The Oseberg mound dating back to 834 AD is the richest Viking burial site ever found. It was excavated in 1904 and contained a Viking ship with two women, an elderly aged between 70 and 80 and a younger about 50 years old. They had brought with them 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.
The objects were remarkably well preserved considering how long they have been buried.
Found Red Apples and Bread
– It is so well preserved because of the dense peat and clay it was buried in. This should not be possible, says Ellen Marie Næss, associate Professor at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo to NRK.
She says that during the excavation they also found a bucket of apples which were still red, including recognizable blueberries and cress.
– In addition, they found one raised bread dough that was ready to be cooked immediately when the two women reached afterlife, Næss continues.
The most fascinating is still the two female skeletons. Who were they?
– They must have been incredibly influential in their community being given such a grave. Ordinary people were not buried in an awesome ship with lots of animals and beautiful things. So these are women who may have been political and religious leaders, who have had much power and an important position.
It is however uncertain which of the two women who had the most power.
Probably Died of Cancer
– Yes, she has been eating well and she was also very old. She became nearly 80 years and that is a high age for a Viking woman. The youngest was a little over 50 years old, so there are two pretty adult ladies, Næss explains.
Photo from the excavation of the Oseberg ship in 1904
Their skeletons reveal that they have lived for a while and that the oldest have had various health problems – most likely cancer that caused her death.
Cannabis in a Leather Pouch
The older woman was carrying a leather bag that has received much attention because of its content. Næss has several explanations:
– She had lots of pain due to illness and the cannabis found in her pouch must have eased her pains. At the same time, if she was a religious leader (Editor’s note: Old Norse “völva”) she needed to get in touch with the gods and cannabis would help her get good contact. That’s what I think.
It is a fact that the Vikings were well aware of which plants that could provide intoxication.
– They had great knowledge of what the plants could be used for. Some would make them intoxicated while others would cure diseases and alleviating pain.
There is also a final explanation of the cannabis found in the Oseberg ship.
– In the Viking Age people used cannabis to make clothes and rope, so it may have been a symbol of an important plant, says Næss.
More Viking Treasures Buried
Næss is absolutely convinced that there are several Viking ship burial mounds throughout Norway.
– The Oseberg ship is so special that I dare not to hope that we will ever find anything like that again, but I have no doubt that there are several Viking ships buried. The question is whether it is right to dig them out. One thing is the financial aspect, but we also have to think in the longer term: We want to save some of them for our children’s children, Næss concludes.
Text modified by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews
Photos: Museum of Cultural History