An old Viking ship, which measured 62 feet in length by 16 feet in width, was found at Gjellestad which is located southeast of Oslo, Norway. It dates back between the years 750 and 850 AD. And now, researchers believe that the ship once held the remains of a queen or king.
The ship was buried in a grave mound along with up to 20 other graves. In fact, it was buried pretty close to Jell Mound which is the second-largest burial mound in the entire country and dates back to between 400 and 500 AD. Christian Rodsrud, the leader of the excavations, explained its significance, “The ship clearly relates to the older graves and especially the large Jell Mound — it is clear that the Vikings wanted to relate to the past.”
In an interview with BBC, Knut Paasche, an archaeologist with the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, stated, “We don’t yet know if this was a rowing or sailing ship. Others, like the Gokstad and Tune ships, combined rowing and sailing.” He added that its keel looked different from those that were found on other Viking ships.
While no human bones have yet to be uncovered with the ship (they did find bones from a horse or bull), it is believed that the ship once held the remains of someone extremely important like a king, queen, or a jarl (a noble warrior). Paasche and his colleagues noted that ship burials were “the ultimate expression of status, wealth and connection in Iron Age Scandinavia”. Unfortunately, looters got to the location first (maybe the family’s rivals) so no artifacts have been recovered. The robbers may have even been a part of a political act to “affirm dynastic power”.
As for why they were buried at that specific location, it may have been because in ancient times, the coast was only around 500 meters from the area and Vikings were known traders with many other locations like Istanbul. “I’m sure this society had contacts far away, and the person buried in the ship might have traveled long distances,” Rodsrud stated.
The excavation of the ship is expected to be finished this month and a replica will hopefully be constructed in the near future. A picture of the ship at the excavation site can be seen here.