Hollywood would have us believe that high born Vikings were sent to Valhalla on flaming ships that were set adrift in glacier-fed fjords, reality is somewhat different. In fact, some of Viking nobility were put to rest aboard ship but the ship was buried rather than immolated. Such burials were rare, ships being expensive articles with more value to their community in use than in the ground, so finding one is a bit of an archaeological dream.
That is just what happened last summer, however, in a wee corner of Scotland known as the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. There, according to this article from CNN, a team from the University of Manchester found a 1,000 year old Viking burial complete with boat.
The gentleman buried in his vessel was obviously of an elite status. His grave goods included not only the boat but weapons including a sword and knife, flints, pottery from the Outer Hebrides and bronze jewelry from Ireland. As the article notes, this was a well travelled and well respected man.
The area where the unknown Viking was found has been a virtual treasure trove for archaeologists. A Neolithic tomb, a Bronze Age monument and a specifically dated 19th century site have all been found in the area. But, as Dr. Oliver Harris says in the article, the Viking burial is “… the best of the bunch.” Doubtless this is true given the absolute rarity of such a find.
The team, led by Dr. Hannah Cobb, plans to return next summer to see if they can discover the Viking settlement that must surely have existed in the area. How long these particular Vikings were in what is now Scotland is always a curiosity and how they lived is even more tantalizing. But for now, the land will revert to winter and the academics will be left to ponder what they have already teased out of the hard ground. Let’s hope more information filters through to us as it becomes apparent to them.
Header: Viking Funeral via Tale Spinning