Scandinavia’s Oldest Ship Burial Unearthed

An aerial view of the burial mound in central Norway. Credit: Geir Grønnesby

Archaeologists in Norway have discovered a 1,300-year-old burial ship which is said to pre-date the Viking Age. It is further revealed by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology to be the oldest burial ship in the Scandinavian region of Europe.

Specifically in the Herlaugshagen burial mound at Leka in the northern part of Trøndelag County of Norway, archaeologists made a not-so-surprising but amazing discovery. Not-so-surprising because according to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, scientists had eyed the burial mound to contain a ship.

In a bid to prove their hunch, archaeologists visited the area with their tools and unearthed large rivets, believed to be integral to the structure of a ship scattered across the site.

“The mound was constructed in approximately 700 CE. This is called the Merovingian period and precedes the Viking Age. This dating is really exciting because it pushes the whole tradition of ship burials quite far back in time,” said Geir Grønnesby, an archaeologist at the NTNU Museum.

The dates provided by the archaeologists put into dispute the history of the Viking Age. The Viking Age which saw the burial of loved ones in ships dates back to the 8th century.

“This dating is really exciting because it pushes the whole tradition of ship burials quite far back in time. …It tells us that people from this area were skilled seafarers—they could build big ships—much earlier than we previously thought,” added Grønnesby.

The burial mound is further extolled by Geir Grønnesby as a place of wealth and power.

“The burial mound itself is also a symbol of power and wealth. A wealth that has not come from farming in Ytre Namdalen. I think people in this area have been engaged in trading goods, perhaps over great distances,” he said.

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