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DISCOVERY: 1,000-year-old Viking ship found on Norwegian island

The buried Viking ship at Edøy. (NIKU)

PortandTerminal.com, November 26, 2019

Archaeologists in Norway have used radar technology to discover a 1,000-year-old buried Viking ship

OSLO, NORWAY – Researchers in Norway have identified a 43-foot Viking ship’s keel just beneath the topsoil of a burial mound on the island of Edøy in western Norway.

The discovery was made on the island of Edøy in western Norway.

The fore and aft sterns, however, appear to have been destroyed by plowing, and the ship is thought to have once been up to 56 feet long.

The discovery was made by experts from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU), using high-resolution georadar developed by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (LBI ArchPro).

The discovery was made after a survey of a historic church on the small Island of Edøy, which is located 70 miles (85 km) west of Trondheim in western Norway. 

In a statement, Knut Paasche, Ph.D., head of the department of digital archaeology at NIKU, explained that only three well-preserved Viking ship burials are known in Norway, all of which were excavated a long time ago. The ship will be of great historical significance, he added.

Found in an earlier discovery in 1904, The Oseberg Viking ship was used in a burial ritual and is on display at the Viking Ship Museum museum in Oslo, Norway. It is believed to date to before AD 800 and contained the remains of two females and many artefacts.

The latest ship discovered is from the Merovingian or Viking period and more than 1,000 years old, according to Paasche.

However, it is not yet known whether human remains and Viking artifacts are located within the buried ship, although they have been found at other ship burials (see photo above of the Oseberg Viking Ship).

“The survey [at Edøy] has been purely non-intrusive,” a spokesman for NIKU said. “Our equipment is getting better, so we can be pretty sure of what we have here. On top of that, the island itself is smack in the middle of Merovingian and Viking activity more than a thousand year[s] ago. The locals were really happy with the find – but not really surprised.”

Our equipment is getting better, so we can be pretty sure of what we have here.

The spokesman added that it’s a little too early to predict future excavations at the site. “It will depend on the state of the ship. There will probably be a probe-excavation to see if there is anything left at all and the state of the soil.”

“Do we need to dig up everything?” the spokesman added. “We can do a lot more with non-intrusive instruments now that we know the exact location.”

Artist’s impression of a Viking Ship burial

Ships played a vital role in in the lives and livelihoods of the Vikings, allowing them to spread across Europe and the world in the centuries-spanning A.D. 800 to 1050. According to Norse mythology, the vessels also symbolized a safe passage into the afterlife for their dead.

Ship burials were reserved for kings, queens and other prominent Vikings, who were placed in their seaworthy tombs along with a lavish array of grave goods. These ranged from weapons and jewellery to animal remains and even—in some grisly cases—human sacrifices.

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