Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Viking Age Weaving Sword

Anyone who has spent time researching the history of clothing and textile production will know that weavers In the early Middle Ages used an object, called a weaving sword, in the weaving process.  A weaving sword is a roughly sword-shaped object made from wood or bone, that was used to beat each row of the weaving so that it would be solidly in place.  It typically had a point that could be used for moving threads to make particular weaving patterns.  

Because weaving swords were made from wood or bone, few of them survive, and the surviving ones are rarely complete.  

But recently, a completely intact wooden weaving sword was found in the city of Cork, in south-western Ireland.  An article about the find, complete with pictures, can be read on the Archaeology News Network site, here.

The weaving sword was made from yew and is about 30 cm (a little under one foot) long, and carved with Viking motifs that indicate that it was made in the late 11th century.  A wooden thread-winder was also found at the site.  The dig that uncovered those items took place on the site of a brewery, where construction is planned.  It is now unclear when construction will proceed on the site.

This weaving sword is interesting because it has a "blade" shaped rather like a period knife blade, with a clip point.   I might wonder if it was actually a practice weapon or even an older child's toy, except for the thread winder found with it.

Thanks to Carolyn Priest-Dorman, from whom I learned about the find.


  1. There's good few weaving swords found in Ireland - not exactly the same type as the Cork one, but there's one from the 'Viking-Age Decorated Wood' book by James T. Lang, a Dublin find: and another one, from Clombly Bog, currently on display in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin: - btw I've seen one weaving sword in the Reykjavik Museum -
    - it has really clearly visible wear marks left by the warp threads, I wonder if such marks can be traced in any way on the Cork find.

  2. Hi, Dorota! Welcome. Thanks for the URL to the National Museum and Reykjavik pictures.

    It's kind of hard to tell from the photos in the article whether there are wear marks on the Cork weaving sword or not. If I find out, I'll either post again or edit this post.