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If you’re a fan of Viking history, prepare to have your mind blown. Because archaeologists in Norway just made a rare discovery that sheds more light on the Norsemen culture we have long been fascinated by.
For centuries the Jellestad mound near Oslo has stood as a historic landmark in the area marking a Viking burial ground. While archaeologists had previously thought that local farmers had destroyed most of the out mounds over the years by leveling and plowing the fields to plant crops, the advent of new ground penetrating technology that allows us to see what lies beneath the surface offered researchers a new opportunity to see what still exists in the field right next to the Jellestad mound.
And they received quite a surprise when they actually found a 66 feet long Viking ship that may date back to around 800 A.D., when the practice of burying wealthy or important Vikings inside a ship tomb commonly occurred. Researchers also discovered smaller burial mound remains and longhouses around or near the ship that were thought to be lost to history before now.
“There are clear indications that the ship’s keel and floor timbers are preserved in the grave,” a press release issued by the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) says. “Based on other Viking ship finds the archaeologists worked out a first hypothetical reconstruction of the ship.”
Researchers believe the ship was dragged to the area from the Oslo fjord and then buried in a mound that flattened out over the centuries due to natural erosion and farming.
Here’s a video of the burial site and what archaeologists think the ship looked like.
Because of the shape found on the georadar, Norwegian officials and the researchers are sure that they have found a ship.
“We are certain that there is a ship there, but how much is preserved is hard to say before further investigation”, Østfold county conservator Morten Hanisch said in the press release.
Department of Digital Archaeology at NIKU head Dr. Knut Paasche hailed the find.
“This find is incredibly exciting as we only know three well-preserved Viking ship finds in Norway excavated long time ago,” Paasche said. “This new ship will certainly be of great historical significance as it can be investigated with all modern means of archaeology. Ships like this functioned as a coffin. There was one king or queen or local chieftain on board. We can’t be sure the houses have the same age as the ship.”
“The ship burial does not exist in isolation, but forms part of a cemetery which is clearly designed to display power and influence”, NIKU project leader and archaeologist Lars Gustavsen concurred.
This isn’t the first time archaeologists have found Viking ships in the ground.
Three similar Viking vessels were discovered decades ago. One of which, known as the Oseberg ship, was unearthed in 1903 and is currently on display at the Viking Ship Museum along with the two Gokstad ships in Oslo.
“I think we could talk about a hundred-year find,” Oslo Museum of Cultural History curator Jan Bill told National Geographic. “It’s quite spectacular from an archaeology point of view.”
But the ship may not be the only thing buried under the ground. You see, powerful Vikings often were buried with belongings and riches, and if the ship has not already been pillaged by grave robbers and treasure hunters, it’s possible that researchers could find significant items in the bowels of the ship, which would shed even more light on the Viking culture.
Since Vikings did not leave a written record, archaeologists have learned the most about them and their culture by what they have been able to dig up.
“It would be very exciting to see if the burial is still intact,” Bill says. “If it is, it could be holding some very interesting finds.”
Indeed, the opportunity to learn more than we already know about Vikings is incredibly exciting, but for now, archaeologists are content with trying to study the ship further with non-invasive technologies that won’t disturb or damage the site. However, excavation would be necessary to really find out more, especially if we want to know what’s inside the vessel.
Paasche says he plans to study the ship more in Spring 2019 and could begin exploring whether the wood on the ship has survived by first digging trenches. Clearly, something of the ship remains, but open air exposure could damage it.
So, researchers will study the site carefully and we may get a chance to lay our eyes on the ship sometime soon. Until then, researchers can use the same technology to possibly find more Viking ship burial sites in other areas they once thought such sites had been destroyed. With new technology, such finds may not be so rare after all.
Featured Image: YouTube screenshot