Boffins at the UK's famous National Physical Laboratory (NPL) - birthplace of the Dambusters' bouncing bomb and perhaps the internet - say they have used an electron microscope to analyse Viking swords. In a surprise twist, it turns out that the old-time Scandinavian pests, many of whom moved to England to become our ancestors, actually imported their best steel from Afghanistan."Sword making in Viking times was important work," says Dr Alan Williams, a top archaeometallurgist at the Wallace Collection, a London-based museum of objets d'art which has a massive array of old arms and armour."On their travels, the Vikings were keen to pick upany innovative new means of improving their sword-making, but until now we haven't known where they have sourced some of their materials.
The results from NPL confirm for the first time that the material analysed was brought by the Vikings from the Middle East to the Baltic area – and thrown new light on an important trade route that was in use until the 11th Century."
that tiny samples of metal from Viking swords obtained by the Wallace
Collection were analysed using the NPL's scanning electron microscope.
According to the NPL:
The results showed that
the swords were made of imperfectly melted steel - consisting of a
mixture of iron and carbonaceous materials heated together to give
high-carbon steel. NPL's results match descriptions of ancient sword
making in Herat (now in Afghanistan) described by ninth centuryArab
philosopher and writer Al-Kindi. This links to a known Viking trade
route down the Volga and across the Caspian Sea to Iran ... until now
it was not known that Vikings had brought crucible steel back to
Scandinavia and integrated ancient Arab steelmaking methods with their
High-carbon crucible steel
made for a particularly hard, sharp sword - quite literally bleeding
edge technology around the turn of the first millennium. Back in those
days, however, such steel was only available in the advanced
civilisations of India and Central Asia. Ignorant barbarian northerners
like the Vikings and the old-time Britons (at the time being mostly
driven into Wales by the various ancestors of the modern English)
couldn't aspire to make such advanced kit themselves. But they could
and did import it, according to the Wallace Collection and theNPL.
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Sanskrit texts are filled
with references to gods who fought battles in the sky using Vimanas equipped
with weapons as deadly as any we can deploy in these more enlightened times.
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by Derek J. de Solla Price From June 1959 Scientific American p.60-7
In 1901 divers working off the isle of Antikythera found
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appears to have been a device for calculating the motions of stars and planets
among the treasures of the Greek National
Archaeological Museum in Athens are the remains of the most complex scientific
object that has been preserved from antiquity. Corroded and crumblin...