The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde has published new photos that demonstrate the extent of its progress on a new Viking ship reconstruction.

Skuldelev 5 is one of five Viking ships discovered in the 1960s close to the Norwegian city of Roskilde, which was the country's capital from the 11th to the 15th century. 

This year's work began on May 1 and is expected to continue for the next several months. 

Every summer, faithful reconstructions of the five Viking ships, mirroring their ancient counterparts, grace the waters of the Roskilde fjord. Photo: The Viking Ship Museum

Another side of history 

Located next to the Roskilde Fjord, the Viking Ship Museum is home to the remaining structures of the five original ships and a series of related exhibitions. 

In addition to preservation, however, the institution also focuses on providing visitors with the chance to experience living history while also exploring and researching different facets of the Viking Age

The living boatyard is an integral part of any visit to the museum. Here, boatbuilders toil throughout the summer and much of spring and autumn on various construction projects, building, restoring, and repairing a selection of different ships. 

The projects are carried out using traditional techniques employed during the Viking Age, while museum visitors and locals are invited to observe the experts at work. 

Skuldelev 5, a 17-meter Viking warship currently undergoing reconstruction, aims to replace the aging vessel Helge Ask and uncover the mysteries of Viking shipbuilding. Photo: Viking Ship Museum

Exploration through reconstruction 

At 17 meters (56 feet), the Skuldelev 5 ship belongs to the smaller class of Viking warships – for example, Skuldelev 2 stands at approximately 30 meters (98 feet). 

It is believed that the five boats were deliberately sunk in the 11th century as a defensive measure to help prevent sea invasions. 

The ships were excavated in 1962 and have been on display at the museum since its foundation in 1969. 

The reconstruction of Skuldelev 5 is actually the second time this particular ship has been rebuilt by the museum team, with a similar project completed in 1991

The resulting vessel, the Helge Ask, has been in use ever since but is nearing the end of its useful life. 

In addition to providing a replacement for this ship, the reconstruction team for the new version is also hoping to explore some unanswered questions about Viking boat building

Indeed, Skuldelev 5 is one of the more unusual Viking boat finds. 

This is in part because one of the planks used has carvings made in the Ringerike style – the only decoration of its kind seen on Danish Viking ships. 

Even more intriguingly, for the boat builders and archeologists involved in the project, Skuldelev 5 was constructed with both new and reused timber, including a mix of oak, pine, and ash. 

Crafted locally in Denmark around 1030, the original boat played a crucial role in the region's maritime activities, serving as a small warship navigating shallow Danish waters. Photo: Viking Ship Museum

An enduring project 

Work on the new Skuldelev 5 began in 2022, with the project scheduled to last for a total of four years. 

It is hoped that the reconstruction will provide insight into why Skuldelev 5 was made with different types and ages of wood, as well as the kind of challenges this might have posed for the original craftsmen. 

The team is also looking to gain a greater understanding of how the ship may have been used before it was scuttled. 

While some of the main structure is already complete, this year the team is focusing on fitting the third strake (long planks running the length of the ship) and the first timbers for the floor structure. 

The craftsmen at the museum use the tools, materials, and techniques of the Viking Age, while the hull is being built based on the remaining parts of the original ship. 

As the pictures demonstrate, the team has been busy cleaving wood and preparing timber for further construction. 

You can find more information about the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum's boat reconstructions here, and you can also keep up with the latest developments on their Facebook page

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