Talk about spectacular resting places! The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway displays boats and artifacts from four different boat burials along the Oslo Fjord. Three of the boats are well preserved, and the fourth was reduced to iron nails and other bits and pieces. They date from about 820 A.D. to about 900 A.D. All the boats were used at sea for some years, then drydocked and fitted with burial rooms before being dug into the ground. They were found and excavated between 1852 and 1904.
The most beautiful of the three, the Oseberg, was used to bury two women. How important must they have been? A pair of the legendary shield-maidens, perhaps? Maybe a couple of princesses? How did two powerful women die at the same time? There’s a story here, but it’s lost in the mists of Scandinavian history. Modern dating techniques place this burial at 834 A.D.
Some elements, like the serpent above, were reconstructed from fragments. Mostly, though, preservation was excellent, because the ships were buried in moist ground with high clay content, and covered with turf for centuries.
The solemn fellows shown above worked on the excavation in 1903. The photo clearly shows the intact wood carvings. The graves had already been looted long ago of precious materials, but plenty of grave goods survived.
He’s part of a fantastically carved wooden cart found with the Oseberg ship. Vikings were known to use utilitarian carts, but this elaborate one was most likely used in ceremonies and religious processions.
This is by far the most complete Viking exhibit I’ve seen anywhere. I wouldn’t care to see fearsome Viking raiders on my horizon, but from the safe distance of many centuries, their faces are fascinating.