Norway is famous for its breathtaking fjords and Viking heritage. A hundred years ago at the Oseberg fjord, archaeologists discovered a Viking ship burial containing the bodies of two women. The ship was so well preserved that it could be entirely reconstructed. Now it’s the centerpiece of Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum and one of the country’s most popular attractions.
The Oseberg ship is 21.58 meters (70.8 feet) long and 5.1 meters (16.73 feet) wide. It had a single square sail and fifteen pairs of oars for when the wind wasn’t favorable. Researchers estimate it could achieve a speed of up to 10 knots and was built in the first decades of the ninth century A.D. Its prow and stern are elaborately carved and have graced the covers of many books on the Vikings. Check out the photo gallery for some close-up shots.
The identities of the two women found with the ship are a mystery. One was 60-70 years old when she died, the other about 25-30. Some researchers believe the old woman was a Viking queen or other noblewoman, and the young woman was her slave, sacrificed to accompany her into the afterlife. Others say they were female shamans. One outfit included silk imported all the way from China. Buried with them were household items, a cart and agricultural tools.
%Gallery-157476%The Viking Ship Museum has two other ships. The Gokstad ship is 23.24 meters (76.2 feet) long and 5.20 meters (17.1 feet) wide. It had 16 pairs of oars and a single square sail. Archaeologists estimate up to seventy people could sail in it. Like the Oseberg ship, it was a burial and contained the remains of an elderly man. It’s almost as well preserved as the Oseberg ship and only a little younger, having been made around 890 A.D. Some adventurous Norwegians made a replica of the Gokstad ship and sailed it across the Atlantic to visit the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
The Tune Viking ship, dating to about 900 A.D., is also housed at the museum. Although only about half of it survives, it’s still impressive to see.
Besides the ships, the museum houses many of the artifacts found with them, including weapons, clothing, gold and silver, and furniture.
Now curators are worried because they have found the preservative used by the archaeologists who first worked on the Oseberg ship is slowly deteriorating the wood fibers. The race is on to save this precious survival from the early Middle Ages.
[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]