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What is our most common find?

So far, there is one thing we find more often than anything else: ship nails.

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This is an example of a fragmented nail head, meaning the topmost part of the ship nail. This one was found while uncovering the southernmost part of the ship. Photo: Margrethe K. H. Havgar

Photo: Margrethe K. H. Havgar

Ship nails, also known as clinker nails or rivers, are one the things we learned to recognize right away, because we find a lot of them.

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This is a typical example of distinctive nail fragments, which we often find when sieving. This is a nail head with parts of the stem. Photo: Margrethe K. H. Havgar
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Clinker nail/rivet from Oluf Rygh's Norske Oldsager (1885).

No matter what we are doing, we find them. Ever since we started to sieve the plough soil we have found iron fragments and, in many cases, clearly discernible ship nail fragments. Sometimes the fragments are so well preserved that we can tell what part of the nail it is, like the stem (the longest part), the head (the topmost part) or the clinker plate (the square plate hammered onto the end of the nail). 


The nails look different now than they did in the Viking Age. They have started to corrode, due to being buried for so long. When they were new they probably would have looked more like the illustrations to the right. Ship nails like this are called clinker nails when the clinker plate (the square part of the bottom illustration) is hammered onto the point of the nail. Clinker plates were used to fasten the nails: when a ship nail had been hammered through two planks, they were fastened on the other side with a clinker plate in order to keep the planks together.


When we uncovered the southernmost part of the ship, the nails were not few or far between either. This time though, the situation was a bit different that previously: we have now started discovering ship nails in situ. By being in situ the ship nails are in the exact place where they would have been fastened to the ship to keep its planks in place.

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This ship nail (which is almost completely intact!) was discovered in situ, meaning in its original place, while we excavated. Photo: Margrethe K. H. Havgar

So far we have found almost one hundred ship nails, so it will be interesting to see how many we end up with in the end!

Tags: Gjellestad 2020 (english)
Published Aug. 20, 2020 12:00 PM - Last modified Jan. 20, 2021 1:21 PM