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26.11.2020

Ladby ship, Funen

The ship Ladby is one of the main burial rook, a type also represented by the boat tomb chamber Hedeih and ship burials Oseberg, Borra, Gokstad and Tune in Southern Norway, all dating from 9 - m and 10 - m centuries. This is the only ship's grave found in Denmark. It was found to the southwest of Kerteminde on the island of Funen .

The grave is in an unremarkable Viking Age burial site. During the excavations, many funerary implements were found, consisting of both objects and animals. It was dated to the beginning of X century on the basis of the gilded bronze link for dog harness, decorated in the style of Elling.

The grave was badly damaged. Since only a few small human bones were found, the researchers concluded that this place is a translation, transformation of a pagan grave into a Christian grave. Another interpretation is that the struggle for supremacy of King Harald Blatonn and his heir Sveinne Tuguskegg may have led to the desecration of the grave. The ship was a symbol of power - easily visible to anyone who traveled or lived in the area - glorifying the minor king buried with him. By removing the deceased and cutting all his graves into hundreds of pieces within a few years after he was buried, the intruders seem to have dealt his heirs a great blow to the prestige of their family.

This place was discovered around February 28, 1935, near Kerteminde in the north-east of Fun, Denmark, by the pharmacist Paul Helveg Mikkelsen. The original drawings by Mikkelsen and the Danish National Museum of Conservator Gustav Rosenberg are the main source material for information about the discovery. Mikkelsen paid for the arched buildings, which will be raised above the site, which was then covered with earth and grass. The ship was then handed over to the National Museum, which was fully responsible for the site until 1994, when the responsibility passed to the Department of Archaeology and Landscape of the Viking Museum in Ladby (part of the East Funen Museums).

Two factors relating to the discovery of ships in general have to do with the discovery of the ship Ladby. Firstly, ship burials are often found on highlands, on hilltops, slopes and coastal ridges. Secondly, ship burials are usually in close proximity to water, whether it is a lake, fjord or sea. The Ladby ship is thus typical of many ship burials, as it is located at the top of a hill near Keterminda Fjord. Presumably, the ship was pulled from the fjord to the top of the hill by means of ice rinks, as it was with the Oseberg ship. It was a big ship with 30-32 rowers on board. Although Rosenberg did not describe the shape of the mound, Mikkelsen described it as an oval. Rosenberg had hoped to find stones in the shape of a circle around the mound, but instead he found a set of stones to the north and south of the ship and a small pile in the east. Since the stones lie at a higher level than the row of rivets that delineate the ship's plank, it is unlikely that the stones were used to support the ship's burial. Rosenberg concluded that the stones came from a previous burial mound at the site that was destroyed during the construction of the ship's grave.

The ship was excavated between 1935 and 1937 under Rosenberg's leadership. Since the ship is very old, almost all of the ship's wood had disintegrated before its original discovery. However, the construction and shape of the ship is assumed to be about 2000 rivets, which fasten the ship, which were dug out of the sand. During the excavation of the ship Rosenberg marked the measurement line along the central axis of the ship from the bow to the stern and concluded that the length of the ship is 21.5 meters. He calculated that its greatest width is approximately 2.75 meters, and the depth at the midsection is 0.65 meters. Rosenberg made these estimates based on the location of the rivets, although their number and location only approximate the actual size of the ship. Knud Torvildsen, who replaced Rosenberg as a conservative in 1940, came to the same conclusions about the size of the ship. 

Mikkelsen and Rosenberg made an important contribution to the ship's description. During the excavations Rosenberg kept detailed logs, which are still considered the most important source of information about the ship and its contents. Mikkelsen also kept a log during the excavations, but his records cover a period of less than three months, from 21 May to 10 October 1935. The records of Rosenberg and Mikkelsen complement each other well. Rosenberg was more of an expert in his writing, using a more colloquial language, while Mikkelsen's reflections are more emotional and focused on the ship's discovery. According to his diary entries, Rosenberg initially believed that the pieces of iron found with the ship did not belong to the stem, while Mikkelsen believed that they did. Mikkelsen was relieved when Rosenberg changed his mind about the iron parts and came to the conclusion that they did belong to the stem. The iron parts turned out to be spirally rolled up iron ribbons, which must have been placed as an ornament on a wooden rod, and now fell apart. The spirals lay in a line about 60 cm long. Rosenberg and Mikkelsen agreed that the stem with its ornament should symbolize the mane of an animal, particularly a dragon whose head was rotten. Both large and small long ships usually had free "remote endings" carved in the form of dragon heads. Viking ships depicted in Viking Age and medieval images do not always show dragon heads, and it is not clear under what conditions such decoration was allowed on the ship. The large ships of the XII and XIII centuries - the dreks belonged only to the king. It is possible that the right to wear dragon heads on their ships was a royal privilege or a symbol of royal property. Smaller ships could belong to wealthy and powerful people, perhaps with military or administrative ties or obligations to the king, while larger ships belonged to the king himself. The dragon ship may have been used in Harald's Bluetooth campaigns.

After Mikkelsen found the northern trunk, they dug a little deeper north of the spirals of the southern trunk, where they found iron nails lying 25 cm apart. These nails formed the eastern "slat edge" or upper edge of the boat. However, they did not find any nails on the western edge. Excavations continued near the southern stem while looking for nails on the west side of the ship. According to Mikkelsen, layers of wood or bark were preserved here. During the excavation from the west side to the middle of the ship in search of wood, Rosenberg noticed that the wood strapping was only preserved where it was in contact with iron. Although the ship's timber had largely disintegrated, Mikkelsen and Rosenberg still found a deposit of timber along the west side of the ship, approximately in the middle of the disturbed area:

A piece of obviously round, thick, short piece of wood, now only a round hull of such a piece that was sticking out of a slat 27 centimeters inside the ship. Another piece of wood, or shell of such a piece, lay from the end of the first piece directed to the south, where it narrowed to a point. I believe that these were just remnants of a much larger piece of wood, now completely shapeless. A thin, narrow piece of wood lay on the side of a piece that stretched from south to north and went about 20 centimeters across to the middle of the ship.

Originally, it was impossible to tell whether there was wood from the ship or not, and if so, from which part. A few days later, however, Mikkelsen discovered a part of the unspoiled burial chamber - "an ordinary one, which originally had to lie from the plank to the plank and cover the ship's contents". Since the wood lying to the west was "completely intact," Rosenberg concluded that it was derived from various layers of wood that formed the structure of the ship, perhaps from boards made of a deck layer: it was expected that under the wooden panelling there was a section of the unspoiled burial chamber and there would be several large pieces of iron sticking out of the wood layer. These and other discoveries of wood deposits allowed us to draw conclusions regarding the construction and arrangement of the ship. The horizontal layer of reddish wood was found at a height of 12-15 meters, which must have been part of a collapsed layer of boards on deck lying untouched above the western side of the ship. They expected to find the unspoiled parts of the tomb under the decking layer. Under this layer of wood at a height of 11 to 13 meters, they found filaments of fibrous organic material, which did not seem to have been woven, but which could not be accurately identified. Along the eastern part of the ship the wood has not been preserved. In Mikkelsen's diary it is also noted that on the eastern side of the ship, apparently, there were no large pieces of wood.

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