Sensational Viking find

New Viking ship grave.

With the use of ground-penetrating radar, archaeologists have discovered a new ship burial at Torvastad. The ship is believed to have been about 20 meters long.

Håkon Reiersen - Click for large image Annette Øvrelid/Arkeologisk museum UiS

– It's quite unique that we have three ship burials in such a limited area, says Håkon Reiersen, who has led the research project and is an associate professor at the Archaeological Museum, University of Stavanger.

The findings mean that the theory of a kingdom ruled from Avaldsnes before Harald Fairhair is strengthened.

– These ship burials are among the very oldest in Northern Europe. The findings show that the first proper Viking kings were seated at Avaldsnes. It was these who set the standard for royal funerals in Scandinavia during the Viking Age, and perhaps also how you were supposed to act as a king, says Reiersen.

Arkeolog Kristoffer Hillesland under utgravning i Storhaug - Click for large image Arkeologisk museum UiS

The burial mound in which the ship was found had a diameter of almost 50 meters. It was partially excavated and leveled at the beginning of the 20th century, but at that time, they only found a number of spades and arrowheads. Similar quantities of wooden spades have only been found in the ship burials of Oseberg and Gokstad.

Avaldsnes, located a few kilometers from the discovery sites, was a power center in the Viking Age. Several research projects have been conducted here. Previously, the Kongsgård project made important findings, and today you can explore the ruins of a royal estate that was here in the medieval period. The ongoing research is part of the project Power's Harbor, focusing on the harbor areas around Avaldsnes.

Preservation of the graves at Karmsundet

Grønhaug, Storhaug, and Salhushaugen are three of only about 20 known ship burials with royal funerals from the Viking Age. Today, one is covered by scrub between a school and a roundabout, another houses a potato cellar, while the third lies leveled inside a farm courtyard. Karmøy municipality has decided on a plan for the preservation of the graves. In the first instance, this involves better facilitation and a facelift at Grønhaug, while there are plans that Storhaug will eventually be excavated and reconstructed.

New discoveries

Archaeologists conducted investigations in the remnants of the ship burial at Storhaug in 2022, and were surprised at how much they found. 

Illustrasjon av hvordan vikingbegravelsen i Storhaug kan ha foregått - Click for large image Illustrasjon Eva Gjerde (c) Arkeologisk museum, UiS

The grave was likely as richly furnished as Oseberg and Gokstad. In the 19th century, swords, spears, board games, and a gold bracelet were found. The ship and the two boats from Storhaug are dated about 50 years earlier than the Oseberg ship, and were built near Avaldsnes.

In other words, more than enough historical weight to live up to the motto "Homeland of the Viking Kings".

Mapping the Viking Heritage as a Potential World Heritage

The Directorate for Cultural Heritage is surveying Viking age cultural remains for Norway's tentative list for World Heritage, Storhaug is included in this list.
Ship graves are symbols of the wealth and power of the time, of faith and society. The monumental burial mounds have linked stories from mythology and sagas with the sites. 
The road to World Heritage status is long. It is the government that decides whether the Viking heritage should be placed on the tentative list, and start a nomination process for consideration by Unesco.