More details on the Skuldelev ships

Model of a knarr in the Hedeby Viking Museum in Germany. “Modell Knorr” by Europabild (no link to author provided) is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Chapter 8 of The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings, discusses Ships and Seamanship, by Jan Bill. Chapter has a to-scale sketch of Skuldelev 1, 2, 3, and 5 on page 189. If I find that sketch in a publicly available media I will post it.

By the way, if you wondered (as I did), what happened to Skuldelev 4, I’ve since learned that what was labeled as #4 was actually parts of #2. Skuldelev 2 had deteriorated enough that parts of it looked like a different ship which was called #4. When the archaeologists realized they were the same ship, the #4 designation was dropped.

Chapter has lots of details on different ships that have been recovered. I’ll mention a few of the details.

Skuldelev 1 is a knarr, or cargo ship. It had an estimated capacity of 24 tons. Another knarr with estimated capacity of 38 tons is about 82 feet long, 19 feet wide, and about 8 feet deep.

Skuldelev 2 is estimated to be 98 feet long. Text says it was built in 1060 in Dublin. (How do the researchers figure those things out? They look at the tree rings in the timber used in the ship and compare that to other known trees and can thus identify an age.) It is estimated to have had around 30 pairs of oars. That means it would have had about 60 rowers. Estimates are it could have transported around 100 warriors.

Skuldelev 3 had estimated capacity of 4.5 tons. It was 46 feet long, 11 feet wide, and 4 1/2 feet deep. With six oars it was propelled by sail.  Presumably it was used for local travel and not on the open sea.

Skuldelev 5 reused some wood. It had 13 pairs of oars so it can be categorized as a longship.

Text mentions another recovered longship has been found. It was built in 982. Based on the fragmentary remains is estimated to have been 91 feet long and 10 feet wide. It had between 21 and 24 pairs of oars. Based on the build it was presumably not used in the open sea. Text points out that in the Baltic sea and around Denmark it would have been a powerful ship in the area.

Chapter continues with discussion of shipbuilding techniques, tools, and navigation.

One interesting tidbit is the planks in a Viking ship were held together with rivets. For each 3 feet of plank it would take about five rivets to hold the planks together. Text says that for small vessels, for example the Skuldelev 3, it would take something in the range of 1000 rivets to construct the ship.

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