Guest researchers and PhD students 

The Viking Ship Museum offers ideal conditions for guest researchers and PhD students who study maritime cultural history or aspects of museum outreach to the public. The Viking Ship Museum keeps Denmark's largest maritime archaeological archives and library. Shorter or longer durations of study at the museum can be arranged with: 

Athena Trakadas, PhD 

Email: at(at) 

Listed below are the PhD projects that are currently conducted in collaboration with the Viking Ship Museum and the long term guest researcher that the Viking Ship Museum host: 

Throughout 2023 Dr. Britt Baillie will be a Visiting Scholar at the Viking Ship Museum. She will be carrying out research to comparatively analyze and contextualize the Viking Age mass graves at Salme, Repton, Weymouth, and Oxford. She will also be working on an article on the uses and abuses of Viking Age heritage in contemporary Europe. 

Britt Baillie is a Panel Tutor at the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) (University of Cambridge), an Honorary Research Associate, McDonald Institute of Archaeology (University of Cambridge), a researcher and founding member of the Centre for Urban Conflict Research (University of Cambridge), and an editor of the Palgrave Studies in Heritage and Conflict series. She studied Medieval Archaeology at the University College London. Subsequently, she completed her MPhil and PhD in Archaeology and Heritage Management at the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge. After holding several research and teaching posts at Cambridge, she moved to South Africa where she carried out research on contested heritage in contested urban space.

In his PhD-Project, Massimiliano Ditta from the University of Stavanger, Museum of Archaeology, aims to deliver a new standpoint for understanding the Late Iron Age period in Western Norway by exploring the relation between shipbuilding material culture and expansion, interaction, and centralisation of power.

The topography of Western Norway has always made seafaring an indispensable requirement for its population. Thus, it is not surprising that since prehistory, boats and ships were critical tools for communication, trade, and war and represented one of the most important motifs in religious symbolism. This especially holds true for the Late Iron Age (AD 550-1050) in Western Norway, where boats and ships were pivotal for forming and maintaining power centres and the Viking age’s westward expansion. Although ships and boats played a significant role in Western Norway, our knowledge about ship technology is meagre. For the Late Iron Age, studies on shipbuilding in Norway are limited to a handful of ship finds from graves or bogs offering contexts such as Oseberg, Gokstad, Tune and Kvalsund. Besides these complete finds, there are several isolated or fragmentary nautical timber finds from the Late Iron Age stemming from bogs and graves, but they have received little or no attention at all.

Through detailed documentation and analysis of ship finds and fragmentary nautical timbers from bogs, graves, and other contexts in Western Norway, the relations between technology, society, and geopolitical contexts can be made visible. The objective is to investigate the hypothesis that the transformation processes and consolidation of central places during the Late Iron Age were actants in the developments and emergence of variations in the shipbuilding practice in the region.

So, in short this project aims to:

A) Investigate the full potential of an interdisciplinary approach by combining a first overview of the available material with methodological innovations in documentation and dendrochronology to achieve a novel basis for exploring shipbuilding as an integrated actor in social communities and political regionality.

B) To examine the relationship between communities of practice, identity and technology through the lenses of actor-network theory and the social embeddedness of technology.

The following PhD projects have been concluded:

Vibeke Bischoff has concluded her research project and defended her PhD-dissertation "Reconstruction of the Oseberg ship: Form, construction and function", at The Institute of Architecture and Culture, Royal Danish Academy.

Vibeke Bischoff investigated the early Viking-Age ship-find, the Oseberg ship. The ship, built in AD 820 (Western Norway) and buried in a grave mound in AD 834 (Vestfold, Norway), was excavated in 1904 and re-assembled for exhibit at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. The Oseberg Ship is the earliest known Viking-Age ship-find with traces from sail and rigging, and is therefore an important source for the study of seafaring in the early Viking-Age.

The now concluded PhD-project re-evaluated and reconstructed the hull form of the Oseberg ship through 3D scans of the exhibited ship and new interpretation of its preserved parts. The project provided a more detailed insight into the shape of the Oseberg ship, and a more knowledge of the sailing capabilities of the ship.

The project was kindly supported by The Danish Agency for Culture and Palaces (Slots- og Kulturstyrelsen).      

