Scientists say they might have uncovered the rarest of Viking ship graves

Norwegian officials said Sunday that they might have found the burial site of a rare Viking ship using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). Although they did not find an actual ship, what they did find indicates a ship may once have been there, under a burial mound, and later removed.

The site is near where scientists previously found other Viking burial mounds, so the likelihood is high that there was a ship grave here at one time.

Viking ship, burial site
Image by Niku via National Geographic

Terje Gansum, who leads the country’s department of cultural heritage of Vestfold county, said:

“The GPR data clearly show the shape of a ship and we can see weak traces of a circular depression around the vessel. This could point to the existence of a mound that was later removed.”

The area where they found the site in the Borre Park, which is southeast of Oslo, is known for other rare Viking-era archaeological finds. And, although the particular Viking ship burial mound they believe they found the site for is rare, scientists have found a few other, similar ships in the same region.

viking ship,
Image by Vestfold Fylkeskommune via

As recently as October of 2018, scientists announced they found a 65-foot long Viking ship in the same region, one of the largest scientists found.

The reason the Vikings buried the ships was typically to honor royals, burying their ships with them. Researchers believe the 65-foot-long ship was buried with a king or queen.

According to the curator of Viking ships, Jan Bill, an archaeologist from the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, Viking burial sites that are intact are exceedingly rare. He said:

“I think we could talk about a hundred-year find. It’s quite spectacular from an archaeology point of view.”

The ship’s site is a well-known burial mound that attracts local tourists. Using GPR on 10 acres of farmland surrounding where they found the 65-foot ship burial site, scientists found evidence of at least 10 other large burial sites, including what they think is a ship’s hull.

viking ship, burial mounds, vikings,
Image by Vestfold Fylkeskommune via History

Also found at the same site were burial mounds that measure about 90 feet wide, as well as a 150-foot-long longhouse and 2 other longhouses. Each one of these would likely have had someone buried inside. Scientists hope to find some of the hull preserved so they can use it to date the site more accurately, and they should be returning this spring to continue their research.

To date, only seven burial sites for Viking-era ships have been found in all of Europe, three of which are in Vestfold county, the famous Oseberg ship being one of them. That ship was found in 1904.

As for the new find, scientists hope to explore the site more in-depth to determine if a ship is still there, and what other burial mounds may exist in the same area.

Featured Image by Larry Lamsa via Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-2.0

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