The Oseberg Ship’s Mystical Runic Inscriptions: “Man Knows Little”

Oseberg Ship OsloLite vet mennesketThe Runic inscriptions that have been found written on the Oseberg ship has caused many people to wonder: Runes can be read both ways, but one interpretation is “litet-vis maðr”, “man knows little”. So what did the Vikings know that we do not? 

The Oseberg ship was built around 800 AD, and in 834 it was used as a burial ship for two wealthy women.

The Oseberg mound is the richest Viking burial site ever found. Its content triggers many questions about “the final journey”. The mound contained a ship, and inside the burial chamber were two women, an elderly aged between 70 and 80 and a younger about 50 years old. The items that were found included four horse sleighs, a richly decorated chariot, seven beds and several woven tapestries.

There were also found animal bones from fourteen or fifteen horses, a cat, a Eurasian woodcock, a red-breasted merganser, a bull, a cow and four dogs.

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Oseberg Viking Ship Excavation 1904

The Oseberg excavation was led by Norwegian archaeologist Haakon Shetelig and Swedish archaeologist Gabriel Gustafson in 1904-1905. (Photo: Oslo University)

The oral narrative tradition was strong with the Vikings and their history is documented in the sagas written down after the end of the Viking period. The Vikings left little written material – and the few objects found is primarily incidental findings of runic inscriptions. Runes had straight lines and were specially designed to be cut into hard materials like wood and stone with primitive tools.

The beautifully decorated Oseberg ship is now on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.

Text by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews

Top photo: Store Norske Leksikon


Categories: Culture, History, Vikings

8 replies

  1. I just came back from a trip to Norway and visited the Viking Ship Museum – gave me goose bumps!! The craftsman ship on the items there is beyond amazing! Absolutely stunning and awe inspiring!

  2. “The Vikings left little written material ….” This line makes me wonder how informed this writer really is, Ancient Nordic writings were burned in throngs by invading Christians, what has survived is very little.

    • Hi Valerie!

      You are very wrong. What are your sources?

      Scientific fact: There is found extremely little written material dating back to the Viking Age (about 800 – 1066 AD):

      1) The Vikings carved runes into stone, bone and wood. Futhark – the runic alphabet – is designed for carving into hard materials. The Vikings did not use Latin letters and/or parchment.

      “Ancient Nordic writings were burned in throngs by invading Christians, what has survived is very little” (?)

      What was burned? Stones? Wood? No sources document your statement. The first Viking was Christianized in England, probably about 940 AD – keeping both faiths for pragmatic reasons. And who was the invading Christians? The Nordic countries were never invaded by other countries during the Viking Age – actually not before WWII.

      2) The medieval Vikings had a strong oral tradition and the Sagas were passed on from generation to generation. They were first written down (on parchment) in the 11th century by Icelanders like historian Snorri Sturlason.


      • How about Charlemagne killing thousands of Norse / germanic people because they refused to change to christianity? Also Germanic people were writing with Runes as far back as 150 BC ref the Cimbrian people. There is a roman helmet in the vienna museum with runes inscribed on the inside from 150bc. The Cimbrians came from what is now Denmark. The Germanic people traded extensively with the romans so to suggest they Never tried to write things down is ridiculous. Christians did everything they could to wipe out ANY evidence of previous gods including the runes which were made illegal all over scandinavia. This is why there is no written record from that time.

  3. “Man Knows Little” – Apparently, still relevant.

  4. Yes kristjan churches built their garbage on top of pagan sacred sites they burned to the ground. Who knows what may have been written on the walls or been located within these sites. Many writings on the runestones in these locations were lost when they were broken apart and used to build the kristjan church foundations. There are many sources you can find on this, and even reconstructed stones that have been pulled out of the walls of churches. who knows how many were lost to things like that. I never said they were invaded by another country, so I don’t know where you are going there, but as for kristjans…Do you not know of Olaf Tryggvason? Hahaha, what about Charlemagne? Charlemagne’s kristjan crusades and oath breaking is why the raids on monasteries like Lindisfarne began. Snorri was 13th century by the way. Are you sure you should call yourself Thors News?


  1. Vähän tietää ihminen – ”Osebergin Buddhan” salaisuus - Viisas Elämä
  2. Litet-vis-madr – Bjørnland Hird

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