Matthew Delvaux has concluded is research project and defended his PhD-dissertation "Transregional Slave Networks of the Northern Arc, 700–900 CE", at Boston College, Department of History. 

He was a guest researcher at the Viking Ship Museum while conducting is research. His dissertation bridges the evidence of Latin and vernacular texts from Western Europe, Scandinavian and Baltic archaeology, and early Arabic texts to surface people (i.e. slaves) who were marginalized in the past and who remain marginalized in scholarship today.

Marco Russo, PhD

Department of Architecture and Industrial Design “Luigi Vanvitelli”

Seconda Università Degli Studi di Napoli

The research project seeks to identify guidelines and specific solutions for restoration and conservation of underwater cultural assets. This research project - for which it is consider appropriate in-depth analysis at the museum – is a part of the PhD research of the candidate Marco Russo, under the supervision of Prof. Arch. Efisio Pitzalis with a thesis: “New buildings for protections and museumification of underwater cultural heritage – Active conservation for archaeology as experience”. The student is classifying various typology of underwater rests for examine in depth nature and state of conservation for thematic and methodological approach in view of design architectural solutions for these archaeological sites. Particular attention to motionless ruins as the roman buildings and “movable” rests as roman or medieval ships, to identify technics for the correct in situ fruition or realization of on-shore museum ad hoc for historic ships. Condition to be pursued also with the use of low-tech floating structures, an alternative to expensive museums offshore, elements inserted within local economy (think of the case of the Phlegraean Fields) to use for underwater archeology courses. The research period at the museum will be useful for a study in order to trace design guidelines for an “architectural shell” (building with particular indoor condition) as the Viking Ship Museum in Rosklde. Research through identify contemporary solutions in line with conservation techniques suggested by 2001 UNESCO Convention for underwater cultural heritage.

A particular in-depth analysis will be dedicated to the architectural aspects and details of Viking Ship Museum in Rosklde, building designed for conservation of the five Viking’s ships by Erik Christian Sørensen. Architectural solutions designed by the danish architect and contingent improvement of the structure will be studied in view to desing possible technical/architectonic upgraded solutions designed by candidate.

Thomas Dhoop, PhD

Centre for Maritime Archaeology
University of Southampton


Thesis title: Shaped by Ships and Storms: A Maritime Archaeology of Medieval Winchelsea

Start date: 26 September 2013


Submission date: 22 August 2016


Viva voce examination: 21 October 2016


PhD award date: 30January 2017


Link to thesis


The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde has been a valuable partner in several ways during my PhD research at the Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton. From the very beginning, while endeavouring to secure the necessary funding to conduct the research, Anton Englert – then the leader of the research team at the museum and now the leader of the Füssen Heritage Museum in Bavaria, Germany – contributed to the research statement and supported the various funding applications.


Over the past three years, I spent two six week periods at the museum, initially supervised by Anton Englert, later by Morten Ravn, during which I had full access to the resources in the library and expertise of the staff. The opportunity to present several aspects of my research during various presentations to the museum staff – an eclectic body of boatbuilders, craftsmen and woman, archaeologists, heritage researchers and museum professionals – allowed me to draw from a rich and diverse body of specialised knowledge. Their input has had a tangible impact on the way ship archaeology and the archaeology of medieval towns was approached in the thesis. Also the opportunity to familiarise myself with Danish medieval towns, in particular Roskilde itself and later Køge, is proving instrumental in current plans to expand the scope of my research.


Finally, Anton Englert, who kindly proof read the entire thesis before its final submission, remotely continued his support until the completion of the degree.






My thesis presents a maritime archaeology of the medieval port town of Winchelsea, in East Sussex, United Kingdom. It specifically researches the aspects of seafaring and storminess which are shown to be vital for understanding how the town was structured and how life was lived. The study brings together a variety of sources – many collected during a fieldwork project at the ancient waterfront – which allowed for the production of a narrative about a community whose attitudes towards the sea shifted over time. In the process, a number of theoretical and methodological tools were developed that allow for (medieval) port towns to be studied in new ways, unhindered by any remaining perceived boundaries between the maritime and terrestrial spheres.


