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Ship Burials

 Excavation of the Oseberg Shiop Burial

Ship Burial

A burial in which a boat or ship is used as a containr for the body of the deceased and for the grave goods.

Though the use of ships as grave offering is not completely unknown in other cultures, for example in ancient Egypt, ship burial was a north European custom, practised by the pagan Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians.

There are a few examples of dug-out boats being used as coffins in Scandinavia as early as the Mesolithic period, but the custom of ship burial developed around the beginning of the first millennium AD and continued until the introduction of Christianity c.1000.

The majority of known ship burials date from the Viking Age. Both male and female ship burials are known, but the custom was always restricted to a minority of the population. For instance, at the Roman Iron Age cemetery at Slusegard on the Danish island of Bornholm, dated to AD 100 – 250, only 43 of 467 burials included boats.

The use of stone ship settings as a symbolic substitute for a real ship was a widespread alternative, though rarely were ship burials and ship settings combined.

Text taken from: Haywood, J., 2000, "Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age", Thames and Hudson Ltd, pp 169 - 170.