The Most Iconic Viking Ships Ever

A new museum is being built in Oslo to house the jewels of the Viking Age

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This time we had the lovely opportunity to sit down with Ellen Marie Næss, an archaeologist and lecturer at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, Norway. She is someone very passionate about Viking ships and has worked for many years at Oslo’s famous Vikingskipshuset which houses three important ships from the Viking Age: the Tune, Gokstad, and the Oseberg.

Each of these ships has important stories to tell about the Viking Age, and they are in process of getting a new home in which to tell them. If you’ve ever had the good fortune to visit them in your travels to Oslo, you will certainly remember the “church-like” structure they have been housed in for many years, which was built specially for them in the earlier 20th century. The space has provided a quasi-religious experience for thousands of visitors interested in these iconic vessels. If you’ve never had the opportunity, you can experience a digital walk-through.

But that building wasn’t built to the standards we now know are best for preserving the ships and the many thousands of artifacts found with them, so a new museum is being constructed with a target date of re-opening to the public in 2026. The ships will be able to tell their stories once again in state-of-the-art facilities.

Sketch of the new museum currently under construction

And stories they are…..

The Oseberg ship in particular is the most opulent and significant Viking ship ever found. It was a burial ship created for two women — one of its most intriguing and puzzling aspects — and all of their various grave goods, including animals and possessions that they’d need in the afterlife. According to Ellen, we don’t know who those women were, but we certainly know they were important and they went out in style.

If you’re interested in even more after watching our interview, check out Ellen and other top scholars on Amazon Prime’s series Viking Dead. There are six episodes covering different archaeological finds with fascinating insight into how the Nordic peoples viewed death and their practices surrounding it. In episode 5, “The Skeletons of the Oseberg,” you’ll learn more about this very special ship burial.

As you may have heard us discuss in our interview with Søren Sindbæk, how we tell the story of the Vikings matters a lot if we want to understand those people on their own terms. At Vikingology we couldn’t agree more.

The sagas and other sources about the Viking Age are clear. The Vikings longed to leave a mark in the world and be remembered forever. Thanks to Ellen and her colleagues at the new Museum of the Viking Age, it looks like they will get their wish.

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Terri and C.J. are first and foremost educators passionate about the Viking Age and Viking history. Theirs was a meeting foretold in the myths of old. Both are historians of Viking history, both live in Oregon in the U.S., and both share the same birthday. It seemed only natural they team up for something epic. The Norns have woven this fate.