New Thoughts on Old Swords: The Sword in Early England from the 5th to 7th Centuries
with Paul Mortimer (Independent Scholar)
at the Suffolk Punch Trust, Hollesley (IP12 3JR)
on Saturday, 20th October, 2018

Much of the evidence for Anglo-Saxon swords derives from the excavation of graves and many ideas about them have been based on that. But does a sword always indicate ‘high-status’, or are patterned sword-blades really rare? We will consider these and related questions along with new ways of thinking about them.

Provisional Programme

10.00 – 10.30:      Coffee on arrival

10.30 – 11.30:      The background: (1) Anglo-Saxon militarism and society, 5th to 7th centuries; and (2) Using a sword from the period as a weapon.

11.30 – 11.50:      Coffee break

11.50 – 12.50:      The secrets of the dead: (1) statistics from graves; and (2) The making of the blade

12.50 – 13.50:      Lunch break

13.50 – 14.40:       Sword decoration: (1) Hilts; and (2) Scabbard decoration

14.40 – 15.00:      Tea break

15.00 – 15.50:      The significance of the sword during the 5th to 7th centuries in England

c.15.50:                  Thanks and Close

About Paul Mortimer

Paul is a retired school teacher who has been fascinated with the Anglo-Saxon period for most of his life. He has commissioned museum-quality replicas of many of the treasures from the Sutton Hoo ship-burial and other important finds. He is a founder member of the living history group, ‘Wulfheodenas’ who explore the culture of the élite and their supporters in Northern Europe during the 6th and 7th centuries. He has taken part in many television programmes and has delivered talks throughout England and Europe.

Paul’s book, Woden’s Warriors (2011), a study of the arms, armour and the warrior culture of the 6th and 7th centuries. A second edition is due to be published in 2019. 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. With Matt Bunker as co-editor he has recently completed a volume called, The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England; from the 5th to the 7th Centuries, due to be published by the end of September 2018.


At a previous Study Day by Paul, when asked ‘What was best about the day?‘ people said:

  • Many fine replicas to handle
  • Lectures backed with hardware
  • The knowledge, enthusiasm and clarity of the speaker
  • The ability to touch the exhibits – privileged to be able to access all this knowledge and experience
  • Chance to handle the artefacts and reproduction weapons – another excellent and stimulating day
  • It was a day of lectures in a suitable location. It was everything I expected! Very pleased
  • More Paul Mortimer please. He could expand on any aspect of today & it would be riveting


Texts mentioned in the course of the day (if followed by *, the work can be downloaded freely from the internet):

  • Baker, Peter S., 2013, Honour, Exchange and Violence in Beowulf (Woodbridge).
  • Brunning, Susan Elaine, 2013,  The ‘Living’ Sword in Early Medieval Northern Europe: An Interdisciplinary Study. PhD thesis (University College, London).*
  • Byock, Jesse L. (translator), 1998, The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki (London).
  • Carver, Martin (editor), 1992, The Age of Sutton Hoo: the seventh century in north-western Europe (Woodbridge).
  • Ellis Davidson, Hilda, (1962, revised 1994), The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England: Its Archaeology and Literature (Woodbridge).
  • Fern, Christopher J. R., 2015, Before Sutton Hoo: the Prehistoric Remains and Early Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Tranmer House, Bromeswell, Suffolk (Bury St. Edmunds).
  • Halsall, Guy, 2003, Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West 450 – 900 (London).
  • Halsall, Guy, 2010, “The Staffordshire Hoard: Warfare, Aggression and the Use of Trophies”, York University Symposium paper. *
  • Hawkes, Sonia Chadwick (editor), 1989, Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford).
  • Hill, Paul, & Logan Thompson, 2003, “The Swords of the Saxon Cemetery at Mitcham, Surrey”, Archaeological Collections 90, pp. 147-161.
  • Klevnäs, Alison, 2013, Whodunnit? Grave robbery in Anglo-Saxon England and the Merovingian kingdoms (Oxford). *
  • Larrington, Carolyne (translator) 1996, The Poetic Edda (Oxford).
  • Loades, Mike, 2010. Swords and Swordsmen (Barnsley).
  • Meaney, Audrey, 1981, Anglo-Saxon Amulets and Curing Stones (Oxford).
  • Underwood, Richard, 1999, Anglo-Saxon Weapons and Warfare (Stroud).