The boat wreck was found in the mud at Sørengkaia, where archaeological excavations are taking place because a new housing complex is to be built. 

For almost 20 years, excavations have been going on in Bjørvika, and more than 50 boat wrecks have been found. But this find is very special, according to Sarah Fawsitt, an archaeologist from the Norwegian Maritime Museum.

The boat is clinker-built, a technique also used by the Vikings, and which last year made it onto UNESCO's World Heritage List. Clinker-building is the traditional Nordic construction technique for wooden boats and has been used right up to the present day.

"It is very special. We have never before found a Norwegian boat that had such beams," she noted, adding that the boat could also be of Polish or German origin. 

"It is made of oak and is very old. It may come from the Middle Ages because it has large beams that go through the hull, and it was mostly used in the Middle Ages. But it may also have been built later. We have to find out," Fawsitt noted.

Excavations are taking place because a new housing complex is to be built at the site. Photo: Anniken Mihle / Norwegian Folk Museum

Bjørvika finds at the museum

The findings in Bjørvika provide a unique picture of how boats were built in the Middle Ages and early modern times. 

They also give an insight into what life was like in Oslo's port area in earlier times. In addition to all the boats, large wharf facilities and a wide range of artifacts, such as weapons, pottery, and chalk pipes, have been found. 

Many of the finds are now on display in the newly restored Boat Hall at the Norwegian Maritime Museum. The new boat discovery adds another piece to the story.

The archaeological excavations in Bjørvika are financed by Oslo S Utvikling AS.

Experts are still processing the site where the wreck was found. Photo: Anniken Mihle / Norwegian Folk Museum

The Viking Herald reached out to project leader Hilde Vangstad at the Norwegian Maritime Museum to get more information on the find.

TVH: Were archaeologists able to date the ship remains since the discovery? 

HV: We will analyze dendrochronological samples within the next few weeks to help us date and find the provenance of the boat Bispevika 25. 

From the way the vessel is constructed and the context in the harbor sediments, we believe it is most likely from 1500, +/- 30 years.

TVH: Do you know where the boat comes from? 

HV: We do not know where it was made yet, but a qualified guess is that it is not local but rather of Dutch or Baltic origin. 

We hope the dendrochronological samples will provide us with more information about this as well. In addition, we analyze the content of the caulking material to see if we find botanical remains belonging to particular geographical areas to help us decide where the boat was built.

The wreck must be kept moist at all times so that it does not deteriorate. Photo: Anniken Mihle / Norwegian Folk Museum
TVH: Could you tell us more about the excavations at Bjørvika? Why is the location important, and what do you hope to find? 

HV: The area we excavate now is parts of the medieval and early modern harbor of Oslo. Over the last 20 years, the Norwegian Maritime Museum has excavated large areas of the old harbor, and we have gained a remarkable insight into the town's maritime life and history through the finds of more than 50 ship wrecks, wharves, and warehouse constructions and tens of thousands of everyday objects. 

As we speak, we are excavating towards the area believed to be the medieval kings' harbor, and the archaeologists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) will hopefully provide us with more information about this specific part of the town's harbor.

TVH: Up to this summer, what are the most important finds made at Bjørvika? 

HV: It is hard to pinpoint one particular important find. What makes the Oslo harbor excavations so spectacular is the number of boats and ships found dating more or less to the same period and revealing the previously unknown outlay of the old quays and warehouses. 

Finds of cannonballs, lead shots, canon, knives, and swords tell the story of wars and violence in maritime Oslo.

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