As the world's best-preserved ship from the time of Columbus and Vasco da Gama, the wreck has attracted a lot of international media attention.  

In the last two weeks of August, a group of scientists and maritime archeologists from Lund University, Blekinge Museum, and the Danish Roskilde Viking Ship Museum performed excavations on the wreck. 

Several objects have been salvaged, and 3D modeling of the whole ship on the bottom has been carried out. Furthermore, sediment and wood samples have been collected, and metal detection has been performed.
 "No other ship from the time of exploration has survived this intact," scientific leader Brendan Foley from Lund University said at the time. 

The Viking Herald reached out to the research team to get more information about this fascinating excavation project. Mikkel H. Thomsen, the Curator at the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum in Denmark, was kind enough to share some details.

Mikkel H. Thomsen, the Curator at the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum in Denmark, at work. Photo: Blekinge Museum

TVH: How did your specialist expertise contribute to this year's research into the Gribshunden shipwreck?

MHT: Our competencies are twofold: firstly, we can, of course, contribute the diving archaeology expertise – the skilled manpower. Perhaps more relevant to your question, we possess the expertise for physically or digitally reconstructing the ship based on archaeological observations. 

This knowledge also feeds into the on-site decision-making: we are in a good position to pinpoint the loci to be excavated in order to harvest maximum information with minimal intrusion into the protected site.

TVH: What do you consider the most exciting findings of this year's investigations?

MHT: For me personally, the tiller – found and tentatively identified as such previously, but only this season examined in full and positively identified – was an eyeopener as it happened to be almost completely identical to a stray find that was presented to the Viking Ship Museum in 2008, at which time we struggled to identify it (the inboard end of the tiller is strangely shaped and is likely to have had another component fitted onto it).

The process of scanning the ship's tiller. Tillers are levers through which a ship is steered. Photo: Brett Seymour

TVH: What are the most important questions that scientists are looking to answer via the ongoing investigation of the wreck?

MHT: One (of many possible) long-term goals of the investigation is to examine the ship as a mobile seat of power. This is currently the" umbrella" under which a series of partial studies involving many disciplines are undertaken. 

The study of the ship structure itself is, perhaps needless to say, an important first step as it sets the boundaries for studying or even hypothesizing about life on board. Getting the ship's dimensions, shape, and internal arrangement/mechanics as correct as possible is a necessary basis for many other studies.

TVH: A lot of high-end technology was used during the 2022 investigations. Could you explain how new technology is helping experts acquire new information?

MHT: New technology helps increase the accuracy and level of detail of the documentation of archaeological artifacts as well as the speed with which it is acquired (especially important for expensive underwater ops). 

Not only does this improve the quality of the subsequent analysis (the better primary data, the better – for example – the hull reconstruction), but it also provides an accurate and sustainable digital twin of the object, making it possible to continue studying (and even in some sense displaying) it even if it is redeposited (or for that matter discarded).

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You can find out more about the amazing story of the 500-year-old shipwreck of Danish King Hans's royal flagship here.

Divers photographed during the rudder excavation. Photo: Brett Seymour

Researchers during the process of scanning timber details. Photo: Brett Seymour

Scanning the gun carriage. Photo: Brett Seymour

Divers researching the Gribshunden wreck. Photo: Brett Seymour

Divers photographed analyzing and measuring the wreck. Photo: Brett Seymour

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