Gustavianum

The Fyris Swords Project

Over the past century several high quality medieval swords have been dredged up from the bottom of the Fyris River that flows through central Uppsala. The Fyris Swords Project is a comparative, multidisciplinary venture the goal of which is to contextualize and understand these medieval weapons and the world that produced them.

Particular attention has been paid to a few special swords that have intricate inscriptions along their blades. Whenever possible comparisons are made between the Swedish swords and weapons from other regions in Europe.

The project was started in 2006 by archaeologist John Worley (The Museum Gustavianum) who was quickly joined by a colleague and fellow archaeologist Gunilla Beckholmen (Gamla Uppsala Museum). Thomas Gregor Wagner (Department of Medieval History and Historical Auxiliary Sciences of the University of Würzburg) joined the group in the summer of 2007. The projects main areas of interest are medieval history (including technical, i.e. metallurgical history), archaeology, epigraphy and linguistics.

Published Articles

So far two important articles have been published by the sword project. The first article is called: “+INNOMINEDOMINI+: Medieval Christian invocation inscriptions on sword blades” and was written in collaboration with Anna Holst Blennow from the Department of Languages and Literatures, Gothenburg University. The second article is called: “How to make swords talk: an interdisciplinary approach to understanding medieval swords and their inscriptions” and was written chiefly by John Worley and Thomas Gregor Wagner. Both articles have been published in Waffen- und Kostümkunde. It is a leading German journal for historical weapons and clothing and has been published since 1897.

+INNOMINEDOMINI+: Medieval Christian invocation inscriptions on sword blades

This article was published in 2009 and written by Thomas Gregor Wagner (Department of Medieval History and Historical Auxiliary Sciences of the University of Würzburg), John Worley (Museum Gustavianum, Uppsala), Gunilla Beckholmen (Gamla Uppsala Museum) and in collaboration with Anna Holst Blennow (Department of Languages and Literatures, Gothenburg University).

This article presents four high medieval swords that were found in the Uppland- (Uppsala) and Värmland-regions (Karlstad) in central Sweden. The archaeological and typological data of all the swords are presented here for the first time. The main focus of the article is to examine the hitherto unpublished inscriptions on the sword blades. A comparison with specimens in Germany revealed a close relationship between the blade inscriptions on the Swedish and the German swords. By analyzing the letter sequences it was possible to categorize the inscriptions in three different subgroups. Although a definite reading could not be given, the extensive examination brought to light arguments that led to an interpretation of the inscriptions as being religious invocations.

+INNOMINEDOMINI+Medieval Christian invocation inscriptions on sword blades

The article opens as a PDF.

How to make swords talk: an interdisciplinary approach to understanding medieval swords and their inscriptions

This article was published in 2013 and was primarily written by Thomas Gregor Wagner (Department of Medieval History and Historical Auxiliary Sciences of the University of Würzburg), and John Worley (Museum Gustavianum, Uppsala).

This article explains in detail the methods used for the documentation and interpretation of the four medieval sword inscriptions published in 2009. Our hope is that this article will serve as a guide for others in the field who can perhaps help us to evolve our methodologies so as to better understand the medieval sword phenomenon.

Medieval Christian invocation inscriptions on swords blades

The article opens as a PDF.

Contact

For more information regarding The Fyris Swords Project contact: 

John Worley - john.worley@gustavianum.uu.se