The building and fitting out of a reconstructed vessel from the Viking period or the Middle Ages requires the application of a broad range of craftsmanship and technological knowledge, much of which has been lost today, or is about to be lost. As a step in our experimental activities, the Viking Ship Museum works actively to reconstruct maritime related technology which has disappeared:
Viking Age wood-working tools and wood technology have much in common with that of early industrial times, but there are also decisive differences. For example, green timber was preferred to seasoned timber for shipbuilding, and there was no room for a tool such as the saw in the shipbuilder’s toolbox. As a result, Viking Age shipbuilders were presented with different opportunities and met different limitations, and achieved another level of productivity from that of the 19th century.
The production of rope changed drastically in the course of the Middle Ages when hemp fibre replaced wood bast as the preferred material. Similarly, Viking Age sailcloth, primarily made of wool, had completely different production techniques and properties from the sail canvas which dominated in later times. Therefore, it has been necessary to reconstruct rope making and sailcloth technology completely from scratch in the museum’s experimental archaeological research.