This Easter, between April 1-10, the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, will be offering family-friendly activities and daily tours in English to showcase the work of the archaeologists attached to this unique institution. 

More than 60 years ago, Roskilde archaeologists excavated five remarkable Viking ships from the local harbor, a huge, complex operation whose success revealed many secrets about the city's seafaring past.

Denmark's former capital 

Capital of Denmark from the 11th century until 1443, Roskilde was a vital trading center during the Viking era for routes over land and sea. 

Founded by Harald Bluetooth in the 980s, Roskilde was made a bishopric by King Cnut nearly four decades later.

Built on Harald Bluetooth's original church, Roskilde's 13th-century cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, provides further reason for many tourists to visit, but the key draw is the Viking Ship Museum.

Overlooking the Roskilde Fjord, where the five so-called Skuldelev ships were discovered in 1962, the museum acts both as a showcase for these rare vessels and as a center for education and research.

The Skuldelev ships were deliberately sunk just north of Roskilde in 1070 in order to block the passage of the Peberrenden waterway and defend against potential invasion. 

Different in character and purpose, the ships have given researchers a wealth of information from various fields. 

The view from Roskilde harbor. Photo: nektofadeev / Shutterstock

Ships for war and cargo

Originally, it was thought that six boats had been found, but they proved to be five – hence the strange numbering as the ships were analyzed.

Skuldelev 1 was a large cargo vessel built in Western Norway around 1030. About 60% of the original boat was retrieved – it is represented by the replica Ottar at the Museum Harbor. 

Skuldelev 2 was a fast longship used in combat, built in Dublin around 1042. A replica called the Sea Stallion sailed from Roskilde to Dublin in 2007, where it was put on display until its return here the following year.

The best-preserved of the Roskilde ships is Skuldelev 3, constructed locally in Denmark around 1040, with 75% of the original vessel preserved here. The replica Roar Ege illustrates this powerful, oak-built, cargo-carrying workhorse. 

Skuldelev 5 was also made here around 1030, a small warship that would have seen service in shallow Danish waters. Its likeness for display purposes is Helge Ask. 

Skuldelev 6 dates back to the same period, created mainly from pine in Western Norway. 

Visitors can now admire it as the replica Skjoldungen at the museum.

Workshops are open events where you can come and go as you please during the day. There will be a guide present who speaks English and Danish.

Guided tours will take place in English at 11 AM every day between April 1 and 10.

Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Vindeboder 12, 4000 Roskilde. Open daily 10 AM - 4 PM.

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