In the autumn of 1879, two playful boys – sons of a farmer – felt bored and came up with an idea of digging up the farmland of their father. What they found was more than pieces of jewelry or ancient agricultural tools. They found the Viking Gokstad Ship – one of the most beautiful Viking ships ever found on Earth.
The Excavation of Gokstad Ship
The Gokstad ship was a part of a burial mound as many traditional Viking ship burial mounds. It was located at the Gokstad farm in Sandefjord municipality. Words about the site and the digging by the boys spread and they finally reached Nicolay Nicolaysen who was Head of Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments. He made his way to the farmland immediately to confirm the boys were digging out artifacts. Being sure that what lay under the Gokstad farmland was about 900 years older than him, Nicolay ordered the amateur excavation by the boys to stop and called for the archaeologists. Professional work (considered “professional” at this time) carried out.
First they didn’t know what they were digging up. But on the second day when the spades continued to meet the dirt, it turned out to be that they were standing on a ship.
The Gokstad ship was inside a Viking burial mound measuring 50 meters (164ft) in length and 5 meters (16ft) in height.
Gokstad ship was a clinker-built oak ship. The ship dated back to 890 A.D and was 23 meters (75.5ft) in length and 5 meters in height. The ship could carry a 34-member crew because there were 16 oar holes each side, including the captain and one outlook.
The keel of the ship was a one straight piece of oak timber standing in the middle of the ship. The Gokstad ship turned out to be a flexible ship which could be used for trade, war, and transportation of people and cargo.
Shields were placed on the sides of the ship, 32 yellow and black shields in total. Even though the dragon head was nowhere to be found (or maybe the Gokstad ship didn’t have the dragon head from the beginning), the ship was absolutely impressive and stunning.
The spotlight of this burial site should be the grave where the remains of the Viking warriors rested. The man was around his forties when he met his brutal death. In the Viking Age, the average life expectancy was about 35 years old. Majority of Viking warriors joined the battle in their teens and their war-band leaders were about their 35 years old. With the age of the Gokstad man and his burial mound, the archaeologists concluded the man was either a war-band leader or a Viking great warrior.
Inside the grave, the archaeologists found wool and silk with gold thread. No jewelry and weapons were found inside the Gokstad grave. But the traces of external force trying to break in could explain why. The artifacts inside the Gokstad burial mound once more time confirmed the high social rank of the deceased man.
A piece of Viking board game was found inside. This suggested this Viking man could be a military tactician. They also found six beds, kitchen utensils, one tent, and sleigh inside. Remains of 16 horses, six dogs, and peacock appeared in the burial mound. Three small boats were parts of the burial mound as well.