In 1903 a Norwegian farmer dug into a mound in one of his fields and made a discovery which archaeologists rate as comparable in importance to the grave of Tutankhamun. The Oseberg farm is 60 miles south of Oslo outside the town of Tonsberg and for years Oscar Rom had wondered what lay under the mound in his field, people said it was haunted and that it contained graves from the black death. Soon after he started digging he came across some highly carved wood and contacted archaeologists. The whole mound was excavated in 1905/5 revealing the earliest, the most complete and most beautiful Viking ship to survive. The burial mound contained many high status grave goods and the bodies of two women all of which shed much light on Viking life but for now I want to concentrate on the ship itself.
The ship was preserved and is displayed in the wonderful Viking Ship Museum at Oslo.
On June17th 2010 a new era in the exciting history of this ship began with a project to build an exact replica using the same tools and techniques as were used to build the original. As soon as I heard about the project I knew I had to visit and hopefully work on the ship. An internet friend Tim Allen had been volunteering on the worksite and put me in contact with the New Oseberg Ship Foundation arrangements were made and last week I spent 4 days working on this most remarkable of building sites. My camera cards are bursting with pictures so I'll do a few posts starting with the raw material.
The ship is built entirely of cleft and hewn oak, no saws were used. The trees by modern standards were impressive fat tall and straight grained, a foresters or saw-millers dream. Here are a couple of typical trees for the project with the part built ship in the background. Trees of this quality have proved impossible to source in Norway so most of the planking trees have come from Denmark. The oak for the keel, the backbone of the ship was however felled locally.
This is Thomas Finderup who built the 4 large replica viking ships at the famous Roskilde viking ship museum in Denmark. Nobody alive knows more about Viking shipbuilding or tools.
And once they are happy they let visitors who's skill level they are not yet sure about have a go :0)
This split started to run off on the underside so we started again from the far end, this time it ran true. It was worth taking the time as the original tree was nearly £1000 and would yield just 16 of the widest planks.
Next stages are hewing the planks part 2
steaming and fitting part 3
riveting or klinking Part 4
carving, worksite organisation and funding Part 5