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26.11.2020

Gjellestad ship

The area where the ship Gjelestad was found is rich in discoveries of various times, and activity has been observed here since about 1500 BC.

The monumental Jellhaugen mound dominates the landscape due to its location near the E6 highway near Halden, where it has stood since its construction during the migration period (400-550). The mound was probably built in the VI century, about 300 years before the burial of the ship Gjelstad. Thanks to geophysical research, test tunnels and metal detection, archaeologists know a lot about what other activities took place in Gjelestad in prehistoric times.

There is no doubt that Gjelestad was a place of particular importance. Since 2015, a number of discoveries of prehistoric objects were opened with the help of a metal detector. In 2017, the (then) Estfold County Council surveyed and found traces of four mounds destroyed by ploughing, as well as packaging stones, which were interpreted as graves. Several pits for poles and fireplaces were also discovered. GPR surveys in 2018 and 2019 revealed the burial of the ship, as well as the remains of 15 mounds destroyed by ploughing, and pits from poles of at least five houses. Test study dates in 2019 showed that the oldest traces of human activity on this site date back to the Bronze Age (1800-500 BC), while most of the post pits belong to the migration period.

After the migration period, it seems that settlement on the ground was abandoned, and this place looked more like a sacred place with a large collection of barrows. So far, the Gjelestad ship is the only known structure that can be dated to the Viking Age, but there are parts of two similar buckles found by metal detectors, the end handle of the ring buckle, the dirham (Arabic coin) and weight, which is also evidence of Viking activity.

When the ship Gjellestad was buried somewhere between the end of the 8th and beginning of the 10th centuries, it was accepted to associate itself with the already established symbol of power in the landscape. Using the same burial site, the leaders associated themselves with the power of the environment. Like the burial of a ship from Borre and large mounds in the same burial ground, Gjelestad is also located in an older landscape with monumental mounds and large halls. There are good reasons to believe that Gjellestad, like Gokstad, had an important trading post just a few hundred meters from the ship's grave. On the farm Hjelmungen, on the southern side of the E6, was found a number of weights and other items that could be associated with trade and production on this site. The concentration of discoveries is also close to where the coastline was in the Viking Age. In general, the Gjelestad complex may become one of the best-preserved Viking leader settlements in Norway.

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