The boat grave is not a reconstruction of a specific archaeological find, it is inspired by the description of Balder’s funeral from the Younger Edda. Balder was buried in a ship that was launched and set on fire. Most Viking ship finds are found on land. We find both ships that have been burned and ships that have not been burned. The burial in front of you is of a wealthy person who has received plenty of grave goods with him in the boat.
Dissemination text about boat grave at Lofotr Viking Museum in the Viking Age. Audio file will come soon.
The most famous literary source of a Viking Chieftain’s funeral was written by Ibn Fadlan between 921 and 922 AD. It happened somewhere along the river Volga, in present-day Russia. Fadlan wrote that when the Chieftain died, the ship was pulled ashore. The dead Chieftain was taken into the tent that had been raised on the ship, and they laid him on a rug and supported him with pillows. They spent 10 days sewing magnificent clothes for him. Weapons, objects and food and drink were placed on the Chieftain’s body. A slave woman was sacrificed in addition to horses, dogs, and cows. The ship was set on fire and a mound was raised over the ashes.
Such a wonderful funeral was only awarded to Chieftains or the wealthy. We know of several such boat burials in Norway as Oseberg, Gokstad, Tune and Myklebust.
Gokstad burial: Around the year 900 AD a rich and powerful man died, and the Gokstad ship was used as a burial ship. At the back of the ship, a burial chamber was built where the dead man was buried.
The deceased was dressed in a decorative suit when he was buried. Weapons and jewellery are gone. These were probably taken by grave robbers already in the Viking Age, but they did not take everything. Among other things, one found a game board with game pieces made of horn, fishing hooks and harness fittings of iron, lead, and gilded bronze, 64 shields, kitchen utensils, six beds, a tent, a sleigh and three smaller boats. The deceased also had 12 horses, eight dogs, two peregrine falcons and two peacocks with him in the grave.
Gokstad ship: The Gokstad ship was built in the Viking Age (around 890 AD). It was a flexible and fast ship that was well suited for sailing and rowing on the high seas. The ship was built of oak and was 23,2 m long and 5,2 m wide. The crew might have consisted of 34 people.
At the museum we have two reconstructions of the Gokstad ship. A ship called Lofotr which is a full-size reconstruction, and a smaller version called Vargfotr. In addition, we have a copy of the so-called femkeiping, one of the ship’s boats that was found together with the Gokstad ship.