Hey, that's not where ships go. With the help of radar, archaeologists in Norway recently discovered a millennium-old Viking longship beneath a burial mound on the island of Edøy in western Norway. While the fore and aft sterns have been destroyed by plowing, researchers believe the ship was once at least 56 feet long. Only three well preserved Viking ship burials have ever been found in Norway, and all of them were excavated years ago making this discovery one of immense historical significance.
Researchers from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) discovered the buried longship using high-resolution georadar. Dr Knut Paasche, who lead the research, says:
“This is incredibly exciting. And again, it’s the technology that helps us find yet another ship. As the technology is making leaps forward, we are learning more and more about our past.
We only know of three well-preserved Viking ship burials in Norway, and these were excavated a long time ago. This new ship will certainly be of great historical significance and it will add to our knowledge as it can be investigated with modern means of archaeology.”
The ship is buried in a field next to a church, and researchers say they found the ship almost by chance. They had been directed to a nearby area that was considered promising but, after a full investigation, came up empty-handed. The researchers say they were left with time to spare and decided to survey another area. That second area turned out to have a whole Viking longship buried underneath it.
So far, no physical excavations have been made. A spokesman for NIKU spoke to Fox News and said:
“The survey [at Edøy] has been purely non-intrusive. Our equipment is getting better, so we can be pretty sure of what we have here. On top of that, the island itself is smack in the middle of Merovingian and Viking activity more than a thousand year[s] ago. The locals were really happy with the find - but not really surprised.”
It is unknown if any human burials are contained within the ship and researchers are unsure if they will start physical excavations. With the quality of modern georadar technology, researchers think they may be able to study the ship without excavating the site and possibly damaging the ship. The NIKU spokesman said:
“It will depend on the state of the ship. There will probably be a probe-excavation to see if there is anything left at all and the state of the soil.
Do we need to dig up everything? We can do a lot more with non-intrusive instruments now that we know the exact location.”
The researchers say that they have found signs of early Viking settlements in the area, but it is still too early to know much about them.
There has been a surge of Viking discoveries in recent years due in no small part to the advances in modern imaging technology. This is yet another example of how technology is increasing the pace of archaeological discovery. One can't help but wonder how much these quickening discoveries will change what we think we know about ancient history.