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Timeline from logboats to seagoing drakkars.

This timeline lists ship finds that represent increments in the development of the vikingships, as seen in a norwegian perspective. Making this list is a slowly progressing hobby-project, and it should not be regarded as a complete list of all findings. Click here to see a map of where the different finds were done >.

The Bronze Age

Two different techologies seem to have existed side by side in this period; the dugout logboat and the skinboat. Rock carvings in Norway and Sweden 1500 - 400 BC shows petroglyphs which can be interpreted as both kind of boats.

Skinboats

The skinboat was a light and simple construction, made of thin branches which formed a framework. Tanned skin from larger animals was wrapped around the framework and stiched together with animal guts. Such boats could be made on short notice during all seasons from simple resources. One did not need metal tools to axe the branches into shape, but could solve the task with sharp stone tools. In the southern Scandinavia flint was the preferred stone for tools, but was uncommon in northern areas. Artefacts of flint are rare north of 62* N. Quartz takes over for flint in the north. The thin branches for making a skinboat could be found nearly everywhere, also in the northern areas and high above the sea level. Rock carvings scattered all over Scandinavia shows that people hunted large preys like moose, deer and reindeer. Their skins was used to make clothes, tents, boats and sleds. In such areas will the skinboat be the natural choice. For many tasks the skinboat would probably be preferred over logboats because they are so easy to make and maintain. But their limited cargo capability is a major drawback. The lack of a solid backbone in their internal structure, like a strong keel, prevents the skinboats to be developed into large ships. The skinboats were propelled by paddles, not by oars.
The existence of skinboats in Norway, is a common theory among researchers. However no skinboat have ever been found here. The materials used in skinboats detoriates fast, and reduces the likelyhood of finding preserved remains of ancient boats to a minimum. One strong support for the skinboat theory is that the word "seam" has survived until our time as a name for how the different sections in a hull is fastened together, regardless of being skins, strakes, or even iron plates. The iron rivets are often referred to as the "saum" in norwegian, which translates directly into "seam". The strakes are also often reffered to as "hud" (old norse huð), which translated directly into english "skin". These terms would be meaningless if skin boats weren't part of the early stages of Scandinavian boat building.
The term "huð-keipr" means simply skinboat in old norse. This indicates that skin-boats were used even in the viking age (medieval age), however most likely as small and light crafts, like the canoe in our time.
Skinboats are part of the tradition among the inuits in nortern America and in Greenland today, but there was no contact between these cultures and Scandinavia in the bronze age. In Ireland skinboats were in use throughout the medieval age for smaller seagoing boats, called curraghs. They may represent the youngest surving examples of skinboats used in northern Europe.

Logboats

Logboats were also used already in the stone age, presumably in parallel with the skinboats in large parts of Scandinavia. Archaelogical finds of logboats have been found many places, like the Bingen boat from Glomma in Norway, another boat at Kongsberg, and several boats in Denmark and Sweden. These boats resemble each other a lot. Basically they are made of a thick and straight trunk of a large tree which have been dug out by axes and adzes to form a hollow trunk. In each end there is usually a hole for a rope. Such logboats have been found in many other areas around the world too, so they are not unique to Scandinavia. The idea of hollowing a log may have emerged independantly of each other in several parts of the world, some time in the stone age. In its simples form the log could be dug out with a simple stone axe, mounted on an angled wooden shaft.

The expanded logboat

The logboats found in Norway so far shows no signs of being expanded after the dugout process. The size of such boats are then limited by the size of the log itself, especially the diameter.
Log boats found in Denmark and around the Baltic sea shows logboats with traces of cleats on the inside. The cleats were used to keep ribs into place. These ribs helped expand the log a bit, to create more space inside and increase the stability. In the Baltic area logboats like these are still built. The logs, usually of a leaf tree, are dug out by adze as much as possible. When only an inch remains in thickness, the trunk is drenched in water. A long wooden fire is made along the log. Gradually as the wood is heated the lignine in the wooden cell structure becomes plastic. By putting wooden sticks inside of the hull, it is possible to expand the hull to increase its beam and volume. The wood is kept moist during the entire process to prevent it from cracking and catching fire. In the end, permanent ribs are fitted to the cleats inside of the hull. Even a rather slim log can turn into a surprisingly spacious hull. In Estonia these boats are called habjaa. Se video of the expanding process.

The expanded logboat is predessor to the later lapstrake boats with almost identical joints between the ribs and the hull. Even the 10th century Gokstads ship has cleats and lashes.