The theoretical underpinning that functions as the study’s foundation is a relational approach – the maritime townscape – aided by two theoretical devices – rhythmanalysis and spatial trialectics – that encourage researchers to consider how the dynamisms of everyday life in a port were materialized in the past and how they can be studied and reconstructed by archaeologists. Approaching Winchelsea from the water, materials and places are discussed as they are encountered along the way. The ship archaeological material from the region is synthesized and contextualised within developments in shipbuilding in northwest Europe. This material serves as the basis for a discussion of the types and sizes of ships that would have called at medieval Winchelsea and the organisation and working of the Camber Estuary which functioned as the new town’s roadstead. These findings are subsequently related to New Winchelsea’s waterfront. Taking the results of a geotechnical survey conducted as part of this project as a starting point, the available information about the area is brought together and the first archaeological interpretation of how the waterfront was structured and could have functioned is put forward. Venturing into the town itself, the tools of spatial analysis are used to raise questions about Winchelsea’s seemingly simple grid-like structure and it is argued that the town was laid out with seafaring in mind. Yet, this structure imposed on a population in a top-down manner was to a large extent negotiated by the people’s own attitudes and affordances. One of the most telling indications of these are the remarkable instances of ship graffiti in the town – in St Thomas’ church and Blackfriars Barn undercroft – which were recorded using reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) and analysed. While highlighting the complexities involved in interpreting and finding meaning in ship graffiti, it is nonetheless argued that they demonstrate a multifaceted relationship with the sea. Finally, a local proxy for high-energy events is developed by dating a rhythmite sequence from a core extracted from the silted River Brede using paleomagnetic secular variation (PSV) and subjecting it to geochemical analysis (micro-XRF) using the ITRAX core scanner. This proxy allowed Winchelsea’s history of storminess to be both refined and contextualised within wider developments of medieval climate change.


Working on the series of storm events that led to the destruction of ‘old’ and the founding of ‘new’ Winchelsea, it is proposed that the production of localised well-dated environmental proxies could contribute to solving methodological difficulties with reconciling information about weather events from written records and information about climate from environmental proxies. The localised proxy for high-energy events generated at Winchelsea revealed that weather conditions seemingly worsened in the second half of the thirteenth century, at the eve of the transition from the Medieval Climatic Anomaly (AD 950-1250) to the Little Ice Age (AD 1400-1700), forcing the residents of Old Winchelsea to protect themselves by building sea defences and ultimately requiring them to relocate to a nearby hilltop. Stimulated by the theoretical device of spatial trialectics, the choice of the new site, located c. 1.5 km inland, is interpreted, not only as a way of physically protecting oneself, but also as suggestive of a growing unease towards the sea. The results of the geotechnical survey indicate that the waterfront at the new site needed a certain amount of work to keep it viable as an access point to the water and provides physical evidence for what is suggested in the written sources: it was “perilous at all flowings of the tide”. Yet, the ambition reflected in the town’s layout and the fact that systems were put in place that allowed Winchelsea to continue functioning as a port, hint at a multifaceted relationship with the sea. Encouraged by the theoretical toolkit of rhythmanalysis, it is shown that people’s daily lives in Winchelsea were, to a large extent, lived to the rhythms of the sea: from millennial and centennial storminess down to the yearly sailing season and the daily tidal cycles. Yet, people’s activities emerged with the rhythms of the sea and not as a result of them. The complexity of this relationship is perhaps captured best by the ship graffiti. On the one hand, people found it necessary to engrave ship drawings in stone pillars in St Thomas, perhaps to acquire some form of spiritual protection from the sea, while – at the same or at a different time – also scratching ship drawings in wet plaster in an ostensibly secular undercroft, perhaps commemorating the mustering of a large naval fleet before setting out, and therefore seemingly celebrating the beneficial aspects of living beside the sea.

