Viking Ship Excavation: Great Constructions and Luxurious Tombs

Image of Viking ship excavation Viking ship Oseberg

By far, there have been 13 ships have been found in Northern Europe. Among them are three famous Viking ships on display for the public eye. In the past, it was those ships that carried the Vikings across the high waves and carried the dead to the land of afterlife. After all, those ships set sail themselves standing the destructive power of seasons and making their ways to us in this day and age. This blog post is going to share mysterious stories about three famous Viking ship excavation: the Tune, the Gokstad, and the Oseberg

Tune Ship: The first Viking ship excavation

In 1867, on a farm Nedre Haugen of Rolvsøy island near Fredrikstad, there was an unexpected discovery of a Viking ship burial mound. The burial site of Tune ship was as large as 80 meters (262,5ft) in diameter. It has become Norway’s largest burial mound by far. By the time of excavation in the 19th century, there were traces of previous excavation or  attempts to break in the burial site. Thereby, oxygen entered the site making things inside gradually decompose. Unluckily, the remains of the man buried inside the ship was still there when the modern archaeologists stepped in. He, according to the archaeologists, was either a warrior or a wealthy man who deserved a luxurious and outstanding burial when dead.

Image of Tune ship Viking ship excavation
Tune ship was buried in the largest burial site in Norway

The Tune Ship was a fast and sea-going ship that was mainly to transport people from this place to another. Although the ship is smaller than the ships later found like Gokstad and Oseberg, it has stronger mast support. The total design of the Tune Ship made the archaeologists believe that it was a ship with excellent sailing. But actually, the carrying purpose of the Tune Ship might have been for the light cargo like fur or glass. The ship was more likely to carry people quickly from on place to another.

Image of Viking ship excavation Viking tune ship
Tune ship

The Gokstad ship: the largest preserved ship in Norway

Buried in the 9th century, the Gokstad ship is on display in the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway.

In 1880, the sons of the owner of Gokstad farm set out to dig their mysterious land on hearing the tales about the site. They uncovered a site with the bow of a boat and the land was still frozen at that time. And the story of this discovery came to the ears of the President of Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments, Nicolay Nicolaysen, who quickly came to the site and asked to stop the diggingg. Later, he came back with a team of archaeologists and began the excavation technically.

Image of gokstad viking ship excavation
Gokstad Viking ship

Oak was the main material to construct the ship. It might have been a multi-purpose ship for warfare, trade, and transportation of both people and cargo. The ship could carry up to 32 oarsman. This Gokstad Viking ship excavation gave a birth to the replica ship. Its name was “Viking”. “Viking” the replica ship set sail from Bergen, Norway to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 1893.

Image of Gokstad Ship Viking excavation
Viking the replica of Gokstad cross the Atlantic Ocean

The Gokstad ship was dedicated to the owner of the burial mound whose identity was, of course, unknown. The man was found in his bed inside the burial chamber. He was around his 50s when dead. The items inside the burial site included three small boats, a sledge, a tent, and some equipment. Other precious items must have been plundered before the year of excavation. Because with the ship buried together, the man must be a very important figure. However, there was no gold or silver found inside.

The Oseberg ship: Stunning style and the women remains

The Oseberg ship might be the most attention-grabbing Viking ship excavation by far. Because whatever thing found inside the ship astonished the archaeologists. It was the beginning of the 20th century that the archaeologists found  the ship. And after two-year of excavation, the ship finally revealed itself from the ground. Unlike the Tune ship which experienced the old and somewhat unprofessional archaeological techniques, the Oseberg was so well excavated in 1905.

Viking Oseberg ship now on display in Viking Ship Museum
Image of the Viking oseberg ship
It took the archaeologists 2 years to complete their work

The ship was 21.5m long (8.2ft) and it could reach the speed of 10 knots. What’s captivating to me the most is the “gripping beast” style on the ship. Later, it became the well-known “Oseberg style”.

Image of the Viking ship oseberg ship
The “gripping-beast” style of the Viking ship

Things found inside the Oseberg was a world of mystery that has had no official conclusion about it. In other words, the items and remains inside the Oseberg ship were an unsolved puzzle. For example, there were two women inside the chamber, one old at her 80 years old, one around her 50. And the archaeologists could not answer whether one as the slave or servant escorted one as the mistress in the afterlife or not. Moreover, the burial chamber has a decoration of a colorful tapestry.

Image of Viking ship excavation Oseberg tapestry
The left side of the Oseberg tapestry

But what is exciting about the tapestry is that it depicted a ritual and the leader in the depiction was wearing a horned helmet. It aroused the question about the historical existence of the horned helmet. By far, no official conclusion has been published so it makes the Oseberg ship a heated debate among the Viking enthusiasts. These puzzles make the Oseberg ship an exciting Viking ship excavation to read.