1,000-year-old Viking Ship Found Buried in Norway

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November 11, 2020

Archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar have located a Viking burial site, complete with ship, that dates back more than a millennium.

The site is in Gjellestad, in what is now southeastern Norway and is also the location of the Jelle Mound, which dates to the 2nd Century B.C. and, local history says, was built for a king named Jelle.

Viking ship burial

The boat, usually a symbol of the nearby burial of a powerful and/or wealthy individual, measured 62 feet in length, making it larger than most others found, and was buried 4.6 feet underground. The radar scans also found evidence of another 13 burial mounds nearby; some of those mounds measured 98 feet in width. Among the other elements found at the site are a farmhouse, a 125-foot-long feast hall, and a cult house, or religious building. Archaeologists also found animal bones of a large size, such as a horse or an ox. Estimates are that the boat and most of what was found with it are about 1,000 years old.

Researchers said that it was the first excavation of a Viking ship burial in nearly a century. The new technology made it possible. The discovery built on similar work done in 2018, when the georadar found another ship, much closer to the surface.

Work to clear the land for a project to build drainage ditches began in 2017. A preliminary archaeological survey turned up a gold pendant, a silver coin, and cooper brooches. Olva Jellestad, the farmer who owns the land, will have to wait to do any planting on the field during subsequent excavations, which scientists say will be finished by the end of the year; the Norwegian government has agreed to compensate him for his trouble.

The archaeologist team published its findings in the journal Antiquity.

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