so far from the truth as to be more comedic and slanderous in value. I saw that exact same special where they spoke of the Katana's "magical" characteristics and rolled my eyes so hard I nearly went blind. And at the same time, the facts they do get close to correct are often so far exaggerated that they're of no real worth either.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Happy Holidays Gang, If it is that time for you.

 

Gee, I heard lately, that Vikings were making swords from Crucible steel. :huh:;)

 

That would put them way up there in the high tec department of weapon makers.

 

Of course, they used the regular stuff too.

 

If you watching the History channel, or TLC, and any of them, for any kind of education. Why?

 

My favorite is Deadliest Warrior. Sad! Some of the weapons testing looks like fun.

 

Mark

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Boy, I'm glad Rick Furrer didn't know this. He and Kevin would have a

hard time explaining what they did. :lol::P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I saw Ric's segment on Ulfberht (did I spell that right?) Incredible stuff, I was blown away by what he did with that puck. Rest of the documentary bugged me with the poorly choreographed fight scenes though :P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There has been a dispute on this board and others as to whether or not the Ulfberht swords were quench hardened or not. I know from the production that Ric thinks that they were but even in the production, which was a Nation Geographic presentation, noted that it was in dispute. I would like hear more from Ric as to why he thought that they were. Most of what I have read said that they weren't but people have different ideas. Heck I once saw two different shows on PBS about William Shakespeare. One said that he was basically illiterate and could barely sign his own name. About a month later there was another show the showed where he went to school, yes it was still standing after all these years, and showed entries made by him in official records.

 

Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With 12-21-12 come and gone the History channel has lost half of it's programming. All their doomsday, end of the world apocalypse yada yada shows are now in the comedy classification. Their "experts" are now just smoke blowers quietly digging up something else to sensationalize.

 

This guy is probably now in a psych ward quietly chewing on a plastic fork and mumbling to himself "They're still coming for us, you gotta believe me".

 

Giorgio.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why is it that they always seem to feature these space alien believers with a hair style that looks like a fire cracker went off in a horse hair cushion? Are they trying to make them look as crazy as their ideas or is that just how they come?

 

Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Last night while thinking about the Ulberht again, I had an epiphany. I'm sure the people who know more about this time period than I do has already thought of this. When the Vikings acquired the billets of crucible steel from the cultures that had known how to make it for as long as they did, might they not have also learned how to heat treat the blades made from it? It's certainly a novel idea. Was it discussed in the documentary at all? I couldn't find if Ric made a thread about the blade.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem with that theory is that there is no evidence, at least that I have come across, that blades from these steels were deliberately quench hardened and I have read more than one reference that said that it didn't happen in that time in Europe. They were hardened by having their edges hammered. The same way that bronze swords had their edges hardened. High carbon crucible steel swords would still have been superior to swords made from the average bloomery steel. For one, steel gets harder, even in the pearletic state, from an increased carbon content up to around 0.8%. That's why railroad rails are, or at least were, from something on the order of 1080. Also being from an actual melt the crucible steel would be homogeneous rather than a mixture of steel particles from a bloom that were forge welded together. The Ulberht swords were superior weapons for their time but they are inferior to to blades that were made after quench hardening and tempering were understood and definitely inferior to swords made of proper modern steels.

 

Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with you on that Doug, The modern steels are the way they are because of all the failings of previous metals, but they ain't as pretty :)

As far as hardening evidence, take a look at these two links to pics. They were posted in the iron smelters group on facebook from a fellow named Adrian Wrona, they are of a 7th century seax that was polished similar to how japanese swords are. You can definatly see what appears to be a hamon.

 

http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii13/joneleth22/seax2.png

 

http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii13/joneleth22/sax-1.png

 

Now the blade is made from bloomery material and not crucible steel, but I'm sure that quench hardening steel was known in that time period, just my humble opinion.

 

Zeb

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I see what could be a hamon. To prove quench hardening a microscopic examination would have to be made to verify the presence of martensite in a significant enough amount to give a hardened edge. Also it would be nice to know the carbon content of the blade featured. There are some blades from that that have been microscopically analysed and some martensite has been noticed but not with enough regularity to suggest that it was done to do anything more than to cool the blade. Iron and Steel in Ancient Times by Buchwald states that there has been no evidence found of steel blades being tempered. This would also speak against blades being deliberately quench hardened. If there are any documented instances of hardening and tempering being found in swords or knives from this period I would like to be directed to it. So far the most authoritative evidence that I have come across is that it wasn't known. The big problem with this question lies with needing to cut sections from blades such as you posted. Another problem is with swords that were part of a cremation burial and have had their crystaline structure changed by the burial fire.

 

Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"The big problem with this question lies with needing to cut sections from blades such as you posted. Another problem is with swords that were part of a cremation burial and have had their crystaline structure changed by the burial fire."

 

Very true. Time has a way of either washing away evidence or making said evidence too valuable to examine properly.

 

Zeb

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There IS evidence that hardening of steel was discovered in the Roman/Celtic iron age, and used throughout the Migration and Viking periods, I'll dig up some references for you. ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is mention in Beowulf of Unferth's sword, Hrunting, being "tempered in blood", according to Seamus Heaney's translation, which I take to mean quench hardened...Perhaps it wasnt always used, but this seems to indicate that it was known in the Viking Age.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'e love the reference if you can find it, Jeff. It's one of the biggest questions that I have. I think that part of the problem is that when people made a discovery, like quench hardening and tempering, they tended to keep it to themselves. That would seem to promote a system where things were discovered, lost, then discovered again.

