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Old 11th December 2017, 12:33 PM   #5
Join Date: Mar 2016
Posts: 72

Hi Jasper, fellows,
This is a very interesting piece you have shared! Gives me plenty to think about...

The sword in Kazakevicius' book comes from Latvia and is kept in the History Museum in Riga. It was found at Vilkmuiza, where there was a burial site of the pagan Curonians. The hilt has no similarity to the native Curonian swords and there is an inscription on the blade of a type consistent with many others from "Christendom", so I think it is safe to say this sword was imported somehow to Latvia.

There a few other swords that have a similar curved cross; I flagged several that had a resemblance to my mind, and all but one are in the neighbourhood of the Baltic. Attached below are a sword from Kaliningrad in the State Museum in Berlin,and another in Copengagen. Note that both have a brass/bronze pommel; all the other (less similar) examples share this feature also.

The inscribed wolf or unicorn appears on many Christian swords, so I'm a little skeptical that any of the other characters are truly pagan runes. An encircled letter 'S' (for Salvator?) is also very common, but other characters or symbols occasionally appear. For example, another sword in Berlin seems to have the number 69 on it!

The closest parallel for the "runic" letter I have found appears on a sword from Jaworze in Southern Poland. As it happens this sword also bears the mark of the wolf and unicorn, and possibly some encircled characters, so I think the comparison is very relevant! It also reminds me a little of a mark I saw on a type XIIIa sword at the Met a few years ago. This mark appeared entirely alone, and doesn't resemble any letter that I can see... but otherwise the sword completely resembled many others from a Christian European context.

So, is anything known of this new sword's provenance? Based on the above comparisons, I would be entirely un-surprised to hear it comes from Poland or the Baltic shore!

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