The Sword in Early Medieval Northern Europe: Experience, Identity, Representation

Sue Brunning, 2019

Data copyright © Dr Sue Brunning unless otherwise stated

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Sue Brunning (2019) The Sword in Early Medieval Northern Europe: Experience, Identity, Representation [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]


Ring-sword, sixth century, from Buckland, Dover.
Image © The Trustees of the British Museum,
(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

These three databases accompany the book 'The Sword in Early Medieval Northern Europe: Experience, Identity, Representation (Brunning, 2019). It explores perceptions of swords in Anglo-Saxon England and Scandinavia during the early medieval period using a multidisciplinary approach, encompassing artistic, archaeological and literary sources. Analysis of the three datasets, one for each source, formed the basis for individual chapters. The final chapter combines the results of these analyses to offer broader conclusions about the significance of swords in early medieval thought and society.


Database 1 (Weapon Motifs) forms the basis of Chapter 1 in the book. It contains information about images of swords and spears, drawn from published and publicly accessible resources. The data concerns the appearance of weapons, the contexts in which they appear or are used, and the types of people wielding them. In total, the database contains 2335 individual weapon motifs depicted on various media (manuscripts, sculpture, coins, embroidery, metalwork etc.)

Database 2 (Sword Burials) forms the basis of Chapter 2 in the book. It contains information about swords buried in Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian graves, including their appearance, condition and placement relative to the body. It also contains similar information about any spears that were buried in the same sample of graves. The dataset comprises 471 swords and 280 spears or angons, selected from specific regions of England and Scandinavia.

Database 3 (Kennings) forms the basis of Chapter 3 in the book. It comprises a collection of sword and spear 'kennings', linguistic constructions used in Old Norse and Old English poetry that replace simple nouns e.g. 'sword' becomes 'serpent of wounds' in one example. The corpus numbers 57 Old English and 240 Old Norse kennings.

The fourth database comprises a key to the short codes used in Databases 1, 2 and 3.