 

Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It could be the problem is more that there are only a few archaeologists who are interested in metallurgy to the degree that will result in published articles on the state of heat treatment of artifacts. Combine that with cultural propensities for cremation burials and you get very little to go on. Buchwald's book is great, but he is clearly more interested in chemical analysis of slag than the details of the metal structure.

Radomir Pleiner's book Iron in Archaeology - Early European Blacksmiths (ISBN-13: 978-80-86124-62-9 ) cites many artifacts, knives, axes and a sword or two that he discovered were heat treated, from all over Europe and from the Celtic through the Viking periods.

B. A. Kolcin (Ferrous metallurgy and metalworking in ancient Russia (pre-Mongol period). / / MIA. № 32. 1953. Number 32. 1953) analyzed 12 Viking-age swords ( and many, many other tools and weapons), nine of which retained evidence of heat treating.

BERGMAN, LENA THÅLIN "Excavations at Helgö XV. Weapon Investigations " has evidence that many spears were heat treated.

Usually, and especially by the Viking age, when they look for evidence of heat treating, they find it. B)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Then there is the fact that part of the restoration of finds to prevent further rusting could include heating to dull red. I do not know to how recently this used to be practiced but it was not uncommon in the 19th C and well into the 20th C. This of course means that any trace of heat treating may be lost. Sometimes there is no records from restorations kept, so it is unknowable wether the structure we see today is the original one or a result of recent "tempering" or tampering.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh goodie, more books that I'm going to have to search for. Maybe I can put off the new roof a little longer. B)

 

Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In addition to the books Jeff mentions above, I just got hold of one I've been wanting for years now:

 

Tylecote, R.F and B.J.J. Gilmour

1986 The Metallography of early Ferrous Tools and Edged Weapons. BAR British Series 155, Oxford.

 

They took several tools ranging in age from late Celtic iron age through the Roman period and well into the Medieval period, took cross-sections of the blades, then polished and etched them to show microstructure (metallography, duh! :lol: ).

 

They found two pre-Roman Celtic blades that showed evidence of quench hardening, but the oft-quoted date of ca. 200-400 AD for consistant use of quench hardening seems to be fairly true in Britain, anyway. Oh, and ALL the Viking period swords and seaxes tested showed evidence of quench hardening. Not necessarily well done or successful quench hardening, mind you, but at least the attempt was made. Microscopic analysis seems to show that sometimes the smith did not get it hot enough, sometimes didn't quench long enough or fast enough, and sometimes just didn't have enough carbon to harden much to begin with.

 

Since I just got it I can't say much more than that, but I can say that anyone who claims there's no evidence of deliberate quench hardening in the Viking age simply has not looked for the evidence. B)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, Alan, I was going to go back through my copy, so thanks!

 

There are mentions in the Sagas of a couple things of note- One, a mention of a poor sword that needed to be restraightened now and then, and Two, a mention of a sword so fine you could bend it around to the hilt and it would spring back to true. I'd say that indicates common cultural awareness of the effects of good heat-treating. ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been lucky enough to see electromicrographs from the british museum from sectioned saxon patternwelded swords and there was defiantly tempered martensite in the steel at the edges as well as phosphoric iron .

the problem with relying on archaeological information is that they are seldom interested in what we are and also its such a self referential field meaning that misinformation can keep on being dragged to the front despite advances in knowledge.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you very much, Alan. Just the info that I was looking for, which seems like it's about as rare as hen's teeth. The only book that I was able to find on early European steel, and that after paying a book finder to search for it, said no evidence of deliberate quench hardening and tempering up through the Viking period in Europe. I also had a book that lists the results of knives and shears found in medieval dumps up to the 13th century. Their results showed a mixed bag of quench hardened and non quench hardened cutting tools. I know this is hotly debated, at least in some circles, at least now I have a little more documented evidence. It's a bummer that most of the publications that we need are out of print.

 

Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know this is an old topic, but in my last semester of college I had some guy ( a teacher <_<, sadly.)tell me that the incident with Pompeii was an ancient nuclear explosion. Oh boy did that get me going.

1. There wasn't the knowledge of radioactive materials/ harmful metals. For Pete's sake they were sweetening wine with lead (Ceasars impotence)!

 

2. A nuclear explosion would have left no bodies(casts in ash), as it would have vaporized them instantly.

 

3.The covering element was obviously volcanic ash.

 

4.Aliens did not bring the secrets of nuclear bombs to the Romans(oh God! what would have come out of that :blink: )

 

5.There's a goddamned volcano next to the place!

 

6. we would have noticed radioactive remnants.

 

7.He watched it on the HISTORY CHANNEL!

 

People these days <_<

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And I bet the presenter had hair that stood up on end like Einstein on a bad hair day.

 

Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw the katana/billowing silk cape episode on the TV in my physical therapists office in the waiting room. I think I made one of the other patients nervous as I kept laughing and shaking my head... Couldn't help it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...