The Oseberg ship was discovered in a large burial mound at the Oseberg farm near Tønsberg in Vestfold county, Norway. The mound contained numerous grave goods and two female human skeletons. The ship’s interment dates from 834 CE, but parts of the ship date from around 800, and the ship itself is thought to be older. It was excavated by Norwegian archaeologist Haakon Shetelig and Swedish archaeologist Gabriel Gustafson in 1904-1905. The ship was so well preserved that it could be entirely reconstructed. It is now the centerpiece of Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum.
The Oseberg ship is 70.8 feet long x 16.73 feet wide, built almost entirely of oak. With its single square sail of c. 90 m², it could achieve a speed up to 10 knots. There are 15 pairs of oar holes, allowing 30 people to row the ship.
The identities of the two women found with the ship are a mystery. One was 60-70 years old when she died, the other about 25-30. Some researchers believe the older woman was a Viking queen or other noblewoman, and the younger woman was her slave, sacrificed to accompany her into the afterlife. It has been suggested that the older woman is Queen Åsa of the Yngling clan, mother of Halfdan the Black and grandmother of Harald Fairhair. Recent tests of the women’s remains suggest that they lived in Agder in Norway, as had Queen Åsa. It has also been suggested that the women were female shamans.
The opulence of the burial rite and the grave-goods suggests that this was a burial of very high status. One woman wore a very fine red wool dress with a lozenge twill pattern (a luxury commodity) and a fine white linen veil in a gauze weave, while the other wore a plainer blue wool dress with a wool veil, showing some stratification in their social status. Neither woman wore anything entirely made of silk, although small silk strips were appliqued onto a tunic worn under the red dress.
Buried with them were household items, including four elaborately decorated sleighs, a richly carved four-wheel wooden cart, bed-posts, and wooden chests, as well as the so-called “Buddha bucket”, a brass and cloisonné enamel ornament of a bucket handle in the shape of a figure sitting with crossed legs. There were also agricultural tools and the skeletal remains of 14 horses, an ox, and three dogs found on the ship.
One of my attempts at carving a runestone-type-thing. Celtic knots make my brain hurt.