October 21, 2011

Viking Burial Ship Excavated in Scotland


A Viking chieftain’s grave, with his burial ship, has been found in Scotland on the remote Ardnamurchan peninsula, containing several possessions, including a Norwegian whetstone.

"We had spotted this low mound the previous year, but said firmly that it was probably just a pile of field clearance rocks from comparatively recent farming," Hannah Cobb, archeologist and co-director of the excavation, told the Guardian. "The second night they said: ’It really does look like a boat.’ The third night they said: ’We think we really do have a boat.’ It was so exciting, we could hardly believe it," Cobb said.

The remains of the ship showed that it had rotted into the soil centuries ago, along with the viking who was buried there. The vessel was only five meters long and 1,5 meters wide, which makes it a rather small ship for crossing the seas between Scandinavia, Scotland and Ireland.

However, the many possessions found on the boat show that the viking must have enjoyed traveling. In addition to the Norwegian whetstone, findings include a bronze ringpin from Ireland, his sword, an axe, a knife and another bronze object that could be part of a drinking horn. Several other objects are still being identified.

Ship burials like this one were very common in the Viking Age, but reserved for high-status individuals. "He may have been a chieftain, a famous navigator, or renowned for his wisdom, but this man was clearly special to his people," said Cobb.

The world’s most well-preserved viking burial ship is the famous "Oseberg Ship," excavated at Oseberg in Norway in the early 20th century, and now preserved at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.


Written by Julie Ryland

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