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Work begins to unearth Norway's first Viking ship discovery in a century

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Excavations at the site in Gjellestad, south-east Norway began this week
Excavations at the site in Gjellestad, south-east Norway began this week   -   Copyright  NONRK
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Digging is underway as experts try to unearth the remains of the first Viking ship to be discovered in Norway for over a century.

The ship, named Gjellestad, is buried just beneath the topsoil at the Jellhaugen burial site in the south-east of the country.

Archaeologists, who made the discovery two years ago, believe the remains are in a poor condition with only parts of the timber preserved.

But they say the discovery is nonetheless significant because very few examples of these ships have ever been found.

“It has been more than a hundred years since the last time we had a Viking ship excavation in Norway and there are few finds of a Viking ship so far,” said Dr Knut Paasche, from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, which is based in Oslo.

It will help the experts learn more about the ships themselves, as well as how people at the time lived their lives.

Burial mounds were extensively used in ancient Scandinavia for dignitaries.

Norsk institutt for kulturminneforskning
The ship was discovered underground with georadarNorsk institutt for kulturminneforskning

Some such as the Unesco World Heritage site in Jelling, Denmark, are resting places for royalty and were constructed with rocks that formed the shape of a ship.

But the Gjellestad site contains an actual timber ship.

“Our best guess is that it is around 24 metres [in length] and that’s quite a large mound ship,” Paasche told Euronews.

“It could [have had] 30 or 35 rowers but it’s possible to have around 100 men on board a ship like that, so it’s quite big. Since we haven’t opened the grave mound yet we can’t be sure, but it could a warship.”

Although the remains are just below the surface, the excavation will take five months.

It is a lengthy process because the soil might contain nails and other traces of the ship that are significant, Paasche said.

The excavated items will be brought to the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo, he added.