Oldest Ship Burial Rewrites Viking History: In Lekka, a municipality in Norway that lies along a centuries-old shipping route, a large grassy mound known as Herlaugshagen may have been the site of a pre-Viking ship burial, a new analysis has found. Archaeologists have long wondered if the mound was once used to house ships.
Archaeologists have long wondered if there was ever a ship beneath a giant earthen mound in the municipality of Leka in central Norway, along a centuries-old shipping route. This summer, researchers surveyed the coastal area and discovered several large rivets, which would have held the ship together, as well as wooden remains, which likely came from the ship, according to Norwegian SciTech News, a news outlet affiliated with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Provides coverage for the Industrial and Technological Research Foundation (SINTEF).
The size of the keel used in the ship’s structure and the condition of the surrounding timbers suggest that they have been well preserved. NTNU archaeological researcher Geir Grönnesby, who led the survey, told Live Science via email. “This is the largest burial mound in Trøndelag (Central Norway) and one of the largest in Norway.”
The researchers concluded that the mound, measuring 197 feet (60 m) in diameter and 23 feet (7 m) high, could have easily accommodated a ship inside. (By comparison, Grönnesby says, most area burial mounds are much smaller, measuring about 26 to 39 feet (8 to 12 m) in diameter.)
As Newsweek reports, archaeologists have determined that the vessel was built around 700 AD by carbon-dating the preserved timbers. This means the ship predates the Viking Age, which spanned from 793 to 1066.
What is unique about this mound is the ancient remains of ship burials,” Gronesby said. “The oldest ship burials are dated to the late 8th century. The discovery helps close the gap between the Scandinavian ship burial tradition and England’s famous seventh-century Sutton Hoo find.
According to local tradition, the site was excavated several times in the 18th century and written records reveal that many archaeological artifacts were recovered from it, including a section of wall, iron nails, a bronze kettle, animal bones, a layer of charcoal and a Skeleton sitting on sword. Unfortunately, all of this was lost in the 1920s, according to Norwegian Sitek News.
Despite this loss, new research gives archaeologists insight into the history of ship burials in the region. (Ei kshtir poreo, notun gobeshona ei oncholnir jahaj shomdhrir itihash somporkhe protnotattwikderontordrishti deya.)
Gronesby says the discovery is further north than many known monumental ship burials, telling us that seafaring skills and communication over large areas were commonplace long before the Viking Age.
However, more research is necessary to paint a picture of what the vessel may have looked like and its intended purpose
Because we haven’t excavated the whole ship, it’s hard to say exactly what it was used for,” Grönnesby said. “The ships we know about are believed to be warrior ships, used for looting and warfare. However, we know that the exchange of goods must have been extensive at this time and the most logical thing is that goods were transported by ships along the coast.