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At the threshold of the Viking Age: New dendrochronological dates for the Kvalsund ship and boat bog offerings (Norway)
Sæbjørg Walaker Nordeide, Niels Bonde and Terje Thun
Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Vol. 29 (2020)
Abstract: Kvalsund in the Herøy archipelago, Møre og Romsdal County, provides a sheltered harbour in a high-risk seascape along the west coast of Norway: the peninsula Stadlandet is considered the most dangerous part of the seaway between central and south Norway. At least three separate offerings were identified in a bog along the sound, one of which was excavated in the 1920s. The excavation uncovered the remains of two vessels: an ordinary boat and a ship, which were both difficult to date at the time of discovery.
The site is of significant interest for two reasons. First, from a technological perspective: the ship is technologically regarded as preceding the Oseberg ship type (c. AD 820), but later than the Nydam ship (AD 310–320). The date of the ship type is consequently important, as part of the evolution of the clinker built ship of the Viking Age. Secondly, from a ritual perspective: the site was interpreted in the 1920s as an offering, and as comparable to Early Iron Age bog offerings in Denmark (a category which the Nydam ship belongs to).
In 1980, the Kvalsund find was radiocarbon dated, placing the find in the range of the 7th to 8th centuries AD. This indicates that the Kvalsund offerings were later than the Early Iron Age bog offerings in Denmark. Since the 1980s, most ships from the Late Iron Age in Norway (i.e. c. AD 560–1050) are provided with a more accurate date by dendrochronology, but the Kvalsud vessels have lacked dendrochronological dates. This article presents the site, the finds, and a new dendrochronological date for the Kvalsud vessels.
Top Image: Replica of the Kvalsund ship – photo by Islandmen / Wikimedia Commons