Archaeologists believe they might have stumbled across a Viking boat along with some skeletal remains lying beneath a market square in Norway.
The discovery was made this week in the coastal city of Trondheim by researchers from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU). While all of the structure’s wood had biodegraded over the centuries, they came across a rusted metal frame and broken nails, indicating that a 4-meter (13-foot) boat was buried here at some point during the Viking Age, over 1,000 years ago.
Two bones were found lying within the boat. Although they are believed to be human, they are in such poor condition the DNA tests proved inconclusive. A report by the Norwegian daily newspaper Adressa said that the texture of the bones was like Brunost, Norway’s famous brown cheese.
They also discovered a handful of personal items, such as a spoon and a key, scattered around the boat’s shell.
“It is likely a boat that has been dug down into the ground and been used as a coffin for the dead,” said NIKU’s Knut Paasche, a specialist in early boats. "There has also probably been a burial mound over the boat and grave."
Paasche added that he believes that the boat type is similar to a Åfjord boat, a medium-sized flat-bottomed sailing vessel, a descendant of the old Norse Viking boats. It’s likely to date from the Early Viking Period, between the seventh and 10th century CE, when the Vikings began to expand outside of Scandinavia and head for Britain, Normandy, Iceland, and Greenland. In the following centuries, they even made it as far as North Africa and Russia.
Boat graves aren’t too uncommon around Norway and the wider Scandinavian area. However, this the first time such an artifact has been found in Trondheim city center, suggesting that the settlement is older than previously thought.
“This is another discovery by NIKU that refers to a Trondheim older than the medieval city. Other Viking settlements such as Birka, Gokstad or Kaupang all have graves in close proximity to the trading centre,” said Paasche.