Traces in Dublin
The Ballinderry Sword

The Ballinderry Sword
The Ballinderry Sword | Photo: © Courtesy of the National Museum of Ireland

The first known piece of German technology in Ireland dates to the mid-9th century. It is a superb sword marked with the name of its maker Ulfberht.

The Vikings, who had a huge impact on Irish history, bought blades from high quality workshops in the Rhineland. Ulfberht was the brand name of a master whose blades have been found as far east as Russia and as far west as the lake dwelling in Ballinderry, County Westmeath where this sword was found in 1928. His name had such prestige that there is even evidence of cheaper copies pretending to be Ulfberht originals: an early example of brand piracy.The Ballinderry sword is one of Ulfberht’s finest.

It tells us a lot about the mixing of cultures: the blade is German, the hilt and pommel are Scandinavian and the whole thing belonged to an Irish chieftain. He acquired it, possibly in battle but more probably through trade with Viking Dublin. It suggests that the newcomers created a kind of arms race among the native Irish. This was, quite literally, cutting-edge technology and the Irish, not for the last time, had to adapt to it.

Visitor Information:
The National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
+353 (0)1 677 7444