Both skinboats and logboats may have been fitted with outriggers to increase stability. One of the images on my petroglyph page may display a simple canoe with an outrigger. The carving is from Skjeberg in Østfold, Norway. The other carvings can be interpreted differently, as the vertical lines can be taken for both ribs in a skin boat, which would be visible from the outside, or the ribs inside of a lapstrake boat, like the Hjortspring boat.

I must add that the subject skinboats versus logboats is for long a very disputed subject among scientists, archaelogists and researchers. The two sections above represent my personal opinion about this subject, where I have made some conclusions on my own. Look upon my opinions about this as a modest contribution to the old debate about this, and not as an absolute statement.

1500 BC - The Dover boat (England)

In 1992 a remarkable discovery was made in Dover in the southern part of England. Excavations revealed a boat made of six large parts of oak, which were worked to form a hull. The longest timbers measured 9,5 m, but overall length of the boat may have been about 14 m. The timbers were roughly shaped with bronze adzes, with large cleats on the inside. The timbers were sewn together with ropes of yew, and proofed with thin wooden lathes and moss in between. The two bottom timbers were additionally secured with ribs fitted transversely by lashings to carved cleats protuding from the timber.
The Dover boat was paddled, like a large canoe. It must have been quite heavy and stable, and perhaps even capable of crossing the English channel under favorable weather conditions. The Dover boat find is very important, as it represents an intermediate stage between the logboats and the later lapstrake boats.
Source: The Dover Museum - bronze age boat

300 BC - The Hjortspring boat (Denmark)

Found in a marsh in Als in Denmark. Built around 300 BC, 19 m long, 2 m wide war canoe, paddled by a crew of 20 - 24 men, height from sea level to gunwhale 40 cm, constructed of 5 broad planks of lind sewn together and jointed egde over edge, 13 m long hollowed bottom plank, double stems in both ends, keel is missing, long clamps for interior framework, loose steering oar. The bottom plank is made of a dugout log, and expanded by fire and water.
The Hjortspring boat, The Hjortspring boat II

170 BC The Bingen logboat

Found in Glomma, Norway. This boat was a dugout logboat of oak 10 m long. Conserved at the Norwegian Maritime Museum. This is the oldest logboat found so far in Norway.

80 AD - The Manger IV boat

Location Mangersnes, Radøy, Hordaland, Norway. Fragment of interior rib from a boat which must have been constructed with lashed clamps for the ribs and covered with planks sewn together with animal tendons.
http://translate.google.no/translate?u=http://www.fou.uib.no/fd/1997/f/508001/&sl=no&tl=en&hl=&ie=UTF-8

185 AD (+- 75 yrs.) - The Manger II boat

As the ship above this was also found in Mangersnes, Radøy, Hordaland, Norway. Seagoing rowing boat. The remains of a boat where found in a marsh in 1986 - 1996. Among the remains one rib 1.85 m wide. The boat had naturally grown ribs with lashes identical to the Hjortspring boat. 5 strakes on each side of the bottom plank, which have been sewn together with bast from lind. The planks were 23 - 25 cm wide, the bottom plank 30 cm wide in each end and 60 cm at the middle. The hull was stabilized with crossbeams forming the seats for the crew. Rowlocks (no. "keiper") have not been found, but rowlocks C14 dated from the same period have been found in the same area. The boat was probably rowed with the rowers sitting in the movement direction of the boat. Overall length ca 15 m, width 2,5 m, weight ca 1500 kg, probably 9 pairs of oars.
http://translate.google.no/translate?u=http://www.fou.uib.no/fd/1997/f/508001/&sl=no&tl=en&hl=&ie=UTF-8

250 AD - The Valderøy boat

Found in a mound at the Jangarden farm in the island Valderøya, Giske, Sunnmøre, Norway. The mound "Kongshaugen" (The Kings mound) was excavated in 1824-27. Remains of strakes from a boat was found along with bones and ash. The strakes of pine had been sewn with animal guts and tightened with wool.

320 AD - The Nydam boat - Denmark - The oldest iron clinkered boat

Found in marsh in Nydam Mose, Southern Jylland, Denmark (todays Schleswig, Germany), built in the 4.th og 5.th century, 23 m long, 3.75 m wide, weight 8800 kg, Iron clinkered sea going rowing boat with support for the oars along the gunwhale. Crewed by 30 rowers and one steering man, lashed clamps for the interior frames, height from sea to gunwhale 60 cm, rugged bottom plank, exterior rudder oar. Excavated in 1863. Dendrodated to 320 AD (2010).
The Nydam Boats

400+ AD - The Halsnøy boat

Found in Øvre Tofte, Halsnøy, Kvinnherad, Hordaland, Norway in 1896. Clinker built in oak. A lot in common with the Nydam boat. Found in a marsh, but only little remaines. Only a couple strakes, one rowlock and one rib was taken care of. The boat was a rowing boat with a wide bottom plank of pine and two strakes on each side. Lashed clamps. The strakes were sewn with rope of bast. Tightened with wool proofed with tar between the strakes.
http://www.fou.uib.no/fd/1997/f/508001/

Manger1

Mangersnes, Radøy, Hordaland, Norway (more++).

