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HomeGreek PhilosphyThe Bjørnstad Ship: A Rare Window into the Nordic Bronze Age

The Bjørnstad Ship: A Rare Window into the Nordic Bronze Age

Situated close to Sarpsborg, Norway, the enigmatic Bjørnstad ship is a unbelievable glimpse into the prehistoric, pre-Viking age of Scandinavia. Such historic carvings are few, and sometimes onerous to find – and every new one we research is so treasured in understanding the origins of the Vikings and the cultures of contemporary Scandinavia. But who precisely carved this magnificent ship into the rock – and extra importantly, for what cause?

The Bjørnstad Ship Sails in from the Past

The origins of the Vikings – these ferocious seafarers that modified the historical past of the world in some ways – lie securely in the well-known Nordic Bronze Age. This is an enigmatic interval of Northern Europe, when its peoples and forming cultures have been left to develop their distinct id with minimal affect from the remainder of Europe. Thousands of years earlier than the Vikings fashioned as a definite tradition, the Scandinavian lifestyle was dominated by the sea, the fjords, shipbuilding, a semi-nomadic life-style, seafaring, and looking.

In the Nordic Bronze Age , these cultural elements have been refined and have become a cornerstone of Scandinavian life, later cemented by the rising Norsemen that everyone knows. But even so, with all the trendy analysis and archaeology, the Nordic Bronze Age is basically enigmatic. What little we all know for sure comes from archaeological excavations, and extra intriguingly – from rock carvings.

The Prehistoric Petroglyphs of Scandinavia

Scandinavia has arguably the largest density of petroglyphs – particular rock carvings that dot the landscapes of the North. They depict warriors, animals, hunters and their prey, towering deities and symbols of the solar. And above all, ships.

These Bronze Age petroglyphs are by far the finest technique of understanding the origins of seafaring in Scandinavia, and the Bjørnstad Ship carving is probably the better of all.

Bjørnstad Ship site is south of Oslo, in Sarpsborg, Norway, and includes a long ship and two smaller ships, carved in the Bronze Age. The longest ship carving is over 4 meters long. (Hans A. Rosbach/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Bjørnstad Ship website is south of Oslo, in Sarpsborg, Norway, and features a lengthy ship and two smaller ships, carved in the Bronze Age. The longest ship carving is over 4 meters lengthy. (Hans A. Rosbach/ CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The Norsemen Epitomized in Stone

The Bjørnstad Ship is considered the largest rock carving in Northern Europe. It is an impressive sight to behold, measuring roughly 4.5 by 1.5 meters (14 by 5 ft). Rising on the vertical face of an enormous boulder, nested in the countryside not removed from the metropolis of Sarpsborg, the petroglyph depicts an enormous, rowed longship, with two less complicated, smaller ships to the aspect.

The carvings have been probably re-discovered round 1946, when the website was cleared and the markings of the ships made out. Ever since, it has captivated the consideration of students and archaeologists.

Based on the look of the carvings, and their variations, students agree that their dates aren’t the similar. The two smaller, less complicated ships off to the aspect, are probably a lot older than the Bjørnstad Ship, and have been made by the early Bronze Age hunter-gatherers. Judging from this, it’s thought that they depict small skin-covered boats that have been used for looking marine mammals throughout this early age.

But the majestic Bjørnstad Ship is probably going youthful, carved with talent and precision by the semi-sedentary farmers of the later Bronze Age, the women and men who could be thought-about the true ancestors of the Vikings.

The ship depicted is a modern and quick rowing boat, just about similar to the well-known Hjortspring boat that was excavated in Denmark and dated to the Iron Age . If the artist’s depiction is correct, then the Bjørnstad Ship probably had seats for as much as 40 rowers and extra – making it a real warship of previous.

At the bow and the stern, two human figures are represented, holding objects. They may both be deities, or famed warriors setting sail.

Detail of the marvellous Bjørnstad Ship carving. (Thomas M. Hansen/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Detail of the marvellous Bjørnstad Ship carving. (Thomas M. Hansen/ CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The Sea-Craft of Ancient Peoples

Both the Bjørnstad Ship, and all the different ship petroglyphs of their 1000’s, inform us that the modern longboat performed the central position in the Nordic Bronze Age society. It was an instrument of may – of seafaring, warfare, commerce, and exploration. The refined longboat was, in each approach, a approach of survival for these peoples. It was quick and highly effective, and linked brotherly peoples of previous – and enemies as properly.

Modern analysis tells us {that a} boat equivalent to one depicted at Bjørnstad and the one excavated at Hjortspring may have journeyed from Norway to Denmark in simply 18 hours. An spectacular time for the interval.

There is little doubt that the longboat positioned the Norse one step forward of their neighbors. It is definite that, due to its significance, the longboat was seen as one thing of a divine instrument. And these petroglyphs, the Bjørnstad Ship carving particularly, was probably a spot of worship, a sacred sight, the place the legendary boat turned a divine weapon of the gods themselves.

The clues to those claims lie beneath the floor. In the Seventies, throughout excavations at the website, archaeologists found stays of pottery, instruments, stone paths and raised partitions. This cliff face, and plenty of others throughout Scandinavia, have been clearly sacred websites, and the petroglyphs have been the frescoes of previous.

The Sun Journeys by Boat

The peoples of the Nordic Bronze Age had a agency perception in the Sun and its powers. Sun worship was widespread, and plenty of of the rock carvings have a solar depicted on them. The Bjørnstad Ship isn’t any exception. Modern interpretations all agree that it is a non secular picture: the modern longboat carries the Sun itself, as lots of the historic Scandinavian myths inform us. The figures on the bow and stern are probably deities, guarding the Sun because it makes its journey throughout the skies.

To see the Bjørnstad Ship carving for your self, you’ll have to take the Haugeveien highway (county highway 583), for roughly 3 kilometers (2 miles) from Hafslund Chapel, and easily comply with all the indicators in the direction of the boulder and the carving.  The surroundings is gorgeous, and the prize awaiting is a uncommon glimpse into the historic lifestyle in Scandinavia.

Top picture: The Bjørnstad Ship carving, Norway.  Source: Sarpsborg Turist as/ Visit Norway

By Aleksa Vučković


Ember, M. and Peregrine, P. 2011. Encyclopedia of Prehistory: Volume 4: Europe. Springer Science & Business Media.
Johnstone, P. 1988. The Sea-craft of Prehistory. Psychology Press.

Pyntelund II Bjørnstadskipet, Bergkunst. [Online] Available at:


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