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Viking age wolf tooth spears, the collected thread


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I have always been interested in weapons from the viking age, but everyone seems to focus on the swords, being the most romantic and iconic of the viking weapons. Spears however were much more common, and just as highly revered and decorated, yet seem to be much less documented, and far less studied. The only books studying them that I've been able to find are academic works for which I haven't been able to access actual copies, just references by name. I've been looking for a copies of the following, if anyone has access to them, please contact me!

 

Norwegian Spear-heads from the Merovingian and Viking Periods by Bergljot Solberg - Universitetet i Bergen, 1984

 

Weapons Export from the Continent to the Nordic Countries in the Carolingian Period by Bergljot Solberg - Studien zur Sachsenforschung 7 (= Veröffentlichungen der urgeschichtlichen
Sammlungen des Landesmuseums zu Hannover 39), Hildesheim, 241-259 [Studies of Saxony Research 7 (= Publications of the prehistoric
Collections of the National Museum to Hannover 39), Hildesheim, 241-259]

Tension and Tradition: A Study of Late Iron Age Spearheads Around the Baltic Sea by Kristina Creutz - Stockholms universitet, 2003

 

 

Anyhow, that out of the way, I've been collecting as much info, images, and actual artifacts of one particular type of spear from the viking age. I first saw pictures of the helsinki spear, Helsinki 3631:2 I have always loved pattern welded spears, and this spear to me was the most clear image of pattern welding in a spear. One of the distinctive features on the spear is the wolfs tooth pattern which intrigued me. It was the first time I had seen that pattern on a spear, though I had seen tooth patterns on seaxes before, in particular the Sittingbourne seax and the hunting knife of Charlemagne. In searching for other spears with this pattern however, originally I had thought them to be extremely rare, finding examples in a few museums and but one other image of one from an 1800s museum catelog from Bergen Museum. In the years since then however I have discovered that they are apparently vastly more common than I had originally supposed, and in fact I now have five toothy spears in my own private collection.

 

Fair warning, I do not own the rights to many of the images that I am posting here (many of them come from other threads on this forum which I am collecting here, others I do not know the origin of)

 

 

The Helsinki spear, first the image that most people are familiar with, and second the true color image of the artifact.

helsinki1.jpghelsinki2.jpg

 

The spear third from left in this plate from the Bergen Museum is also a wolfstooth spear

lorange7s.jpg

 

Now even from just these two images and renditions of extant spears, I could tell that the teeth were not made in the same manner as those on the Sittingbourne seax. For comparison, here are that seax, the hunting knife of Charlemagne, and another wolftooth seax with radiographs.

 

Sittingbourne 1.jpg

Sittingbourne 2.jpg

Sittingbourne3.jpg

 

The teeth there are big and chunky, and look to be constructed in the same manner as this seax

wolfteeth.jpg

 

The teeth in the hunting knife of Charlemagne are very hard to discern in the blade itself from images, but they're there, and much finer construction than the above two seaxes, but still not so small as those in the wolfstooth spear heads.

KnifeOfCharlemagne_Xray_HornGrip_AechenG

 

 

 

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Hello. Not so long ago became the owner of this Viking spear. There are not many mentions of wolf teeth spears on the net. Perhaps this topic contains the largest number of images of such copies. And

Speaking of construction, I forgot to add this image from Ypey which seems to be fairly accurate for many of the pattern welded spears that I've seen   Here are some more viking age pattern welded

I wont clutter the thread with all the images, but I'll link them instead, here are the 15 pages on spears from Jan Pettersen's work, from which most of the spear typologies are based.   I dont rem

Posted Images

I know of a few other wolfstooth spears in some museums. This one is in the museum at Gothenburg, with these images taken by this forums own Niels Provos
gothenburgNprovos1.jpg
gothenburgNprovos2.jpg

There is also this gorgeous one that I am not sure the origin of (or even now where I obtained the photos, sorry!)

wloczniawojtek.jpg
wloczniawojtek1.jpg

The following are images from Jeff Pringle in another thread here on the forums, which makes it much easier to see just how fine and small the wolfsteeth in these spears are.
wolf2-814.jpg
wolf2-814s.jpg
wolf-812b.jpg
wolf-812s.jpg

