Yorkshire Museum

The Cawood Sword

Mystery surrounds this Viking sword which has survived virtually intact for nearly 1,000 years.

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The Cawood Sword is only the fifth sword of its type to be found and is by far the best preserved.

It was discovered in the River Ouse, near Cawood Castle, North Yorkshire, in the late 1800s and its condition is so good that some strange wording can still be seen along its blade.

There are capital letters from the Roman alphabet on one side and from the Lombardic alphabet on the other, but they do not spell any known words.

Archaeologists believe the words make up a religious phrase to give the sword’s owner extra strength in battle.

The sword dates from 1100, the end of the Viking period and the beginning of the Medieval period, and is very similar to another sword found in Norway, which has Runes written down its blade, a Viking language.

Mystery also surrounds how the sword ended up in the river. Cawood Castle was the summer palace for the Archbishop of York and in earlier times was a Viking lord’s manor house.