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The Oseberg Ship’s Mystical Runic Inscriptions

The Runic inscriptions that have been found written on the Oseberg ship has caused many people to wonder: Runes can be read both ways, but one interpretation is “litet-vis maðr”, “man knows little”. So what did the Vikings know that we do not?

The Oseberg ship was built around 800 AD, and in 834 it was used as a burial ship for two wealthy women.

The Oseberg mound is the richest Viking burial site ever found. Its content triggers many questions about “the final journey”. The mound contained a ship, and inside the burial chamber were two women, an elderly aged between 70 and 80 and a younger about 50 years old. The items that were found included 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 oral narrative tradition was strong with the Vikings and their history is documented in the sagas written down after the end of the Viking period. The Vikings left little written material – and the few objects found is primarily incidental findings of runic inscriptions. Runes had straight lines and were specially designed to be cut into hard materials like wood and stone with primitive tools.

The beautifully decorated Oseberg ship is now on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.


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