The Norwegian government has announced it will provide nine million Norwegian kroner (USD 855,000) to the Saving Oseberg project. 

The funding will be used to help identify ways of preserving a unique set of 1,200-year-old wooden sleds. 

Although the sleds are currently intact, they are showing significant signs of deterioration and are in urgent need of care.

In collaboration with the Museum of the Viking Age in Oslo, a team of researchers from the Saving Oseberg project will now conduct research to identify and develop innovative techniques that could help slow down or even halt the process of degradation. 

"A national priority" 

The three ceremonial wooden sleds were found at a burial site during the famous Oseberg archeological excavations of 1904

The Oseberg dig also uncovered an awe-inspiring 21.5-meter Viking ship and a number of other beautifully preserved grave goods dated to the start of the 9th century. 

It is believed that one of two female skeletons found in the grave may have been Queen Åsa Haraldsdottir, grandmother to Harald Fairhair

The allocation of funds was made in the Norwegian revised national budget as the country seeks to preserve precious artifacts of major historical importance. 

In a government press release, Oddmund Hoel, the Minister of Research and Higher Education, signaled that due to their historical significance, the preservation of the sleds and any other artifacts from the find was a national priority. 

The three highly ornate sleds were meticulously reassembled after being discovered in thousands of fragmented pieces. Photo: Mårten Teigen / Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo

A fading slice of Viking history 

The sleds are incredibly ornate specimens, decorated with a variety of patterns and motifs in what has come to be known as the Oseberg Style. 

After being crushed into up to 1,000 pieces under the weight of the soil, the sleds had to be painstakingly reassembled in the years following the excavation. 

They were initially treated with alum salt in an effort to preserve them for posterity. This method, however, has caused gradual erosion of these valuable artifacts. 

Today, both the wooden structure of the sleds and the iron rods holding the pieces together are deteriorating at an alarmingly rapid rate. 

Therefore, time is of the essence, and it is hoped that the funding will find a method to save them. 

The government funding will help explore alternative preservation techniques for alum-treated wood, as current methods are unsuitable for the fragile objects in the Oseberg collection. Photo: Mårten Teigen / Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo

Innovation is a must 

Leader of the Saving Oseberg project, Susan Braovac, explained the benefits of the decision to The Viking Herald

"This grant will help fund extraordinary measures required to preserve the alum-treated wooden objects in the Oseberg collection," Susan tells us. 

"The work involves researching ways to slow down the degradation of the highly acidic alum-treated wood and strengthen it."

As Susan explains, there is currently no reliable way of preserving more fragile artifacts that have been treated with alum. 

"Although other museums do have collections containing alum-treated wood, a solution has not yet been found that doesn't require reimmersion of the object in water," Susan tells us. 

"For many objects, this is not an option because they are not robust enough to withstand reimmersion. We must look into alternative ways. We are in uncharted waters!" 

The three sleds are expected to be displayed at the Museum of the Viking Age, which is currently under construction in Oslo and is scheduled to open in 2027. Photo: Mårten Teigen / Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo

The bigger picture 

It is hoped the sleds will be displayed at the Museum of the Viking Age, which is currently under construction in Oslo and is set to be completed in 2027. 

The museum is the successor to the Viking Ship Museum, which closed in 2022, and will present a wide array of archeological and historical artifacts related to the Viking era. 

The new museum constitutes a major construction project and also poses an enormous engineering challenge, particularly in terms of moving the huge Oseberg ship. 

There is also a push for conservationists to ensure the huge number of artifacts will be available for the foreseeable future. 

"The Museum of the Viking Age will showcase these finds in new ways," Susan tells us. "We want to try to extend the collection's lifetime as much as possible." 

"We have also forged important ties with other research groups, and we don't want to lose the expertise that has been built up during the previous Saving Oseberg research phases." 

The six-year project to save the Oseberg sleds will include collaboration among various research teams to develop effective preservation methods. Photo: Mårten Teigen / Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo

A long-term vision 

As Susan explains, there is very little knowledge and research about this particular problem to rely on. 

Fortunately, the shared experience of the members of the Saving Oseberg team stands them in good stead. 

"It takes a long time to really understand the material itself," Susan says. "Alum-treated wood is not exactly the center of research in conservation!"

"However, Saving Oseberg is an interdisciplinary team of researchers. In previous phases, we have built up an understanding of each other's roles in the research and can more or less hit the ground running." 

"That said, our previous research has led us to a stage that requires new expertise, which means we will be initiating collaborations with new research groups – this is also very exciting!"

The project to preserve the sleds is scheduled to last for six years, with a total budget of 53 million Norwegian kroner (USD 5 million). 

If successful, it is hoped that visitors from around the world will be able to come to Oslo to marvel at their beauty and exceptional craftsmanship for many years to come.

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