Was it a Viking raider? Was it a mercenary? Somehow, it seems the fearsome warriors from the icy fjords of Norway made their way to southern Turkey.
A Viking sword excavated in the city of Patara in Antalya province appears to date from the 9th Century. Archaeologists aren’t certain how it got there. But Vikings were in the habit of burying their dead with their swords.
And the thriving port city of Antalya would have been a stopover for any Viking that made it into the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Akdeniz University professor of archaeology says he believes the sword belonged to a group of naval mercenaries hired by the Byzantine Emperors during the 9th and 10th centuries.
These Vikings, known as Varangians, were employed for their fighting and seafaring skills.
Eventually the Varangian Guard became the elite personal bodyguards of the Emperors.
But the sword is the first to be discovered in the region.
“Until today, one Viking sword that was discovered during the excavation works carried around Yumuktepe (district) of Muğla (province) was the only material culture remnant that indicated the existence of Vikings in Anatolia,” he said.
“The characteristics of the knob, tang and cross-guard can be evaluated within the group of swords that was described by Jan Petersen as ‘K type’ or ‘O Type’ (Viking swords)”.
Turkish archaeologists, who have been excavating the site around where the sword was discovered, say they hope to find more clues about the lives of the Varangian mercenaries.
While Vikings are generally known for their violent raids on British and Irish coastal villages and monasteries, they were also intrepid traders.
They took their longboats across Europe, following major rivers to new lands — and markets.