Norway-Based Archaeologists Discover A 700-Year-Old Shipwreck

Archaeologists surveying the bottom of Norway’s biggest lake believe that they have successfully discovered the remains of a 700-year-old vessel, the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment declared in a statement.

Lake Mjøsa, located approximately 60 miles north of Oslo, has been a busy trade channel since the Viking Age; between the 1940s and 1970s, it served as a dumping ground for all kinds of surplus ammunition.

Scientists had been mapping the bottom of the lake to locate surplus weapons—they were also expecting to discover some older artefacts.

Finding the wreck was nearly a byproduct of the original mission of mapping dumped munitions, Øyvind Ødegård, an experienced marine archaeologist associated with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, explains Live Science’s Tom Metcalfe.

700-Year-Old Shipwreck
Image for representation purposes only.

On analyzing the sonar images, archaeologists thought the ship was constructed with wood and measured 33 feet in length. It is located at a depth of 1,350 feet below the surface.

Even though the images are somewhat fuzzy, researchers can still make out the stern which suggests the crew members constructed the vessel after the 1300s. Before that, the shipbuilders focused on building Viking ships, which were identical on both ends. After about 1300, vessels had different bows and sterns.

Based on the images, archaeologists consider that the ship’s builders used a Norse technique that involved overlapping planks of the hull to make it lighter.

The result is known as a “clinker-built” vessel. Later, shipbuilders started constructing “carvel-built” ships with joined planks.

Archaeologists suspect that the vessel boasts a central rudder; however, the Viking ship rudders were typically located on the hull’s right side. At the same time, the ship may come with a single mast and a square sail, like a Viking vessel.

So far, researchers have not been able to get a more appealing look at the vessel with cameras due to bad weather and lack of visibility. They are hoping that they can scope out the shipwreck extensively in 2023.

About 20 shipwrecks were identified in the lake’s shallow waters. But this is the first-ever expedition that aimed to explore the deeper parts of the lake beyond 20 to 30 meters, typically accessible to scuba divers.

Archaeologists might also find other artefacts and shipwrecks before the work is done. So far, they could map 15 square miles of the lake that stretches for square miles per mile using an autonomous underwater vehicle known as the Hugin. As Ødegård tells Science Norway’s Ida Irene Bergstrøm, the lake is “like a mini-ocean.”

Since this is a freshwater lake, the wood in a ship like this is preserved, he specified.

The metal can rust, and the ship can lose its structure, but the wood will remain intact. A similar vessel to the one we now discovered wouldn’t have survived for over a few decades if it had gone down on the coast. So if we have to find a Viking shipwreck somewhere in Norway, then Mjøsa is likely the place with the highest potential for a find of this kind.

References: Smithsonian Mag, Ancient Origins

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