What I have found however is that once you start to know what you're looking for, you start to spot not only pattern welded spears, but specifically wolfstooth spears far more frequently even when they're not labled, or in poor repair.
This spearhead on the bottom in a museum in Poznan Poland is also a wolfstooth spear, though there is not even mention of pattern welding in the description of it
poz1.jpg

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I have become fairly good at spotting wolfstooth spears through photographs, and have started aquiring them when possible. I now have a total of 5 certain wolfstooth spears in my collection, and another few which may or may not be, but I would have to do some destructive testing to be sure, in absence of access to an x-ray machine.
The first one I obtained was perhaps the easiest to identify from bad photography. It was being sold as an "old serrated spear" as the blade itself has deteriorated enough that the edge steel has de-laminated along the weld line with the wolfsteeth. This spear would have been just as striking as the Helsinki spear back in its day. It has matched twist cores along either side bordered by wolfsteeth, and then the edge.
spear1.JPG
spear2.JPG
spear3.JPG


My second toothy spear was harder to spot. The spear overall is very complete, and of a style that I have not seen all that many, very long and slender, with the tip instead of coming to a point, coming to a long tapered square. The teeth in this one are quite fine, and not so easy to spot without them being pointed out, due to the decay of the spear. In the second image you can see the almost sine wave form of the teeth.
finewolf2.jpg
finewolf.jpg

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Sometimes the state of preservation of a spear can make it much harder to spot the pattern welding. In fact, when they are too well preserved it becomes quite difficult. This next toothy spear, like the first one I obtained, was much easier to notice due to the decay of the blade. At the very tip the edge steel has worn away to the point that the teeth are visible at the weld line, and when the light hits the blade right, the teeth near the socket are quite visible.

 

wolftooth1.jpg
wolftooth2.jpg
wolftooth3.jpg

 

This next spear looks to have been bent in combat at some point, and then straightened back out, as a result the spear has a twist, and several cracks in it, and even a missing section right a long a weld line. The forging of the blade at the transition from the socket to the spear head is magnificent, blending the sides of a tapered octogon in perfect symmetry, far harder to do than it looks if you've never done it yourself. In the first photo it's hard to tell that the spear is pattern welded at all, as it's in quite a good state of preservation. In the second however with the light just right, you can see the wolfstooth pattern quite clearly, and in fact the broken out section gives a good clue to construction as well, you can see that the edge steel and the teeth were welded together, with that bar was welded to the core.

 

toothspear1.jpg

toothspear2.jpg

 

Lastly, this spear is very hard to see in photographs that there is any pattern welding at all. In person when you can hold it in the light and tilt it back and forth you can see the pattern. This again is a case of being very well preserved, and as a result the layers of the pattern not being decayed enough to be very distinctive. I will see if I can get a better photo using a light box. It also does not help that this one was cleaned off with a wire brush by the person who pulled it up while metal detecting, leaving parallel scratches along the edges in particular.

 

toothy1.jpg

toothy2.jpg

 

I would love if anyone else can share in this thread any other wolf tooth spearheads that they have come across and taken photos of. It appears that the pattern / style was NOT actually all that rare, but that it is just not nearly as often identified as it could be.

Edited by Justin Mercier
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There is certainly more to be learned from the bent and unbent toothy spear from above as well. For instance, the tip of the spear, and the core of the spear were dead soft. The tip was actually upset into itself as a result of the blow that bent it, although this photo doesn't quite show it due to the angle. The edge layers however were harder, and as a result in the area that it was bent, and then bent back resulting in the twist in the spear, it cracked where it was hard, and the cracks propagated through the hard part and stopped when it hit the soft core.

 

toothspear4.jpg

 

toothspear3.jpg

Edited by Justin Mercier
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What a great thread. A lot of awesome info here. I've been wanting to do a pattern welded spear myself.. maybe won't jump into a wolf tooth. But perhaps I should do a little seax eventually.

