During my last several trips back to Norway, I have had the opportunity to observe the rebuilding of several of the best known viking ships discovered by archaeologists since the early 1900s. The most famous of these vessels is the 1200 year old Oseberg ship, named after the farm where it was found.
On August 8th, 1903, professor Gabriel Gustafson of the Collection of National Antiquities at the University of Oslo received a visit from a farmer named Knut Rom from Lille Oseberg farm north of Tonsberg in Vestfold.
Mr. Knut Rom had dug into a large burial mound on his property and had come across what he believed was a ship. Two days later, professor Gustafson started his investigation. He found several parts of a ship, decorated with the ornamentation from the viking era, and the archaeologist was certain that the mound was a ship burial from the early viking age.
The excavation of the Oseberg ship drew great interest from the public. It became necessary to secure the dig with a fence, signs and a guard to ensure that nobody disturbed the work or got too close to the remains. Once the excavation was finished, the longest and most demanding work was still to come. The excavation itself took less than three months, but it took 21 years to prepare and restore the ship and the many artifacts that was part of this discovery.
The ship was dried out very slowly before being put together. Great emphasis was placed on using the original timber, and more than 90% of the fully restored Oseberg ship consists of the original timber. Since the original discovery, several attempts has been made to rebuild the Oseberg ship, but In 2010, a new build was started called Saga Oseberg. Using timber from Denmark and Norway and utilizing traditional building methods from the Viking age this newest Oseberg ship was successfully completed.
On June 20, 2012 the new ship was launched from the city of Tønsberg. The ship floated very well, and in March 2014 it was taken out to open seas towards the lighthouse of Ferder. Under full sail, the ship achieved a speed of ten knots, and proved once and for all that this ancient vessel could really sail and was not just a burial chamber on land. The ship performing very well and the reconstruction of the Oseberg ship was a huge success.