Questioning the Accepted Techniques for Sword-Forging in Anglo-Saxon England and in Frankish Europe
By Wilfred John Braithwaite, Mark-Anthony Conti and Charles Bowlus
Published Online (1997)
Abstract: This research is focused on sword production in the Frankish kingdom (now largely Frane, the Low Countries, and Germany) and in Anglo-Saxon England from about 700-1000 AD. Frankish swords were absolutely crucial to the rise of the Carolingian empire and they played a major role in Afro-Eurasian commerce during this period. After the turn of the first millennium this forging technique was abandoned for steel sword production, and the pattern-welded iron swords of the Carolingian era passed into oblivion. Referring to Anstee and Biek’s ground breaking article H.R. Ellis Davidson posits in The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England a method for forging pattern-welded weapons requiring a skilled sword smith plus two helpers 73.5 hours to produce a single sword. If they are correct, almost twenty years would be required for ten smiths plus assistants working full time to produce just the swords needed for 5,000 heavily armed warriors in Charlemagne’s army (the estimated number of warriors he could put in the field at the time she wrote).
Since this book, K.F. Werner and others have estimated his total forces at 30,000 (and, thus, 6.66 million man hours in sword forging). The proposed fabrication procedures are thus seen by the authors as too costly and time consuming. On the strength of initial results, a sword blade will be constructed by other simpler methods, more likely employed in the Middle Ages, which these eliminate numerous time consuming welds that could only be performed by a master craftsman. The method that we propose could provide a better explanation of mediaeval-sword forging than currently exists.