Incredibly rare Viking era ship detected beneath a cemetery in Norway using georadar

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With the help of high-resolution ground-penetrating radar technology, archaeologists have spotted a Viking ship, along with several longhouses and burial mounds, in the Østfold County of Norway. The discovery was made recently by the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU), in collaboration with technology partner Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (LBI ArchPro).

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Measuring around 66 feet (20 meters) in length, the ancient vessel is currently buried underneath the topsoil – approximately 1.6 feet (50 centimeters) below the ground – in a farmland southeast of Oslo at Viksletta. Speaking about the find, Dr. Knut Paasche, head of the Department of Digital Archaeology at NIKU said –

This find is incredibly exciting as we only know three well-preserved Viking ship finds in Norway excavated long time ago. This new ship will certainly be of great historical significance as it can be investigated with all modern means of archaeology.

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As per the radar scans, much of the ship’s lower portion – including the keel and the floor timbers – is still intact. Georadar, for the uninitiated, is a non-destructive geophysical technology that relies on radar pulses to image the subsurface. It does so by emitting electromagnetic radiation in the microwave band of the radio spectrum and detecting the reflected signals from subsurface structures. So far, researchers have been unable to date the find. Morten Hanisch, county conservator in Østfold, stated –

We are certain that there is a ship there, but how much is preserved is hard to say before further investigation.

However, it is believed that the ancient vessel was brought to the site – located near the 1500-year-old Jellestad (Jell mound) in Østfold – from an inlet nearby called Oslofjord and buried there around 800 AD. According to the archaeologists, the Viking ship was likely part of a cemetery that housed at least eight burial mounds. The remains of these dome-shaped graves, although destroyed to a large extent as a result of plowing, were also detected with the help of georadar.

Survey of the burial ground further revealed the remnants of five huge longhouses, similar to the ones discovered at Borre in Vestfold County, on the western shore of Oslofjord. Shedding light on the findings, archaeologist Lars Gustavsen, who is also the project leader from NIKU, noted –

The ship burial does not exist in isolation, but forms part of a cemetery which is clearly designed to display power and influence.

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The team from NIKU is currently preparing a research paper on the findings, and plans to further investigate the site and the area around it using non-invasive geophysical methods prior to the actual excavation.

Earlier in March 2017, archaeologists unearthed a 1,000-year-old Viking toy ship at a site in central Norway. Found in a dry well at a small farm in the town of Ørland (on coastal tundra), the wooden object was designed in a fashion that partly resembles the drekar ship (or dragon – derived from the famed dragon-head on the prow) with its uplifted prow.

Vikings and their Maritime War Tactics

Considering the popular image of Vikings being associated with dragon-headed longships, it might not come as a surprise that marine-based expertise is what the Norsemen excelled at. While Viking raiding ships were one of the defining features of Viking raids and military endeavors, these vessels had variance in their designs – which is contrary to our popular notions.

Read more: 10 Things You Should Know About Vikings And Their Warfare

According to historians, this scope of variance can be credibly hypothesized from the sheer number of technical terms used in contemporary sources to describe them. To that end, the Vikings before the 10th century made very few distinctions between their varied merchant ships and warships – with both (and other) types being used for overseas military endeavors.

Simply put, the first Viking raids along the English coasts (including the plundering of the Lindisfarne monastery in 793 AD, that marks the beginning of the Viking Age) were probably made with the aid of such ‘hybrid’ ships that were not specifically tailored to military purposes – as opposed to the ‘special’ ships showcased in the Vikings TV series.

However, in the post 10th century period, the Viking raiders boosting their organized numbers by military establishments or ledungen, did strive to specifically design military warships, with their structural modifications tailored to both power and speed.

Known as snekkja (or thin-like), skeid (meaning – ‘that cuts through water’) and drekar (or dragon – derived from the famed dragon-head on the prow); these streamlined longships tended to be longer and slimmer while accounting for a greater number of oars. On the other hand, increased trading also demanded specialized merchant ships or kaupskip that were broader with high freeboards, and depended on their greater sail-power.

Via: Live Science

Image Source: ScienceNordic

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About the Author

Sukanya Mukherjee
With a master's degree in English Literature and several years of writing experience under her belt, Sukanya specializes in creating content particularly related to history, science, and technology. In the past, she worked as a business journalist at a reputable digital media company. Apart from being an avid fan of Victorian literature, she can found spending her free time baking and exploring the Great Himalayas!
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