Dive into the Past: Explore Shipwrecks at the Maritime Archaeologists' DocuLab

At the Museum Island, you can visit the Maritime Archaeologists' DocuLab. Here, archaeologists are working on documenting two remarkable shipwrecks discovered at a depth of 12 meters in the waterway called 'Svælget' during the construction of the artificial peninsula Lynetteholm in the port of Copenhagen.

After lying hidden and forgotten on the seabed for centuries, the maritime archaeologists from the Viking Ship Museum conducted complex and extensive underwater excavations of the shipwrecks. Piece by piece, the ships were lifted from the seabed and transferred to the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde.

The two ships will undergo thorough examination in the Maritime Archaeologists' DocuLab. The most significant discoveries are often found during the documentation, and the Viking Ship Museum’s visitors are invited to witness this exciting work.

Join in as archaeologists uncover traces of our collective past

Usually, only a few people get close to the fragile finds from the seabed. However, in contrast to the excavation work itself, it will be possible to get up close to the exciting archaeological process of analysing and documenting the many ship parts as maritime archaeologists open the doors to their documentation workshop in the coming months.

Here, visitors will have a unique opportunity to gain insight into the archaeologists' work and witness firsthand how new traces of our shared history are unveiled.

Exhibition: Swallowed by the Sea

In the maritime archaeologists' workshop, visitors can also see the exhibition 'Swallowed by the Sea - two ships that never reached port.'
The focal point of the exhibition is the fatal episodes that sent the ships to the bottom of the sea, bringing us closer to people of the past across centuries:

"The shipwreck is the visible trace of the disaster, captured in a moment. When we can extract specific and human events from history, it helps bring our modern reality and history much closer together," says Morten Johansen, team leader for maritime archaeology at the Viking Ship Museum.

Visit the Maritime Archaeologists' DocuLab:

Opening hours at the Maritime Archaeologists' DocuLab:
Archaeologists work in the DocuLab
Monday - Friday 10:00 to 15:30.

Be aware that there may be a temporary closure due to the handling of large ship parts.

Exhibition 'Swallowed by the Sea - two ships that never reached port'

The exhibition is on display at the Maritime Archaeologists' DocuLab and showcases findings from the two excavations, zooming in on the nearly invisible traces that contribute to new knowledge about past sailors, maritime activities, and society.

Visit the exhibition in the Maritime Archaeologists' DocuLab:
Monday - Friday 10:00 to 15:30.

We owe it to the sailors of the past to be thorough

Every part of the ship's timber will be scrutinized by the archaeologists to ensure that all traces telling the story of the ships and the people who sailed with them are preserved.

The archaeologists hope that their meticulous work will enable them to answer the many questions brought to the surface by the discovery of these two previously unknown ships.

"We owe it to past sailors to investigate all aspects of the ships so that we can gain more insight into the past and the lives of people intricately connected to these ships," explains Morten Johansen, the team leader for maritime archaeology at the Viking Ship Museum.

Each part is digitally measured with a 3D scanner and documented with photos so that ship researchers, now and in the future, can study these exciting finds. Based on the scans, the archaeologists create 3D models that will help determine the shape and size of the ships.

Small traces can tell significant stories

The goal of the documentation work is to uncover all traces and details on the ship's components. Even microscopic traces can hold new information about how the ships were built and used.

Through this work, the two ship-finds become more than just ship timber and planks. They become new pieces in a complex puzzle that paints the picture of our shared history of people, things, and ships on the move, thus enlightening us about the maritime foundations of our modern society.

Two unknown ships from Øresund

The two shipwrecks were found in the narrow Svælget channel, close to the coast of Amager. The channel serves as the entrance to Copenhagen from the southern part of Øresund. The Svælget channel needs to be redesigned and deepened as part of establishing the artificial peninsula, Lynetteholm, in the port of Copenhagen. Therefore, it is not possible to preserve the two archaeological ship finds at their original locations.

In CPH City and Port Development, there is great joy that the Viking Ship Museum is now showcasing the finds to the public. CEO Anne Skovbro says:

"In connection with the Lynetteholm construction, it has been important for us to investigate all conditions thoroughly. The Viking Ship Museum has helped us map and illuminate the entire area so we can establish Lynetteholm on an informed basis and preserve the important finds for the future."

Neither of the ships was known before the archaeologists started their work. There are no written accounts telling us which ships they are or explaining why they sank. Hence, the archaeologists named the ships after the channel where they were found: 'Svælget 1' and 'Svælget 2.'

Already during the excavations, the archaeologists determined that Svælget 1 is a smaller cargo ship from the 1800s that sank in a violent shipwreck carrying a large load of yellow bricks. Svælget 2 is a larger and much older ship. Timber dating revealed that the ship was built around 1329, and therefore dates from the Middle Ages.

Viking Ship Museum and CPH City and Port Development ensure archaeological finds in the port of Copenhagen

Archaeology under the upcoming Lynetteholm:
Before constructing on the sea, the seabed must be examined for traces of the past. Viking Ship Museum maritime archaeologists, along with CPH City and Port Development, conducted thorough investigations of the seabed in the area where the new peninsula, Lynetteholm, is currently being established.

So far, the archaeologists have examined no less than 2,144 positions using a massive 140-ton excavator. The excavator, situated on a barge, has a 21-meter arm that can reach all the way down to the seabed and carefully scoop up samples onto the deck for the archaeologists to examine.

Now, the extensive work of analyzing the results from the preliminary investigations is underway, and during 2024, the archaeologists will conduct follow-up surveys of the seabed.

Archaeology in Svælget:
Archaeologists have excavated two shipwrecks found in 12 meters of water in the Svælget channel. CPH City and Port Development will deepen and reshape Svælget as part of the establishment of the artificial peninsula, Lynetteholm, in the port of Copenhagen.

After being hidden and forgotten on the seabed for centuries, the two ships saw the light of day again in 2023. Part by part, the ships were lifted from the sea bottom and transferred to the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, where they will now be analyzed and documented.

The work of documenting the two ship finds will continue until the summer of 2024.

Rare ship finds:

It is relatively rare for shipwrecks to see the light of day. In fact, archaeological shipwrecks are excavated and recovered from Danish waters only once or twice every 20 years. Shipwrecks are best protected where they are found – on the seabed.

The majority of underwater archaeological excavations occur in connection with construction at sea or along the coast. In most cases, construction work can proceed without disturbing these rare finds, allowing shipwrecks, for example, to be preserved on the seabed after maritime archaeologists have examined and documented them.

In some cases, it is not possible to preserve a shipwreck on the seabed. In such instances, archaeologists must recover the ship so that the find – and the many stories a shipwreck holds – can be preserved for future generations.