Archaeologists in Norway find rare Viking ship burial using only radar

Researchers were able to discover the results without digging into land and instead used ground penetrating radar (GPR) to look below the surface.

Key to the results of the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research – published Tuesday in Antiquity Journal – is a burial site of a Viking ship on Jell Hill in Gjellestad in southeastern Norway. Boats symbolized the safe passage to the afterlife and were usually assigned to the elite of Viking society.

The GPR data showed that the Iron Age ship measures about 19 meters. long, buried by ship between 0.3 meters to 1.4 meters (0.9 to 4.6 feet) below the surface of the earth.

“When we do these kind of surveys, it’s usually just gray and black and white spots – but this dataset is so visually striking,” said study’s lead author Lars Gustavsen, a researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research.

“We knew there was something special there, but we had no idea there was going to be a ship burial, it’s pretty unique,” he told CNN.

After initial tests have been carried out, efforts are now being made to completely excavate the ship.

Gustavsen said the mound was previously excavated in the 19th century when much of the ship’s wood scraps were burned because people didn’t know what they were, which means researchers today don’t have much to analyze.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, it’s just a shame there is so little left,” he said. “We have to use modern technology and use it very carefully. In this way we hope that we can get something from this ship and say something about what type of ship it is.”

The researchers found several burial mounds underground. including the ship, they discovered a total of 13 hills – some of which were more than 30 meters wide.

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With the help of the radar data, several buildings were discovered that gave an insight into the life of their predecessors. The researchers identified what they consider a farmhouse, a cult house and a ballroom.

According to Gustavsen, from the 5th century AD, the land was converted into an elite “high-ranking cemetery and settlement” during the Viking Age.

Gustavsen hopes to get more funding to learn more about the area. “By doing a bigger survey, we can get a more complete picture of Gjellestad. We can describe or explain why it came about and why it ultimately failed or was no longer used.”

There were many important historical events in the late Nordic Iron Age, which lasted from 550 to 1050, including the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the rise of the Viking Age. The researchers hope the website can uncover new truths about such a turbulent time.

The discoveries came after research was conducted in 2017 to determine whether the proposed blueprints would damage archaeological artifacts underground.

The Jell Mound, the site of the finds, is located in Gjellestad in the southeastern Norwegian region of Østfold. The mound is widely known as one of the largest Iron Age burial mounds in Scandinavia.

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