The Merovinger age

630 AD - The Sutton Hoo ship (England)

Found in Woodbridge, Suffolk, Eastern England. Built around 630 AD. Length 27 m, width 4.25 m, Clinkerbuilt boat for rowing with seagoing capabilities, 17 - 20 pairs of oars. The archaeological excavations in 1939 of the mound revealed the richest findings ever discovered in England. The boat is very similiar to the Nydam boat. The artifacts found indicates clear evidence of cultural connection and mutual influence between Scandinavia and the Anglo-saxon culture in England. Maybe this boat was built somewhere in southern Scandinavia?
http://www.epas.utoronto.ca/~cpercy/courses/1001Robjent.htm, http://csis.pace.edu/grendel/projs4a/sutton.htm , http://www.archaeology.co.uk/timeline/saxon/suttonhoo/suttonhoo.htm , http://www.englishheathenism.homestead.com/shipburial.html , http://employees.oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/arth212/Sutton_Hoo.html

690 AD - The Kvalsund ship

Two boats were found in Herøy, Norway. Built late in the 7.th century, but not yet dendrodated. The larger boat: Length 18 m, width 3.2 m. Rowing boat for 20 men, exterior rudder oar, reinforced bottom plank. In shape this boat was clearly more round than the Nydam boat, thus capable of carrying more load. The frames were attached with wooden plug, the clamps were lashed. The rudder pin went through the rear rib and the hull on the right side at the rear, allowing some flex both sideways and around its axis.
This boat was fast and easy to row. Many believe that this ship was used as a seremony ship for domestic traffic only.
Herøy kystmuseum:The Kvalsund ship

771 AD - The Storhaug ship (a.k.a. the Gunnarshaug ship)

Avaldsnes, Nord-Karmøy, Rogaland, Norway. "Storhaugen" (The Great Mound) at Gunnarshaugen farm contained a ship of the same size as the Gokstad ship. Length estimated to have been 23 - 27 m.
The ship was interpreted as a rowing ship with no signs of a mast, but may still have carried a square sail. The oars were ported through oval oar holes in the sheerstrake. The mound was looted at an early stage and later disturbed by farming before the excavations. Excavated in 1886-87 and 1970. Despite the looting rich grave goods were found, among them swords, a spear, tools and an arm ring of gold. Some of the remains clearly indicates cultural contact with the Carolinians in France. The remains of this boat is today kept in a museum storage in Bergen, Norway. Too little have been done to make these findings known to the public. The chiftain buried here indicates that Rogaland and this area in particular must have been a center for political power even earlier than the beginning of the viking age and the unification of Norway. The ship is C14 dated to be built in the period 690 - 750 AD. Recent (2009) dendrochronological datings have yielded 771 AD as the year the timber was felled, and 779 AD as the year for the ship burial.
http://replay.web.archive.org/20070426174951/http://www.karmoyped.no/avaldpros/forsking/shipburials1.htm
http://www-bib.hive.no/borreminne/aargangene/1996/03-roskipet.htm
http://arkeologi.blogspot.com/2009/03/osebergskipet-fra-srvestlandet.html

780 AD - The Grønhaug ship (a.k.a. The Bø ship)

Found at the Haugo farm, Karmsund, Rogaland, Norway."Grønhaugen" (The Green Mound) in Bø concealed a ship 15 m long. The ship had no traces of any mast and commonly interpreted as a rowing ship with oar ports in the sheerstrake. However, the foreship was slightly wider than the aft ship, which suggests that the ship may have been rigged. The mound was excavated in 1902, but was found looted. The remains of this ship is stored in a museum storage in Bergen together with the Storhaug ship. Dendrochronological (tree ring) analysis have determined that the timber was felled around 780 AD.
http://replay.web.archive.org/20070426174951/http://www.karmoyped.no/avaldpros/forsking/shipburials1.htm
http://arkeologi.blogspot.com/2009/03/osebergskipet-fra-srvestlandet.html

The Viking age

820 AD - The Oseberg ship

Buried in a mound in Slagen in Vestfold, Norway in 834 AD. Felling year of ship timber dendrodated to 820 AD. Iron clinkered hull in oak. Length 21.5 m, beam 5.0 m, 15 pairs of oars, height from sea level to gunwhale 0.65 m, the keel was jointed, mast height ca 9 m, area of the sail ca 6 m x 12 m, lenght of mast partner 1,75 m lang, weight 11 ton. Attachments for ropes to the mast were found in rear part of the ship. The mound was excavated in 1904, revealing a nearly complete ship and rich finds of grave goods. Tree ring analysis from 2009 corresponds well with dendrochronological series from south western Norway. More info and pictures of the Oseberg ship.

