The Viking Ship Museum is working to produce as clear and detailed a picture as possible of the development of the ship in Southern Scandinavia, from the earliest times to the Renaissance. But ship sites are not just important as sources concerning the history of the art of shipbuilding – they also provide evidence of the society which produced them. Their construction reflects the intentions and needs which they were built to meet; wear, repairs/refitting, remains of cargoes and even the place where they sank or were broken up reflect the life they lived. Research into a wreck is therefore not complete before the life story of the ship has been written. Each find of a ship tells its own unique story, but the sum of these stories tells the history of society.
With the research series Ships and Boats of the North the Viking Ship Museum contributes to the investigation of the past shipbuilding and seafaring of the North.
Following, presentations of the now published seven volumes of the series.
The following text is an abstract of the author’s foreword in: ’Skinboats of Greenland’ ved H. C. Petersen. Ships and Boats of the North 1. Roskilde 1986, 214 sider. ISBN 9788785180087. Bogen er udgivet af Vikingeskibsmuseet i samarbejde med Nationalmuseerne i Danmark og Grønland. The book is kindly supported by: The Royal Greenland Foundation, The Danish Research Council for the Humanities, Kay Bojesens Fond, A.P. Møller og hustru Chastine McKinney-Møllers Fond til Almene Formål & Tuborg-Fondet.
The world began for me at the end of the 1920’s. At that time, most boys were still raised to be hunters as soon as they were able to sit on their father’s and mother’s knees. Holding the small hands of the hunter-to-be, his parents taught him how to row, how to hold the harpoon, and how to throw it.
But even then, I remember, there were many men who grew up without kayaks. Fishing was beginning to compete with hunting and many men chose rowboats rather than kayaks for that purpose. Fishing also meant jobs on land. In the course of the 1930’s even more kayaks were replaced by fishing dinghies.
One important reason for this development was a change in the climate. The weather grew warmer and so the number of seals along Greenland’s coast diminished, and they changed their migration patterns. But a contributing factor was the intensive hunting carried out by other nations in the seals’ breeding grounds.
Many of the older generation deeply mourned the decline of the kayak. Some regarded the kayak so highly that they preferred to see it vanish completely rather than watch it change into a strange kind of fishing boat, used by men who had none of their forefathers’ skills and traditions. There were others, however, who consoled themselves with the thought that the kayak would be preserved in museums for the future.
It has been a slow and time-consuming process to collect the data for this book which I began at quite a young age. Later I started arranging the large material while still working at the Knud Rasmussen High School in Sisimiut, but the many duties there did not leave the time to concentrate on this work. It was not until I left school and moved to Denmark that I found the time and quiet to organize the material.
It is an immense task to try to preserve the Inuit knowledge of and experiences with the kayak and umiak for posterity. I have divided the work up into two parts, the first being this book, a description of the kayak and umiak and their gear, along with the use of the umiak. The description of Man and the kayak, the cultural area which the kayak has created in the lives of the Inuits, I hope to have the necessary time to prepare at a later date.
This presentation and analysis of the finds of ships and boats as well as objects related to these from Viking-Age Hedeby and Schleswig has demonstrated that this port was not only an important centre in the international trade-network of the period, as demonstrated by previous studies of the archaeological evidence, but that there was also a specialised production here of ships and boats of different standards and for different purposes.
As we have seen in chapter 2, Hedeby/Schleswig as a border town at the narrow neck of land in southernmost part of the Jylland peninsula was a meltingpot for impulses from many directions. Throughout the period covered here there was occasional tension between the Danes to the north and the Saxons to the south, as well as with the Slavs to the east. In order phases members of these three groups, as well as the Frisians to the west, evidently lived relatively peacefully together, each contributing to the multi-ethnicity of the town, against the background of the traditions of their homelands.
Thus it would be expected that influences from all these sides would be traceable in the archaeological evidence for the building of boats and ships. To some degree this is indeed the case, even though the overwhelming part of the evidence seems to represent the shipbuilding traditions of the Danes.
The following text is a summary of: Ladby. A Danish Ship-Grave from the Viking Age by Anne C. Sørensen. With contributions by Vibeke Bischoff, Kenn Jensen and Peter Henrichsen. Ships and Boats of the North 3. Roskilde 2001, 293 pages. ISBN 8785189440. Published by the Viking Ship Museum in collaboration with the National Museum of Denmark and Kertemindeegnens Museer. The book is kindly supported by: The Danish National Research Foundation, The Danish Research Council for the Humanities, Ingeniør N.M. Knudsens Fond og Møllerens Fond.
The ship-grave from Ladby is one of the major ship-graves, in the category which also includes the boat chamber-grave from Hedeby and the ship-graves from Oseberg, Borre, Gokstad and Tune in South Norway, all built in the 9th and 10th centuries. The grave, which is situated in an ordinary burial site from the Viking Age, contains an abundance of grave-goods consisting of both objects and animals, and it was previously dated to the first half of the 10th century on the basis of the find of a gilded link of bronze for a dog-harness decorated in Jelling style. The grave was subsequently subjected to extensive disturbance, and since there was apparently no trace of the dead person or persons, the disturbance has been interpreted as the result of translatio, i.e. removal from a heathen to a Christian grave.
The ship-grave from Ladby was excavated by G. Rosenberg, conservator, and P. Helweg Mikkelsen, pharmacist, in 1934-1937, and their drawings today constitute the primary source-material for information on the find. In spite of the fact that the ship-grave was painstakingly published by Knud Thorvildsen over 40 years ago, it has since become clear that there are many unexplained elements. These uncertainties have arisen not least because of ship finds from the Viking Age, and other Viking-Age finds, which have come to light later, as well as important new work on early find complexes such as the Sutton Hoo ship-grave in England, Oseberg and Borre in Norway, and also the development of new concepts such as boat-grave customs and recent methods of analysis.
The queries concerning the ship-grave from Ladby concern e.g. the construction of the grave, the precise characteristics of certain parts of the artefacts found, the positioning of the body or bodies, the dating of the grave and the significance and date of the disturbance. Then there is the question, at a higher order of significance, of the socio-historical importance of the location of the find. How should this find be understood in relation to the burial site immediately alongside it, to the local area, to the island of Funen (Fyn) and to the rest of Southern Scandinavia and the Kattegat area as a whole in the period around 900?
With the objective of providing answers to these riddles various analyses were taken of both the artefact material and the bone material (x-ray photographs, and fluorescence analysis, accelerator dating, wood-anatomical and anthropological analyses and textile, fibre and rope analyses.) In parallel a comparison was made of this ship-grave with other similar contemporary finds, and with Viking-Age graves in general, chiefly from the South Scandinavian region. In order to achieve a deeper understanding of the background for the existence of the ship-grave, an investigation was carried out of the burial site where the ship-grave is situated and of the possibly associated settlement, as well as of the settlement-development in the local area from around the time of the birth of Christ to the early Middle Ages.
The settlement pattern of north-east Funen is not distinctively different within that period from what is known in other parts of Denmark. In the early Roman Iron Age (AD 1-200) settlement was apparently rather evenly spread, but in the course of the Roman Iron Age a withdrawal from the coastal areas can be observed, from Kerteminde Fjord and Kertinge Nor to more sheltered areas. At the same time there is a decrease in the number of settlements, which continues into the beginning of the Germanic Iron Age (AD 400). This decrease may be the result of a centralisation of the settlements, caused by the development of a more hierarchical form of leadership. The settlements at the same time become more difficult to date, which could be another contributory reason for the picture that has emerged. In the course of the Germanic Iron Age (AD 400-750) it is possible to discern the beginnings of a tendency for settlements to move out to the coasts again. This is reflected not least in Kølstrup parish, where the Ladby ship-grave belongs. The explanation for this is probably connected with the increased importance of sailing on both inshore and open water during the late Iron Age.
In the Viking Age an increased and clearly different type of interest in the coastal areas can be observed. At Fyns Hoved, for example, there is activity of a more or less seasonal character, while the landing place at Ladby was of more permanent and probably more central significance for the east-west-going boat traffic to Odense. In addition to having had a function in connection with the transfer of goods and as a control-point for traffic on the fjord, Ladby may have been a crossing point for Lille Viby on Hindsholm, where both archaeological finds and place-names may reflect important Viking-Age sites.
In the transition between the Viking Age and the early Middle Ages (ca 1050), however, there arose a need for protection, as can be seen from the recently-found barrage between Kerteminde Fjord and Kertinge Nor from exactly that period. These uncertain times are probably the background for the moving of the settle-ment at Ladby further inland, to where its present situation still is, around 1 km from the fjord, and for the parish church not being situated in Ladby, but at the head of Kertinge Nor, in Kølstrup. Munkebo, which in the early Middle Ages functioned as the harbour of Odense, may at this time have taken over Ladby's role as the most important site near Kerteminde Fjord and Kertinge Nor.
How does the ship-grave from Ladby fit into this picture? The ship-grave was constructed on a burial site which must be assumed, on the basis of scientific dating and the relative dating of the artefact-content of the graves, to have been in use before the construction of the ship-grave. Apart from the ship-grave the burial site is not different from the majority of the burial sites we know from elsewhere in South Scandinavia in the Viking Age, and which are characterised by a generally limited artefact-content. The construction and organisation of the ship-grave show, however, that we are here dealing with a person of particularly great importance. A ship over 21 metres long was dragged from the fjord and up to the top of a natural rise, where it was placed in a specially-dug hole. The fact that the ship was not made specifically for the burial can be seen partly from the traces of repairs and partly from the existence of caulking. After the stern part had been arranged as a grave for the dead person and his personal equipment, and the foreship had been filled up with animals (11 horses and 3-4 dogs) and other objects, the whole ship was covered with a layer of planks. Then a mound was raised, about 30 metres in diameter, and it was surrounded by a fence of posts.
The grave-goods are throughout of high quality, and this, together with the categories of object represented, suggests that the buried person had had high social status. The textiles are generally of fine quality, and some of the pieces of clothing have been decorated with fringes and pendant ornaments in gold and silver thread. Among the personal belongings of the dead person were a knife with a silver-clad shaft and a large gilt silver belt-buckle of Carolingian origin, which probably belonged to a sword-clasp. In addition there were four or five sets of differently shaped riding equipment which had been decorated with inlays of tin, silver and lead, with the harness for a team of four hunting dogs. The object which Thorvildsen thought was a whip may, on the basis of other archaeological finds and depictions of similar pieces, be better interpreted as a staff used as a symbol of power and worth. A similar symbolic content can be attributed to the find's only preserved spur, and it seems reason-able to suppose that the dead person was laid in the grave with his spurs on. The grave also held the remains of a distinguished table service consisting of a gilt silver plate, one or perhaps two bronze dishes, at least two buckets and a little knife-set, decorated in gold and silver, in a wooden case. This category of object also testifies to the fact that the dead person belonged to the ranks of the highest people in society at that time. Hospitality was used then, as both earlier and later, as an effective means of entering into agreements and alliances.
On the evidence of the shield-boss, a spur and a bunch of arrows there can be no doubt that the buried person was a man, and the investigation of the extremely limited bone material showed that the ship-grave was constructed, as far as can be judged, for one person, in the age-range 20 to 50. The different types of object and the presence of ornamentation in both the Borre and the Jelling style show that the grave was built at an early time in the late Viking Age. Comparisons with similar objects in coin-dated graves and dendrochronological datings of the ship-graves from Borre, Gokstad and Tune suggest that the burial took place in the period AD 900-925. This does not conflict with the now finally available dating of the caulking material from the Ladby ship, which lie between AD 885 and 1035, with calibrations (±2 standard deviations).
During the excavations in the area around the grave in the stern of the ship some traces were observed of extensive disturbance, which can only have been caused by human activity. It looks as if someone has dug in through the side of the mound, removed a large part of the covering plank layer and taken most of the grave-goods away. After much of the grave-contents had been destroyed and selected pieces of the grave-goods had probably been removed, the rest were shovelled back into the stern of the ship. The body of the dead person was apparently also subjected to similar destruction. Several factors indicate that the disturbance both took place within a few years of the burial, and took place fully in public view. The background to the disturbance is much more difficult to establish, but taking into account the grave-shape itself and the type and com-position of the contents, this downgrading of the dead person's power or influence could well be a matter of politically motivated destruction.
Complexity is the most conspicuous aspect of the ship-grave from Ladby, which at the same time displays references to travel activity and contains features which can be explained in the local context. The contents show connections internally on Funen, and also across the whole Scandinavian region, and at the same time reflect association with an elite milieu characterised by a homogeneous demonstration of wealth and power. North-east Funen has a central position on Kattegat and thus in relation to the sea-travel routes used inter-regionally and super-regionally. Kerteminde Fjord and Kertinge Nor were of great significance for access to and from Odense, and the dead man in the ship-grave may have been the controlling authority in this context. With this background we can reach a greater understanding of the dead person in the ship-grave from Ladby, for whom the ship probably had overwhelming significance for the maintenance of a ruling position in Viking-Age society.
Here follows the summary of: Crumlin-Pedersen, Ole & Olaf Olsen (eds) 2002: The Skuldelev Ships I. Topography, Archaeology, History, Conservation and Display. Ships and Boats of the North 4.1. Roskilde, 360 pages. ISBN 8785180467. Published by the Viking Ship Museum and the National Museum of Denmark. The book is kindly supported by: The Danish National Research Foundation og The Danish Research Council for the Humanities.
This is the first volume of two which present the accumulated results of the work on the Skuldelev-find, a barrier from the 11th century in a channel in Roskilde Fjord, Denmark, containing five ships of varying type and provenance. The first volume presents the ships and the barrier in their historical and topographical context, as well as the conservation of the ships and their subsequent restoration and exhibition.
