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The Oseberg ship – an elegant vessel

The Oseberg ship is a particularly fine vessel, and the person who had it made spent considerable resources on the decoration of the ship.

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Oseberg prow.

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Decorated with animal ornamentation

The prow and stern is richly carved with beautiful animal ornamentation far below the waterline and up along the prow, which ends in a spiralling serpent’s head. Such an ornately decorated ship has undoubtedly been reserved for special members of the aristocracy.

Room for 30 oarsmen

The Oseberg ship could be both sailed and rowed. There are 15 oar holes on each side so fully manned, the ship would have had 30 oarsmen. In addition, there was a helmsman at the steering oar and a lookout who stood in the bow. The oars are made of pine, and some of them show traces of painted decorations. The oars show no signs of wear, so perhaps they were made especially for the burial.

Made of oak

The Oseberg ship was built in southwestern Norway around the year 820, and is made of oak. Each of the strakes overlaps the one below and they are fixed with iron rivets. The side of the ship consists of 12 strakes. Below the waterline, they are only 2‒ 3 cm thick, while the two upper strakes are a little thicker. The deck is made of loose pine planks. The mast is also pine and was between 10 and 13 metres high.

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The Oseberg ship in the Viking Ship Museum. © Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo/ Eirik Irgens Johnsen

Saving Oseberg

Saving Oseberg is a project that documents the wooden artefacts from the Oseberg find and investigates possible conservation strategies to re-treat and preserve this iconic heritage for the future. Read more about Saving Oseberg.


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Published July 8, 2016 12:11 PM - Last modified Mar. 27, 2020 9:42 AM