Ca 860 AD - The Fjørtoft boats

Found at Fjørtoft, Møre and Romsdal, Norway. Two boats were found in the marsh in Fjørtoft in 1940. They must have been put there by purpose, because the larger boat was filled with stones. The boats were probably built in the middle of the 9th century (C14 dated to 860 AD). Lashing cleats for the ribs are missing. Instead, the ribs are secured with treenails. The larger boat was a rowing boat with 10 pairs of oars. It was clinkerbuilt in oak. Length 10 m. See images of a Fjørtoft boat replica.
http://www.storegga.no/museum/baatane.htm

ca. 880 AD - The Gokstad ship

Found at the Gokstad and Gjekstad farms in Sandefjord, Vestfold, Norway. The ship was a "karfi" built around 850 AD, and buried in 890 AD, verified by treering dating of the burial chamber. It was very well preserved in the mound because clay was used to cover the hull before the mound itself was built. The ship had clearly been in use for some time before the burial. Overall length 23.8 m, width 5.2 m, deplacement 20 ton. Height from sea level to gunwhale was 1.10 m. The keel was made of one piece of oak 17 m long. The hull was clinker-built of oak strakes. It had 16 pairs of oars. The oars went through shuttable posts in the third strake from the top. The rugged mast base was 5.5 m long spanning over 6 ribs. Height of mast is uncertain but commonly believed to have been 10 - 12 m. The ship was buried around 900 AD in "Kongshaugen" (The Kings Mound) which was excavated in 1880, revealing rich grave goods. Three smaller boats were found in pieces inside the large ship. The faering and the seksring are reconstruced.
Read more about the
Gokstad ship.

900 AD - The Tune ship

Found in Haugen/Rostad Rolvsøy, Østfold, Norway. Clinker-built karv (karfi) from the last part of the 9th century or early after 900 AD. Length 19 - 20 m, width 4.35 m. The hull was made of oak and had 12 pairs of oars, the oars went through the hull in the upper strake. 12 strakes in all on each side. Length of keel ca 14 m. The base for the mast was very rugged, suggesting that the ship had a rig without shrouds to the gunwhale. Height from sea level to top of the gunwhale was probably 70 cm. The ship was buried in "Båthaugen" (The Boat Mound) which was excavated in 1867.
More info about
the Tune ship.

998 AD - The Klåstad ship

Found in the fjord at Klåstad, Tjølling, Vestfold, Norway. Built 998 AD. Length ca 21 m, width 4,5 m, clinkerbuilt trade vessel, ribs and strakes attached with wooden plugs. The 7th strake was reinforced - a meginhufr - the strong strake. Rowlocks along the gunwhale, but no base for a mast suggests that the ship was rowed only. Excavated in 1970 by prof. A.E. Christensen.

1000 - Skuldelev 1 wreck (Denmark)

Found sunken in shallow water in the Roskilde fjord in Denmark together with several other ships. They have problably been sunken there by purpose to form a barricade. Built in the second half of the 10th century or around 1000 AD. The ship was a knórr, which was a load carrier well suited for crossing oceans on trading travels.The hull was clinker-built from pine with a more rounded shape than the longships. The site of the finding was excavated in 1962 by dry-docking the whole area around the wrecks. Materials used in this boat was pine, oak and lind.Length 16.0 m, width 4.8 m, deployment without cargo 0.6 m, with cargo 1.3 m. Deplacement 36 ton incl. fully loaded, cargo 20-24 ton, oarpairs 2-4, crew 6 - 8 men, area of sail ca. 90 m², cruisings speed ca. 5 knots, top speed ca. 13 knots. Built around 1030 in western Norway. Ca. 60% of the hull is preserved.