The first chapter covers the geological history of Roskilde Fjord (1.1-1.3), a knowledge of which is necessary for understanding the topographical situation at Skuldelev, where the ships were sunk in one of the channels in the fjord, Peberrenden. The ships had been scuttled at a place where a strong current passed over a natural barrier at the bottom of the channel, creating conditions for the deposition of a thick layer of oyster shells in the area. This barrier was part of the crest of a ridge formed during the melting phase of the last Ice Age. The ridge crosses the fjord in a north-south direction and it is still visible at Skuldelev Ås, on Kølholm and on Kalvøen at Frederikssund. The variations in the sea level here are discussed in Chapter 1.4 against the background of more recent finds and investigations and the chapter concludes that the sea level in the 11th century probably was the same, or at the most 0.5 m higher, than it is at present.
In the second chapter, the primary excavators of the find give a short account of the early history of the find (2.1), as well as the underwater investigations in 1957-59 and the excavation in 1962 (2.2-2.3). Traces have been found of several other barriers in the area (2.4) and samples taken from these suggest that they are contemporary with the Peberrenden barrier, but comprehensive industrial extraction of oyster shells for chicken feed have made it impossible to examine these finds more closely.
The third chapter relates the documentation methods employed in registering the ships' parts at the scale of 1:1 before they were conserved. The documentation made at this time subsequently formed the working-basis for the analyses of each individual ship's shape, size, original appearance, and phases of repair (3.1). In connection with this documentation a number of observations were made of traces left by tools and the cleaving of the timber; these have served as starting-points for the building of the Skuldelev full-scale reconstructions. Later, analyses were made of the caulking and other materials (3.2). The comprehensive dendrochronological analyses of timber from the ships are presented in Chapter 3.3, the results of which are described in Chapter 5, in relation to each individual vessel.
The fourth chapter gives a description of the difficult process of conserving the ships (4.1). The timbers have been conserved with polyethylene glycol (PEG 4000) in several different treatments: in hot baths, by freeze-drying from water or butanol, or in a few cases, by simply pouring the PEG over the wood. The next section (4.2) briefly presents the history behind the establishment of the Viking Ship Museum, followed by a description of the principles of restoration of the ships for exhibition in the museum. Supporting frames of L-shaped rails were built into the preserved parts of the ships. They support the extant hull parts and indicate the original lines of the ship in the areas where nothing is preserved. The problems involved with the care of the ships in the museum, and their long-term preservation are also discussed in relation to the experience gained this far.
The fifth chapter contains the detailed descriptions and analysis of the five ships. On the basis of the surviving wrecks and conclusions drawn about the age of the individual ships, their origin, function, and history are further contextualised in Chapter 6. The results of these individual analyses are briefly as follows:
The ship is a sturdy cargo ship, originally 16.0 m long, built in western Norway about 1030. The dendroanalysis indicates that the ship's pine strakes derive from the Sognefjord area. On at least three occasions the ship was repaired with oak planks. The trees used for two of these repairs were evidently in both cases felled in southern Scandinavia (possibly the Oslofjord region and Skåne/Sjælland). The fore stem section of this ship has a specially full and rounded form, where the two topmost planks lean in over at the top ('tumble home'). This stem shape is also known from west Norwegian and Danish sketches and boat-models and it is linked with the ship-term knörr, knar, which is recorded from the Viking Age and the medieval period. The knar appears before 1000 as a warship but later as a cargo-ship on the North Atlantic and in the Baltic.
Skuldelev 1, with its cargo-carrying capacity of 20-25 tons, is smaller than other ship-finds of the same character (e.g. Hedeby 3), and is thus interpreted as an austrfararknörr, a knar for sailing to Denmark and into the Baltic. This is supported by the ship's find-place and by the repeated repairs carried out in eastern Norway and Denmark. Around 1030 there seems to have been a period of famine in Norway and there would have been a strong need for ships like this to pick up food supplies in Denmark.
The ship is an approx. 30 m-long longship, built in the region of Dublin in Ireland but within the Nordic shipbuilding tradition. The oak trunk from which the keelson has been shaped was felled in May-June 1042, and the ship was therefore probably launched later that year. In the 1060s the ship was repaired with planks from an oak that was also felled in the British Isles. Only about 20% of the ship is preserved, but the parts that are extant are from various places in the hull, so it has been possible to calculate the size of the ship within narrow limits. It was a warship for about 60 rowers/warriors as well as several others, such as a lookout, a steersman, etc., so that a complete crew may have totalled up to 80 men. This ship, like the others of the find, would have carried mast and sail, and the shape of the hull is well suited to navigation on the open sea. The correct, contemporary term for this type of ship was likely to be skeið.
Skuldelev 2 probably sailed its first ca 25 years around the Irish Sea, taking part in the mid-eleventh-century military operations that Viking towns in Ireland, in particular Dublin, were involved in. The reason for this ship's journey to Roskilde in Denmark may be related to the events following William the Conqueror's invasion of England in 1066. The King of England, Harold Godwinson, was killed and his sons and daughter had to take flight. His sons came to Dublin from where they attacked the south-western part of England in 1068. According to the Danish chronicler Saxo, two of Harold's sons and a daughter came to Denmark to their uncle, King Sven Estridsson. In 1069 new attacks were made on England from Dublin, and the same year King Sven of Denmark sent a large fleet. As Skuldelev 2 was built in 1042 and repaired after the middle of the 1060s in the Irish Sea region, and sank in Roskilde Fjord in the 1070s, the possibility exists that this longship was the one in which Harold's sons and daughter travelled from Dublin to Roskilde on a diplomatic mission in 1068-69, with a view to restoring Danish or Anglo-Saxon rule in England by a co-ordinated military operation.
The ship is a small transport and cargo ship, originally 14.0 m long with slender lines that display consistently good workmanship. It was primarily a sailing-ship but it could be rowed at positions before the mast. The ship was built about 1040 of oak from Denmark. Analyses of the shape of the fore-stem have indicated some of the principles that were employed when building without the aid of plans the complicated and well-proportioned ships and boats of that period. The details show that the ship-type is based on earlier traditions, utilised to build ships of this size with seven strakes on each side, while for this ship it was necessary to employ an eighth strake to achieve the same sheer-height. Consequently, it must have been difficult to find sufficiently broad planks to keep to the same, earlier standard.
Skuldelev 3 was probably of the type referred to as a byrding or skude. The vessel had a cargo-carrying capacity of 4-5 tons and is to be considered a small cargo ship, primarily for the transport of the owner's personal produce, or a transport ship for a large estate or the like. It may also occasionally have functioned as a vessel for a travelling merchant acting on behalf of a local chieftain.
Skuldelev 4 (5.4) is not an independent ship-find but part of the starboard side aft of Skuldelev 2 and it is therefore discussed in the analysis of that ship.
Skuldelev 4 (5.4) er ikke et selvstændigt skibsfund, men del af bagbords side agter i Skuldelev 2, og det behandles derfor i forbindelse med dette skib.
The ship is a smallish warship, originally 17.3 m long and adapted for rowing by 26 men. The ship was built in Denmark around 1030 and its bottom was constructed of new oak timbers, but planks of pine and ash from two different ships were re-used in the upper part of the sides of the ship. In the uppermost strake, not all the oarports from the original ship could be re-used for rowing Skuldelev 5, since the distance between the oars was different. Many of the holes had therefore to be covered over and new holes cut beside these. The ship was obviously built by an experienced boatbuilder. It is, however, the extensive use of second-rate materials and a relaxed attitude to the aesthetic qualities that characterise the construction of Skuldelev 5, in contrast to other ships of this period. As a result of to its long working life, Skuldelev 5 is heavily worn both internally and externally. There are many repairs, the last of which were done shortly before the sinking of the ship at a time when the wood in the keel was mouldering.
With its 13 pairs of oars, Skuldelev 5 represents the smallest class of longships and it was probably referred to as a snekke. This word forms part of about 100 place-names around the coast of Denmark, often assigned to places where longships could be laid up out of sight of passing ships. The character of the ship is hardly indicative of a prestige vessel for the personal use of kings or chieftains. Such vessels, as for example, Hedeby 1 and Roskilde 6, were normally built to a considerably higher standard. The existence of Skuldelev 5 may, on the other hand, be understood by reference to the regulations in the Gulating Law of western Norway, containing regulations concerning the building and use of the local leiðang-ships. The local farmers had, for example, the duty of providing materials for the building of the ship and it would seem that they tried to cut as many corners as possible when doing this. Against this background Skuldelev 5 provides circumstantial evidence of a coastal defence in Denmark, already around 1030, based on ships built and manned according to the same principles as in the leiðang-arrangement which is known a century later from western Norway.
The ship is the smallest ship of the find, originally about 11.2 m long, built in the same region in western Norway and at the same time, ca 1030, as Skuldelev 1. The vessel was originally built in six strakes of pine planks, supported in the sides by sturdy beams (bitis) and knees. Later, while the ship was still in a region where there was access to pine forests, it was converted by the addition of a broad seventh strake. Skuldelev 6 has a modest keelson with mast-step but in its original form it was probably equipped with rowlocks or tholepins for six oars on each side. As in the case of Skuldelev 1, the repairs to Skuldelev 6 were carried out with oak planks but the provenance of these planks has not been identified.
It is probable that Skuldelev 6, in its first form, was built for use in western Norway for fishing and hunting seals and small whales in the fjords and along the coast. Its full lines, strong frames, and ability to carry several men would have been important elements in the hunting and landing of these animals. After its conversion, the vessel changed character. It would have been able to have, at the most, a few oars fore as in Skuldelev 3. The cargo-carrying capacity of Skuldelev 6 increased, but at the same time the vessel would no longer have been so versatile. Its function would have been restricted to that of a transport ship either locally or further afield, as shown by its finding-place. It is likely that Skuldelev 6 had the same business in Denmark as Skuldelev 1, and perhaps they even came to the region at the same time. Both ships could also have sailed regularly on the route to Sjælland, however.
The final section (6.5) presents the combined evidence from all the analyses in order to date the phases of the barrier and to relate these to events known from contemporary written sources. It is clear that the ships were sunk on two different occasions, first Skuldelev 1, 3, and 5, and then after an interval of a few years, Skuldelev 2, '4', and 6. Subsequently the barrier was extended with the erection of posts and fascines but without the use of more ships. No traces have been found to suggest that the barrier in one or more of its phases was constructed as an enemy action against Roskilde. On the contrary, the barriers in Peberrenden and the other channels seemed to have formed a major complex, erected and expanded on several occasions with a view to warding off enemy attacks. On the basis of the dates of construction of the ships and an estimate of their life-span in active service, it can be assumed that the first phases of the Peberrenden barrier was built in the 1060s, and a second phase in the 1070s, and the third phase with several poles post-dates this.
In analysing the few textual sources about Danish history in the 11th century, it is tempting to point to King Harald Hardrada’s ravaging of the Danish coast until 1064 as a possible reason for the building of the first stage, while the second stage may reflect the struggles for the throne after the death of Sven Estridsson in 1074 or 1076. The barrier, after these two stages of construction, evidently prevented King Niels' fleet from sailing all the way to Roskilde during the conflict with Erik Emune before the Battle at Værebro River in 1133. On the basis of a single 14C date, it is assumed that at least some of the posts and fascines of the third phase are indicative of events in 1288, following the murder of King Erik Klipping, which included sea-borne raids from Norway into the Isefjord complex, of which Roskilde Fjord is a part.
The forthcoming Volume II of the present monograph will analyse the ships functionally. Additionally, details will be presented of the experience and knowledge that have been gained as a result of the experimental analyses of the ships in relation to the building and sailing-trials of full-scale reconstructions of the ships.
Here follows the summary of: Crumlin-Pedersen, Ole & Athena Trakadas (eds) 2003: Hjortspring. A Pre-Roman Iron-Age Warship in Context. Ships and Boats of the North 5. Roskilde, 293 pages. ISBN 8785180521. Published by the Viking Ship Museum and the National Museum of Denmark. The book is kindly supported by: The Danish National Research Foundation og The Danish Research Council for the Humanities.
The subject of this monograph is a weapon-offering from the fourth century BC found in Hjortspring Mose on the island of Als in southern Jutland and first published in 1937 by its excavator, Gustav Rosenberg. Special attention is paid here to the originally ca 19 m-long plank-built boat, which forms the central element of the find.
by Flemming Rieck
Considerable portions of the Hjortspring boat and the associated weapons were removed from Hjortspring Mose during peat digging in about 1880, without the find being brought to the attention of archaeologists. It was not until 1920 that the National Museum learned of the find and visited the site. In 1921-22, conservator Gustav Rosenberg, on behalf of the museum, undertook a thorough investigation of the small, ca 45 x 50 m bog, lying 42 m above sea level and 3.4 km from the coast.
In the course of the investigation in 1921, Rosenberg excavated large amounts of weapons of iron and bone, as well as shields and other wooden equipment. Because of the very soft state of the wood, both the excavation and the transport of the finds to the museum in Copenhagen had to be carried out with the utmost care. In 1922, attention was concentrated on the boat, which had been severely damaged by the peat digging, although considerable sections were preserved for a length of about 14 m with parts of both stems, indicating a north-south orientation. The excavation was concluded in September 1922, after a thorough examination of the surrounding area of the layer with finds. A limited examination in 1987 confirmed that the bog had been thoroughly investigated, and only a few fragments of spear-shafts and of one of the frames of the boat were found and recovered for radiocarbon dating.
2.1 Rosenberg's analysis and reconstruction of the boat
by Ole Crumlin-Pedersen Rosenberg's careful measurements made during his excavation of the boat provided the basis for determining all its main features, which, with a few exceptions, were made of linden.
