Giant Viking Ship Found Buried in Farmer's Field Just 20 Inches Below Ground

Archaeologists have uncovered a Viking ship buried in a farmer's field next to a freeway in Østfold County, southeastern Norway,

Researchers from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) found the vessel at a depth of just 20 inches below the topsoil with the help of high-resolution, ground-penetrating radar technology.

This technique revealed a large and well-defined 66-foot-long ship-shaped structure, with the data indicating that the lower part of the craft is still preserved. To what extent the rest of the ship is preserved is difficult to say until further investigations have been conducted.

Nevertheless, the archaeologists have created a digital reconstruction of what the vessel—dubbed the "Jellestad ship"—may have looked like based on other Viking finds.

"This find is incredibly exciting as we only know three well-preserved Viking ship finds in Norway, [all] excavated a long time ago," Knut Paasche, head of the Department of Digital Archaeology at NIKU and an expert on Viking ships, said in a statement.

"This new ship will certainly be of great historical significance as it can be investigated with all modern means of archaeology."

The outline of the Viking ship can clearly be seen in this image from the radar data. NIKU

Indications from the radar data suggest that the ship was once embedded inside a large burial mound which has since been plowed away by farmers, making its survival all the more remarkable. In fact, the team detected traces of at least eight previously undiscovered ancient burial mounds in the field which have been destroyed in this way.

The age of the ship has not been determined yet, but the find is located right next to the 30-foot-tall Jelle mound which is thought to be about 1,500 years old. The radar data also revealed five longhouses at the site, some of which were surprisingly large

"The ship burial does not exist in isolation, but forms part of a cemetery which is clearly designed to display power and influence", Lars Gustavsen, archaeologist and project leader from NIKU, said in the statement.

The next step, the archaeologists say, is to further investigate the ship and the surrounding landscape with non-invasive techniques before deciding whether to conduct any excavations over the long-term, which will expose the find to the elements.