A massive Viking ship has been found in Norway less than two feet below the Earth’s surface. Archaeologists at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) made the discovery using radar designed to permeate the ground without actually excavating any artifacts.
The Viking ship, which is estimated to be 65 feet long, is among the largest ever found. Important Norse Vikings were commonly buried with their ships and this ship’s size indicates that it belonged to a well-respected chieftain. Based on the scan, the lower half of the ship is in unusually good condition.
“This find is incredibly exciting as we only know three well-preserved Viking ship finds in Norway excavated long time ago,” Dr. Knut Paasche, Head of the Department of Digital Archaeology at NIKU said in a press release.
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The age of the ship is still unknown, but the surrounding 30-foot-tall Jelle Mound in Østfold County, Norway has been dated back 1,500 years. The area was thought to have been void of any Viking burials—much less such a huge find—because 19-century farmers had repeatedly plowed over the land for years. Archaeologists believe that a burial mound that had once covered the ship had been plowed away since the ship was detected just 1.6 feet below the ground’s surface.
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These finds, along with five buried dwellings used by Vikings, or longhouses—three of which were very large—suggest the site was likely a significant burial ground for the Norse warriors.
“The ship burial does not exist in isolation, but forms part of a cemetery which is clearly designed to display power and influence,” said project leader at NIKU Lars Gustavsen.
There are no current plans to excavate the site, however the archaeologists at NIKU have proposed continuing non-invasive investigations to examine and map the burials. As large Viking ships usually contain the prized possessions of the departed—if they weren’t looted—the site could contain a trove of artifacts.