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Viking knife in bronze sheath from Staraya Ladoga


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This knife was dug up at the site of Staraya Ladoga in 1986 and just purchased by me from a private collector in Estonia (with a really @#%@#% nice collection, he sent me pictures of some of his nicer stuff... holy cow!)

 

I probably paid too much for it... but it's extremely rare to find a blade in situ with the original scabbard still intact after 1100 years, and I wanted it bad =)

 

While it's not in the greatest condition, you can see from it exactly how it was constructed, as the leather sheath and wood knife handle are still intact. Only one hanging ring is still attached, but as can be seen you can see the 3 layers of leather and finish along the edge of the sheath perfectly clear. The triangular punchwork decoration indicates where the other hanging rings were attached as well.

 

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Very nice! So they were using three layers of leather like in modern sheaths.

I like the detail where the ring mount is only around the centre leather piece.

Would you be willing to add some measurements, or perhaps a picture with a tapemeasure next to it.

measures.jpg

As you see from lines, it is the measures for making a replica, so I would understand if you don't want to share these details.

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I will get you measurements when I get it in my hands =) It's being shipped via Latvia Past to the united states currently , these are photos that Ed, the seller, provided. As rare as something like this is... he has an even better condition one, better than any i've seen in any museum even, in his collection.

 

http://viking-cross.com/imgs//769328972IMG_2152.JPG

 

Most of the items in the viking-cross.com virtual museum are his from what i understand

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Wow! Yes, thank you so much for sharing the photos. Getting this kind of detail about the originals is very difficult to get. Photos from beyond museum glass only show so much.

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I think my favorite details are how it's constructed of so many different individual pieces of bronze, including seperately done trim work, and how on the front the plate at the tip was embossed instead of stamped. I know I probably overpaid... but I had to have it =) Now the only 'major' item (in my mind) that my collection of artifacts is missing is a sword. I'd still like an authentic mjölnir pendant too though =)

 

Edit: Of note, the other SUPURBLY preserved sheath I linked above I believe was found in the same location as this one, and the construction details are extremely similar. For all we know it could have even been the same maker.

Edited by Justin Mercier
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Is it only me that gets realy sad to see artifacts like these in privat collections? I think they should be awailable to the public and to research in a museum. I dont know anything obout the leagal background in this case, but the obvious lust to own historical artifacts is the force behind much illeagal activity. Illeagal graverobing is a problem in Sweden where I come from and think it is an even bigger problem in the less organised states in the eastern europe. Most of the arceological information that can be gaind from articats like these lies in the kontext where it is found and that is lost if illeagaly dug. In most cases metal artifacts must be keppt in museal konditons to be preserved and might turn to crumbles in a private collection.

 

Robin

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No Robin it is not just you. Several of the artefacts have leather remains, and it make me wonder that if the
conditions for preservation was so good, we could have known a lot more about leather suspensions if the site had been excavated

by archaeologists.

Edited by Jeppe
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Very impressive work on both examples. I can't imagine the time that must have gone into something like that, especially considering the level of technology back in those days.

 

I'm of two minds on the grave-robbing thing. Part of me understands that we are losing a lot of information due to the haphazard excavation, and the other part is saying.... well, the museums can't possibly get to all of the sites out there. Heck, we wouldn't have known about a lot of the finds we've uncovered if it hadn't been for amateurs with metal-detectors stumbling on them. How many have we missed? Should we lament over what we've possibly lost even though we know the chances of a museum digging it up were fairly slim? Or should we celebrate that something was recovered?

 

I've heard it said, from professionals, that museums around the world have countless examples in their store-rooms that will never see the light of day. They've been collected, cataloged and put on a shelf, and the public will never see them. So, it doesn't really matter if it's in a private collection or a museum's collection. In either case, the public doesn't get to see them.

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Wow, did this thread get off track fast... If people are going to attack fellows like myself or Jeff Pringle who spend our time and money to study and collect ancient artifacts, it greatly lessens my desire to share them in public for everyone.

 

Private collectors and collections are sometimes the only way in which people get to examine or even handle artifacts from these ancient time periods. I've been in contact with an elderly private collector in the UK who has seven of the most gorgeous viking swords that I've seen in almost any collection, museum or otherwise, including an +INGELRII+ blade which is the best by far of any I have ever seen with that marking (and an obverse inscription which I havent seen on any blade) I've been trying to get permission from the fellow to share the images here on this site, but the owner does not yet want me posting them as the swords may be going up for auction at Thomas Del Mar or Bonhams at some point this next year. It's not easy tracking down items, getting good photographs, and protecting them, but I like to share what I find in my research.

 

I'm friends with some professional archaeologists, and studied under Dr Donald Foster, the state archaeologist of NH. I'm not a professional archaeologist, I do this as a hobby, but professional archaeologists find a vast minority of artifacts. In fact most significant artifacts are found by your average metal detectorist. If it were not the likes of Terry Herbert in the UK, such great finds like the now famous Staffordshire hoard would never have been discovered. For non "Treasure" artifacts most of them found by funded digs get 'bagged and tagged' and stuck in a warehouse never to be seen again.

 

 

Anyhow, some measurements for people above. The overall length of the sheath is 9 inches long. At the widest point it is 2.5 inches wide. The 'pouch' section of the sheath is 7/8 inch wide, and straight down the length of the sheath.

 

Here are some terrible photos with some rulers that I snapped real quick.

 

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And I thank you also for sharing the images and measurements, it is enlightening to see all the design details of this. The handle is longer than I would have suspected...

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Yes, thank you very much for sharing Justin. I'm very frustrated knowing how much material there is in the world that is not made public. It used to be lost to the world buried in the ground, now it's lost to the world buried in a museum storeroom.

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How would this sheath have been worn? I can't imagine something so expensively decorative was an everyday knife rather than ceremonial or sunday-go-to-meeting wear. Even then, though, would they have tucked it behind a belt? Surely the didn't let it dangle by such a wimpy ring?!

 

Any thoughts on the type of wood used for the handle? Is it even possible to tell without fancy tools?

 

How do you preserve something like this from rotting now that you've exposed it to air and such?

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There would have been 2 or 3 rings at the top connected by chain to a spreader which would have then been connected to the belt. I'll take some pictures of the spreaders that I've got later and upload them here. Based on finds, they would have been worn around mid thigh height, similar to a pistol holster. (which makes sense as it keeps it 'out of the way' of movement at that location)

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Justin - thank you so much for sharing this with us. what a great thing to have.

kc

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A lot of the sheaths have an iron ring/s rather than matching the bronze material, which I suspect is because it's generally going to be a bit stronger, just to touch on some of the questions concerning structural strength.

 

Based on the ones I've seen I had assumed that the chain connections /spreader suspensions weren't universal, especially on the smaller knives, since many of them have only a single bail / metal loop. I seem to remember fittings indicating leather straps, but I'll have to look, now that I scratch my head.

 

Thanks for sharing, Justin.

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