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The excavation of the Tune ship

The Tune ship was the first Viking ship to be excavated in Norway. It looks pretty decomposed, but is still the world's third best preserved Viking ship

The Tune ship was found in 1867 on the Nedre Haugen Farm outside Fredrikstad in southeastern Norway. It was the first Viking ship to be excavated and both the discovery and excavation was a sensation and attracted a great deal of interest. The ship was named after the parish of Tune.

The Tune ship’s burial mound was unusually large. It was approximately 60 metres in diameter and about four metres high, making it one of the country's largest burial mounds. In the years before the excavation, much of the mound’s earth had been removed for use elsewhere, so originally the mound was even bigger.

The ship was partially buried into the clay below ground level and was also full of clay inside. This kept the lower section of the ship damp and well preserved. The actual mound that was constructed above, on the other hand, was sandier which allowed oxygen to enter. This  helped to break down the ship and the burial gifts. It is also possible that the mound broken into, perhaps once as early as the Viking Age and at least once more in the mid-1700s. Thus when the ship was excavated in 1867, all that was found was the bottom section of the ship that had been covered in clay -  and just a small number of the grave goods.

The Tune ship was excavated at a time when modern archaeology was only just developing. It was extracted from the mound quickly and roughly. This resulted in the loss or destruction of the remains of the man who was buried in the ship and the artefacts that remained after earlier intrusions. These items are described in notes that were made during the excavation, but most of them disappeared during or just after the excavation and never arrived at the museum. The few artefacts that still exist include fragments of fine wooden carvings that suggest the tomb had probably been richly equipped.

The Tune ship was built in around 910 CE and is a clinker-built ship of oak. The ship probably had 12 oar holes on each side. That would mean it had a crew of 24 oarsmen plus a steersman and lookout.

Published June 19, 2020 12:59 PM - Last modified June 19, 2020 3:05 PM