The Anglo-Saxon Sword, 5th to 7th Centuries; Its Archaeology, Decoration, Production, Use, and Significance
with Steve Pollington & Paul Mortimer (Independent Scholars)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 4th March, 2017.

This study-day will present new research into the status of the sword and will include an exploration of who would use the weapon and what it could do. We will also consider why swords may be adorned with objects such as pyramids.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15: Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:

a. The background – warlords, warriors and madmas; England during the 5th to 7th centuries. We all know how to use a sword, don’t we?

b. An exploration of the use of actual sharp swords in combat.

11.15 – 11.40:  Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:

a. The secrets of the dead! What can we glean from sword burials?  Some detailed results from a survey of two hundred and thirty-three cemetery reports.

b. The making of Mímungr: 5th to 7th centuries; sword-blade construction, patterns and some other edgy stuff

12.40 – 14.00:  Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:

a. Rune swords, legendary and magic weapons.

b. Sword decoration: why are some swords more elaborate than others?

14.50 – 15.10:   Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:

a. The riddle of the pyramids; what can they tell us?

b. Why was the sword so important as a symbol during the 5th to 7th centuries?

c.16.00: Thanks and Close

About Stephen Pollington

Steve Pollington has been writing books on Anglo-Saxon England for two decades. His many published titles include works on the Old English language, military culture, healing and herblore, runes, and feasting in the ‘meadhall’, as well as a double CD of readings in Old English.  He has lectured widely on aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture since 1991 and has worked on a number of television and radio programmes, and was script advisor to the ground-breaking “1000 AD”, in which dramatic dialogue was spoken entirely in Old English and Old Norse. He provided the voice of the Chronicle for Michael Wood’s three-part series on Alfred the (2003) and Medieval Warfare: An Encyclopedia (2009). Current research projects include the adoption of literacy in the Germanic Iron Age.  For more on Stephen and his work, see his website at .

About Paul Mortimer

Paul is a retired history teacher who has been fascinated with the Anglo-Saxon period for most of his life. He has a particular interest in the 6th to 7th centuries and he has commissioned museum-quality replicas of most of the treasures from the Sutton Hoo ship-burial and some other important finds. He regularly appears at Sutton Hoo and elsewhere, to display his reproductions and discuss them with visitors. He has also taken part in several television programmes, both in Britain and abroad.  He has delivered talks in many places in England and in Europe at such venues as The Royal Armouries, The British Library, Chester University, Uppsala University, Göteborg City Museum, Gamla Uppsala Museum, Historiska museet, Stockholm, and Bytow Castle in Poland.

His book, Woden’s Warriors (2011), a study of the arms, armour and the warrior culture of the 6th and 7th centuries is now out-of-print, but a second edition will be published soon. He co-edited, with Stephen Pollington, The Remaking of the Sutton Hoo Stone (2013), and has contributed papers to academic journals, most notably, ‘An Eye for Odin’, co-written with Neil Price of Uppsala University. Recently he has been working on a book about swords in England from the 5th to 7th centuries, which, it is hoped, will be published during 2017.

Paul is a founder member of the living history group, ‘Wulfheodenas’ who explore the culture of the elite in Northern Europe during the 6th and 7th centuries.”


When asked ‘What was best about’ previous Study Days by Steve and Paul respondents said:

  • Interplay of the 2 speakers, large number of good, new appropriate images displayed, another excellent day, stimulating and informative
  • Nice combination between reality and myth/legend.  Plenty of tea and coffee breaks were nice for questions to the speaker and to look at the items on display
  • Being able to handle the swords
  • The details about pattern welding and handling the replicas
  • A good variety of related subjects covered.  Particularly enjoyed the analysis of elements of the physical aspects of the swords plus how elements tie into mythology and symbolism.
  • Informal style of delivery (still authoritative).  Lots of objects to see and handle.
  • Being with fellow enthusiasts and lots of new avenues to explore
  • Steve and Paul are always wonderful
  • The combination of practical understanding and information with language, myth, poetry and history
  • It was interesting, informative and most thought provoking.  I liked the wide-ranging suggestions for solutions and until further archaeological proof, the chance to explore your own ideas – well balanced between factual, visual and hands on. As ever an excellent day.
  • Plenty of information and a sense of humour helps put across a lot of facts and figures
  • The subtly different perspective provided by Steve and Paul.  More please!
  • Excellent as ever – Steve and paul make a really interesting double act

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Bone, P., “The Development of Anglo-Saxon Swords from the Fifth to Eleventh Century”, in Chadwick Hawkes, S. (ed.), Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford 1989)

Chadwick Hawkes, S. (ed.), Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford 1989)

Ellis Davidson, H.R., The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England: Its Archaeology and Literature (Woodbridge 1962; revised 1994)

Evison, V., “The Dover Ring-sword and Other Sword-rings and Beads”, Archaeologia 101 (1967)

Gilmour, B., Developments in Iron Smithing and Decorative Welding Techniques Found in Anglo-Saxon Swords and Related Edged Weapons (Unpub. Thesis, University College London Institute of Archaeology  1990); download from Ethos

Halsall, G., Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West 450 – 900 (London. 2003)

Härke, H., “Early Saxon Weapon Burials: Frequencies, Distributions and Weapon Combinations”, in Chadwick Hawkes, S. (ed.), Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford 1989)

Lang, J. & B.Ager, “Swords of the Anglo-Saxon and Viking Periods in the British Museum: a Radiographic Study”, in Chadwick Hawkes, S. (ed.), Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford 1989)

Lang, J., The Rise and Fall of Pattern Welding: an investigation into the construction of pre-medieval sword blades (Unpub. PhD thesis, University of Reading 2007); download from

Mortimer, P., Woden’s Warriors; Warfare, Beliefs, Arms and Armour in Northern Europe during the 6th and 7th Centuries (Ely 2011)

Pollington, S., The English Warrior from Earliest Times to 1066 (Hockwold-cum-Wilton 1996)

Pollington, S., L.Kerr, & B.Hammond, Wayland’s Work: Anglo-Saxon Art, Myth and Material Culture from the 4th to 7th Century (Ely 2010)

Underwood, R., Anglo-Saxon Weapons and Warfare (Oxford 2000)

Williams, A., The Sword and the Crucible: A History of the Metallurgy of European Swords up to the 16th Century (Leiden 2012)