1025-26 Roskilde 6 longship (Denmark)

In 1997 a wrecked longship was found in the harbour at the Roskilde viking ship museum. The ship had sunk close to land, probably during a storm. The excavations revealed bottom strakes from a poorly preserved longship. It was radiocarbon dated to about 1025 AD, and was in 2010 confirmed by dendrodating to 1025 as the year for felling of the ship timber . Analysis of the provenance of the oak timber indicates that the ship was built in Vestfold, Norway. (N. Bonde, Natmus, DK, NNU rapport nr.3 2010) Its overall length is estimated to 37 meters. Beam 3,7 m. It had 30 pairs of oars or more. Roskilde 6 is the largest warship from the viking age found so far. The research analysis by 2010 suggests that it had 39 rooms, corresponding to 78 rowers, which points to the 40 room large flagship of Haakon Jarl Eiriksson, mentioned in the Saga of Olav the Holy. It is also possible that Roskilde 6 is identical to "Visundr" that according to the saga was built for king Olav Haraldsson in the winter of 1026. (N. Bonde & F.A. Stylegard: http://www.nrk.no/nyheter/distrikt/sorlandet/1.7428766)

1042 - The Skuldelev 2 wreck (Denmark) - longship

Found in the Roskilde fjord in Danmark along with the other Skuldelev wrecks. Built in 1042 in Dublin, Ireland. Length was 30 m which makes this ship the largest viking ship ever found. Width 3.8 m. Deployment 0.9 m. Deplacement ca. 30 ton fully equipped. The hull was clinker-built of pine strakes with 30 pairs of oars. Crew 70 - 80 men. Area of the sail ca 120 m². Average cruising speed ca. 6 knots. Top speed 15 - 20 knots. Today about 25% of the hull is preserved. It is exhibited in the Vikingship museum in Roskilde, Denmark.

Other major ship finds in Norway

The Borre ship - ca 950 AD

Found in 1852 in Borre, Vestfold, Norway. It was buried in a mound, but the ship was too damaged to exactly determine its size. Probably at the same size as the 21 m long Tune ship.
Borre

The Rostad ship

Rostad, Rolvsøy, Østfold. Remains of a ship was found in a mound at the Skjeberg farm in Rostad in 1751 by the people on the farm. The ship was referred to as "a large ship", perhaps about 20 m long. The ship had clinkerbuilt hull made of oak strakes. Bones from humans and animals were found onboard along with some grave goods. Today the mound is completely levelled and gone. By the time of the finding it was probably not fully understood tha this ship was from the viking age.

The Valle ship

Found at Valle farm in Østfold, Norway. Remains of a ship was found in a building site in 1894. Some wood and a large number of iron nails were found along with some grave goods. A swordhandle with anglo saxon ornaments and a weight balance with lead weights were taken care of. This boat grave is probably from around 900 AD or a bit later.

The Myklebust ship - 10th century AD

Remains of a large ship was found at the Myklebust farm in Nordfjordeid, Norway at the excavation in 1903. The ship was burned before the remains were buried in the centre of a large mound. The large number of nails and their size and many iron parts of shields suggests that the ship was at least 25 m long. This makes the ship one of the largest ships ever found in Norway. Several other large mounds were in the same area, but have been destroyed by farming before any excavations have been done. These mounds indicate that Nordfjord have been a political and cultural centre in the viking age, but so far no historical persons can be attached to these findings.

Two approaching excavations in Norway

Halvdanshaugen ("Halvdan's mound") at Stein farm, Ringerike, eastern Norway is perhaps covering a ship about 20 m long. In the legends this mound is said to be one of four memorial mounds over Halvdan Svarte (the Black). He died about 860 AD and was the father of Harald Hårfagre (Fairhair), the first king of Norway. In 1977 the area was examined with georadar, indicating a boat-like shape in the lower layers of the mound. Further investigations will probably be done in 2005.
Article in Aftenposten: "
Skjuler Halvdanshaugen et vikingskip?"
Ringerike Museum:
http://www.ringerikes.museum.no/misc/arkeologi/halvdanshaugen.html

Another mound at Rom, Slagendalen, Tønsberg, Norway, may also hide a ship from the viking age. This mound is only 1,5 km from the mound where the Oseberg ship was found. Pre-examinations with georadar show contours of a ship about 20 m long. The radar pictures also shows signs of looting of the grave. The lower layers of the mound are believed to contain clay, which gives good conditions for preserving wooden materials.
Article in VG: "
Er dette vårt fjerde vikingskip?"

Links

Comprehensive list of modern replicas: http://www.abc.se/~m10354/bld/replicas.htm

The Skuldelev ships: http://www.abc.se/~m10354/uwa/skuldele.htm, http://www.vikingeskibsmuseet.dk./

The Nydam boat: http://www.abc.se/~m10354/uwa/nydam-e.htm, http://cma.soton.ac.uk/HistShip/shlect67.htm

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Copyright 2003 Jørn Olav Løset, Norway. E-mail: joeolavl @ online.no