A Viking Queen: Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway.
By Cacinda Maloney
My imagination runs wild as I try to envision Viking women aboard the majestic Oseberg ship with the waves crashing against it from the roughest seas in the fjords of Norway. It is hard to believe that they could manage such an enormous creature. Wide bottomed and massive, it must have taken a slew of men to keep this gigantic ship afloat during the horrific storms of these cold seas. The Oseberg ship is 70 feet long and 16 feet wide. It had a single square sail and fifteen pairs of oars. The researchers estimate it could achieve a speed of up to 10 knots and was built in the first decades of the ninth century, A.D. (It was determined that the ship dates from before the year 800 and that she was buried since 834). It is the world’s most complete ship ever found.
Queen Asa, mother of Halfdan the Black and grandmother of Harald Fairhair, Norway’s first king, was buried with her ship along with her daughter (and/or) a slave, sacrificed to accompany her into the afterlife is other speculation. The Queen was wearing a very fine red wool dress with a twill pattern known as a luxury commodity back in the 9th century and a fine white linen veil. The younger woman wore a plainer blue wool dress with a wool veil. One outfit included silk imported all the way from China. The opulence of the burial site and the goods buried along side them suggests that this was a burial of very high status. A farmer discovered the ship in 1903 while he was digging in a mound on his farm. It was unearthed in 1904 by a Norwegian and a Swedish Archaeologist after a 5 month excavation. The ship was so well preserved in a clay pit that it was entirely reconstructed and is now the centerpiece of the Viking Ship Museum in Bygdøy, near Oslo, Norway. It was temporarily stored for years at the University of Oslo and took conservators twenty-one years to meticulously restore the ship using almost all of the original wood.
Upon arrival into the museum, you will be awe struck at the massive size of this and the two other ships they have on display. They are displayed in all their grandeur and you will truly enjoy a trip to this museum.
Along with the ship, they also have artifacts that were discovered on the ships, which include everything from richly carved four-wheeled wooden carts to bed-posts, and wooden chests. More mundane items, such as agricultural and household tools were also found.
The bow of the ship has the most amazingly carved head of a serpent with the stern of the ship its tail. It quite literally could have been the sea monsters people reported to have seen!
The Viking Ship Museum also has two other ships: the Gokstad and the Tune ships.
The Gokstad is 76 feet long and 17 feet wide. It had 16 pairs of oars and a single square sail. This longship looked more seaworthy than the Oseberg. Archaeologists estimate up to seventy people could sail in it. Like the Oseberg ship, it was a burial and contained the remains of an elderly man. It’s almost as well preserved as the Oseberg ship and was made around 890 A.D.
Both the Oseberg and the Gokstad were built using the clinker method where the oak planks overlap along the edges. A single piece of oak was used to ensure the structural integrity of the keel. The length of the keel then determined the dimensions of the rest of the ship. The invention of the keel is one of the key reasons for the Vikings maintained naval superiority for 250 years. A keel allowed the ship to be rowed and sailed.
The third ship at the Viking Ship Museum is a 22-meter fragment of the Tune ship. The incomplete state of this ship reminds me how remarkable the nearly complete finds of the Oseberg and Gokstad really were.
While in Oslo, Norway, the Viking Ship Museum is a must!
Disclosure: My trip to Norway was courtesy of Visit Norway USA, however the opinions expressed here are all my own.
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