Gokstad Viking Ship. Source: Wikipedia

Gokstad Viking Village

Archaeologists have found a hitherto unknown Viking Settlement near Gokstad, which looks like buildings along a market

Gokstad Man. Source: Skjelettet fra Gokstadskipet – ny vurdering av et gammelt funn. By Per Holck. Michael 2008, Vol 4.
Gokstad Man. Source: Skjelettet fra Gokstadskipet – ny vurdering av et gammelt funn. By Per Holck. Michael 2008, Vol 4.

Using a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and magnetometer, surveys have revealed a Viking-age settlement in Sandefjord in Gokstadhaugen, eastern Norway. With at least 15 buildings and an 80-metre long street and a port, it is an impressive conglomeration of buildings, which looks much like a market street.

However, the archaeologists are not only excited about the new discovery. They are also pleased that new technology improves the possibilities of making major discoveries without cumbersome and expensive digs.

Work at Gokstad has been going on for a couple of years. Researchers are trying to see if they can establish a context to the amazing shipburial, which was found in 1880 before modern technologies were standard. The ship was found because local farmers began digging for antiquities. This alarmed the first Norwegian State Antiquarian, Nicolay Nicolaysen, who initiated and conducted a scientific excavation of the mound. Apart from the 23 m long, well-preserved ship with a wooden burial chamber built behind the mast, the grave included the incomplete remains of a male skeleton, wooden furniture, a sledge, a tent, and equipment for riding, sailing and household. Also bones from twelve horses, dogs and fowl were found as well as the broken-up parts of three smaller boats. The burial had been looted in ancient times, which was possibly the reason for the lack of weapons and personal objects. The finds were transported to Oslo, where they became part of Oldsaksamlingen. Currently they are on display in the Viking Ship Museum at Bygdøy.

Nicolaysen briefly published the find already in 1882 in what was little more than a catalogue. Since then research on Gokstad focused primarily on the ship and the boats; and on attempts to identify the buried person in historical sources. In 1993, however, the Gokstad ship and burial was dated by means of dendrochronology to the last decade of the 9th and the first decade of the 10th centuries respectively. And in 2007 a second important step was taken when the lead coffin with the bones of the Gokstad man, reburied in the mound in 1928, was removed from its stone sarcophagus and brought to the University of Oslo for research and future storage. An anthropological examination produced evidence of a male person in his 40s, about 181 cm tall and of extreme physical constitution. Several marks of peri-mortal blows from slashing weapons showed that the man had been killed, probably in battle. He may also have suffered from a tumour leading to acromegaly.

A research project, Gokstad revitalised, has since then been initiated by the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo. The aim is to bring the Gokstad find into the forefront of current Viking Age research and to increase its value as cultural heritage. Up until now, the find has had an apparently isolated position, both as archaeological monument in the landscape, and as a cultural historical phenomenon. Although sporadic archaeological investigations and chance finds since the 1880’s have demonstrated that the surroundings around Kongshaugen are rich in other contemporary structures, it has until now had a tentative character. Apart from analyzing the landscape – which so far has yielded the impressive new information – the entire Gokstad find – the mound, the animals, the objects and the deceased – will be viewed as a single, monumental manifestation and deciphered in order to discover what the intention was behind the burial. At the core of the Gokstad revitalised project thus stands the goal to create a context around the burial, and to give an archaeological answer to the question: Who was the Gokstad man?


Gokstad revitalised
UiO Project