The boat had been constructed as a delicate shell around one central bottom strake with two broad strakes on each side, fastened to each other by means of sewing along the overlaps of the planks. The rail, the upper edge of the top strake, had been reinforced but there was no trace of attachments for oars.
Inside the boat were found the re-mains of ten rows of cleats for fastening lashings around elegantly-shaped frames, each consisting of a thwart with carved seats for two men, and an arched hazel branch held as a bent rib by vertical supports under the thwarts and a horizontal cross beam. The whole frame system, like the other parts of the vessel, had been designed with the greatest care with the aim of combining strength with lightness. The central bottom strake extended from both ends of the boat proper, forming sturdy, upwards-turning horns with oval cross-sections. At each end of the boat, a large winged stem rested on top of the bottom plank and the ends of the side strakes were attached to this.
A vertical stem-locking board of oak fastened the winged stem to the bottom strake. The upper edge of the stem extended from the end of the actual boat in a long horn, T-shaped in cross-section. Remains of a support between the horns were found but the original lengths of these could not be determined with certainty. Traces of four cleats were found on the top of the stem probably for a rope, stretched from one end of the boat to the other. The boat was also fitted with a raised deck and about 85 narrow floor timbers about one m in length, a bailer and about 16 fragmentary paddles and a broad steering oar at each stem. The two ends of the boat were identical in shape, but the southern end is assumed to have been the stern because the raised deck and bailer were found here. The find of a lump of caulking material and an S-shaped 'cord-tightener' indicate how the seams and caulking of the boat were maintained. Rosenberg's reconstruction of the boat was based on his observations of the surviving primary material alone, but he also noted that the resulting shape is very similar to several ship representations on rock carvings in Bohuslän, Sweden.
The ship-technical assessment of the vessel and the final reconstruction drawings were provided by the naval architect F. Johannessen from Oslo. He calculated the original length of the boat, with horns, to be 18.6-19.6 m, its breadth 2.04 m, and its height amidships 0.705 m. The weight of the boat was calculated to be 530 kg and its draught 0.32 m with a crew of 24 men with arms and equipment.
2.2 Initial conservation and assembly
by Inger M. Bojesen-Koefoed & Maj Stief
After its excavation, the Hjortspring boat was conserved and physically reconstructed by Rosenberg. During the excavation and transport to the museum, all the boat's timbers had been kept moist and well-supported. The conservation was carried out at the National Museum by the alum method, in which the wood was boiled in a solution of alum (K Al (SO4)2 - 12 H2O), in this case with the addition of glycerine. An individual support in the bath was made for each piece of wood with the aid of lead bands and plates. After boiling in the solution, all the ship's timbers were dried and then laid aside for about 5 years, after which the wood was impregnated with melted beeswax.
In order for the beeswax to become sufficiently viscous to penetrate into the wood, it was heated to 70-80° C, and this also made the wood so soft that it could be shaped. A basement room in the newly-built extension of the National Museum was selected to be the exhibition hall and the parts of the boat were transferred here in 1932 and assembled in a cradle of wood, shaped to fit the hull form reconstructed by Johannessen.
The exhibition opened in the summer of 1937, but because of the high humidity in the hall, problems soon developed with re-crystallisation of the alum and surface discharges of alum, glycerine, wax, etc., making the structure of the wood disintegrate. In 1965, it was finally financially possible to dismantle the boat in order to re-conserve it with polyethylene-glycol (PEG).
2.3 New conservation and display
by Inger M. Bojesen-Koefoed, Maj Stief & John Nørlem Sørensen
For the re-conservation, all the parts of the boat once again had to be packed separately and treated with great care because of the damage to the inner structure of the wood. Because of shortage of funds, the re-conserved boat was first unpacked, cleaned, assembled and remounted in the years 1986-88, and is now displayed in an exhibition hall with air-conditioning and a new form of presentation. Various possible models were considered for the remounting: the fitting of the original parts into a newly built boat hull made of wood or fibre glass, the exhibition of a copy of the boat with the surviving parts in a different colour, or the mounting of the surviving parts on an open frame of metal tubes that indicated the lines of the boat. Because of the general principle observed by the National Museum of exhibiting originals and not replicas, the last of these solutions was selected, employing thin stainless steel tubes both as an aesthetically and technically satisfactory way of indicating the shape of the boat and to serve as a support for the re-conserved boat's timbers.
3.1 Planning and organisation
by Knud V. Valbjørn
The project for the building of Tilia Alsie, a full-scale reconstruction of the Hjortspring boat, and its subsequent sea trials, should be seen in the light of the particular social and cultural environment of the island of Als. Here a local factory, Danfoss, which produces instruments for thermostatic control, had attracted to the area particularly well-qualified people who formed a basis for a creative environment dedicated to quality. In addition, many of these employees have an interest in local history and links with the surrounding sea. The idea for building the reconstruction arose in 1990, when the town of Nordborg encouraged the development of projects that would make it and the region more widely known. In 1991, the Hjortspring Boat Guild was formed with a view to building and testing a reconstruction of the Hjortspring boat, which had been discovered within the area. This work was to be done in close consultation with archaeologists. The idea was to encourage the study of, and promote knowledge about, the boat’s historical and technical background, to test and exhibit the reconstruction, and to ensure that the reconstruction would be housed close to where the original had been found. The membership of the guild, which fluctuated between 50 and 100 persons, with ages ranging between 40 and 75, represented a wide range of skills and personal experience. The members divided themselves into a number of working groups, according to their own interests and abilities.
During the planning phases, priority was given to the following parameters: authenticity, legitimacy, quality and documentation, while the amount of time, or time-factor, was not fixed in advance. A 1:10 model was constructed of the boat. Various data relating to the initial reconstruction of the boat was entered into a computer for processing. Regular contact was established with the staff of the National Museum in Copenhagen and Roskilde, and monthly meetings of the guild were held and information leaflets distributed to all members. The work was carried out under critical, reciprocal control and was documented regularly by photography and video. Most of the external expenses incurred by the project, approximately DKK 500,000 or 67,000 Euros, were covered by local or national donations.
3.2 Initial work and training
by Knud V. Valbjørn & Hans P. Rasmussen
To build the boat, linden trees, Tilia parvifolia, with a 16-18 m-long straight trunk without side-branches and a lower diameter of 0.9 m were needed. Such trees, however, could not be found anywhere in Denmark or Western Europe. The members of the guild were therefore given the opportunity to do their introductory training by working with local linden. The tools for this work were based on finds of tools from the Roman Iron Age in Denmark including axes, adzes and chisels, since such finds from the Pre-Roman Iron Age are exceptionally few. Later inspiration was also derived from Danish Bronze-Age finds, Celtic finds from Germany and Switzerland and a Viking-Age find from Gotland.
For manufacturing the tools, ordinary iron was employed and the cutting edges were tempered. Experiments with shaping handles for the tools led to the development of ‘the Hjortspring iron’ for hewing off shingles against the grain. Originally, light adzes were probably used for hewing but this would have called for extensive training and it was estimated that there would be no very great difference between the finished results. The work of construction was done in an unheated building near Dyvig, and from here the official launching of Tilia Alsie finally took place in June 1999.
As basis for the work, the original boat in the National Museum in Copenhagen, Rosenberg’s publication from 1937, and Johannessen’s sketches and reconstruction drawing were used, and consultations took place with maritime archaeologists in Roskilde and Copenhagen.
As preparation for building parts of the boat, various cords from linden-bast were produced and the tensile strength tested. A panel of planks that were sewn together was also submitted to trials in order to determine sheer stress. During the introductory practical woodwork, paddles, shields and a thwart were made, and the tool angle for the axes was determined. In order to illuminate the many questions connected with the actual construction, it was decided to build two full-size sections of the boat, a 1.4 m-long amidships section and a 5 m-long stem section. The work with these elements played a decisive role in the determination of the quality of the guild’s continuing efforts, since many of the problems were solved and personal skills improved in the course of the 1,360 hours that were spent on these tasks. The weapons and other equipment in the find were also examined and measured and the tool group of the guild produced copies of some of the weapons.
The historical background of the find was analysed by a group in the guild who studied, among other subjects, the topographical conditions necessary for a fleet of Hjortspring-type boats to land on the island. For exhibition at the building site, a set of Iron-Age costumes was prepared based on contemporary bog-finds. Both sections of the boat and the weapons and costumes have been loaned to exhibitions elsewhere and a popular book on the history and background of the find was published locally.
by Knud V. Valbjørn
The tall linden trees for the planks of the boat were found in a small forest in Poland; from here four trees, 130-170 years old, were brought to Denmark. Two of these trees proved to be acceptable, while a third trunk had rot at the bottom, and the top of the fourth tree broke off while being felled. All four, however, were transported to Denmark, and three of the trunks were stored under water in Dyvig, while the fourth was immediately split in the workshop.
The bottom or keel element was the longest individual timber of the boat, with a length of 15 m, a breadth of 56 cm, and a thickness of 3 cm in the centre, diminishing towards the edges. In prehistory, the timber would have had to be hollowed out from the tree trunk and expanded to acquire the shape and dimensions required. Since experiments expanding two trial pieces after they had been boiled in water failed, it was decided instead to extend the width of the strake by gluing on extra pieces of planking. The winged stems were made from local linden, the first of which had to be discarded because of rot. The lower of the side strakes were made as broad as possible, while the sheerstrakes had to be increased in size by gluing on additions. The strake should have had an edge curvature of 30 cm in order to yield the shape reconstructed by Johannessen. Instead, the boat’s rocker had to be increased so that the curvature of the plank was reduced to 12 cm. On the inner sides of the strakes, a total of 198 cleats were made with square holes for the lashings from the frames, and on each of the stem-tops there were four cleats for the hogging truss. The ten frames of the boat were constructed like those in the original boat with a newly-felled, carefully bent hazel branch, oiled and hammered into position. The frames were fitted into the finished hull-shell and lashed to the cleats on the strakes.
The horns of the boat were made of curved linden branches fastened to the keel projections with a lock and a corresponding solution was selected for the upper horns. The stem plank of oak was set in as a ‘lock’ between the bottom and stem, and a shield- or disc-shaped, external support was fitted in between the horns further out. The joints were glued with polyurethane glue instead of resin, as in the original. Checking the shape and symmetry of the boat while it was being built was important. The bottom plank was held fast to supports made to fit the selected rocker shape. The stems were supported on the outside and the hogging truss between the stems helped to maintain the position of the stems and the rocker of the bottom. To aid in the shaping of the side planks, internal templates were set up a metre apart. This was not done during the construction of the original boat, but was necessary in order to make an exact copy of the shape of the original. The plank overlaps were caulked with a woollen thread dipped in a mixture of tallow and linseed oil. This saturated thread was laid in between plank in the overlaps. The sewing was done from the middle towards the ends with freshly tarred linden cords, after which the holes were caulked with ox tallow. This gave an inconveniently low friction in the joints and therefore a high-friction resin-tallow mixture was applied externally. A few cracks in the planks were repaired with battens that were sewn on, just as in the original.
The raised deck in the stern was made of three planks, the small floor timbers were laid out as foot supports for the crew, and the first paddles were produced in a standard version. In the course of the work of construction, the building group had to answer many questions, some of which were solved in cooperation with the National Museum, others on the basis of common sense. The horns have not proved to be of significance for the strength of the boat, but the forward keel ex-tension is useful when beaching the vessel. The hogging truss from fore to aft was useful in the building phase and also assisted later in keeping the boat in shape and evening out the tension in hogging conditions. The frames are clear examples of a weight-saving design that effectively transfers the weight of the crew to the hull.
The actual building of Tilia Alsie took a total of 6,500 man-hours, 85% of the time being spent on hewing wood and 15% on bending and joining elements. The guild, however, estimates that the work could have been done in half the time with a properly trained workforce. Of the original 12 tons of wood acquired for the building process, 0.5 tons constituted the finished boat.
3.4 Documentation and calculation of boat characteristics
by Frederick M. Hocker & Niels Peter Fenger
The shape of the finished reconstructed vessel was documented twice, first in May 1999 before launching and again in October 2000 at the close of the sea trials of that year. The great flexibility of the hull meant that it could vary greatly in shape, depending on its support. The two sets of measurements, however, were the same within a margin of 10 mm. The first set of measurements was carried out with the hull resting on supports placed at 2/9 distance from the ends and with the hogging truss hanging slack, while the second set was made with the boat resting on its specially-constructed trailer.
The measurements were in part done manually for some details and as a control, partly with the recording of a large number of points with total station, and finally with the documentation of contours, cross-sections and surface details with a ‘digital arm’. In addition the process was recorded with photographs and videos. The total-station measurements could be adapted for drawing in AutoCAD, while the digital-arms Microscribe and FaroArm registered points and lines directly for drawing with associated interfaces in the programme Rhinoceros. Certain problems had to be solved in connection with the work involved in producing a graphic surface model and a sheer draught of the boat. A double measurement was also made of the flexibility of the hull under lateral tension on the top of one of the stems. The result was a strong twisting of the boat, which gradually straightened itself out again after pressure was relaxed, indicating that most of the change was elastic, and not so much plastic.
To compare Tilia with Johannessen’s reconstruction drawing, the displacement had to be calculated from sheer draughts. With an empty hull (530 kg), the draught for Tilia is 14 cm, increasing to 35 cm with a cargo of 2,000 kg. In addition, the area of the wet surface has been calculated with a view to determining the resistance to propulsion at different draughts, and coefficients and constants have been calculated for comparison. In comparison with Johannessen’s drawing, the rocker is 12 cm greater and the sheer 3 cm deeper in Tilia. With a displacement of 2.5 m3, Tilia has a 5 cm-deeper draught amidships. In relation to the calculated coefficients, which reflect Tilia’s greater sheer and slightly rounder bottom in cross-section, it should not be forgotten that the flexibility of the hull offers the possibility of many different variations in shape and hence in the coefficients, according to how the hull is supported.
