In the TV show, Game of Thrones, there is apparently a material called Valyrian steel which is used to forge the strongest, lightest swords. I don’t have HBO, so I missed the series, but I did hear that they killed off Sean Bean relatively early on. And honestly, without Richard Sharpe why would I want to watch? Actually, I probably would have liked the show were I able to watch it.
At any rate, getting this post back on topic, swordmaker Richard Furrer of Door County Forgeworks likens the fictional Valaryian swords to the Ulfberht swords from the 9th-11th century. These Viking swords, (technically German in origin), numbering about 170 known examples, were ahead of their time in terms of quality and metallurgical processes. They were highly sought after at the time, and by collectors today. He attempts to recreate one of these swords in this really well-shot/produced 2 minute video.
I was unfamiliar with Ulfbehrt swords, so I did a little more digging.
Ancient-Origins.net goes into greater detail on what makes a Ulfbehrt blade unique:
Carbon can make or break a sword; if it’s not controlled to just the right amount, the sword will be either too soft or too brittle. But with just the right amount, carbon greatly strengthens the blade. The Ulfberht has a carbon content about three times higher than that of other swords of its time. It would have been astoundingly stronger and yet more flexible than other swords, as well as light-weight. It also had almost no impurities, known as slag. This would have allowed for a more even distribution of carbon.
It was thought, before Ulfberht was discovered, that the capability to remove slag to such a degree only became possible during the Industrial Revolution. Iron ore must be heated to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit to accomplish this, a feat the Ulfberht makers apparently accomplished 800 years ahead of their time. With great effort and precision, modern blacksmith Richard Furrer of Wisconsin forged a sword of Ulfberht quality using technology that would have been available in the Middle Ages. He said it was the most complicated thing he’d ever made, and he used methods not known to have been used by people of that time.
Cool stuff, and I learned something new about Viking swords.