Daniel Zwick, PhD

Graduate School Human Development in Landscapes

University of Kiel

The Limes Saxoniae remained a stable cultural frontier zone until the year 1147, when Danish and German princes managed to subdue the Slavic lands east of the Elbe lastingly in a joint maritime-terrestrial campaign. It was the first papally authorised crusading campaign contra Sclavos ceterosque paganos habitantes versus Aquilonem. This expeditio was a precedent and entered the history books as the Wendish Crusade, with many more campaigns to follow against the pagan Slavs, Prussians and Balts. The Baltic Sea formed part of this contested frontier zone between Catholic Europe and the last pagan nations and divided as much as connected the now emerging overseas enclaves of the former. Not only sea routes across the Baltic Sea, but river transport rose in importance in the densely forested lands of the east and presented almost the only viable means of access into the hinterlands – to the riches of Russia. This study focuses on the Baltic Sea and its river basins’ role in facilitating maritime logistics in the time of the northern crusades in general, and changes in shipbuilding in particular, especially the advent of the cog, which verification in the archaeological record is still disputed. Strikingly, with the fall of the Iron Curtain there is an interesting contemporary parallel, in that the Baltic Sea region has ceased to be a (political) frontier zone once again, which makes this subject topical. The shared cultural identity and heritage of the Baltic Rim, however, was not driven apart to a lasting effect by the Cold War. The foundation stone for its historical unity was laid with the “Europeanization process” in the wake of the crusades, which entailed Christianization (and the not so novel idea of a united Europe, yet under the auspices of Rome rather than Brussels), urbanization, the rise of a new civic class of patricians and early capitalism, culminating in the formation of the Hanseatic League. Significantly, the Teutonic Order was the only territorial power to become a member of the league, which gives already a glimpse on the importance of sea trade for the emerging crusader states, whose scope reached far beyond its initial military role.

Jonas Abkjær Andersen, PhD
Department of Environmental, Social and Spatial Change
Roskilde University
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Summary: The thesis is in the field of museum studies and cultural heritage studies. The purpose of the thesis is to contribute in clarifying the relationships between materiality and narrativity in mediation. The empirical material originates in ethnographic field studies carried out at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. The thesis points out three issues in museum studies and cultural heritage studies. First, there are unclarified questions in materiality research regarding matter. Next, there are unfulfilled discussions concerning the concept of narrativity. Last, there are overlooked possibilities in a phenomenological approach to materiality and the narrative. These issues are addressed throughout the thesis. The characteristics of matter are emphasized and the significance of matter in mediation is explained through theoretical discussions and analyses. The concept of narrativity is qualified by a discussion and analysis of narrative levels and the relations to materiality and matter. It is explained and shown that a phenomenological approach, highlighting processes in cognition, is well suited in examining how mediation works. The thesis concludes that interpretations between materiality and the narrative in mediation are characterized by shifts and ambiguity. The thesis introduces a new concept of mystery in explaining mediation. People’s relationship to the past is thus seen as a craving for initiation in a mystery, an initiation that does not happen.

Jörn Bohlmann, ph.d.
Program for Bygg og Miljø
Sør-Trøndelag University College & Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim 
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Summary: While the reconstruction of historical wrecks may make use of the archaeological material, the reconstruction of sails is more difficult. Sails do belong only rarely to archaeological findings. Besides, historical written sources about sailmaking are meagre, among others as the craft late was organized in guilds. Nevertheless, sails can be reconstructed. This is typified by a Scandinavian archaeological find of the 17th century: a small sailing vessel of about eight meters length. Not only the archaeological finding itself, but also contemporary drawings and paintings are helpful to reconstruct the form and size of the sails. The combination of qualitative and quantitative methods and descriptive statistics thereby shows their adaptability. Beside the sails form and size, also the technical production can be reconstructed. At this juncture, the sails of the Vasa, which sank 1628 in the sailing waters of Stockholm, take a central importance. In addition to a survey of the sailcloth’ weaving and quality, certain attention is directed at the ultimate process of sailmaking and the use of tools. From a craftsman point of view –  the authors is German professional sailmaker itself – can be asserted, that sails of the 17th century made of hemp and linen hardly hold an aerodynamic camber as it is known today. Furthermore, it can be determined, that nowadays 

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“traditional” sailmaking must be associated with the industrial production of sailcloth. Since the authors artisan education and experiences play a central role in this survey, Michael Polanyi’s’ theory of tacit knowledge does serve as epistemological background. Polanyi’s’ theory explains, that artisanship and science not necessarily expulses each other, but may gainfully be interconnected. 

