Maritime archaeologist, Matko Cvrljak, working on the excavation of the medieval ship from Kalverev. Before the archaeologists could begin to get an idea of the extent of the wreck, they first had to remove 1.4m of sand and silt. Photo: Nilas H. Møller
Maritime archaeologist, Matko Cvrljak, working on the excavation of the medieval ship from Kalverev. Before the archaeologists could begin to get an idea of the extent of the wreck, they first had to remove 1.4m of sand and silt. Photo: Nilas H. Møller

Medieval ship from Kalverev 

- the missing in Nordic boatbuilding?

The rare find will provide the archaeologists with new knowledge concerning the development of the Nordic ship, from the light and elegant vessels of the Viking Age to the heavier ships of the Middle Ages.

It’s a rare occurrence: a ship from Denmark’s past sees the light of day, after hundreds of years on the sea floor. This week, maritime archaeologists from the Viking Ship Museum are undertaking the delicate work of raising the remains of the newly discovered medieval ship, which for the past three weeks, has been excavated in the waters off Masnedø in Storstrømmen (the strait between the islands of Falster and Sjælland).

Video: Curator Mikkel Haugstrup Thomsen tells about the ship: 

(in Danish, but with interesting pictures...)

The development of ship technology – a new piece of the puzzle

Archaeologists still don’t know exactly how large the original ship was, but a more detailed analysis of the ship’s parts should be able to yield more information. One thing they can be sure of now, however, is the fact that the ship has parallels both looking back to the ships of the Viking Age and also forwards to the vessels of the high Middle Ages. 

The ship’s date has already been established by dendrochronologically analysing samples taken from the ship’s planks during the initial investigations back in June. The analysis of the timber’s annual rings has shown that the ship was built sometime between ca. 1250-1265 AD. 

Ship-finds from the 13th century that are as well preserved as the wreck from Kalverev Syd are rare, and therefore of great importance in terms of our understanding of the development of the Nordic ship after the Viking Age. 

During the 13th and 14th centuries, a gradual change takes place in terms of shipbuilding, where the light and elegant vessel design of the Viking Age is abandoned in favour of a desire to increase the amount of cargo on board. This led to changes in building technology and provided the opportunity to utilise materials, which couldn’t previously be used in shipbuilding. 

The excavation of the wreck from Kalverev Syd and the forthcoming detailed documentation and analysis of the ship’s parts will be a significant contribution to our understanding of a period in the history of Nordic shipbuilding, which was defined by marked technological and social changes.

How was the ship found?

The maritime archaeologists found the ship in June in connection with the investigation of areas of archaeological interest that lie in the path of the new Storstrøm Bridge, which the Road Directorate are developing as a replacement for the old bridge, which was built in 1937. That the ship should be found right there, illustrates how Storstrømmen has, at all times, been a nodal point for sea-traffic:

“Storstrømmen has been a vital route way ever since the first people came to these parts, but it has also been a colossal hindrance in terms of movement between the two land masses. So it’s fantastic that the construction of this bridge in particular can provide us with new insights into how people solved this problem almost a thousand years ago: how do you best get from one coast to the other?”, says Frederik Hyttel, team leader for Maritime Archaeology at the Viking Ship Museum.

After the discovery of the interesting shipwreck, the surviving parts of the ship were secured using sand bags, so they could lie protected until the team of maritime archaeologists from Denmark, Sweden, Croatia, Hungary and Italy could begin the complicated underwater excavation. The excavation is now concluded and the complex task of raising all the ship’s parts can begin. 

Follow divers work on the excavation of the Kalverev ship

The divers takes you on a quick trip down under the sea surface to the medieval shipwreck from Kalverev. The film was shot shortly before, the maritime archaeologists began to salvage a ship parts.

The film was shot by Daniel Dalicsek.

The divers are Thomas Nygaard Andersen and Daniel Dalicsek.