Roskilde 6

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During the construction of the new Museum Island at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, 9 ships from the late Viking Age and Early Middle Ages were discovered. One of them was a very long warship which was found in February 1997, when the canal which surrounds the Museum Island was dug. On that occasion the wreck was cut through by the machine, and it was also cut by the sheet piling that forms the canal.

The ship later turned out to be the longest viking ship yet discovered, originally 36 m long, and could have had a crew of around 100 men. Both timbers and craftmanship were of the highest quality.

The Roskilde Ships - finds and excavations

The Viking Ship Museum which exhibits the Skuldelev Ships from the Roskilde Fjord has now been extended with the Museum Island. Here the Museum Shipyard, the Artefact Registry and a number of museum workshops are placed. The island was shaped by digging a U-shaped canal into the fjord shore, and during this undertaking the 9 Roskilde ships, all built within the Nordic clinker tradition, were found. Most of the wrecks were cut by the sheet piling, and the parts that were lying in the future canal were excavated first. After the Museum Island was opened to the public, and the canal was opened to the fjord, the remaining parts of the wrecks were recovered.

All the timbers are now being documented in the Artefact Registry on the Museum Island. When the timbers have gone through the documentation process, their conservation treatment will begin.

Constructional features of the Roskilde 6 ship

The keel was made of oak, and consisted of a centre piece and two end pieces connected by long scarves. The keel had originally been 32 m long, and had a T-shaped cross section.

The floor timbers covered the first 5 strakes on each side, and were placed with regular intervals of 78 cm. This was also the distance between the oarsmen since the thwarts on which they sat rested on the frames. Between the floor timbers, light half frames were placed, covering strakes 3-5. On the top inner edge of strake 5 a stringer was placed. This has carried the lower beams, the bites, which were not preserved.

A fragment of the keelson, less than 3 m long, was preserved. It rested on top of the floor timbers where it was fastened with horizontal knees.

Dating and interpretation of the Roskilde 6 ship

The dating of the ship has been established by 3 dendro-samples, which indicates a building date after 1025 AD. Possibly a more conclusive date together with a statement regarding the provenance of the wood can be obtained later.

The ship was originally 36 m long, about 3.5 m wide and with a draught of about 1 m. The rig consisted of a single square sail, which from knowledge gained from other wrecks can be estimated to have been of nearly 200 square metres. In addition to this it might have had up to 78 rowing stations. The crew totalled about 100 men.

Roskilde 6 was a warship - the longest ever found. It was built of the finest timber with excellent craftmanship, and was a product of wealth and power found only among the highest ranking members of society. The ship belongs to a group of longships which also comprises Skuldelev 2/4 and Haithabu 1.

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