In Brief

Rare Viking longship burial found in Norway

Archaeologists using radar detected ancient grave concealed just 50cm below top soil

Traces of a 65ft-long Viking ship have been found buried just 50cm beneath the ground near the Norwegian capital of Oslo.

Archaeologists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) made the discovery on farmland in the southeastern county of Ostfold. The ancient boat, detected with a ground-penetrating radar, may “shed light on the skilled navigators’ expeditions in the Middle Ages”, reports news agency AFP.

The find is all the more remarkable because the imposing burial mound that once covered it has long since been ploughed out.

“I think we could talk about a hundred-year find,” says archaeologist Jan Bill, curator of Viking ships at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo. “It’s quite spectacular from an archaeology point of view.

“It would be very exciting to see if the burial is still intact. If it is, it could be holding some very interesting finds.”

Radar scans show clear outlines of the keel and floor timbers, Live Science says.  

“The ship is part of a cemetery that has the remains of at least seven burial mounds, which are dome-shaped hills of dirt and stones piled on top of a grave, the scans indicate,” the news site continues. “The remains of five longhouses, where the Vikings would have lived, were also detected near the cemetery.”

According to National Geographic, the ship was probably covered over more than 1,000 years ago to serve as the final resting place of a prominent Viking king or queen. Intact Viking ship graves of this size are “vanishingly rare”, adds the site.

Archaeologists plan to use other forms of geophysical scans to uncover more details about the ship and the surrounding cemetery. However, they hope to avoid excavating the site, “as the ship may be damaged when exposed to the open air”, Live Science explains.

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