 

I love the diagram. Something smacked me in the face with that and made me realize that I should be trying on this in my composite pattern welding. It's the use of stacked twisted bars in the core. That would really help with maintaining certain patterns without the worry of grinding it away...

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Great stuff! I love how on some of those spears you can see the deformation of the grain in the iron. One of these days I'm gonna have to make the chisels to do that, because I have proven to myself you can't do it just by forging serrated steel into iron. Gotta have the notches cut or doesn't look or act like the real thing.

 

Oh, and one correction: The Sittingbourne seax is not pattern-welded. It's overlaid in gold and silver to imitate a wolf's tooth pattern-weld, but it's just iron. ;)

 

 

Sittingbourne 4.jpg

 

Edited by Alan Longmire
added larger photo
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Speaking of construction, I forgot to add this image from Ypey which seems to be fairly accurate for many of the pattern welded spears that I've seen

ypey1.jpg

 

Here are some more viking age pattern welded spears, though not wolfstooth from what I can tell. These first 2 are in the British Museum, though not on display

 

AN00604819_001_l.jpg

 

before and after conservation photos of this one.

AN01267036_001_l.jpg

AN01275037_001_l.jpg

 

Here's a pattern welded winged spear, believed to be Carolingian in origin of manufacture

IMG_0162-spearhead-pw-do-ov.jpg

IMG_0163-spearhead-pw-do-de.jpg

 

These next two are again thanks to Jeff Pringle's destructive testing, in another thread here on the forums

S-731.jpg

S-732.jpg

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Thanks for the info on the Sittingbourne seax, I had thought that it was pattern welded, but I was mistaken. It does however lend even further credence to the argument that these patterns were etched in some manner to bring out the contrast, of which I am a firm believer, otherwise why would the inlay on a blade mimic the pattern welding of another blade?

 

This is another pattern welded winged spear, from the collection of Richard R. Unfortunately I can not find where I downloaded them from anymore.

 

winged Spearhaed - probably Swiss - 9th

winged Spearhaed - probably Swiss - 9th

winged Spearhead - probably Swiss - 9th

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Very cool. Great topic.

Being as common as they are, I wonder why, the wolf tooth? Was it something structural? Did it make the edge weld stronger?

As it seems to be most common on spears, and a few seax blades, but no swords?? It would make sense that it has to be something in the construction, that made the makers feel that the design made these spears stronger in some way.
That sharp looking wolfs tooth has to be one big PITA to do without modern tools. Hummmmm??? Hell it IS with modern tools!!

I have so been wanting to make one of these. I have had the twisted high/low p bloom bars, and hearth refined edges sitting in a bucket for over a year. This has inspired me to get her done.

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Here is a little more reference material on the spears of the viking age. First I scanned out of my copy of DuChaillu's The Viking Age (which is out of copyright) the very short section on spears.

DuChaillu1.jpg

DuChaillu2.jpg

DuChaillu3.jpg

 

Next up is a scan of the pages from the 1937 book Scandanavian Archaeology which is hard to find, but still under copyright, so please just use this excerpt for reference. This book covers all the way from the stoneage up through the viking age / medieval period.

 

ScandArch2.jpg

ScandArch3.jpg

ScandArch4.jpg

 

Here finally are the plates from Holger Arbman's excavations of Birka, with a selection of the spears found there.

 

birka1.jpg

birka2.jpg

birka3.jpg

 

Finally, I dont know what book this is from, but it covers a large selection of viking era spear forms.

kolcin%20f110.jpg

Edited by Justin Mercier
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I wont clutter the thread with all the images, but I'll link them instead, here are the 15 pages on spears from Jan Pettersen's work, from which most of the spear typologies are based.

 

I dont remember who originally compiled this PDF which is a translation of the 15 pages, as well as the cropped and rotated images.

 

http://www.tharkis.com/images/viking/spear/reference/pettersen/PettersenSpearheads.pdf

 

and to browse the images

http://www.tharkis.com/images/viking/spear/reference/pettersen/thumbs.py

Edited by Justin Mercier
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Very, very thorough thread Justin!

