Skuldelev 6

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This ship built of pine was the smallest of the five in the Skuldelev blockage in the Roskilde Fjord, where it was sunk as part of its second phase. It was neither a warship nor a cargo carrier, but more likely a fishing vessel. Like the Skuldelev 1 ship - which was also built of pine - the Skuldelev 6 was built in Norway. The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde has launched the replica "Kraka Fyr" as its third remake of the Skuldelev ships.

Constructional features of the Skuldelev 6 ship


The wreck was situated with its fore end crossing Skuldelev 5 and its after end upslope. This formed the northernmost extremity of the blockage. The lower fore hood ends were preserved as was a large portion of the planking including the starboard gunwale. The keel was made of oak and preserved for a length of 8.11 m, and judging from the preserved fore planks only 25-30 cm of it was missing. In section it was low and had a rabbet. Nothing of the stempost or sternpost remained, but the preserved hood ends fore revealed that the stempost had been of the V-sectioned type known from the other Skuldelev wrecks. Without any doubt the sternpost had been of the same design.

The planking was all pine and consisted of seven strakes. The first four were only about 25 cm wide and 2.8 cm thick, while the upper strakes were up to 40 cm wide and 4 cm thick. Several clues points to the fact that the seventh strake was added to the hull some time after the ship had been built. The sixth strake had holes drilled for trenails that were not used. These have probably been for fastening the rowlocks that could have run on the inside of the gunwale, and fitted between the tops of the bite-knees. At some point the rowlocks were removed, and the seventh strake added. The keelson was very small and had only been 1.32 m long, which means that it only fitted over the midship floor timber and did not reach the floors at frames 1 A or 1F.

Framing in this small ship was very simple. It only consisted of floor timbers, bites, and bite-knees. The floor timbers were about 8 cm square in section, and did not narrow over the keel as seen in the other Skuldelev ships. They spanned the first three strakes, and the bite-knees covered strakes 4-6. The bites were fashioned in one piece with one of their knees, while the one in the other side were neatly fitted into a triangular mortise in the bite. Both timbers were of considerable scantlings; the bites were 20 cm wide and 4 cm thick in the center of the ship, while the knees were 8 cm wide and 6.5 cm thick. The bites were inserted with the loose knees alternating in port and starboard side of the ship.

Dating and interpretation of the Skuldelev 6 ship

Samples taken from the original planking , before the seventh strake was put on have shown that the ship was built after 1027 AD, but quite some years have to be added to this date because even a dressing of the plank widths of only 3-4 cm would have removed 60-80 annual rings. The analyses of the samples have also shown that the pine trees felled for Skuldelev 6 grew in western Norway, where also the Skuldelev 1 ship was built.

The function of this small ship or large boat is not certain, but its heavy framing shows that it was meant to carry heavy loads. It might have been a fishing vessel or even built for whaling. After the addition of the seventh strake the ship would have lost most of its rowing stations, and would have to rely on other means of propulsion. This could of course be its single square sail, but it might also have been towed by another ship as a barge. Whatever was the cause for the conversion, it was carried out in Norway before the ship was brought to Denmark where it ended its life in fairly good condition as part of the Skuldelev blockage.


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Text: Otto Uldum
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