The Perfect Sword: Forging the Dark Ages


The Perfect Sword: The story of the Bamburgh Sword – one of the finest swords ever forged.

In 2000, archaeologist Paul Gething rediscovered a sword. An unprepossessing length of rusty metal, it had been left in a suitcase for thirty years. But Paul had a suspicion that the sword had more to tell than appeared, so he sent it for specialist tests. When the results came back, he realised that what he had in his possession was possibly the finest, and certainly the most complex, sword ever made, which had been forged in seventh-century Northumberland by an anonymous swordsmith.

This is the story of the Bamburgh Sword – of how and why it was made, who made it and what it meant to the warriors and kings who wielded it over three centuries. It is also the remarkable story of the archaeologists and swordsmiths who found, studied and attempted to recreate the weapon using only the materials and technologies available to the original smith.

Editorial Review

In “The Perfect Sword: Forging the Dark Ages,” Edoardo Albert and Paul Gething delve into the fascinating history of the sword, a weapon whose very essence is intertwined with the grim purpose of taking human lives. This book provides an insightful journey through time, unraveling the evolution of the sword from its humble origins as a tool for hunting and sustenance to its transformation into a lethal instrument designed for human conflict.

Before the advent of the sword, our ancestors wielded shorter daggers, knives, spears, and bows, primarily for hunting and nourishment. The backdrop of these early tools was humanity’s struggle against the animal kingdom, not against one another. However, the authors reveal a pivotal moment in history, occurring centuries before 3000 BCE, possibly in Eastern Turkey’s Arslantepe, where the first swords were crafted. These swords were unique, being constructed from an arsenic-copper alloy, predating the more familiar bronze. During the following millennium, swords remained relatively scarce, possibly due to the flexibility of the metal or discrepancies in their shapes.

The late Bronze Age marked a turning point, with the emergence of definitive swords found in Minoan Crete around 1700 BCE. Subsequently, these lethal weapons proliferated, acquiring diverse and distinctive shapes while fulfilling their grim purpose of taking lives in large numbers. With the advent of iron around 1300 BCE, swords became more accessible, and virtually anyone sought to arm themselves with this formidable weapon to partake in conflicts.

The book takes readers on a journey to the Anglo-Saxon era in England, spanning from 450 to 1066 CE, where a multitude of feuding warlords vied for power. It was in this turbulent setting that “The Perfect Sword” made its appearance, recovered from the historical Bamburgh Castle, a pivotal stronghold in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria.

But what sets this particular sword apart as “perfect”? The authors delve into the intricacies of its design, highlighting the key features that made it an exceptional weapon. Its iron core provided the ideal balance of flexibility, ensuring it wouldn’t snap in the heat of battle, while its steel edge was honed to razor-sharp precision. The assumption of a lavishly adorned handle and scabbard adds an element of opulence to this formidable weapon. Finally, the sword’s blade bore an exquisite “pattern-welded” finish, a result of meticulous craftsmanship involving the folding and hammering of multiple layers of metal.

“The Perfect Sword” is revealed to be a masterpiece, surpassing all other swords found in the UK. The authors suggest that only a king could muster the skilled artisans and resources required to create such an exquisite weapon. In the pages of this book, readers will embark on a captivating journey through history, unearthing the story of a weapon that transcended its original function to become an embodiment of power, artistry, and the ever-present human desire for dominance.

The Perfect Sword Forging the Dark by Paul Gething and Edoardo Albert
Genre: Non-Fiction
Age Range: Adult
Start Rating: 4.4 stars
Publication Date: 3rd January 2023

Author: Edoardo Albert and Paul Gething

Edoardo Albert

Edoardo Albert

Edoardo Albert, an author and historian with a specialization in the Dark Ages, has discovered intriguing parallels between the conflicts and civilizations of the early Medieval era and the events unfolding in the 40th and 41st millennia. His debut novel for Black Library, titled “Silent Hunters,” was followed by “Kasrkin.” Additionally, he has penned several short stories, including ‘Green and Grey,’ ‘Last Flight,’ ‘Born of the Storm,’ and the novella ‘Lords of the Storm.’

Paul Gething, serving as the Director of the Bamburgh Research Project, pursued his studies in Archaeological Science at the University of Sheffield and embarked on excavations in 1987. Over the years, he has conducted archaeological work in various regions, including the Middle East, North Africa, France, Spain, and across the entire United Kingdom. His contributions as a writer can be found in publications such as History, Current Archaeology, The Great Outdoors, and Time Out.


  • Edoardo Albert. (2022).
  • Paul Gething | Birlinn Ltd – Independent Scottish Publisher – buy books online. (2022). Birlinn Ltd.‌‌

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