Two rare Viking burial ships found in Sweden

In a rare archaeological find, two Viking burial ships have been discovered in Sweden, one of which is totally intact and includes more than few surprises for the researchers on site.

Not very many Viking burial ships are found today. Many of them have been plowed under by farmers sowing their fields to grow crops, and also because the powerful few were able to receive such an honor.

For instance, three of the most notable Viking burial ships were found decades ago, including the Oseberg ship in 1903 that is currently on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway.

Viking burial ships are truly spectacular finds because they provide precious insight into the lives and deaths of Vikings. The main reason why we know as much as we do about them is because archaeologists have dug up ships such as these as well as settlements, finding artifacts that reveal surprising information such as Vikings coming into contact with Muslims and receiving garments adorned with Arabic script.

Finding such ships is also quite a task unless there’s a big burial mound sitting out in the open in a known area where Vikings lived just inviting investigation.

Today, scientists have the advantage of ground-penetrating radar that can detect objects large and small buried beneath our feet.

That’s how a 65-foot Viking burial ship was found last year in Norway.

“I think we could talk about a hundred-year find,” Oslo Museum of Cultural History curator Jan Bill told National Geographic at the time. “It’s quite spectacular from an archaeology point of view.”

Well, apparently, archaeologists in Sweden made the second “hundred-year find” in a year after finding not just one, but two Viking ships in a single spot, sparking excitement over what the newly discovered grave holds.

As it turns out, researchers found a whole lot more than just a corpse.

According to The Local

The two graves were found by the vicarage in Gamla Uppsala during an excavation last autumn, and archaeologists investigated the find in June this year.

In Sweden, only around ten burial ship sites of this kind have been found previously.

One of the two newly discovered graves was intact, with remains of a man, a horse and a dog. Archaeologists also found items including a sword, spear, shield, and an ornate comb.

This kind of grave typically dates back to the Vendel Period (around 550-800 AD) or the Viking Age (800-1050 AD), when it was more common to cremate the dead.

See what they found below:


“Ships like this functioned as a coffin,” Department of Digital Archaeology at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) head Dr. Knut Paasche explained last year after the Norway find. “There was one king or queen or local chieftain on board.”

While the Swedish team only found one body, they have not been able to find a body in the second ship, which could either mean the second ship is just something buried for use in the afterlife or that the grave was abandoned before it could be put to use.

And it’s also possible the burial ships are part of an extended cemetery, depending on how much power and influence the person in the grave had in their lifetime.

“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 said about the Norway discovery.

Swedish archaeologist Anton Seiler spoke with excitement and curiosity about the latest find in his own country.

“This is a unique excavation, the last burial ship was examined 50 years ago,” Seiler, who works with several Swedish museums, said. “It is a small group of people who were buried in this way. You can suspect that they were distinguished people in the society of the time since burial ships in general are very rare.”

Only ten Viking burial ships had been found in the Scandinavian region prior to this latest discovery, highlighting just how rare such a find is, and it’s truly a treasure trove archaeologists are thrilled to explore.

As Paasche said in 2018 after the Norway find:

“This new ship will certainly be of great historical significance as it can be investigated with all modern means of archaeology.”

The same is true of the Sweden find. If the ship is decently intact, it could end up in a museum on display for the public to view for themselves. That’s exactly what will happen with the weapons found in the grave. The items and the ship offer us the chance to learn more about the Vikings and provides more historical knowledge of an era and people that we still don’t know enough about.

As archaeologists continue to employ technology as part of their excavations and investigations, perhaps more Viking ships will be discovered. After all, what once was a rare event has now become something that happens every year, this time two ships being found. Surely, there are more out there just waiting to be unearthed.

See more about the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo:

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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