It was a Wednesday morning at the beginning of May, in God's year 2019. Excitement, though a little dampened by tiredness, was in the air as I scrambled to get my shit together, packing, cleaning the kitchen, watering plants and doing all that jazz that you have to see to before going away. At least this time it felt less crucial because we had a housesitter (the jungle demands attention!) meaning we didn't need to worry about forgetting to take out the trash and having to come home to the lovely smell of regret and old rotting vegetables accompanied by a cheerful fleet of fruit flies.
Because I'm a homebody, I felt the usual tinge of not wanting to go abroad for three days, just like I do every time I'm going away. Living the high life, heyo! I know it's silly, especially this time. We weren't just going away, we were going to a very special destination - my first time to visit Oslo, Norway.
And do you know what Oslo has? Viking effing ships!
For years, first as a wee archaeology student that decided that the actual work of an archaeologist isn't really for me (luckily enough perhaps, having to quit that profession some years later because of chronic pain would have killed me) and now as a hobby-old-things-lover, my longest running point on my bucket list has been to see the ships in person.
After driving for seven hours, we arrived in Oslo. We walked and looked around for a few hours before passing out in our hotel room at an unreasonably early hour. We had better be prepared for the coming day of me crying in public because the Oseberg and Gokstad ships, and their accompanying finds, are so so beautiful.
I'll collect my impressions about the trip itself in another post because this one is dedicated to the wonders of Viking age carpentry and archaeological finds. I'm no historian, so I'll leave a couple of links at the end if you want to do some more reading about the wonderful ships and the Viking age burial customs. What I can do though, is post a bunch of pictures to highlight the wonder that is Vikingskipshuset (not to be confused with the Viking Ship Museum, yeah, because Denmark has Viking ships too).
The two more well-preserved ships were made and buried in the 9th century AD, and was unearthed again around the turn of the century 1800-1900. Made of oak and pine, they're lovingly crafted and decorated along with the other finds in the ship burials, ranging from the simple and functional, to the exquisitely elaborate. On the Oseberg ship, two women were buried, and on the Gokstad ship, a man was laid down for his final rest and journey into the afterlife. Joining the individuals were everything they could need on the other side. Fine fabrics, furniture, sleds, carts, horses, food, weapons, religious artfacts, and decorations.
A third ship is presented under the white arches, the Tune ship. This was made, used and buried a little later, during the 10th century AD. Because the material in it's huge burial mound, spanning 80 meters in diameter, had been transported away, it was in worse condition than the other two. It was also excavated early on before the techniques of preservation had been fully understood, and it took a toll on the remains that were either destroyed or damaged. A man was buried in the ship, together with weapons and three horses. The ship itself had been in use for ten or so years when it was buried, a light vehicle for swift travels. This ship was laid in darkness when we visited and made out the background for a movie screening. All ships were covered with burial mounds, and have been plundered of their most valuable possessions during antiquity.
The Gokstad ship with its impressive profile.
The Oseberg ship.
Too badly damaged or lost parts have been replaced with replicas, coming together with the original decorations to make up this impressive piece of artistic engineering.
Elaborate decorations from bow to stern.
The processional cart that was found on the Oseberg ship. It’s not possible to steer, hinting at a religious or ceremonial function.
Detail from the cart.
The gripping beasts, so characteristic for the style that it’s named after the location where the ship was found; the Oseberg style.
A decoration in the shape of an animal, with it’s ship in the background.
The “Buddah bucket”
Along with cooking utensils and pots came a huge trough filled with a wheat based dough, ready for making food in the afterlife.
If you’ve ever thought about going to see the ships and its friends, I highly recommend it! Especially along with it’s neighbour, the Norwegian Folk Museum. I’ll tell you about that one soon!