In the sleepy fields of Østfold County in Norway, archaeologists have found a vast Viking cemetery, complete with a traditional Viking ship burial just centimeters beneath the topsoil.

The cemetery is home to at least seven burial mounds, historically used by cultures across the world to cover a grave. Beneath one of these mounds, researchers from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) used high-resolution georadar to reveal the presence of a 20-meter-long (65 feet) Viking ship. Much to their surprise, the ship was buried just 50 centimeters (20 inches) deep in the burial mound and appears to be in remarkably good condition.

“This find is incredibly exciting as we only know three well-preserved Viking ship finds in Norway excavated long time ago,” Dr Knut Paasche, Head of the Department of Digital Archaeology at NIKU and an expert on Viking ships, said in a statement. “This new ship will certainly be of great historical significance as it can be investigated with all modern means of archaeology.”

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An aerial survey of the field shows the number of burial mounds and longhouses in the area. Courtesy of NIKU

Morten Hanisch, the county conservator in Østfold, added: “We are certain that there is a ship there, but how much is preserved is hard to say before further investigation.”

But that wasn’t all they found. The radar data also showed the remains of at least five longhouses, some described as “remarkably large” by the researchers. These were vast timber-framed halls made of wood, stone, and soil used by the Vikings as communal houses.

The Vikings were a group of Norse pagans who sailed the seas of Europe and beyond between the eighth and 11th centuries. Although they originated in present-day Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, they managed to voyage as far as the Mediterranean, Central Asia, and even North America – all thanks to their beloved ships.

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NIKU’s motorized radar scanner drives past the burial mound. NIKU

“The ship burial does not exist in isolation, but forms part of a cemetery which is clearly designed to display power and influence,” added archaeologist Lars Gustavsen, project leader from NIKU.

This type of ground-penetrating radar used by the team is still a very young technology, nevertheless, it’s already proven to get results. Now comes the challenge of using other non-invasive investigative tools to digitally map the unique discovery. If the situation fits, then the researchers might even resort to physically excavating the ship from the ground.



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