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Viking Ships

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  1. VikingShips Examining the archaeological evidence of ships in Norway and Denmark, and its impact on our understanding of Viking nautical technology. History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  2. Map of regions discussed • Gokstad • Oseberg • Tune • Skuldelev History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  3. Visual Glossary Bulkhead A strake (layer of planks) Scarf å â Gunwale or Gunnel (the top strake) Knee à —— á Floor Timber à ————— Keelson (also called the crone) ß Keel History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  4. Clinker-Build Construction • Clinker-build construction is where successive layers of planks or strakes overlap one another slightly, with the bottom strake attached directly to the keel. • Calking is stuffed between each strake as the ship is constructed, usually consisting of tarred animal hair. • Successive strakes are attached using iron nails and washers, with trenails (wooden pegs) spaced in between. • This hull-first construction results in a flexible craft that can sail rough seas easier. Illustration of the overlapping strakes in clinker-built ships History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  5. Timber types • The keystone to a Viking boat was its keel. This T sectioned beam forms the backbone of the ship and the bottom strake (row of planks) attaches to it. The keel in all of the finds has been made of oak, and is almost always a single continuous piece from stem to stern. • Oak was used for the strakes in the Norway finds, but pine was used for many of the strakes in the Skuldelev wrecks 1, 5, and 6. • Strangely, ash was used for the gunwale (top strake) in Skuldelev wreck 5. History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  6. Preparing the timber • Unlike modern techniques, the Vikings prepared their planks by radially cutting logs with an axe. • This produces thin wedge shaped planks which are ideal for clinker-built construction. • This is clearly seen in several of the Skuldelev wrecks. On wreck 5, strakes vary in width by as much as a centimeter from top to bottom, and exhibit a slight elliptical bulge. History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  7. Preparing the timber (cont.) • The planks have cleats carved out of them where the ribs are to be placed, so the two can be lashed together. • This is done by leaving the cleats at the original thickness and removing the surrounding wood. • Since the strakes (after the first) are not directly connected to the keel, the ship has some flexibility. History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  8. Using natural wood shapes • To improve structural strength, portions of ships that required severe angles or sharp curves were often constructed from naturally crooked wood. • Since the tree had grown in the pattern desired, a natural piece is much stronger than a straight piece bent to fit. • The beam ‘knees’ and rowlocks on smaller ships are a common example of this. History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  9. Oar ports were placed along the length of warships. They were clustered at either end of a cargo ship, to allow cargo to fully occupy the center of the ship. Smaller vessels used oar locks in place of oar ports. Cargo ships were usually propelled by sail, resorting to rowing only in calm seas or during harbor maneuvers. Rowing An oarlock. A cord was run through the hole around the oar to keep it in place. A cargo ship, showing the non-uniform placements of the oar ports. History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  10. Sails were a relatively new development at the dawn of the Viking age. The first archaeological evidence for rigging was found on the Oseberg ship. The mast for a Viking ship was removable, and had to be easily and quickly raised and lowered. A mastfish is a large block of wood attached to the decking and provides additional support for the mast. The mast The Gokstad mastfish, showing the mast lock in place. History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  11. Although no complete masts have survived, a maximum length for a given ship can be established by the distance from the keelson to the stern. The Oseberg mastfish only spanned 4 crossbeams and provided inadequate support, as it cracked at some point and had to be reinforced with iron bands. The Gokstad mastfish is much more developed and spans 6 crossbeams, supported on each side by strong knees. The mast (continued) Viking sailors raising the mast. The mast-lock, which helps to secure the mast when in place, can be seen lying on the deck. History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  12. Norway Finds • A royal burial mound in Oseberg has yielded an exquisite karfi, a kind of Viking age yacht, as well as the remains of two women and a wide variety of grave goods. It is the earliest evidence for Nordic sailing ships. • The Gokstad ship, found in another burial mound, is younger than the Oseberg ship and more advanced, with a fully developed keel and stronger crone. • The Tune ship dates to around the same time as the Gokstad ship, and was badly damaged, although it still serves to exhibit important construction details. The prow of the Oseberg ship History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  13. Oseberg karfi • Found in a large burial mound in Vestfold. • Built around 815 to 820 CE, and used as a burial ship for a royal woman in 834 CE. • In addition to the boat, the burial mound also yielded a rich trove