The metacentric height has been calculated from Johannessen’s sheer draught. For Tilia, the centre of gravity with paddlers on board was calculated on the basis of the midship section that was constructed first. The calculations showed that the boat would be very sensitive to lateral shifting of weight and this was confirmed by measurements made in 1999. On the basis of the measurements from 2000, the actual metacentric height was calculated to be rather higher than that calculated on the basis of Johannessen’s reconstruction. The most exposed position for the Hjortspring boat was sailing in seas with a wave-length of 13 m, corresponding to the length of the waterline, where the boat alternately rides on top of a wave and over the trough between the waves. In practice, there would also be the impact of waves on the sides of the boat and other varying stresses. The strains on the hull have been calculated on the basis of a simplification of the boat as a beam structure on an elastic base but the uncertainty as to the stability of the fastenings and the contribution made by the hogging truss means that the calculations have had to be simplified and they are only intended as a guide. During the trials in 2001, measurements were made of the tension in the stretched rope and the twisting of the hull under navigation in calm waters without waves. The recorded figures showed that the rope needs to be tightened continually in order for the tension to be maintained. The deformations of the hull were registered with a laser beam from amidships and plotted on a square plate in the bow. The movements were documented on video but proved that the boat under these conditions can be considered as a stiff body.
In the analysis of the boat’s hydrodynamics, the resistance to propulsion was calculated with the following components: frictional resistance, which depends on the area of the wet surface, residuary resistance caused by the formation of waves and a boundary layer, resistance resulting from the roughness of the bottom, and finally the resistance of the steering oar and the air resistance caused by the crew and the part of the hull above water. After launching, the actual resistance was measured by towing Tilia behind a motorboat. At speeds below six knots, the recorded values corresponded with the calculations but at speeds of 7 knots, the resistance was 25% higher than the calculations.
3.5 Sea trials
by Max Vinner
In cooperation with the Hjortspring Boat Guild, staff from the Viking Ship Museum and the Centre for Maritime Archaeology in Roskilde took part in sea trials with Tilia, in order to examine by means of practical experiments and with the aid of suitable measuring equipment how the boat could be used and its potential as a warship.
In 1999, trials were held for three days with a scratch crew of untrained paddlers from Roskilde and Als with a view to getting to know the vessel better. Initially, the boat was difficult to steer but with a steering oar fastened at the inner part of each of the keel-extensions, the boat came under control. The manoeuvring of the light boat with the paddles was quick and effective with acceleration to top speed in 30 seconds and braking from this speed in 5 seconds. A 360° turn could be carried out in 74-110 seconds, depending on technique and wind, with turning circles of 20-40 m in diameter. Measurements of speed over distances of 1,160 m and 320 m with a flying start gave speeds of 3.1-5.1 knots, depending on the cadence (38-50 strokes per minute), wind, and number of paddlers (8-18 men). The boat seems very unstable when empty but is reasonably stable and seaworthy with a full crew and 600 kg ballast on board, and it glides easily up onto the sand when beaching.
For the trials in 2000, a crew of elite paddlers with competitive experience in dragon-boat racing (these boats resemble the Hjortspring boat but are lighter) was used. With this crew, including a drummer to set the stroke, a speed of 7.6 knots was measured with a cadence of 62 strokes/minute over a distance of 1148 m. Over shorter distances, speeds varying between 7.4 and 8.2 knots were measured with GPS. Paddling was done with the Hjortspring Boat Guild’s ‘average paddles’, which proved too short fore and aft. Consequently, the crew was reduced to 18 paddlers, who achieved a speed of 6.7 knots with 57 strokes/minute with the Hjortspring paddles and 7.1 knots with 65 strokes/minute with their own, broad and light dragon-boat paddles. To conclude, Tilia was paddled out into open waters in 10-12 m/sec. winds, increasing to 14-16 m/sec., with the wind direction diagonally over the bow. A cadence of 55 strokes/min. and a speed of 5.5 knots was held initially, but the speed dropped to 2 knots when the waves reached a height of 1 m. In spite of unsatisfactory trimming, the boat coped well, also during the turn for the return voyage.
In 2001, the boat was tested in two, full-day voyages in warm, calm weather and with the same crew as in 2000. On the first day, the distance covered was 42.3 km with 4 hours 45 minutes spent underway and a break of 45 minutes, corresponding to an average speed of 4.2 knots (7.7 km/h.) including the break and 4.8 knots (8.9 km/h.) without the break. The second day’s voyage was 45.4 km long and it was combined with other tests, including an ‘inverted towing trial’ where, after the paddlers stopped paddling, resistance from water and air brought the boat to a standstill from a speed of 5.5 knots in 2 minutes and 32 seconds. The effect of letting some of the paddlers rest for short periods was to refresh the crew so greatly that they estimated they could have continued for another 4 hours, easily extending their distance to about 40 nautical miles or 74 km in one day.
A comparison of Tilia’s results of 7.6 knots in a sprint and 4.7 knots at cruising speed with rowing measurements for Helge Ask, the Skuldelev 5 reconstruction, of 5.4 knots in a sprint and 3.5-4.0 knots at cruising speed under oars, shows that the Iron-Age vessel is speedier than the Viking ship when paddling/rowing. Under sail with a favourable wind, however, the Viking ship has better results – and without even tiring the crew. With a potential day’s journey of 40 nautical miles (74 km), the Hjortspring boat would in good weather have been able to travel to Als from the islands Lolland or Femern in one day or from Skanör or Rügen in three days. In bad weather the crew would have been able to cope well enough at sea or take refuge on land. The boat would therefore have represented a dangerous threat to exposed coastlines and necessitated an effective local defence force.
3.6 The paddles
by Nadia Haupt & Niels Peter Fenger
The paddles, as an important functional part of the equipment of the Hjortspring boat, have been analysed in their archaeological and ethnographical context by Haupt as well as technically by Fenger.
Four of the paddles have been identified as field maple, Acer campestre, also used for some of the oars in the Nydam find, but the paddles used in the present sea trials were made of ash and linden. The old Chinese tradition for dragon-boat races, revived as a modern competitive sport with light boats manned in a similar way as the Hjortspring boat, provided a starting point for the trials. As described in Section 3.5, the well-trained elite paddlers from the kayak and canoe club Nord ensured realistic records of the speed potential and provided experience for the functioning of the paddles compared to modern, broad paddles. The initial scepticism towards the narrow Hjortspring paddles changed to acceptance, following the 2000 trials in strong winds and high seas.
Danish finds of prehistoric paddles are generally poorly published. The group embraces paddles with broad blades, some of these heart-shaped ornamented blades, as well as narrow-bladed paddles, some of which have a similar ridge down the middle of the blade as those from Hjortspring. The broad paddles were presumably used for short trips while the narrow ones were used for longer voyages.
Some images from the Bronze Age depict paddles shaped like the blades of spears, and corresponding shapes are known from miniatures in some of the men’s graves of the period. This might indicate the rank of these men in society, parallel to what is known from twentieth-century anthropological studies of Maori society.
The technical analysis presents a theoretical model for paddle propulsion for comparison with measurements from the 1999 trials. The kinematics of a paddler in action was recorded by marking points on the paddle and along the rail and record the movements over a full stroke on video from a tender. The hydraulic efficiency has been calculated to ca 0.75. In practice, lifting the paddle and taking it forward also consumes energy, giving a mechanical efficiency of ca 0.8. The energy needed at various speeds may then be calculated. Based on calculations and general considerations the advantages and disadvantages of narrow versus broad paddles would seem to balance.
by Knud V. Valbjørn & Max Vinner
The organisation of the Hjortspring Guild was developed over the first years with monthly sessions for all members discussing the allocation of the various tasks among the working groups of interested members. This structure was a crucial element in the success of the project. A task as complicated as that of building a complex boat type of the past calls for people with a wide range of skills and professional backgrounds, as well as a structure encouraging these talents.
It is estimated that the present building team might have constructed another similar boat in ca 5,000 man-hours, compared to the 6,500 hours spent on Tilia, provided the materials needed were readily at hand. A team of ten experienced boatbuilders would probably have been able to build the original boat in two or three months under such conditions. The design and excellent finish of the boat with elements of optimal strength at a minimal weight show that highly skilled craftsmen were originally in charge. At the same time the use of iron tools would have favoured productivity over that of the bronze and flint tools of previous periods.
The sea trials with Tilia have shown the robustness of the sewn linden bast fastenings, confirmed the use of the floor boards as foot supports for the paddlers and demonstrated that the narrow paddles served their purpose well. The initial stability of the boat is very low but satisfactory for the vessel when loaded. The hogging truss was useful during the construction phase and in the vulnerable hogging conditions at sea. In all aspects the Hjortspring boat represents an advanced exploitation of the available technology of the Pre-Roman Iron Age. In evaluating the results it is necessary to check whether the reconstruction has been optimally manufactured and the boat's crew has had the necessary qualifications for providing realistic results of the sea trials. There is not full accordance between the shape of Tilia and the lines given by Johannessen in the first reconstruction plan, but the more pronounced rocker and wider beam aft in Tilia are changes that have been properly accounted for and which no doubt make Tilia more authentic than the shape shown in the early drawing by Johannessen. The 'standard paddles' of Tilia did not match the original paddles in size, species of wood or weight. The original paddles would probably have given a slightly lower sprint speed but would have eased paddling on longer voyages. The well-trained sportsmen who paddled Tilia in 2000 and 2001 are probably as close as one can come today to the elite warriors of the Iron Age. As they only had a net period of four days for the sea trials, however, they only had limited experience with the boat type. Sea trials over a period of two weeks would have strengthened the evaluation of the results, especially in estimating the potential radius of action of the boat.
by Knud V. Valbjørn
As a contribution to the discussion of the use of leather or wood for the construction of Bronze Age boats, a technologically-based suggestion is made here for the construction of a leather-clad vessel with a framework of stripped saplings continued outboard as horns similar to those seen in rock carvings. Calculations of the strength of the hull demonstrate that such a vessel is technically feasible, and the construction with the longitudinal elements.
by Flemming Kaul
4.1-2 Introduction and the deposition of the find
The Hjortspring find, which was deposited all at one time in about 350 BC, stands out from the other great weapon-deposits in Jutland and Fyn (those from Illerup, Vimose, Thorsberg, Ejsbøl and Nydam), all of which represent repeated deposits of weapons and date to the period 200-500 AD. These later finds have all been interpreted as offerings of war-booty from defeated armies. When the Hjortspring boat was deposited in what was then a small pond on the island of Als, it was sunk and some of the weapons destroyed, while others were plunged into the bottom of the pond. Many fist-size stones were found in the find-layer, together with bones of a horse, dog, lamb and calf. Three separate, small finds of animal bones have been interpreted as traces of earlier offerings at the site.
4.3 The weapons
The weapons comprise the largest individual group of finds. There are 169 spearheads, 11 swords, remains of several chain mail coats and parts of more than 50 shields. Of the spearheads, 138 are of iron and 31 of bone or antler. The iron spearheads have been classified by Randsborg (1995) into groups: 65 from spears, 64 from ordinary lances and eight from lances of an exclusive type. Of the swords, eight were more or less complete and three fragmentary. All the swords are single-edged with lengths of between 33 and 70 cm and with the tang lying in the central axis of the blade. Four of the swords had sheathes of ash. The small number of swords found indicates that only a minority of the soldiers carried them. The swords from Hjortspring are the oldest of their type known from Scandinavia and their shapes suggest that there were as yet no standard dimensions for this type of weapon within the Baltic area. The shields in the find make up the largest collection of surviving shields from the prehistoric period in Europe. Although they vary in length and breadth with an average length of 70-75 cm and a breadth of 45 cm, they all share the same basic form with rounded corners, wooden grips, and shield-bosses. Eleven or twelve of the shields differ from the others in that they are particularly narrow in respect to their lengths. Sixty-eight shield grips were found, ten of which were reserve grips. Fifty of the shields have been re-assembled so that they could be measured, while 14 others have been identified from the excavation records. Altogether there were probably about 80 shields of ‘Celtic’ shape, a type that was widespread in Europe at this period. The last group of weapons, the chain mail coats, is the least well-preserved. Rosenberg identified an area of 10-12 m2 with traces of rust and a few surviving rust flakes from small, linked iron rings. From the extent of this area, it is estimated that there were a minimum of 10-12 chain mail coats originally deposited in the bog.
4.4 Other objects
Other objects in the find include a few fittings and pins of bronze, cords with eyelet holes, the nozzle of a bellows, wooden tools, wooden discs with handles, a turned plate and five finely turned objects: three small wooden containers, a dish and a small cylindrical container. These five objects were all of a high standard of turning craftsmanship and the earliest representatives in Northern Europe of this technique in wood. Parallels in shape to the turned wooden containers are found in late Pre-Roman ceramic ware from Bornholm and Gotland, and from contemporary ceramics from around the Hamburg area. The model for this shape was probably the ceramic pyxis from Greece, dating to the fourth century BC, which was exported to the Adriatic and Black Sea regions, from where it spread as originals and copies in ceramics and wood. The turned wooden plate has close parallels in contemporary Danish ceramics, so that all the turned wooden objects are assumed to have been produced within the Baltic area as part of the equipment of the Hjortspring army.
4.5 Armaments, weapons and weapon-offerings in the Early Pre-Roman Iron Age
Although no other finds of armaments, weapons and weapon-offerings in the Pre-Roman Iron Age in Scandinavia and the Baltic region are anywhere near as comprehensive as the Hjortspring find, small finds are known from such places as Passentin in Mecklenburg, Tidevad in Västergötland, Krogsbølle in Fyn and Værebro in the north of Zealand. These finds and other material suggest that it can only have been quite recently before the Hjortspring deposition that the sword had come into use as a long battle-knife but that spearheads of antler and iron had been in common use throughout the entire period. In a few other finds in which parts of shields have survived, it appears that the shape of those from Hjortspring was also widespread in the area.
