The Sword Bead from Munkebo Hill was a Showpiece

26. September 2017 | Landscape & Archaeology

A proud and a wealthy Viking must have owned the sword that had a sword bead on it, which was found in connection with the excavations on Munkebo Hill.

The Funen Preservation Centre has finished cleaning and conserving the sword bead that archaeologists, with help from metal detector enthusiast Jan Hein, found on Munkebo Hill in June. A sword bead is the piece furthest out on the hilt of the sword, next to the pommel.

Not every man’s weapon

A sword was not something everyone owned in the Viking period. What we have here is a showpiece that has decorated a sword that any Viking chieftain would have been proud to carry. The bead is made of iron decorated with an alloy of copper, laid in thin grooves in the iron. From its shape and its ornamentation, it can be dated from the first half of the 800’s until the middle of the 900’s.

The sword was a very prestigious weapon, and therefore the find of its sword bead tells us something about the importance of Munkebo Hill in the Viking period. At the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, there are actually two swords with identical sword beads. The swords are 90 - 95 cm. (about 3’) long and in both cases, the blades are one-sided (sharp on only one side). Archaeologists looked in vain for more pieces of the sword on Munkebo Hill, so what the sword originally looked like, or why its sword bead ended on a dung hill, we will never know.

The sword bead is on display at the Viking Museum at Ladby until the end of the year.

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