A recent discovery has created a great deal of buzz at Akdeniz University, in Turkey. Nestled among other artifacts belonging to a 9th and 10th-century naval warfare excavation in the city of Patara, archeologists uncovered a hilt and a pommel of what they believe is a Viking sword.
“It’s definitely Viking,” said Feyzullah Şahin, a classical archeology professor at Akdeniz University. “The characteristics of the knob, tang and crossguard can be evaluated within the group of swords that was described by Jan Petersen as ‘K type’ or ‘O Type,'” he further explained. “Until today, one Viking sword that was discovered during the excavation works carried around Yumuktepe (district) of Muğla (province) was the only material culture remnant that indicated the existence of Vikings in Anatolia.”
According to the Russian Primary Chronicle, the Varangian Guard served as an elite bodyguard to the Byzantine emperors, but they were initially more broadly used as a mercenary force. Although too early to form any definitive conclusions, the discovery further reinforces the claim by the Russian Primary Chronicle of the use of the Varangians as mercenaries. The new sword find could be evidence of the more widespread use of Varangians across the Byzantine Empire than previously thought.
About the Varangian Guard
Vikings were formidable warriors. They were so fierce, in fact, the Byzantines hired them as mercenaries to carry out their most dangerous missions—or so says the Russian Primary Chronicle. Historically, the Russian Primary Chronicle has posed several problems. Its fantastical claims have called into question its reliability and the veracity of some of the events it claims to recount. Hence, historians have treated the text carefully, and have required abundant archeological evidence to support its narrative.
Initially, the Varangians were hired from among the Vikings known as the Rus, who founded the city-states of Kiev and Novgorod. The Rus frequently raided Byzantine lands and even attempted to sack Constantinople. Impressed by their prowess in battle, the Byzantine emperors hired them as mercenaries after the signing of two treaties in the late 9th and early 10th century. The hiring of the Varangians as mercenaries was likely a ploy to redirect their attention from Constantinople toward other targets, but over time they proved their worth and increased in place and reputation. Eventually, Vikings from all over Scandinavia joined the mercenary force, including, most famously Harald Hardrada of Norway. For three centuries, they fought the wars of the Byzantine Empire until its end in the 13th century.
The discovery was first reported by The Daily Sabah.