Use of high-resolution georadar has uncovered yet another stunning discovery in Norway: a Viking ship burial and settlement that dates back more than 1,000 years. It's the second such discovery in just a few years.
On top of that, it was a chance find, as archeologists had a little time to spare after finishing a different area near the historic stone church in Edoy. A quick survey revealed a burial ship 16-17 meters long (roughly 52-53 feet).
"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," says Dr. Knut Paasche, head of the Department of Digital Archaeology at Norwegian Institute for Cultural Research (NIKU), and an expert on Viking ships.
The outline of a Viking ship is captured by georadar. The vessel is located under only 50 centimeters (roughly 20 inches) of topsoil. (Photo: NIKU/LBI ArchPro)
Back in 2018, NIKU archaeologists studying a farmer's field southeast of Oslo came across the first remains of a buried Viking ship. The vessel, likely part of an elaborate burial ceremony for a high-ranking member of Viking society, was located using noninvasive ground-penetrating radar, just like the latest find. In addition, the team also detected evidence of eight burial mounds and the remains of five longhouses dating back to the Iron Age.
According to archaeologist Lars Gustavsen, project leader from NIKU, the Gjellestad ship burial is only part of an ancient cemetery plot "which is clearly designed to display power and influence."
You can view a georadar animation of the ship, which looks like a heartbeat as the layers of earth are penetrated inch-by-inch, in the video below.
According to the research team, the Viking vessel was likely once buried under a large mound that was steadily worn down by erosion and centuries of ploughing. Remarkably, they say the 66-foot-long ship today lies just below the topsoil at a depth of less than 20 inches. They're also fairly certain, at least based on the radar imagery, that the ship's keel and floor timbers remain intact.
"We are certain that there is a ship there, but how much is preserved is hard to say before further investigation," Morten Hanisch, county conservator in Østfold, said in a statement.
A monumental hint
Interestingly, the site of the discovery sits directly next to the recently-excavated Jell Mound, which dates back around 1,500 years. According to the Smithsonian, archaeologists had previously assumed that any discoveries left to make around the site had been destroyed by farming practices. County officials told them to have a look anyways and the rest, as they happily found, is history.
For now, there are no plans to dig at the site. Instead, the team will continue using ground-penetrating radar to peel back time and see what other secrets this rare Viking find might be hiding.
"This find is incredibly exciting as we only know three well-preserved Viking ship finds in Norway excavated long time ago," said Dr. Knut Paasche, head of the Department of Digital Archaeology at NIKU. "This new ship will certainly be of great historical significance as it can be investigated with all modern means of archaeology."
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it published in October 2018.
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