Morten Ravn, PhD
University of Copenhagen 
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Summary: The military operations of Scandinavian societies in the Viking-Age depended on their ships. Different types of ships were used in order to transport troops and war supplies. Some ships were designed to conduct the speedy transport of large numbers of troops; others were specialised cargo vessels used in military operations as carriers of supplies and sometimes troops as well. This dissertation examines the building and use of ships for warfare in 11th-century Denmark. The subjects are addressed through detailed analyses of aspects related to resources, organisational structures and naval warfare. The outcomes are a more informed understanding of 11th-century Scandinavian military organisation, shipbuilding and society in general. Not only were many different types of ships involved in naval transport, the size of the fleets were also diverse. Some fleets consisted of only a few ships, others of several hundred. By comparing the amount of resources (both raw materials and work force) needed for building and maintaining the different ship types with the different fleet sizes, it becomes evident that a small war fleet (up to 10 vessels) was manageable for a single magnate or king. Managing a medium size war fleet (up to 60 vessels) demanded a powerful magnate or king, and in most cases a medium size fleet was likely to come about as a joint enterprise by several magnates and the king. Establishing a large war fleet (more than 60 vessels) was only possible through collaboration between several magnates and a king. Joint military operations between king and magnates was a characteristic feature of the 11th-century. The military organisation was based on self-governed military units led by magnates. This structure was possible due to a combination of Christian values and a warrior ideology which led to the military doctrine to follow a leader (dróttinn) along with one’s comrades in arms (félagi & drengr). Also gift giving was used to create social relations, and hence support the mutually dependent ties between patron and clients which characterised Viking-Age society. In order to finance the military operations, some magnates and kings had the power to collect taxes and dues and further more impose a system of coinage renewal (renovatio monetae) which gave the magnates and kings a considerable profit. Many crafts and craftsmen were involved in the building of ships. The transfer and utilisation of knowledge came about in a dialectic interaction between the participating individuals in a community of practice and the practice structure. Shipbuilding was organised by magnates or kings providing raw materials and work force by calling upon their clients. The practical shipbuilding took place through the clients’ communities of practice along with a few specialised craftsmen. The building of log-boats and small size plank-built vessels was probably organised by the client’s communities of practice. This was done independently of magnates and kings. The procurement of resources needed for Viking-Age shipbuilding required a considerable amount of experience, and some degree of forest cultivation seems likely. In some cases snekke place names may indicate wood resources reserved for shipbuilding. Crew and ship interacted, and thus shaped each other. The organisation and communication among the crew on board a personnel carrier contributed to the creation of a coherent self-governed military unit. Hit and run tactics and plunder were the typical forms of warfare all over Europe in the 11th-century, and the Scandinavians mastered this tactic. 

César Enrique Giraldo Herrera, PhD
Department of Anthropology, School of Social Science
University of Aberdeen
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Summary: This thesis explores animic and perspectivist notions in the context of Nordic Seamanship with a biocultural framework. It examines the history, cosmologies, terminology, practices, physiology and phenomenology of Nordic crafts and arts of boat building, rope-making, seafaring and fishing. Rope-making, its molecular basis and the social organization in a boat reveal the way in which physical and social bodies coalesce in the harmonies of the differing intentionalities of their constituents, forming symmetric hierarchical structures, which are at the basis of Nordic egalitarian and individualistic society. Through the enskillment in seafaring and fishing, we explore the perspectival transformations involved in nausea; the development of sea-legs (the attunement to the rhythms of the sea), fishiness (empathy with the fish) and the meiths (a system navigation, perception and theorization of the coastal environment), showing the role of normal microbial biota in the perception and interactions with the environment. Based on the experience at sea, it is suggested that the ontologies developed through the interactions of seamanship constituted a cosmology that influenced the development of the Medieval Perspectivist theories in Natural Philosophy, Norse poetry and hermeneutics, which were means of secularization of pagan knowledge in the Nordic conversion to Christianity. Elaborating on some aspects of medieval perspectivist theory through their comparison with Amerindian animic theories and the biology of the eye it is suggested that its morphology entails an entoptic (inner-vision) microscopy, affording a means of visual perception and interaction with microbial entities. Finally, it is shown that animic notions about dwarves, spirits and gods are coherent with an ecological physiology that takes into account microbial sociality and their role, both in health and in disease, in our metabolism, perception and relations with the environment in particular ecological communities. In so doing, it demonstrates that animic perspectivist ontologies are compatible with a naturalism that takes into account intentionality as a generalized physical property constituent of beings and things, and therefore sociality as generalized characteristic of the interactions between beings/things in the environment.