 

As far as why the smiths used the wolfs tooth,

 

I think it had to do with quality. It was probably similar to the reason swords were pattern welded, first for structural integrity but when etched you would see a pattern you couldn't fake. Even if a smith could fake the ulfbehrt inlay as we have seen with many knockoffs, they would have a mighty hard time pretending a blade was pattern welded when it wasn't. This may be why the spears began to have wolf's tooth patterns, because they were seen as being of very high quality, and you were more likely to sell a wolf toothed spear than a plain old spear with steel sides and an iron core.

 

Also Mark, I think being as much of a pain in the ass as it is, doing an entire sword with a wolfs tooth would have driven the ancient smiths even crazier!

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Very cool. Great topic.

 

Being as common as they are, I wonder why, the wolf tooth? Was it something structural? Did it make the edge weld stronger?

 

As it seems to be most common on spears, and a few seax blades, but no swords?? It would make sense that it has to be something in the construction, that made the makers feel that the design made these spears stronger in some way.

That sharp looking wolfs tooth has to be one big PITA to do without modern tools. Hummmmm??? Hell it IS with modern tools!!

 

I have so been wanting to make one of these. I have had the twisted high/low p bloom bars, and hearth refined edges sitting in a bucket for over a year. This has inspired me to get her done.

 

I wonder if it has to do with the fact that spears and seaxes were also used for hunting (and processing) animals and swords only for fighting people. Maybe the pattern is strictly for, as the scholars put it, "religious reasons".

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I would not be at all surprised if it was the open carry nature of these spears that lend themselves so well to decoration.

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That is a very good point.

Plus the fact that the spear is Queen of the battlefield, for most of time.

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While I would not call wolf tooth spears 'common' per-say, they're still rare, but not so extremely rare as searching for examples in literature, catalogs, and museums would have you think, and seem to show up for a much shorter period of time than general pattern welded spears with chevron or twist patterns. For example, I have never once seen a wolftsooth spear of the classic Carolingian winged spear style, despite the fact that the vast majority of the type WERE pattern welded, as Solberg's 1991 radiological analysis of a large number of samples has shown. Even with most of them pattern welded, I have yet to see an example, anywhere, of one of this type (Pettersen A-E) with a wolf tooth pattern. Every example that I have seen, or that I own mostly fall into type K and type M, with a few outliers in type G or H. It's hard to specifically type many spears into Petersen's typology, hence why Solberg and a few others have come up with their own categories and typologies as well.

 

patternweld.jpg

Edited by Justin Mercier
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Spears were certainly visible, and I have no doubt that pattern welding was part of the jewelry aspect of them. Many spears were just as decorated as swords. Some of the most gorgeous spears out there were not even pattern welded but had sockets decorated beautifully.

 

Lednica%20Poland.jpgLednica%202.jpg

 

polska.jpg

 

The gold and silver work on the hafts of many spears may never be known because rusting causes them to pop off and then get lost in the dirt and debris of their burial, but the ones we do have remaining are just stunning.

vcross04.JPG

vcross06.JPG

 

This one is interesting because you can see the strips that were used to build the overlay

vcspear01.JPG

vcspear02.JPG

vcspear06.JPG

 

Both gold and silver were combined as well

vspear06.JPG

vspear04.JPG

 

Edited by Justin Mercier
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These are awesome!

Thanks Justin. If I ever make a worthy spear, I will so try the onlay of one of those last ones.

Are those hash marks cm. or in. ?

Edited by Mark Green
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Here are a couple more decorated sockets, including one pattern welded winged spear, as well as a photo taken I believe from Vikverir's page of the spears in the Bergen museum catalog plate from the 1890s, both pattern welded, and matched with the very accurate drawing posted above. Unfortunately I can not read the text on this page, I saved the image when I found it online a long while ago.

 

EDIT: forgot the original image was several megs, reuploaded it smaller, the large copy can be found at

http://www.tharkis.com/images/viking/spear/reference/Huurre 203 Spears and text - large.jpg

 

Huurre%20203%20Spears%20and%20text.jpg

 

bergen.JPG

Edited by Justin Mercier
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