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Viking Burial Ships Uncovered in 'Sensational' Archaeological Find

Newsweek logo Newsweek 5/07/2019 Aristos Georgiou
a person sitting on top of a wooden fence: The individuals were buried in a boat like this one. © John van Hasselt/Sygma via Getty Images) The individuals were buried in a boat like this one.

Archaeologists have discovered two Viking burial ships in the Swedish municipality of Uppsala.

A find of this type is rare in the country. In fact, only around ten discoveries of this kind have been made to date in the Scandinavian nation, according to researchers.

"This is a unique excavation, the last burial ship was examined 50 years ago," Anton Seiler, an archeologist who works with several Swedish museums, told The Local.

The two vessels—which Saeiler describes as a "sensational" find—were excavated near the grounds of a vicarage in the village of Gamla Uppsala last fall.

These types of burials, where individuals were placed in full-sized boats, were not available to the common folk. They are thought to have been reserved for individuals with high status.

"It is a small group of people who were buried in this way," Seiler said. "You can suspect that they were distinguished people in the society of the time since burial ships in general are very rare."

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The archaeologists only found the remains of one individual. However, as is common with other burial ships in the region, this person was laid to rest beside several objects—including weapons, shields and a comb—they may have been given to take into the afterlife. The team also found the remains of animals, including a horse and a dog.

Although it remains unclear when this burial took place, most grave ships of this type originate from the Viking Age (793–1066 A.D.) of Scandinavian history or the era immediately preceding it, which is known as the Vendel Period (500-793 A.D.)

In recent months, researchers also discovered another ship associated with a burial practice in the Scandinavian region.

Archaeologists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) discovered a huge 66-foot-long Viking ship using an advanced new ground-penetrating radar technique in Østfold County, southeastern Norway.

The radar data that the NIKU team collected indicated that the ship was once embedded within a large burial mound which was gradually destroyed by farming activity over time. Surprisingly, the ship appeared to have survived totally intact, despite lying just 20 inches below the topsoil.

"This find is incredibly exciting as we only know three well-preserved Viking ship finds in Norway, [all] excavated a long time ago," Knut Paasche, head of the Department of Digital Archaeology at NIKU and an expert on Viking ships, said in a statement.

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