This farmer’s field was once a powerful stronghold in Iron Age Norway

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In June, archaeologists began unearthing a Viking ship from a farmer’s field in eastern Norway. The 1,000- to 1,200-year-old ship was probably the grave of a local king or jarl, and it once lay beneath a monumental burial mound. A 2018 ground-penetrating radar survey of a site called Gjellestad, on the fertile coastal plain of Vikiletta, revealed the buried ship.

The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, or NIKU, announced the ship find in 2018, and it announced earlier in 2020 that excavations would begin over the summer to save the vessel from wood-eating fungus. NIKU archaeologist Lars Gustavsen and his colleagues’ recent study is the first academic publication of the survey results, and it includes the previously announced Gjellestad ship burial as well as the other ancient tombs and buildings. In the recently published paper, the radar images reveal the ghosts of an ancient landscape surrounding the royal tomb: farmhouses, a feasting hall, and centuries of burial mounds.

All together, the buried structures suggest that over several centuries, from at least 500 BCE to 1000 CE, an ordinary coastal farming settlement somehow grew into an important seat of power on the cusp of the Viking Age.

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