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The story begins

On 8 August 1903, the archaeologist Gabriel Gustafson received a visit from Oskar Rom, a farmer who had dug into a large burial mound on his property and had come across the remains of a ship.

Image may contain: Geological phenomenon, Tree, Adaptation, Canoe.
Excavation of the Oseberg ship in 1904.  Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo/ Olaf Væring.

Gustafson sets to work

Two days later Professor Gustafson started his investigations at the farm of Lille Oseberg at Slagen in the county of Vestfold. He found several parts of a ship, decorated with ornamentation from the Viking era. The archaeologist was certain that the mound was a ship burial from Viking times. But to avoid problems with the autumn weather, the archaeologists waited until the following summer before starting the dig in earnest.

The highlight of the summer

The excavation of the Oseberg mound was of great interest to the public. The dig had to be secured with a fence, signs and a guard to ensure that nobody interrupted the work or came too close to the objects. In his diary, Gustafson complains about being on show when he worked.

The end of the beginning

When the excavation was completed, the most time-consuming and demanding work was still to come. Although the excavation itself took less than three months, it took 21 years to prepare and restore the ship and most of the finds. The ship was dried out very slowly before it was put together. Great emphasis was placed on using the original timber where possible. Today over 90 per cent of the reconstructed Oseberg ship consists of original timber.

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Professor Gabriel Gustafson and the crew.  Photo: Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo/ Olaf Væring.


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Published July 8, 2016 12:11 PM - Last modified Feb. 9, 2021 1:35 PM