Is There a Viking Ship Burial Underneath This Norwegian Farm?

Archaeologists have uncovered around 70 iron rivets that may have once held together a boat belonging to a king

Oseberg ship
A previously discovered Viking ship from Oseberg features rivets of comparable size Museum of Cultural History / University of Oslo

Archaeologists believe they’ve discovered remains of an ancient Viking ship buried underneath a farm in Norway.

According to Science Norways Ida Irene Bergstrøm, a team of experts unearthed a total of 70 iron rivets this summer that they believe are the pieces of a large Viking ship. The rivets were at the grounds of Jarlsberg Manor, an estate in southeastern Norway.

“We’ve found a place for a ship burial,” archaeologist and excavation leader Christian Løchsen Rødsrud tells Science Norway. “We can now say for certain that yes, here lie the remains of a Viking ship. This discovery adds a new landmark to the map, once a significant site during the Viking Age.”

In some ways, this find is a long time coming. According to Science Norway, in 1917 and 1918, Norwegian archaeologist A.W. Brøgger found a different burial mound near the site, and suspected that a ship burial was nearby, but was unable to locate anything other than spades and a stretcher.

Ship burials were common in Viking culture. According to National Geographic's Andrew Curry, the seafaring Nordics would bury their dead with their vessels, filling the ships with grave goods such as weapons, valuables and sacrificed animals. Researchers believe this was done to ensure the deceased's safe passage to the afterlife.

Rødsrud tells Live Science’s Jennifer Nalewicki that he suspects the rivets once held together 8-foot wooden planks and the ship spanned up to 75 feet in length.

"We've found a great variation of rivets, with the longer ones so big that they must have come from a large ship," Rødsrud says. "The larger ones are comparable to other buried ships we've found at Gokstad and Oseberg."

Due to the ship's size and location, experts believe that it may have once belonged to Bjørn Farmann, the king of Vestfold, a center for power during the Scandinavian Viking Period, who according to lore, was killed by his brother near the area.

Rødsrud estimates the ship could date anywhere from 750 to 1000 C.E, per Live Science. However, he isn’t certain. The team was unable to find leftover organic matter to radiocarbon-date the boat.

The archaeologists have also found two horse crampons at the farm—further supporting the theory that it is a burial site. Crampons go on horse hooves and help with traction in ice and snow.

“The ship and the horse are recurring themes in Viking Age burial customs and mythology, and are a typical phenomena one would expect in a ship burial,” Rødsrud tells Science Norway.

Although the team has already unearthed a significant amount of artifacts, the archaeologist suggests there is more to discover.

He adds, “Finding horse crampons in the material suggests that the rest of the grave goods are also in the field.”

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