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When the Gokstad ship was found

A large burial mound called ‘the king’s mound’ was situated at the farm of Gokstad in Sandefjord municipality. In autumn 1879 the two teenage sons on the farm were bored and started to dig into the mound to see if they could find anything exciting.

Image may contain: Wood, Tree, Lumber.
Excavation of the Gokstad ship 1880. Photographer unknown.

The ship in the grave

A ship was said to lie in the burial mound, and it was this that the boys found. Antiquarian Nicolaysen of the University of Oslo’s Collection of National Antiquities heard about what the boys were up to, and in spring 1880, he started an archaeological excavation of the mound. 

Was even larger

The burial mound around the ship had been built up of clay and peat. It was approximately five metres high and had a diameter of almost 45 metres. In all likelihood the mound was even larger in Viking times. The ship itself was buried in blue clay below ground level. The two upper strakes and both bow and stern posts protruded from the clay and had therefore been completely destroyed, but otherwise the ship was exceptionally well preserved.

Back to the original shape

After excavation the ship was restored. All the parts were dismantled, steamed and bent back to their original shape. Some of the original timber was in too poor a condition to be subjected to this treatment. These parts were replaced by new timber, and are visible on the ship as it appears today.

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Published July 5, 2016 4:30 PM - Last modified Feb. 11, 2021 9:00 AM