4.6 The date of the Hjortspring find
There has long been debate regarding the date of the find, since securely-dated diagnostic objects are not present in the find. Based on comparanda, the weapons in their totality can date the find to the fourth century BC or about 300 BC. Such a date is comparable to the two 14C-dates received from additional wooden material recovered from Hjortspring in 1987: 370 and 390 BC (390-210 BC and 400-260 BC with one standard deviation). For both samples, it is likely that they predate the felling of the tree, and thus the construction of the boat, by 10 to 50 years, and this moves the date of the find towards the middle of the fourth century BC.
4.7 The origin of the invaders
The army whose equipment was sacrified in Hjortspring Mose had probably arrived in several boats like that found in the bog. The number of weapons suggests that four Hjortspring-type boats were probably involved in the attack on Als. It is assumed that the crews of these boats represented an attacking army from abroad. On the basis of the similarity of the turned wooden containers with ceramic finds from the Elbe area near Hamburg, Randsborg has argued for a combined attack by land and sea from this region, after the vessels had been dragged across the foot of the Jutland peninsula. Kaul believes that this is less likely on the basis of the trials of Tilia, which have shown that Hjortspring-type vessels were capable of covering up to 100 km per day, making cooperation with land-troops inconvenient. The pyxis-shaped wooden containers, which require particular conditions for their preservation, might have been present throughout the Baltic region and northern Germany, since similar shapes occur in ceramics not only in the Ham-burg area but also on Bornholm and Gotland.
An attacking force, consisting then of about 100 men, would probably have been a contingent of soldiers raised by a group of 3,000-5,000 people. The find can therefore be looked upon as evidence of a development towards larger political units, evidence of which can be seen in the later bog-finds and in the later Nordic kingdoms of the Viking period.
4.8 The organisation of the Hjortspring invaders
The organisation of the invading, foreign ‘army’ is reflected in the numbers of various types of weapons found at Hjortspring, taking into account that many pieces were lost as a result of earlier peat digging. It is argued that the offering consisted of equipment from slightly less than one hundred men, each having two or three spears and a shield. Eleven or twelve of these men were distinguished by bearing a sword, narrow shields and chain mail coats. Eight bayonet-like spears and three spearheads of particularly large dimensions, which were presumably symbols of military authority, would also have belonged to this group. From experience gained from the sea trials with Tilia, it is suggested that the organisation of the army was based on four boats with two units of nine men plus one man (the paddlers on each side of the boat) and two helmsmen/‘boatswains’ and a ‘captain’ for each boat. This means that there would have been an army of 72 ‘privates’, eight ‘petty officers’, four ‘captains’ and possibly a ‘general’ or ‘admiral.’ There would thus have been eight ‘boatswains’ to watch over the boats. There is no trace of where the battle took place or its progress (except that the residents of Als were victorious) or of what happened to the defeated warriors and the three other postulated boats.
4.9 Armaments and military organisation in Europe, a short survey
In this period, there are certain similarities between the pattern displayed by the Hjortspring find and armaments in the rest of Europe. Spears and lances occur in the fifth and fourth centuries BC as the most important weapons in Greece, with the single-edged slashing sword as a supplementary weapon for some warriors. In the Celtic areas north of the Alps, the sword was practically abandoned about 500 BC. A century later, the double-edged sword made its appearance and around 300 BC this became of primary importance, supplemented by the spear. The outlined division of the Hjortspring army corresponds to the lochos/pentekostyes/enomotia-division of the Greek phalanx in its early phase around 500 BC, while the division in the fourth century BC, according to Xenophon, was based on units of a different size.
4.10 Weapon-sacrifice sites in Northern and Central Europe
Deposits of large amounts of weapons and other gear associated with armies that vary in size are known from a number of sites in Northern and Central Europe, including Scandinavia. More contemporary to but just post-dating the Hjortspring find are Celtic weapon-sacrifice sites that represent depositional activity that began about 300 BC. As opposed to the Hjortspring find, Celtic sites are repeated depositions, as are the later weapon-deposits in Scandinavia. Aside from numerous finds of weapons, all the Celtic sites also contain human skeletons, often beheaded. Al-though bodies are found in bogs in Scandinavia that date to the Pre-Roman and Early Roman Iron Age, they are not found with weapons, indicating a non-military context.
The Hjortspring find and its weapons reflect an invading, non-local army of about 100 men who attacked residents of the island of Als in the fourth century BC. The Hjortspring find also displays a development towards larger political units, as reflected in other archaeological find material from later periods. In the fourth century BC, very mobile army units of fleet-infantry transporting themselves in Hjortspring-type boats had great significance in the Baltic area and south-western Scandinavia. The extant archaeological source material reveals several possibilities for the origin of the mobile, attacking army to be in the northern German or southern Scandinavian area. These regions in the southern Baltic must have taken part in a political and military development or process that points forward towards increasingly larger political units. The later, great weapon sacrifices such as Nydam, Thorsbjerg, Vimose, Ejsbøl and Illerup Ådal, demonstrate the military and political organisation that must be assumed to have extended over large territories, and it would seem that whole provinces were capable of organising armies with a more superior and stronger leadership. The Hjortspring find would thus appear as preliminary evidence of the process that more than 1,000 years later led to the unification of the individual Nordic kingdoms.
by Flemming Kaul
5.1-2 The iconographic evidence of the Bronze Age
In this chapter experience gained from the sea trials with Tilia is used to illuminate the evidence of other archaeological sources recording the ships of the Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age, including the determination of differences between ships from the periods before and after 500 BC. The profile of the Hjortspring boat, with almost identical stems at each end, differs somewhat from those of ships in Bronze-Age iconography. The oldest of these have a downwards-turned keel-extension or ‘stabiliser’ aft and an upwards-turned keel-extension fore. Around 1300 BC, the horse-head prow first appears and slightly later, a bird-figure on the backwards-bent gunwale extension also appears; the keel-extension curves markedly upwards forward, while there is still a dipping keel-skeg aft. This shape is found with few exceptions on both bronze objects and rock carvings from the final period of the Bronze Age (Period V, 700-500 BC), while steering oars are not normally represented.
5.3 The iconographic evidence of the Early Pre-Roman Iron Age
At this time, ship representations cease to appear on bronzes but they continue in some rock-carving fields with the common feature of horns slightly curved at each end, almost parallel and identical fore and aft. Other stem conclusions, closed and loop-shape, do appear, however, but the symmetry of these fore and aft and the absence of the horizontal keel-extension aft are interpreted as evidence that they belong to the period after 500 BC. On the Dalbo II carving in south-eastern Norway, is shown a vessel with lightly upturned, parallel horns and a steering oar at each end, as well as strokes that suggest oars rather than paddles. This, the only known carving to show rowing, suggests that this technique was adopted in vessels of the Hjortspring type in the Pre-Roman Iron Age, before the changes in hull shape, visible in the Nydam boat from the fourth century AD, made themselves felt.
5.4 Transitional forms: Rock-carving ships on Bornholm
The changes in ships’ shapes from asymmetrical in profile with stabilisers aft during the Bronze Age to symmetrical in profile (sometimes with steering oars) in the Early Iron Age, probably occurred around 500 BC. Generally, no transitional iconographic forms between Bronze-Age and Iron-Age ships exist except for those in Denmark, on the island of Bornholm. These representations are depicted in the typical Bronze-Age manner with a stabiliser aft, high, raised keel-extension forward, and a horse-head stem. Based on the horse’s muzzle style, these ship depictions most likely belong to Period V of the Bronze Age, even though a slightly later date is possible. In the rock-carving field at Madsebakke, an isolated ship is depicted as a typical Bronze-Age ship with a straight hull, an extremely high keel-extension forward, a horizontal stabiliser aft, and slightly S-shaped stems which end in stylised animal heads, perhaps birds. Because of the bird heads and shape of the hull, the ship from Madsebakke can be placed in Period V of the Bronze Age. However, in the main field of the Madsebakke carvings, there are 13 closely-spaced ship representations which are difficult to assign to the Bronze Age, at least on typological grounds. A distinctive feature is the line that forms the hull, which is more curved than in other rock-carving ships in Scandinavia. Some of these representations can in fact be interpreted as a transitional or hybrid form between the typical Bronze-Age and Late Bronze Age and Pre-Roman Iron Age ship depictions. The rock carvings on Bornholm thus provide an interesting sequence of ships from those typical of the Late Bronze Age to those of the Early Pre-Roman Iron Age, which have a shape like the Hjortspring boat. In this regard, the rock-carving ships on Bornholm make an important contribution to interpreting the development of ships in Scandinavia throughout the Bronze Age as well as into a considerable part of the Pre-Roman Iron Age.
5.5 Tilia Alsie: functions, capabilities, and further considerations
The trials with Tilia have given rise to a new assessment of the function and potentialities of the Hjortspring boat. The difference demonstrated above between the Bronze-Age ships with keel-skeg aft and the Early Iron-Age ships, with identical stems and with steering oars fore and aft, can be due to the fact that the Iron-Age vessels were designed to leave the shore more quickly than Bronze-Age vessels. When landing or navigating on smaller water-courses, the paddlers could turn around and paddle in the opposite direction. This change in hull shape shows a change of ship-type from a ‘civilian’ model to a shape designed to suit the needs of a warship – a view that the Hjortspring find in its totality confirms, being the oldest, large Nordic weapon-offering find yet known.
The sea trials with Tilia show that a vessel of this type in favourable circumstances would be able to undertake long-distance voyages of up to 100 km in one day, which would have given great mobility and the possibility of surprise attacks on relatively distant shores in the Baltic area. This can in itself have promoted the formation of political defence alliances in the Early Iron Age. The Bronze-Age vessels would probably have had almost the same qualities that could have been useful for voyages to important cultic festivals, e.g. from the central Nordic habitation sites to the rock-carving fields in Bohuslän, and for voyages between the Scandinavian peninsula, Denmark and the great rivers that flow out into the Baltic, even if the weather should change underway with strong winds and high waves.
5.6 Changes in warfare, society, and politics as reflected in ship iconography
The change in the shape of ships coincided with a number of basic changes in society around the year 500 BC in north-western Europe, Denmark and in the other southern and central parts of Scandinavia. The agrarian structure was also changed with the establishment of the first villages; the disappearance of iconography points to a change in religion. Objects that indicated high status and cult association lost their importance and it must be assumed that a social structure and economy based on stock breeding and the exchange of bronze was replaced by a structure based on the ownership of land and control over local resources, including iron. In this process the changes in the ships can be understood as a transformation from the vessels of the Bronze Age used in the service of the cult and exchange to the Iron-Age society’s tool for armed manifestation of power with a view to gaining control of territory.
Another change in warfare is indicated by the rock carvings at Tegneby-Litseby near Tanum, where horsemen appear with spears and rectangular shields in battle scenes. In one case, the horses have been carved on top of the depiction of a ship. Around and about 500 BC the rock-carvings thus brought the earlier cultic elements, the ship and the horse, together in a new, secular, warlike context.
by Ole Crumlin-Pedersen
In the concluding chapter, the Hjortspring boat is analysed as a primary source and set in perspective by comparison with other finds of vessels from the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age.
6.1 The source value of the Hjortspring boat
Rosenberg’s reconstruction of the boat is based on a thorough analysis of all associated parts and it has been confirmed by an examination of the find in connection with its re-conservation and the preparations for building the reconstruction. The hull form as drawn by Johannessen, however, has proved itself to be too straight in the bottom. The light and supple Hjortspring boat is thus a well-documented archaeological primary source of evidence about the standards and principles employed in boatbuilding in the Baltic region around the middle of the fourth century BC, with only the conclusion of the horns at each end remaining speculative. The longitudinal profile determined in this way reappears, as described in Chapter 5.2, in the late rock carvings, and variants of this type of vessel but without the symmetry can be traced back throughout the Bronze Age in depictions on bronze objects and rocks. The principles employed in the construction must therefore also be assumed to be an expression of a long continuity, which might even extend back to the Neolithic.
6.2 British Bronze-Age finds
Bronze-Age vessels that are comparable in size and in a wealth of constructional details with the Hjortspring boat, if not in character, are known from the British Isles in the form of the North Ferriby boats, the Dover boat and ‘the Brigg raft’ (Brigg 2), as well as several finds of parts of boats and two large logboats (Table 6.1). These finds collectively illustrate an older group of boats from the period approximately 2000-1500 BC that primarily consists of sturdy elements that had been hewn into shape before being lashed together with withes of yew. There is a younger group from the period approximately 1100-300 BC, joined together by sewing with cords that went from hole to hole, in which the individual parts were to a higher degree bent into shape. With a single exception all the boat parts are of oak and in large dimensions. There has been much speculation as to the seaworthiness of these vessels, for example in connection with the Brigg 2 find. This vessel was originally interpreted as a flat-bottomed, box-shaped barge, and later reinterpreted with the bottom curved longitudinally as well as transversally, and with bent frames stuck in through the cleats on the inside of the planks. It is difficult to determine the suitability of these vessels for navigation on the open seas because of the uncertainty as to the original shape and moulded depth. In the case of all the vessels, however, they are an expression of a well-developed wood technology, exploiting large and sturdy elements made of oak.