of wooden objects and textiles that seldom survive the ravages of time. • Classified as a karfi, a sort of Viking age yacht. On display at the Vikingskipshuset History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  14. Oseberg karfi (continued) • Built of oak, it is neither a cargo ship nor a warship, although it could function as either. • 21.58 m long, 5.1 m wide amidships, 1.58 m from gunnel to keel. • 12 strakes, secured with iron nails. • 15 oarports set in the top strake, and the mound included a full set of oars. • It is estimated that it could reach a speed of 10 knots with a 90 m2 sail. History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  15. Gokstad warship • Found in a large burial mound on the Gokstad farm in Vestfold. • Largest and best preserved of the Norway ships considered here. • Built around 890 CE, and used in a ship burial around 900 CE. • 24 m long and 5 m wide amidships. • The grave furnishings included 3 smalls boats (faerings), a tent, and riding equipment. History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  16. Gokstad warship (continued) • Built of oak except for pine decking. • Clinker-built with sixteen strakes. • Estimated that the ship could reach speeds over 12 knots with a 110 m2 sail. • Oarports cut into the 14th strake, 16 to a side. • The oarports each had small wooden covers that pivoted into place to prevent water getting in while under sail. On display at the Vikingskipshuset History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  17. Tune • Found at Rolvsøy in Østfold • Built around 900 CE, and later used to bury a chieftain. • The ship was badly damaged. • Still a good example of a clinker-built Viking ship with overlapping strakes. • The hull’s shape is maintained by straps passing through holes in the ribs and the corresponding cleats on the strakes. On display at the Vikingskipshuset History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  18. Skuldelev Finds • A large cargo ship (wreck 1), a smaller cargo ship (wreck 3) and a medium sized warship (wreck 5) were intentionally sunk some time between 1070 and 1090 CE to block the Roskilde fjord. • A large warship (2/4) and another ship (6) were sunk to renew the blockade some time in the first half of the 12th century. • Wreck 2/4 was originally identified as two different ships because of its large size. A view of the Peberrenden passage, showing the lie of the Skuldelev ships History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  19. 16.3 m long, 4.5 m wide and 2.1 m deep amidships, as reconstructed. Rigged for a square sail around 80 m2m. Constructed between 1030 and 1050 CE, and repaired around Oslo and Scania, according to dendro-chronological dating. Medium sized cargo ship that could carry around 25 tons. Skuldelev Wreck 1: Cargo ship Skuldelev 1, with a metal rail projecting what the ship would have looked like complete History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  20. 29.3 m long, 3.7 m wide and 1.8 m deep amidships, as reconstructed. According to dendro-chronological dating, it was built after 1055 CE in Dublin. It is an example of a ‘typical’ Viking longship as portrayed in saga and art. None of the strakes with oarports survived, but an estimate of a crew of 60 warriors seems reasonable. Skuldelev Wreck 2/4: Warship Theoretical projection of the shape of wreck 2/4, based on the surviving planking and sternpost. History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  21. It is one of the best preserved Viking ships found. Its mast support and sail rigging have significantly influenced modern knowledge of square sail rigging. Several replicas have been built, including one by the Roskilde museum, called the “Roar Edge” Skuldelev Wreck 3: Small cargo ship Skuldelev Wreck 3 on display in the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  22. 17.5 m long, 2.5 m wide amidships, with a draught of 0.6 m, as reconstructed. The frequent, poor repairs indicates that it may be a Leidang ship, built in obligation to a king. Probably had 13 pairs of oars. The Viking ship museum in Roskilde has built a replica called the Helge Ask Skuldelev Wreck 5: Local warship The replica “Helge Ask” History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  23. The oak keel as preserved is 8.11 m, and was probably no longer than 8.4 m. All of the planking is pine and dates to western Norway some time after 1027. At some point after construction, the 7th strake was added, which blocked most of the oarports, so the ship would have had to be propelled by sail or other more esoteric means. The actual purpose of the ship is uncertain, but it may have been a fishing or whaling boat, and was certainly designed to carry a heavy cargo. Skuldelev Wreck 6: Fishing Vessel Cross-section diagram of the unusually heavy framing in Skuldelev Wreck 6 History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  24. Skuldelev: Overview History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003

  25. Bibliography • Graham-Campbell, James. The Viking World. Published by Ticknor & Fields, 1980 • Cagner, Ewert. The Viking. Published by Cagner & Co., 1966 • Nicolaysen, N.. The Viking-Ship from Gokstad. Republished by Gregg International Publishers Limited. • The NAVIS project, supported by the European Commission Directorate General X http://www2.rgzm.de/Navis/Home/NoFrames.htm • Nordic Underwater Archaeology http://www.subarch.com/ • Universitetets kulturhistoriske museer: Vikingskipshuset (The Viking Ship Museum) http://www.ukm.uio.no/vikingskipshuset/engelsk/utstillingene.shtml History 315 Final Project by Michael Noland, WS 2003