The remains of a Viking ship have been found on a Norwegian island under a burial mound next to an old stone church, the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) announced earlier this week. The Scandinavian country’s climate minister, Ola Elvestuen, called the discovery one of “both national and international significance,” reports NRK’s Olaug Bjørneset, per a translation by the Local Norway.
Archaeologists spotted the boat’s 43-foot-long backbone while studying large-scale, high-resolution ground penetrating radar (GPR) scans taken at a field next to Edøy Church, located on the island of Edoeya around 70 miles west of Trondheim. The research team credits advances in georadar technology for making the find possible.
GPR sends electromagnetic waves into the ground to create an image outlining the spots where the waves move differently, as they do when encountering buried objects.
“Our equipment is getting better, so we can be pretty sure of what we have here,” a NIKU spokesperson tells Fox News’ James Rogers. “On top of that, the island itself is smack in the middle of Merovingian and Viking activity [dating to] more than a thousand year[s] ago. The locals were really happy with the find—but not really surprised.”
According to Rogers, the ship could measure up to 56 feet long. Parts of the structure were likely damaged by plowing conducted in the centuries since the vessel was first buried. Although the archaeologists say it is too early to pinpoint the ship’s age, they suspect it is more than 1,000 years old.
The team credits its find in part to systematic research efforts. Smøla Municipality and Møre and Romsdal County, where the ship was discovered, have long supported efforts to investigate the region’s history.
“We had actually finished the agreed upon area, but we had time to spare and decided to do a quick survey over another field,” says archaeologist Manuel Gabler in the NIKU statement. “It turned out to be a good decision.”
In March, reports the Associated Press, researchers discovered a ship buried west of Oslo using the same geo-radar technology involved in the new find. Per the press release, GPR was also associated with the discovery of the Gjellestad Ship last year.
Archaeologist Dag-Øyvind Engtrø Solem says the team hopes to continue investigating the area in the near future, adding, “[We want to] engage in a research project together with local authorities where we can conduct a larger investigation out here with several non-invasive methods of investigation.”
The researchers do not plan on excavating the ship any time soon. For now, at least, the centuries-old vessel will remain buried underground.