Haithabu ship burial

In 1908 an unusual grave structure was found during the investigation of the Viking Age burial ground at Hedeby, near Schleswig. It comprised a subterranean grave chamber with three contemporaneous burials and a shallow pit alongside containing the remains of three horses. All of this was covered by a burial mound, which also contained a buried longship, placed on top of the grave chamber. By virtue of the rich grave goods in the chamber, the burial can be dated to c. AD 850, and the longship, accordingly, to some time between AD 825 and AD 850.

The ship from the grave at Hedeby was very poorly preserved. All the wood had rotted away, apart from small remains of oak wood, which had been preserved by the rust from the rivets in the planks. The stem and stern of the vessel were missing and had possibly never been covered by the burial mound. In the middle section, where the mast had stood, there was a disturbed area, which arose when the ceiling collapsed into the burial chamber. The area behind the mast towards the stern was particularly intact. Here the rivets, which held the individual planks together, still lay neatly in rows. Seven rows could be counted on each side, representing an equal number of strakes. In one place in front of the mast, at least nine of these rows could be counted on the starboard side. This tells us that the ship must have had a least nine strakes.

On the basis of the distribution pattern of the iron rivets it has been suggested that the ship had a length of 17 – 20 m and a width of 2.7 – 3.5 m. Only the broader reconstruction allows room for the two upper strakes even though it must be taken into consideration that these could have been pressed outwards so that the rivets show a wider shape than that of the original ship. The robust rivets, which were made with a 1 cm-thick, round shank indicate a vessel of some considerable size. It is uncertain whether it was a longship of the same character as that at Ladby. The run of the strakes, as reflected by the rows of rivets, shows that the ship was probably wider, but very probably also had a shorter stern section than the Ladby ship. Perhaps the burial ship from Hedeby was more like the Norwegian Tune ship, which was 18 -19 m long, although it probably did not have this ship's width of around 4 m. The Tune ships dates from around AD 900 and is, like the Ladby ship, somewhat later than the burial ship from Hedeby. Another remarkable parallel is that the Tune ship was also built using very robust iron rivets.

Danish text: Jan Bill

Translation: Gillian Fellows-Jensen

Danish text: Jan Bill

Translation: Gillian Fellows-Jensen

Archaeological findings of longships

Learn more about the longships we know today. Some were found in burial mounds, others in the Viking's harbours and others were recycled by the Vikings as part of defense systems of their main towns.

Below you can find links to read more about the longships.

» Ladby - the ship in the grave

» Haithabu ship burial

» The longship from Haithabu Harbour

» Puck 2 - a Slavic longship

» Roskilde 6 - a very long ship

» Skuldelev 5

» Skuldelev 2