6.3 Danish Stone-Age boats
From the Danish area, there are a rather large number of logboats from the Stone Age and a few from the Bronze Age. C. Christensen’s survey of more than 50 Stone-Age boats dated to between 4310 and 2270 BC (uncalibrated) includes 14 boats from the Palaeolithic and 19 from the Neolithic with linden and alder respectively as the dominant species of wood. The Mesolithic boats have mainly been found along the contemporary coastline of that period. They were hewn out to a thin-walled shell with a separate transom board to close off the boat aft. Sewing has been identified in connection with repairs. At the Mesolithic Tybrind Vig site, finely worked paddles with broad, ornamented blades have been found in addition to the as much as 10 m-long logboats. The Neolithic boats are generally sturdier, with thicker walls, smaller, and in one of them irregular rows of holes survive along both the upper edges. All the Stone-Age boats have rounded bottoms and have been hewn out without inner frames or fixed transom boards. The Neolithic boats have been found in inland lakes and can therefore not be taken as firm evidence for the types of boats employed by hunters of the period or by voyagers carrying flint daggers to Norway.
6.4 Nordic boat finds from the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age
There are only a few boat-finds from Scandinavia dated to the Bronze Age. These are logboats of oak that have been found in freshwater areas so they are unlikely to have been sea-going. They differ markedly both from the Nordic logboats of the Stone Age and from the Hjortspring boat with which they share no common features, since, just like the Central European logboats of the period, they have a flat bottom and internal, transverse ridges hewn out of the trunk. From the Pre-Roman Iron Age, the only maritime find, apart from the Hjortspring boat, is a loose find of a thwart from ca 220 BC from Hampnäs in Norrland, Sweden. It is rather similar in character to the thwarts of the Hjortspring boat but comes from a boat with grown frames. Otherwise, finds date to the beginning of the Early Roman Iron Age (Table 6.2) with expanded logboats of oak from Slusegård in Bornholm and Vaale and Leck in the Schleswig region. The plank-boats from Nydam and Björke from the period ca 250-400 AD are built of oak, linden, deal and spruce, assembled with iron rivets and in some sections with the aid of sewing. These finds illustrate the changes in materials and techniques within boatbuilding in the Early Iron Age from sewn linden boats, propelled by paddling, to clinker-built rowing boats, primarily built of oak or spruce.
6.5 Comparisons between the British and Nordic boat finds
Table 6.3 shows a survey of the most well-preserved of the above-mentioned vessels with indication of their calculated hull weight in relation to the number of paddlers and the length of the boat in metres (in the case of the Hjortspring boat without the horns). Although there is some uncertainty about the figures, they do show a clear tendency for the paddled boats, where the British plank-built vessels have a calculated weight per metre and per man that lies between 124 kg and 239 kg. They are thus much heavier than the Nordic boats, where the corresponding figures lie between 21 kg and 39 kg.
This difference reflects a fundamental difference in building tradition that must have been based on the differences in both the environmental and cultural conditions. The movement of the tides around the coasts of Britain, just as in the period of the sailing vessels, would probably have played a significant role as an ‘auxiliary motor’ while sailing along the coast and in the lower reaches of the rivers, taking a great deal of strain off the paddlers. The Danish waters without tides and with the need to cut the length of many voyages by dragging the boat for a short distance across land, on the other hand, would certainly have furthered a tradition for lightly built paddled boats for coastal voyages. The Nydam boats represent the next phase, where propulsion with oars presupposes a stronger hull with a greater hull weight.
6.6 Finds from Central Europe and the Mediterranean area
The Central and West European boat-finds from the Bronze Age have no features in common with the Hjortspring boat and the vessels found in the lands around the Mediterranean are also of a completely different construction and are mainly proper cargo vessels. A few features of the Hjortspring boat are paralleled, however in iconography, such as the use of a hogging truss from fore to aft in the Egyptian ships and double horns fore and aft on a terracotta model from ca 2200 BC found in Crete. The ships in wall paintings from the seventeenth and sixteenth centuries BC at Thera (Santorini) in the Cyclades in Greece have the same lightness and elegance as that reflected in the Hjortspring boat. The shape of the hull and the age of the vessel differ but the general scenery in which the ships form part of a peaceful processional sailing, possibly with a religious background, may have provided the inspiration for the cultic processions in Scandinavia in the Bronze Age.
6.7 Hide or wood?
There has been speculation as to whether the building principle behind the Hjortspring boat was ‘skin or wood.’ There is firm written evidence of the use of hide/skin-covered boats in British waters, going back to the Roman period with the tradition continuing down to the Irish curraghs of the twentieth century. In the Celtic period, they would probably have played a significant role in local traffic on the open seas until this function was taken over in the early Roman period by sturdily built Romano-Celtic wooden ships and later by lighter, clinker-built ships in the Anglo-Saxon and Nordic tradition. For some of the ‘box-shaped’ rock-carving ships in northern Norway an interpretation as skin-covered boats is likely. For the majority of the Southern Scandinavian rock-carving ships tentative interpretations as skin-boats have been proposed on the basis of calculations of the technical possibilities, as in Section 3.8 of the present book, but these interpretations do not find support in the archaeological find-material in Scandinavia. On the contrary, the slender and elegantly formed Mesolithic paddles and logboats support the idea of an early, independent development in southern Scandinavia of lightly-built wooden boats. For lack of surviving evidence, the details in the development between the Late Neolithic period and the Bronze Age cannot be followed closely but the impetus behind the shaping of the stems may very well have come from the Greek archipelago and the Balkans on more than one occasion.
6.8 The expanded logboat
The method of production of the expanded logboat has provided a suitable model of interpretation for establishing the basic concept of the clinker-building technique with hull shape and internal support as known since the time of the Nydam boat. The discussion has focused primarily on the technical possibilities for expanding oak, but this is not difficult to do with freshly-felled oak and the technique is known over large parts of the globe for various species of wood. In the case of the Hjortspring boat, it is assumed that the unpreserved central part of the bottom plank had been expanded, and similar bottom elements probably formed the starting point for the plank boats of the Bronze Age and the Neolithic period. The slender hull-shells of the Tybrind logboats would also undoubtedly have required some degree of expansion in order to acquire the necessary stability. The stretched rope between the stems in the Hjortspring boat could have been a necessary aid in the building process, before the frames were fitted, and would have been able to hold the plank-shell and the stems in their desired expanded forms. The rope from fore to aft would likely also have been exploited to even out the strains on the hull when in heavy seas.
The model sketched here for the employment in Nordic boatbuilding of light, expanded wooden constructions in the long period stretching from the Stone Age to the Iron Age fits with the few known finds but it remains mainly hypothetical as long as sea-going Nordic ships from the Neolithic period and from the Bronze Age are not represented in the find material. For the time being we must remain content with having the Hjortspring boat as a unique example of an important type of boat from the Early Iron Age with deep roots in the preceding period.
Here follows the summary of: The Renaissance Shipwrecks from Christianshavn. An archaeological and architectural study of large cargo vessels in Danish waters, 1580-1640 by Christian P.P. Lemée. Ships and Boats of the North 6. Roskilde, 271 pages. ISBN 8785180343, published in May 2006 by the Viking Ship Museum in collaboration with the National Museum of Denmark. The book is kindly supported by: Nordea Danmark Fonden, A/S Det Dansk-Franske Dampskibsselskabs Understøttelsesfond af 1950, Augustinus Fonden, Københavns Skipperforening, Konsul George Jorck og hustru Emma Jorck’s Fond og Farumgaard-Fonden.
This research project consisted of an archaeological and architectural study of shipbuilding methods in north-west Europe between 1580 and 1640, based on the analysis of four recently excavated shipwrecks. The delimitation of the period was given by the dendrochronological dating of the carvel-built ships that were selected as primary case-study material. The dating of the ships falls within the reigns of the two Danish Kings Frederik II (1559-1588) and Christian IV (1588-1648). The main aim of the research was to establish which specific shipbuilding methods were in use in North Western Europe in the period defined, as the question had not previously been examined archaeologically in a Danish context.
The study of this aspect of the history of shipbuilding was generated by the discovery of the archaeological remains of eight ships and boats in the former harbour of Grønnegaard in Copenhagen, subsequently excavated under the direction of the author in 1996 and 1997. Of the eight excavated wrecks, six were dated to have been built between 1585 and 1640, and five were the remains of large carvel-built vessels; thus representing a unique collection of different Renaissance ship-types that had all been sailing in Danish waters. The wrecks were denominated B&W-wrecks (after the Burmeister & Wain ship engine factory, that was the last user of the site), and given a number in the order of discovery and subsequent excavation: B&W 1, B&W 2, B&W 3, etc.
The first chapter covers the history of the B&W site, which was situated on the former harbour of Grønnegaard (now filled up), which, in the middle of the 16th century, was known as one of the oldest harbours for private merchants in the capital. The site is situated in the southern quarter of Christianshavn, a Renaissance city built in the 1620´s after the Dutch model, on the orders of King Christian VI. The harbour of Grønnegaard was at that time embraced within the town plan, and at least two ships, B&W 1 and B&W 2, were re-used as revetments, sunk on purpose after dismantling, to serve as a foundation for a careening wharf established on the harbour site between 1624 and 1636.
In the middle of the 18th century, another wreck, B&W 5, was sunk alongside the careening wharf, so as to extend it towards deeper waters, probably after the first careening wharf had silted up. Foundation piles for a large crane were discovered in the hull of this ship, and several revetments surrounded the three sunken vessels, all being remains of the former harbour installations.
The excavation site was unique, in that it unveiled unknown remains of 400 years of shipbuilding and harbour activities. A private shipyard was established on the site as early as 1624, by the Scottish shipbuilder David Balfour, and through the centuries the harbour of Grønnegaard housed various shipyards and related maritime activities.
The second chapter summarises the different known carvel building techniques and design methods of the period and Danish carvel shipbuilding is set into a historical perspective. The chapter briefly outlines the introduction of carvel shipbuilding into Denmark, and it is shown, from the historical sources, how the Kings Frederik II and Christian IV played a primary role in the introduction of carvel as a new method into naval shipbuilding, as they employed foreign shipbuilders to build the ships of the Navy, primarily following English methods. Under these two kings naval shipbuilding underwent major developments and was especially re-organised during the reign of Christian IV. New artillery systems were developed towards a higher standardisation of gunnery. Christian IV himself in collaboration with Scottish and Dutch master shipbuilders successfully designed some of the ships. The Scottish shipbuilders especially played an important part in designing new ships that were built according to the English fashion, using a skeleton-based concept. Several extant shipbuilding drawings are attributed to David Balfour (the most productive of the Scottish shipbuilders), and display strong similarities to early English shipbuilding drawings.
This phenomenon of producing shipbuilding drawings, and having an intellectual or “scientific” approach to shipbuilding was highly innovative for the time, and it seems that Danish naval shipbuilding did not lag behind other European countries, but was on the contrary quite advanced. Between 1620 and 1630 Denmark had, in fact, the largest war fleet in Europe, a consequence of the necessity of patrolling and protecting its enormous sea territory, stretching from the eastern parts of the Southern Baltic, to Northern Norway and over to Iceland. Especially important was the strategic position, in which Denmark had control over the entrance to the Baltic Sea and its revenues through the levy, at Helsingør, of the Sound toll. Furthermore, the Navy provided persuasive means of defence and protection of the Kingdom against aggressive neighbours, primarily Sweden. The historical context shows that little is known about private shipbuilding, in contrast with the information relating to State-controlled shipbuilding activities.
The third chapter relates the archaeological method that was used for the B&W excavations of 1996 and 1997, and the results are discussed. Several of the B&W shipwrecks were of a size and a complexity that made it necessary to use a fast and effective method of excavation and documentation, as the building contractors could not be stopped for very long. The vessels were therefore excavated using a combination of machine and hand excavation. The content of the wrecks (mainly consisting of building debris and household waste) was not examined in detail. The ships themselves were evaluated as being more valuable (from an archaeological point of view) than their contents (of unknown provenance), and were therefore chosen as the main aim of the excavation. The different layers of the carvel-built ships, consisting of deck planks, inner planking, framing, outer planking (in up to seven layers) were uncovered, recorded and surveyed in sequence. To speed up the survey process, a total station was used to measure all the different structural components of the ships.
The extensive use of total station as a survey instrument is the main methodological innovation characterising the B&W excavations. Though the method of using total station recording is not new, a new concept was developed and implemented and subsequently used for the field recording during the B&W excavations. The new survey concept is based on the ability to identify the different structural parts of the ships and to carry out a complete survey, through a selective field recording of the ship as a whole, but also as single elements.
The aim of developing a new survey-concept, was to allow a post-excavation study of the preserved wrecks, as they all were to be destroyed after excavation, and therefore it would be physically impossible to collect supplementary information.
Because the vessels could not be preserved nor a costly conservation carried out, the total station, combined with a traditional survey, made it possible to produce documentation and research data of high quality within the short excavation period. Simply using traditional surveying would have taken too much time, or would have made it impossible to record the ships in the available working time.
Chapter three also presents the method that was used to document and analyse four wrecks, the B&W 1, 2, 4 and 5, which were sampled when excavated. The aim of sampling parts of the ships' hulls was to document construction details that could not be examined during the intensive field work. For each wreck, a section of the hull of two to four metres in length was chosen, cut out with a chainsaw and subsequently lifted out of the shipwreck.
All the structural components were recorded at 1:10 scale, following a survey-manual (produced by the author), which was used by the staff involved in the recording work. The final result was a homogeneous set of inked drawings, representing contours, cross-sections and features observed on the different planks and frames. Indication of size and direction of treenails, treenail holes, visible tool marks, and other details were also recorded. Only by sampling the four hulls and recording the timbers, was it possible to establish the presence of spijkerpennen - small wooden pegs on the surfaces of the planks. These pegs were crucial for the understanding of the original building sequence of the four different hulls, that were examined at a later stage, presented in chapter four, where the eight wrecks are discussed individually.
Only the four sampled wrecks have been analysed in order to document aspects of 16th and 17th century shipbuilding methods and concepts, and only B&W 4 and B&W 5 have been reconstructed.
