What is the Oseberg Ship?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Oseberg Ship is a Viking ship which was uncovered in a Norwegian burial ground at the turn of the twentieth century. The ship is on display in Oslo, along with an assortment of artifacts found with the ship, and many people consider the Oseberg Ship to be a masterpiece of Viking shipbuilding. It is quite large, and covered in stunning and ornate carvings which have been carefully preserved so that people can examine them.

The Oseberg Ship is a Viking ship which was uncovered in a Norwegian burial ground at the turn of the 20th century and is currently on display in Oslo.
The Oseberg Ship is a Viking ship which was uncovered in a Norwegian burial ground at the turn of the 20th century and is currently on display in Oslo.

Studies of the Oseberg Ship suggest that it was built in the early 800s CE, and probably used for several years before being included in a ceremonial burial. The Oseberg Ship was built using clinker construction, in which planks are layered over each other and riveted together. This technique was developed by both the Vikings and the Chinese, and it revolutionized shipbuilding for these peoples, allowing them to travel further than ever before. The Oseberg Ship has a high prow which curls into a spiral, and the entire ship is covered in ornate carvings of plants, animals, and geometric figures.

The Vikings believed that the dead had to be provided with all the objects they might have a use for in the afterlife; without grave goods such as tools, servants, and so forth, someone would not have access to these things in the afterlife. As a result, Viking funerals involved large numbers of items. The Oseberg Ship and its grave goods were undoubtedly buried in a complex ceremony which included animal sacrifices and offerings of food to the dead.

In the case of the Oseberg Ship, the grave goods included the ship itself, along with a huge number of items, ranging from sleds to cooking utensils. Archaeologists working at the site found textiles, tools for various tasks, cups, plates, jewelry, carts, beds, chests, and an assortment of other items. The Oseberg Ship also contained the bodies of horses, oxen, and other animals, along with the bodies of two women; it is assumed that one woman was a servant, while the other may have been a priestess or high-ranking individual, given that she was wrapped in rare blue silk for burial.

When the ship was unearthed, it was painstakingly reconstructed, with conservators attempting to use as little new material as possible when they rebuilt the ship. Unfortunately, conservation techniques for wood were fairly primitive in the early 20th century, and the wood became extremely brittle, along with some of the grave goods. As long as the fragile ship is allowed to remain stationary, it will probably endure for some time, and it has a permanent home in the Viking Ship Museum in Norway.

Although the conservation techniques used to preserve the Oseberg Ship may not have been stellar, the find motivated the Norwegian government to protect its national treasures. Norway was one of the first governments to enact a ban on the export of antiquities as a direct result of concerns about the sale of items of immense cultural value to the highest bidder.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


About one woman being a servant: Forensic studies reveal both women were high status persons as their bones do not show signs of stressful work. Dental wear also showed quality diets. Both were of advanced age with the elder perhaps 80 and the younger in her 60's.


#5, I partially agree with you. Freedom from Christ.


Not PC, just free from religion.


ce = common era

bce - before common era

They are both pc for ad and bc to those persons who wish to refer to dates as not having to do with Jesus.


CE stands for 'Common Era.'


It means Common Era, coresponding to AD.


Is "ce" pc for bc?

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