Swordsmiths across Central Asia produced some of the greatest swords of all time, known as Damascus steel blades. ALAN WILLIAMS: Damascus steel is a separate class of crucible steel, which is similar in chemical composition, but the crucible steel was cooled very slowly, so the iron formed large crystals. NARRATOR: These unusual swords exhibited many of the same superior qualities as the Ulfberht, but if the Vikings didn't know how to make crucible steel, then where did they get it?
Clues can be found in artifacts excavated from Viking graves, in Scandinavia, as early as the eighth century. The interesting thing is that the most Ulfbehrt swords are dated from exactly the same time when the Volga trade route was open, that is from the early 800s to the mid-1,000s. I think it's very likely that the steel that you find in the Ulfberht swords originated from Iran.
A Production of NOVA and National Geographic Television in association with Pangloss Films, LLC. A modern-day swordsmith reverse engineers the ultimate weapon of the Middle Ages—a sword both prized and feared. Examine the thousand-year-old art and science behind the making of a Japanese warrior's signature weapon. How did longships and other vessels help the Norsemen navigate distant waters so successfully? National corporate funding for NOVA is provided by Google and Cancer Treatment Centers of America. STEPHEN TURNBULL (University of Leeds): The great swordsmiths of Japan were steeped in the mysterious traditions of the metal.

NARRATOR: By day, Midori Tanaka is just another face in the crowd on the busy streets of modern Japan, working as a mild-mannered receptionist for a midsized electronics company.
The samurai were noble warriors of medieval Japan, similar to the knights and noblemen of Europe. Many experts believe that the Volga trade route supplied Vikings with prized crucible steel from the Middle East, where people were more practiced in the art of forging it.
In fact, there's no evidence that anyone in Europe knew how to make it until the industrial revolution in the 18th century.
I would guess that you bought it from friendly trading connections in Iran, paid with furs and other Nordic commodities, and took it back on your small ships that you used on the rivers. In this program, NOVA probes the centuries-old secrets that went into forging what many consider the perfect blade.
They were able to transform this mystery into something that was very, very real: the samurai sword.
But for more than 500 years before the Ulfberht, warriors elsewhere had been fighting with crucible steel weapons.
Fifteen traditional Japanese craftsmen spent nearly six months creating the sword that NOVA follows through production, from smelting the ore to forging the steel to sharpening the blade to a keen edge capable of slicing through a row of warriors at one swoop. The samurai's sword is one of the greatest fighting weapons of all time, perfectly engineered for close-up combat, renowned for its deadly cutting edge.

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