B&W 4 was the subject of an analysis, which illustrates how the pre-defined methodological choice - Architectura Navalis Historica - as presented in the introduction, was implemented. Architectura Navalis Historica aims at studying seven main aspects: form, function, concept, construction, materials, dating and origin, providing information that can be combined into a broader understanding of the wreck material.
The three other case-studies (B&W 5, B&W 2 and B&W 1) mainly present the results of the analyses, instead of the process. The case studies are organised in sub-chapters, each dealing with its own aspect. Firstly, the preserved wreck parts are presented and a possible dating and origin of the wreck is attempted. Secondly the sampled parts are presented and discussed, demonstrating that small apparently insignificant details can in fact give important information about a specific building method. On the basis of this examination, the single timbers, transferred to model size, are re-assembled in the chronological order in which the original hull had been built. This analysis results in conclusions associated with the shell-building concept.
It was possible to establish that all four of the shipwrecks studied belonged to a shell-based tradition, in which the shipbuilders were able to form the shape of the hull before inserting frames, contrasting with the skeleton-based approach in which a set of pre-defined and pre-erected frames are subsequently covered with planks. The building sequence of the four hull samples also showed that, within the shell-based building tradition, several different conceptual and technical approaches co-existed.
The fourth chapter contains the detailed description of the eight B&W-shipwrecks and the results of the analyses, which are briefly summarised here:
B&W 1 is a carvel-built vessel, 26.0 m long and 6.0 m wide. The dendrochronological analyses date the building of the vessel to ca. 1584 and show a phase of re-building ca. 1608. The re-building consisted of an extension of the hull by 7.7 m. The original ship had been sawn through in the middle, and the two halves had been placed on a new keel. New floor-timbers (possibly copied from the exposed floor-timbers) were inserted on the keel in between the two hull parts, and the structure was covered with oak planks from stem to stern. The resulting hull therefore has two layers of planking in the foremost and aftermost parts, whereas there is only one layer of planking in the central (extended) part. B&W 1 was probably originally built in, or near, the town of Hoorn and later extended, to a length of 26.0 m, with wood from Denmark. It was not possible to establish whether the ship was lengthened in Denmark or in Holland. The ship was scuttled after having been partly dismantled. The hulk of B&W 1 had been re-used to create the foundation for a careening wharf that was filled with building debris and domestic waste.
This ship type had not been documented archaeologically before, though it is known from Dutch historical sources as a verlanger, a lengthened ship. Further investigation of the documented hull parts will provide new material relating to this ship type, that may be associated with the early flutes. This singular ship type may have resulted from the lengthening of existing hulls; the verlangers are historically present at the time when the first flutes emerged. B&W 1 is unique in the sense that it represents the only example to date of a lengthened ship-hull. Dutch and Danish historical sources point at a possible identification of B&W 1 as the wreck of a lengthened Dutch Bojer the De Jager, which appeared in auction books of the town of Edam. In the Danish sources a Hollands Jæger (Dutch Jager) appeared between 1620 and 1623. The dendro-datings suggested that the ship was scuttled in the harbour in 1624 at the earliest.
The shipwreck B&W 1 presents technical analogies with B&W 4, though it does not have the same simplicity of construction. The bottom (which was shell-built) is relatively flat, with a hard chine between the floor and the sides. All the timbers are fastened to the hull with treenails; very little iron had been used. The re-building was performed with the same building technique as the original building process.
B&W 2 is a ca. 27.0 m long, 7.5 m wide carvel-built vessel, dendro-dated to ca. 1606. It was re-built ca. 1618, when a sheathing of oak and pine planks was fastened on the outside of the original hull. The aftermost part of the keel and the sternpost had been sheathed with copper plates. It was dismantled and sunk on purpose, at the same time as B&W 1 (between 1624 and 1636) in order to be re-used as a foundation for a careening wharf.
B&W 2 was built around 1606 in the region of Amsterdam or a Dutch-influenced area and shows strong analogies with B&W 5, though with a different bottom shape, as it displayed an angled garboard. The B&W 2 ship shows a strong relationship with the information given by Witsen. The upper frames were not preserved, so it was only possible to establish the building sequence of the bottom and of the turn of the bilge, and establish that both had been built according to the shell-based technique.
B&W 2 was re-built in Denmark between 1618 and 1622, when a second layer of oak planks had been spiked to the outside of the original hull, with a layer of animal hair (tar mat) in between the two layers of planking. Finally, this hull reinforcement had been covered with sheathing planks of pine (also laid on tar mat). Thousands of iron nails had been driven into this pine sheathing to protect the hull, presumably against ship-worms. A coconut shell, found in the pump well of the ship and the ship’s technical details, combined with information from the historical sources, has led to a possible identification of B&W 2. The wreck is one of three possible ships, either the David, Elephanten or København, which all left Copenhagen in 1618, and were back again by 1622 after having completed the first Danish journey to the East Indies. As indicated by the historical sources, at least two vessels were subsequently scuttled in the harbour of Copenhagen as foundations for bulwarks. As comparative material, B&W 2 can be associated with the Mauritius and the Batavia, wrecks that also display Dutch hull-protection techniques, that are also attested by the historical sources. This feature would also be open for further questions related to the early examples of hull protection of ocean-going vessels.
B&W 3 represents the remains of a clinker-built vessel, dendro-dated to have been built ca. 1606, probably in Denmark. Very little remained of the vessel: only a few fragments of frames and strakes were preserved. The ship-wreck does not represent any specific phase of the harbour-filling works, therefore it must have sunk accidentally on the site, possibly during a historically recorded winter storm in 1609. In the course of the 18th century the area was partly filled and a bridge and revetment was built over the wreck.
B&W 4 is a ca. 15 m long and 5 m wide carvel-built ship, dendro-dated to ca. 1582. It does not fit within the harbour installations and could therefore have sunk accidentally, or been re-used: no indications point precisely at the reasons for it being on the site. In trying to unveil the original building process by making a model, it was revealed that the hull of B&W 4 (dated to between 1585 and 1590) had originally been built shell-based with the use of three “master floor-frames”. They were laid across the keel at strategic positions, and the shipbuilder had been able to control the shape of his ship, while building it with almost no pre-defined skeleton. Furthermore, it was possible to explain how it had been possible to shape not only the bottom, but also the turn of the bilge, by means of cleats, which are wooden battens spiked across the planks to hold them together while the shell is assembled. The shipbuilder first placed pre-designed identical cleats on the side of the bottom planks at the turn of the bilge. These cleats were all angled at ca. 32 degrees upwards. The shipbuilder was subsequently able to attached the first bilge planks on these, and keep them at a constant angle, thus shaping the bilge in a simplified manner, but with constant control of shape. By applying the same method to the second bilge plank, he could shape the turn of the bilge without facing any design problem, and also simplify handling operations.
This important observation tends to indicate that B&W 4 belongs to a simple ship-building tradition, that could be derived from the cog building tradition, where cleats also played an important role. Only by identifying the remains of a building process, attested by the presence of so-called spijkerpennen, was it possible to conclude that the role of the cleats in a shell-based construction concept deserves to be re-examined. Not only do cleats serve a temporary construction function (as a plank fastening device) but the cleats also seem to have played an important part in the design of the hull itself. The cleat allowed the shipbuilder to keep a shape under constant control, thus explaining how Dutch shipbuilders were able to build large ship-hulls “in thin air”.
The B&W 4 ship is not the only example of this Dutch or Friesian building tradition. Similar vessels have been found and excavated in German and Dutch areas, for example the ships from Uelvesbüll, Lelystad, the Wieringemeer, and others, but also within a Danish find context with the Hafnia-Vejle wreck, displaying Nordic features in a north-western shipbuilding tradition. B&W 4 is comparable with descriptions of a ship-type known as a Smak and other related medium-sized vessels (15 to 20 metres in length), that were used as traders and ferries along the Friesian coastline and the inshore waters of the Netherlands. But as the archaeological evidence shows, these ships also sailed in Danish waters and in the southern Baltic Sea.
B&W 5 is a 32 m long and 8 m wide carvel-built ship, dendro-dated to have been built ca. 1635, and re-built ca. 1644. It was sunk on purpose, after partial dismantling, alongside B&W 1 and B&W 2, sometime before 1750, as an extension of the careening wharf towards deeper waters. The many repairs show that the ship must have been old when sunk on the site.
B&W 5 was built in a Dutch-influenced area ca.1635 ± 5 years, following the shell-based method, as indicated by the numerous spijkerpennen found on the surfaces of the recorded bottom and bilge planks. The analysed hull sample showed affinities with the information given by Witsen in 1671. The reconstruction of the wreck sample displayed the possible presence of a geometrical design-system, used to define the shape of the hull. This geometrical system was investigated by building a model of the wreck and reconstructing the missing parts, using simple patterns or moulds, extracted from the shape of the preserved hull. It could be demonstrated that it had been possible to build a large ship (B&W 5 was reconstructed to a length of 32 metres between the posts), by constructing a single master-frame, consisting of two basic arcs, determined by the ship’s proportions. From this master-frame a mould or pattern, resembling a link-engine or a Citra (Rålamb 1961) could be constructed and used to determine the shape of the standing timbers. In fact the major part of the ship’s side could be determined by a simple device, the link- engine, which served to produce frames in series, that could be inserted in the shell-construction of the bottom-part of the hull. One arc defines the shape of the turn of the bilge and another the ship’s sides, in an area covering at least 4/5 of the total length. At the extremities of the hull, the shipbuilders had no problem shaping the missing parts by inserting special frames. In the scale-model trials, the B&W 5 ship could be reconstructed up to the upper parts of the hull by the mean of two individual moulds.
The shipbuilder who designed B&W 5 used a simple geometrical system, that has certain analogies with the English method (related to the alternative skeleton-based concept). The English system, as depicted by Baker (at the end of the 16th century) and others also used arcs of circles to determine not only the master-frame, but also the main frames in the greater part of the hull, by using systematic adjustments to the centres of each arc in relation to the ship’s centreline. It seems, from the analysis performed on B&W 5, that the Dutch shipbuilders had simplified the English system, and reduced it to consist of one single arc to define the side of the vessel, and a smaller arc for the turn of the bilge. All the framing elements defined by the arcs could be erected in the shell-based bottom, thus introducing a skeleton-based building concept onto a shell-based bottom. It was not possible to establish whether a master-frame had been used in the widest part of the hull, as such a master-frame would have been placed in a part of the excavated hull that was not preserved.
Typologically, the B&W 5 wreck can be associated with the flute. Its dimensions and relationship between length and breadth fit in with the characteristics of the vessel-type: a long and narrow hull with full ends; though Ab Hoving has pointed out the similarity between the flute (characterised by a round stern) and the pinnace (characterised by a flat transom). Actually, both end types could be reconstructed on B&W 5, leaving the discussion open.
B&W 6 represents fragments of a clinker-built ship, discovered in an extension of the careening wharf to the north of B&W 2. The wreck was not dendro-dated, though its probable date would fall between the middle of the 17th and the middle of the 18th century. It is not possible to establish its dimensions nor to establish if it is a wrecked or re-used hull. However, a piece of the stem-post indicates that the ship was built by the clinker technique, and re-built according to the carvel-technique.
B&W 7 is the remains of a ca. 20.0 m long carvel-built vessel, dendro-dated to ca. 1588. The remains are too few to establish whether it was sunk purposely or not. The wreck was discovered in the southern part of the site, with no connection to the large harbour installations. The vessel differs from the others in that sense that it shows characteristics of belonging to a skeleton-based tradition. The floor frames and futtocks situated in the central part of the hull had been pre-designed and pre-assembled before being erected on the keel. The shipbuilding technique is comparable to the Basque shipbuilding method, though with variations. The wood used for building B&W 7 does not match any known curve; it has been suggested that the region of origin could be Flanders or Normandy.
B&W 8 is the remains of a ca. 4.5 m long carvel-built boat, dendro-dated to ca. 1738. The boat was either sunk alongside a revetment or left in the beach area of the site. Despite the poor state of preservation, it was possible to observe that the boat was built according to 17th century shipbuilding methods.
The final chapter summarises and discusses the general results of the investigation of the shipbuilding methods. The four analysed carvel-built hulls show a schism between Danish State shipbuilding (building skeleton-based ships, as indicated in chapter 2), and private shipbuilding (building shell-based ships, as concluded in chapter 4). The B&W shipwrecks show that Danish shipbuilding could have been influenced by various methods, with different conceptual approaches: a skeleton-based method using pre-defined frames; a shell-based method with few or no frames; a shell-based method with, subsequently, pre-erected frames, made after a mould produced from a simple arc of a circle. Starting from being a relatively simple approach, the thesis has shown how complex the problem in fact is.
From having a simple approach to the problem of investigating and documenting the shipbuilding methods used in north-western European countries during the Renaissance, it has been demonstrated that Danish shipbuilding could have been influenced by different conceptual traditions, mostly transferred by foreign shipbuilders.
The Dutch influence is predominant in the B&W ships, which seem to be an expression of private shipbuilding, which had different functional requirements from State shipbuilding. The merchants needed ships with large hull capacity, crewed by as few men as possible. In contrast, the Navy’s ships had to be operated by large crew and to transport their load of artillery above the waterline. This resulted in specialised warships, built to precise demands and specifications, that started to emerge in the last decades of 16th and the first decades of the 17th centuries.
