Skuldelev 2/4



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This ship was part of the Skuldelev blockage in the Roskilde fjord in eastern Denmark. Here it was filled with stones and sunk as part of the second phase of the blocking off of the navigable passage to the town of Roskilde. The ship was a very long warship, in fact it was initially believed that the after part of the wreck was from another ship than the fore part. Skuldelev 2/4 has been dated by dendro-chronology which states "after 1055 AD". These analyses also revealed the surprising evidence of it being built in Dublin, Ireland.

Constructional features of the Skuldelev 2/4 longship

The keel was made of oak and a length of 7.6 m was preserved. Its underside was very worn. Part of the sternpost was preserved, and was found with two stealers with carved out continuations of the strakes 2, 3, 4 and 5, 6 respectively. The sternpost was of the V-sectioned type also known from Skuldelev 3, and it was found some distance away from the coherent wreck portions. In that same pit the keelson was found. It was unusually long - 13.3 m - and made up by two lengths connected by a hooked scarf.

All the preserved planks were made of oak, and was in a rather poor state. Seven strakes to port and five strakes to starboard were represented in the find. Their width was in the range 24-27 cm. The garboard strake was at one point repaired and divided into two strakes.


The preserved framing is mostly from the bottom part of the ship. The floor timbers covered strakes 1-7, they were fastened to the planks with willow trenails, though not to the garboard and seventh strakes. On top of these rested a stringer trenailed to strake 8. Notches in the top of the stringer indicated the position of the bites and precisely halfway in between these were notches in the side facing the planking. These were cut to accommodate half frames that started at the top edge of fourth strake. How far these continued is not possible to tell since they are not preserved after strake 6. Of the bites nothing remains.

Some so-called snelles are preserved, these locked the keelson down onto the floor timbers. Also a couple of keelson knees that supports the keelson where it thickens towards the mast step was recovered.


It has been possible to arrive at a reconstruction of the ship on the basis of the plank runs in the bottom half, in combination with scanty wreckage from the sides and the curvature of the sternpost. This shows a ship with a sharp deadrise and a freeboard close to vertical. <here image 002t014.jpg> Though nothing remains of the rowing arrangements and rigging, it is safe to assume that the ship had both means of propulsion. According to the reconstruction the overall length is 29.3 m and the beam 3.7 m. Height amidships is 1.8 m.

Dating and interpretation of the Skuldelev 2/4 ship

As mentioned before the dendro-chronological dating states "after 1055", but hopefully further analyses will lead to more specific conclusions in that samples featuring sapwood does exist, but have not yet been dated. However the affinity with the Dublin curve is very authoritative, and the ship is within all probability built here.

Skuldelev 2/4 was a true longship built for the transportation of warriors. Around 60 men could be moved quickly across open sea as well in shallow fjords where the ship could be hauled ashore. Undoubtedly fast under oars it was also designed as a true sailing ship.

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Text: Otto Uldum
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