New Dendro Dates and Provenances for Norwegian Ship Burials

ResearchBlogging.orgA new paper in the Norwegian journal Viking offers exciting news about two less-well-known ship burials from the Avaldsnes area in Rogaland on the country's west coast. Being poorly preserved, they have been difficult to date. Bonde & Stylegar now show with dendrochronology that these are the earliest dendro-dated ship burials in Norway!

  • Storhaug. Ship built c. 770. Burial in 779.
  • Grønhaug. Ship built c. 780. Burial in c. 790-795.

Another exciting result is that we now know where the famous Oseberg ship was built. Dendro studies have shown that it was built about AD 820, repaired later with wood from the Oslo area, and buried in late summer 834 with the addition of a burial chamber built of Oslo-area timber. But unlike the other Oslo-area burial ships, the Oseberg ship was built somewhere else. Bonde & Stylegar have found that its timber grew in the Nord-Rogaland/Sunnhordland area on the west coast! They suggest that the Oseberg queen came to the Oslo area through a dynastic marriage after 820.

This is excellent work. I have only one point of criticism. Though the Oseberg ship was built in 820, that doesn't mean that its owner need have moved to the Oslo area after that date. After all, it certainly wasn't a one-way trip in that age of far sailing. She may have gotten married and moved south in, say, 800, and then received or gone to fetch herself a ship from her Rogaland folks long after the wedding.

And I hope the new dendro data will be published freely, as they should by all scientific standards.

Niels Bonde & Frans-Arne Stylegar (2009). Fra Avaldsnes til Oseberg. Dendrokronologiske undersøkelser av skipsgravene fra Storhaug og Grønhaug. Viking : tidsskrift for norrøn arkeologi, 149-168

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Fascinating! Must read the article soon.

I wonder when they start doing DNA analysis of wood?

Presumably, there are genetic differences from one place to another.

Even a small piece of wood could then tell you something about the origin.

By Peter Lund (not verified) on 15 Dec 2009 #permalink

I am convinced that the old woman buried at Oseberg was Queen Asa, Harald Finehair's granny. I am convinced because it makes such a good story.