The results of the archaeological excavations on the B&W site, and the following analyses of the largest wrecks, show that the shipbuilding methods used by the shipbuilders in the northern part of Europe, were totally different from those practised in the southern part, often designated as Iberian-Atlantic. The historical sources indicate a strong influence of the Iberian-Atlantic method on Danish State- controlled shipbuilding (with Scottish and English shipbuilders using the English method, associated with the skeleton-based concept). In contrast with that, the archaeological sources provide information pointing towards the fact that private shipbuilding used another method. Though the Crown regularly employed shipbuilders called in from across the whole country, these seem to have been able to work in both techniques, but as is indicated by later sources, the private shipbuilders still practised a Dutch-inspired shell-based shipbuilding up to the late 19th century. The main reason for this choice would be of a pragmatic character: that a shell-based approach is less costly in raw materials and building time and can still produce large ships. Furthermore, the design control and building techniques are simplified, the result being, none the less, seaworthy vessels complying with functional requirements answering to the economic constraints of the time.
The success of Dutch shipbuilding lies in its simplicity, while allowing series production of large floating wooden constructions. The reason for the Dutch expansion in the late Middle Ages and early modern times was highly dependant on the ability, within a short time, to rationalise shipbuilding and transform it from an individual handicraft into a well organised proto-industry, which is displayed by the construction concepts of the four B&W ships examined.
Here follows the summary of Large Cargo Ships in Danish Waters 1000-1250. Evidence of specialised merchant seafaring prior the Hanseatic Period by Anton Englert. With contributions by Ole Crumlin-Pedersen, Aoife Daly, Tinna Damgård-Sørensen, Carsten Jahnke, Michael R. Kristiansen, Hans Joachim Kühn, Ole Magnus & Susan Möller-Wiering. Ships and Boats of the North 7. Roskilde 2015, 378 pages. ISBN 978-87-85180-53-7. Published by the Viking Ship Museum. The book is kindly supported by: Dronning Margrethes og Prins Henriks Fond, The Danish National Research Foundation, Farumgaard-Fonden.
This volume presents the archaeological evidence of large cargo ships in Danish waters between 1000 and 1250 and asserts that they are an important element, and indicator, of specialised merchant seafaring in medieval Denmark prior to the Hanseatic Period.
The investigation began with a presentation of the current state of historical research on merchant seafaring in Danish waters and in the western Baltic Sea between 1000 and 1250 (Chapter 2).
Historians generally agree on the existence of a Scandinavian system of long-distance trade connecting the West to the East of Europe at the trading centres of Hedeby/Schleswig and Gotland between the 9th to the 13th centuries. During the 12th century, German merchants established trade relations of their own in the Baltic Sea area. During a short but significant period of Danish dominance and protection from 1201 to 1225, Lübeck prospered. After the Danish loss of the southern Baltic coast in 1227, Scandinavian merchant seafaring was gradually overshadowed by the large-scale trade of the enterprising Hanseatic cities.
However, the few surviving narrative sources and legal documents do not give a full picture of the organisation and capacity of merchant seafaring in Denmark before 1250. Whereas the narrative sources favour political history and naval campaigns rather than aspects of daily life such as peaceful trade, the relative absence of documentary evidence may reflect a limited contemporary use of written records and the subsequent loss of archives by the administration and jurisdiction, rather than an absence of specialised merchant seafaring. Within the context of merchant seafaring in Danish waters between 1000 and 1250, the written sources are silent in respect to at least two questions:
- How specialised was Danish merchant seafaring before the Hanseatic Period?
- When did German merchants start to build and sail ships of their own in the Baltic Sea area?
These issues were addressed in an exploration of the evidence for specialised merchant seafaring (Chapter 3). Specialised merchant seafaring was defined here as a regular, profitable and integrated engagement in large-scale goods exchange in opposition to limited surplus trade of mainly self-sufficient agricultural estates. The following four aspects were discussed as possible indicators of specialised merchant seafaring:
1. Free merchants living from their trade rather than from their land.
2. Multiple ownership of ships or their cargo and the codification of maritime law.
3. Towns with access to navigable waters.
4. The use of pure sailing vessels and large cargo vessels in particular.
The evaluation of the first three indicators was partly biased by the limited nature of the written sources from Denmark, especially prior to the middle of the 12th century, whereas ship-finds cover the whole of the period in question. They can be absolutely dated by means of dendrochronology and they can yield evidence of their origin, cargo capacity and other characteristics. Thus, the study continues to concentrate on the significance of, and evidence for, large cargo vessels in Danish waters before 1250 (Chapter 4).
The main advantage of pure sailing vessels when compared with combined rowing-and-sailing ships can be seen in their cargo capacities and their seaworthiness, both of which improve with an increase in vessel size. Their profitable use depends on a society capable of pacifying the sea and suppressing piracy. The keeping of the peace in harbour and at sea falls under the responsibility of the king or another central form of government which receives duties in return.
Large cargo vessels are expensive to build and operate, but if they are used efficiently, their large cargo capacity can be a very profitable source of income for their owners. It is therefore asserted that large cargo vessels were sophisticated tools of commerce and consequently, central elements of specialised merchant seafaring. One cannot preclude the possibility that pure sailing ships were also used for military operations during the period in question, but due to their limited manoeuvrability and their dependence on the wind, they were only effective for the support of massive deployment and not for fast and flexible hit-and-run warfare. Here remains an unsolved problem with regard to the sources available: on the one hand, Danish written sources are silent on the explicit use of cargo ships in warfare until the end of the 12th century, while on the other hand, there still are no 12th- or 13th-century finds of personnel carriers from medieval Danish waters despite their presence in contemporary written sources.
The study continues with a number of detailed case studies on the ship-finds of Eltang Vig, Lynæs, Karschau and Haderslev (Chapters 5-8), and a discussion of the evidence of all 19 tree-ring dated cargo ship-finds over 14 m reconstructed length in medieval Danish waters from 1000-1250 (Chapter 9). The analysis of this material gave rise to the identification of two size classes of cargo ships among the 18 vessels which were built in medieval Denmark: large cargo vessels with a cargo capacity of over 40 tons, and medium-sized cargo vessels with a cargo capacity of 10-30 tons.
The archaeological evidence for medium sized cargo vessels of 10-30 tons capacity largely coincides with the taxation class of ships between 5 and 12 lasts, as stated in the Lübeck customs tariffs of 1222. However, archaeological evidence for large cargo ships includes vessels that are well above the lower limits of 12 and 18 lasts for the highest taxation classes in the Lübeck customs tariffs of 1222 and the Lübeck privilege for fishing at Rügen of 1224. This means that not only do these vessels belong to the largest known size of cargo ships as defined in written sources, but they are in fact representative of the breadth and extent of that size class.
The finds of large cargo vessels are distinguished from other cargo ship-finds by three features:
1. The ships belonging to the class of large cargo vessels had a considerably larger capacity than the medium sized group of cargo vessels.
2. Only large cargo ships were found outside sheltered harbours.
3. Almost all large cargo ships, which were not lost en route, were found in the vicinity of prominent medieval Danish ports, namely Roskilde and Hedeby/Schleswig.
It must be kept in mind that the identified large cargo vessels are only ten ships out of a total of 19 finds from a period of 250 years. Therefore, only preliminary conclusions can be drawn in the following:
1. Working on the basis that the gap in size between the large and medium-sized cargo vessels is historically correct, an explanation for the different ship sizes may be found either in different vessel functions or in the different social and economic positions of the respective owners.
2. The fact that only large cargo vessels were found outside sheltered harbours indicates a tendency for large cargo vessels to be used on a regular basis, and with an accepted risk of exposure to dangerous weather conditions, after ca 1140, if not earlier.
3. The find distribution of large cargo vessels points toward a direct relationship between the owners of large cargo ships and prominent centres of secular and ecclesiastical power and trade.
Considering the vast resources needed for the building and equipping of large cargo ships, one may assume that these vessels were specifically designed for trade, primarily with bulk cargo, and that they were owned by rich merchants or by important members of the nobility or the clergy. Apart from the medium-sized Skuldelev 1 ship from western Norway, the examined ships fail to provide definite evidence for long-distance contacts to foreign places, although two of the ships, the Kollerup and Skagen cogs, were lost during longer voyages near the north tip of Jutland.
Finally, the evidence of pure sailing vessels can be listed together with the previously discussed indicators for specialised merchant seafaring and royal administration in Denmark from 1000 to 1250, before merchants from Hanseatic ports started to dominate large-scale trade.
This direct comparison reveals that the evidence for specialised merchant seafaring evolves gradually, until all criteria are fulfilled around the year 1200. The number of towns continually increases by three to four towns per half century until 1200, followed by a sudden rise from 19 to 47 towns from 1200 to 1250, three quarters of which had access to navigable waters. The consolidation of royal power and administration at the end of the Viking Age is represented by the specific taxation of urban property and by the enforcement of a monetary standard based on the face value of coins. The lack of written evidence for free merchants and the operation of merchant ships before the second half of the 12th century is probably a result of low contemporary standards of literacy and archive keeping.
The archaeological finds of pure sailing vessels provide some of the oldest evidence for specialised merchant seafaring in Denmark. Given the nature of archaeological remains, they are hardly representative in a statistical sense but their very existence and size make them significant bodies of evidence.
The first archaeological evidence for pure sailing vessels can be dated to the period following the consolidation of centralised royal power and the official conversion to Christianity in Denmark in the late 10th century. It is remarkable that already around the year 1025, the second oldest Nordic cargo ship-find from the waters of medieval Denmark, Hedeby 3, had reached a cargo capacity of 50-60 tons; a size class, which was built and employed in Denmark for almost two centuries. These purpose-built cargo ships combined an elegant expression of high-status with a large cargo capacity and a moderate draught of ca 1.5 m, while at the same time retaining the ability to navigate in shallow coastal waters and fjords.
From 1150 onward a new, bottom-based type of large cargo ship, the sea-going cog, emerged, with its oldest-dating representatives from Kollerup and Kolding having been built in southern Jutland, probably deriving from North Frisian influence on the west coast of Jutland. The Kolding cog of 1189 had already surpassed the cargo capacity of the large Nordic clinker-built vessels with a cargo capacity of “70 tons or more” and a deep draught of 2 m or more. It is very likely that merchants and magnates of the Danish Kingdom embraced this new cargo ship-type in the second half of the 12th century and employed it for the transport of heavy loads for civil and military purposes. The cog’s deep draught and restricted manoeuvrability may, along with other, socio-political factors, have rendered ancient fairways like the Schlei fjord and Roskilde Fjord obsolete in the decades and centuries to come, possibly with severe consequences for the cities of Schleswig and Roskilde and the general pattern of urbanisation on the North Sea and Baltic coasts. Coinciding with the accelerating urbanisation in Denmark during the first part of the 13th century, specific features of the Nordic ship-building tradition finally gave way to a more functional and common northern European design which continued to evolve. In the light of these changes, the period between 1150 and 1250 stands out as a time of transition, not only of building style but of the entire concept of cargo shipbuilding in Denmark.
The evidence of large cargo vessels in Danish waters between 1000 and 1250 presented in this volume indicates that large cargo vessels were built and operated professionally in Denmark in the 11th and 12th centuries, prior to the later period of Hanseatic dominance, and were most likely owned by powerful members of Danish society. The ship-finds, in combination with the other indicators outlined above, suggest that the conditions for specialised merchant seafaring mentioned in the legend of St Thomas of Canterbury and the big ship in Schleswig developed and prevailed during these centuries:
1. Enterprising citizens with surplus capital.
2. Urban settlements, functioning as markets, harbours and shipyards with supplies of labour and knowledge, and a need for the exchange of goods.
3. Rulers who guaranteed peace ashore and at sea, and at the same time participated in trade.
4. Large, purpose-built cargo vessels.
The owners of these large cargo ships must have been as outstanding in wealth and social rank as their ships were outstanding in size. Regarding theories of a ‘Europeanization’ of peripheral areas around the formerly Frankish core of Latin Europe in the High Middle Ages, the mere existence of a class of large Danish-built, Nordic style cargo ships of 50-60 tons cargo capacity in the 11th and 12th centuries may be seen as an element of this transformation, while at the same time maintaining cultural identity, tradition and political independence.
The appearance of the seagoing cog in the Danish Kingdom in the middle of the 12th century marks the beginning of a highly dynamic and prosperous period, where Denmark under the kings Valdemar, Canute VI and Valdemar II emerged as a “fairly Europeanized power” within the semi-periphery of a ‘Catholic World-system’. Denmark would go on to concentrate and consolidate its secular and ecclesiastical power, taking possession of the southern Baltic Sea shore, Lübeck and northern Estonia, and thereby fully exploiting its pivotal location between the transport zones of the North and Baltic Seas.
The absence of an accepted centralised power might have hindered the development of specialised merchant seafaring in other Baltic Sea regions. This may be a possible explanation as to why there has not yet been any finds of large cargo vessels of western Slavic origin despite the evidence of widespread maritime activity and exchange.
So far, the archaeological record does not reveal any ship-finds of German origin in Danish waters in the period examined, despite the historical evidence for German commercial seafaring in the North Sea and in the Baltic Sea from the second half of the 12th century onward. The fact that almost all of the examined finds of cargo vessels were built in medieval Denmark confirms the written sources’ evidence of the well-established position of the Danish kingdom as a naval and commercial power. However, the appearance of the seagoing cog in the middle of the 12th century in the dynamic, multi-ethnic area of southern Jutland makes it more likely that large cargo ships of similar construction and size also were taken into use in the emerging ports of the Southern Baltic coast at that time.
Future archaeological research may shed more light onto the early history of Hanseatic seafaring in Danish waters and the kind of ships which were used by Danish and German merchants in the 13th century. In order to examine the range and significance of Danish and German trade as well as the seafaring activities of the other Baltic Sea nations in the Middle Ages, it is vital to encourage and strengthen the professional study and preservation of maritime heritage in the entire Baltic Sea area. The present era of European integration and modernisation offers unprecedented potential for both preservation as well as destruction of heritage.