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The women in the Oseberg burial

In 834 two significant women died, and were honoured with a magnificent burial.

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Detail of the Oseberg cart. Photo: Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo

The grave

The Oseberg ship was pulled ashore and used as a burial ship for the two women. A burial chamber was constructed immediately behind the ship’s mast. Inside, the walls were decorated with a fantastic woven tapestry, and the dead women were laid on a bed made up with bed linen.

The women had a number of burial gifts with them, including:

  • Clothes, shoes and combs
  • Ship’s equipment
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Farm tools
  • Three ornate sleighs and a working sleigh
  • A cart
  • Five carved animal heads
  • Five beds
  • Two tents.
  • Fifteen horses
  • Six dogs
  • Two small cows

See a longer list of the grave goods here

What did they die of?

Investigations of the skeletons show that the older woman was between 70 and 80 years of age when she died, probably as a result of cancer. The other woman was younger, and a little over 50 years of age. We do not know what caused her death.

Who were they?

Both of them must have held a position of importance in the community to have been given such a grave. Were they political or religious leaders? Who was the most prominent person in the grave? Was one sacrificed to accompany the other into the realm of the dead? Were they related? Where did they come from? The two women from the past remain a mystery, but continued research will enhance our knowledge.


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