Ancient, News

Rare Danish Sword Found in Sweden

  • Archaeologists discovered a rare Danish sword at an excavation in the city of Kalmar.
  • The sword was found intact on a 400-year-old cellar floor.
  • It dates to the Kalmar War (1611-1613), which made Sweden a regional power.
  • The blade signifies an evolutionary leap in modernisation of the medieval design.

In December 2022, archaeologists from Arkeologerna, Sweden’s leading consultant on archaeology and cultural environments, discovered a rare Danish sword whilst excavating an intersection of the Kungsgatan and Västerlånggatan roads in the city of Kalmar.

Situated in southeast Sweden on the Baltic coast, Kalmar is an old city with cobbled streets lined with well preserved 17th and 18th century buildings. However, the area is best known for the Kalmar Castle, a Renaissance-style fortification with turrets and a drawbridge.

During the digging, Arkeologerna researchers discovered a 400-year-old cellar floor. The firm is famous for its archaeological contributions in Birka, Motala ström, and Tråsättra and is also a part of the government’s National Historical Museums (SHM).

The Kalmar War sword.
An extraordinary find. A Danish soldier’s lost weapon. Image credit:

Reports from Heritage Daily state that archaeologists found “two severely burned hand grinders, a pile of charred grains, and broken brick, stone, and wood.” The rubble is from the top floors of the house, covering the cellar below. While removing the broken roof, archaeologists scavenged a rare Danish battle sword. According to records, the cellar floor belonged to “Gotskalk Hulskede” in 1368 AD. Unfortunately, in 1611 AD, the farm was burnt down during the Kalmar war.

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The History of the Kalmar War

The Kalmar Conflict, from 1611 AD to 1613 AD, was fought between Sweden and Denmark-Norway. The friction between the two began in 1607 AD when King Charles IX of Sweden proclaimed himself the King of the Lapps. The King then started taxing the residents of what was traditionally Norwegian territory.

The sword design changed history.
The Kalmar War was fought between 1611-1613 between Sweden and Denmark-Norway

Moreover, King Charles IX of Sweden forged a new route through Lapland to bypass paying tolls to Denmark and Norway for the Øresund “Sound” strait – the original trade route that separated the Baltic and the North Sea.

According to a report in TechTimes, the sound strait toll constituted up to two-thirds of Denmark’s income between the 16th and 17th centuries. As a result, King Christian IV of Denmark and Norway declared war on the self-proclaimed King of Sweden with an army of 6,000 Danish soldiers.

Read More: Medieval Sword Found in Poland

In the war, Kalmar Castle was the ‘Key to Sweden’: it had trade access to the Swedish east coast and to Stockholm. The Danish king ordered 6000 soldiers to seize the it and then the entire city. However, things didn’t go as he had planned.

The Outcome of the War

It took Denmark several months of sieging to penetrate the city of Kalmar. However, the Danes failed to push through. Towards the end, the death toll reached 900 men (700 Swedish and 200 Danes). Eventually, England drew up a peace treaty known as the Peace of Knäred. The warring kings signed the treaty on 21 January 1613 AD, bringing the Kalmar War to an end.

Sweden’s victory with King Gustavus Adolphus paved the way for him to build the territory into a regional power. However, the process led to the destruction of many buildings including the collapse of the farm and cellar where the sword was discovered.

Hence, historians regard this as a turning point in the history of Scandinavia.

Kalmar Castle.
Kalmar Castle today. During the Kalmar War it was under siege for several months.

 An Evolutionary Leap: The Rare Danish Sword

According to Arkeologerna, Europe was experiencing a ‘military revolution’ during the Kalmar War. A defence publication, The Forge, explains how Michael Roberts first coined the term in a local paper in 1955.

The new tactics and weapons transformed warfare in Europe during that era. According to Roberts, “the military revolution brought significant transformation in war and contributed to the elevation of Western Europe as a centre of world power.”

Therefore, the discovery of the rare sword illustrates an ‘evolutionary leap’ from medieval to modern. Symbolically, it is this sword that marks the Kalmar War and Sweden’s first steps into the modern military revolution!