Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Viking Ship Museum

Today we spent a couple of hours at the Viking Ship museum. This was quite amazing, both for how old the artifacts were and for the incredible culture they represent. Imagine one of these boats, filled with 32 (big!) guys, sailing and rowing off along the coast of Norway and down to Ireland to raid the monasteries and villages. Eventually the Vikings went to Iceland and even made it as far as what we now call Newfoundland in Canada, all in vessels similar to these (which, sturdy as they are, seem woefully inadequate for a trans-Atlantic voyage).

The three boats in this museum (these two plus a partial one) are preserved because they were buried in clay and lay undisturbed for the most part until the 19th and 20th centuries. It was typical for Viking chieftains to be buried in their boats, along with household items (their bed, cooking equipment), carts, weapons, their horses (both of these boats contained 12 horse skeletons), and even a slave or two who were killed for the funeral. Interestingly, the Oseberg Ship (second one below) was actually used to bury a powerful Viking woman and her maidservant.
The Gokstad Ship, built around 890 AD
The Oseberg Ship, built around 820 AD
Ceremonial Cart, found in one of the ships, buried with the chieftain

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