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Five exquisite animal heads

Five unique carved animal heads were found in the Oseberg grave. Four of them are exhibited in the Viking Ship Museum. Unfortunately the fifth is in very poor condition and the remains are kept in the Museum’s depository.

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Animal head posts from Oseberg. © Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo/ Kirsten Helgeland

Experience the fourth wing at The Viking Ship Museum digitally

Four animal heads were found in the burial chamber, and one on the forward deck.

They were bound with rope that ran through the mouth of one of the animal heads like a rein.

Even for an experienced woodcarver making the animal heads must have been very difficult and time-consuming. The woodcarver has gone out into the forest and chosen a naturally curved piece of wood from the lower part of the trunk of a suitable hardwood tree. First he shaped it and then started to carve it. The animal heads appear to have been made by different woodcarvers. None of them are alike, and two of them are also adorned with silver rivets.

What have the animal heads been used for

We do not know for certain what the animal heads have been used for. At the base of the neck there was an approximately 50 cm long handle, which could be used to fix them to the outside walls of a house, or to a throne or something completely different.

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. 30, 2020 12:53 PM