One of the key attractions will be the Tune ship, the least famous of a trio of Viking Age ships with a fascinating history worth celebrating. 

Archeology past and present 

Whilst the latest Indiana Jones movie seems to indicate that people desire to see the fantastical in archeology, in the real world, things are slightly more mundane. 

Great archeological discoveries are rarely, if ever, found by a man with a whip and a hat (especially in the post-colonial era) and take years of careful research, scrutiny, and trial and error. 

If in this new ''golden age'' of archeology, where new scientific and technological advancements are unlocking the secrets of the past almost every day, spare a thought for the archeologists who operated in a less technologically advanced era. 

One man who operated in such an era was the 19th century archeologist and historian, Oluf Rygh. 

After graduating from the University of Christiana (now Oslo) in 1856, Rygh gained employment as a teacher. 

However, seemingly not content with his lot teaching, he dedicated much of his spare time as a research fellow for history, devouring all the latest scientific methods and archeological news. 

Gaining what he saw as more meaningful employment as a Professor of History at the Royal Frederick University from 1866, it was here that he was to make his name and mark on history. 

The Tune ship is a small type of longship with a broad hull, known as karve. While only fragments have been preserved, it may have been up to 18.7 meters (61 ft) long. Source: Jac Brun (1921–1995) / National Library of Norway

The professionalization of Norwegian archeology 

Though Rygh's name is little remembered today outside academic circles, he should be celebrated as one of the most important figures in recent Norwegian history. 

During his time at the University, he is credited as the man most responsible – due to his academic position as Professor of History and his practical experience (see below) - for the professionalization of archeology in Norway. 

Well into the 20th century, archeology was treated as little more than a mere pastime, something to while away the hours for rich fops and amateurs. 

Rygh was to have none of this and is credited with helping archeology develop, over the coming decades, into the rigorous science it is today. He helped build the foundations of professionalization in Norway, which Norwegian archeologists and historians stand upon today. 

However, despite being years ahead in some ways, Rygh was still a man affected by the era in which he lived. 

In the mid-19th century, throughout Europe, but particularly in Norway, there was an era of budding romantic nationalism. Academics, historians, poets, and writers alike were delving into the country's glorious past, envisioning a time when it had been free from foreign influence and subjugation. 

A particularly favorite epoch was the early medieval period, specifically the Viking Age, which spanned from around 750 to 1100. 

During this time, people from the shores of Norway exerted an enormous influence on the broader story of Europe and beyond, which links nicely with modern themes of nationalism, sovereignty, and independence. 

Rygh was like many fellow Norwegians who wanted to discover more of their ancestral Viking past. 

He turned his attention to a picturesque farm on the island of Rolvsoy, in the small parish of Tune, tucked in Ostfold, eastern Norway. This was no ordinary farm as it held many secrets waiting to be discovered. 

Illustration by Danish marine painter Christian Blache (1838 - 1920) depicting two karves equipped for war. Source: Danish State Archives (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Buried on a farm 

The choice of this farm for Rygh to study and survey wasn't as arbitrary as it may appear. 

Unlike how archeology appears on the small and silver screen, archeologists do not go about randomly digging in a field and magically finding hidden treasure. 

The farm in Tune was chosen because it contained a burial mound. There lay a significant heap of earth that Rygh and his colleagues knew held archeological treasure, though they remained uncertain about its exact nature. 

Digging commenced in 1867, and soon Rygh and his dedicated team of men (sadly, females were almost entirely excluded from archeology until well into the 20th century) struck archeological gold. 

Soon, fragments of a ship were discovered, and upon analyzing them, Rygh realized he had unearthed a Viking karve. 

This was a small type of longship used by people in Viking societies for transport. 

Small in stature but possessing a broad hull, it was perfectly suited for both navigating the high seas and maneuvering in the shallow waters along coastlines. Karves could carry goods, people, or even livestock. 

Though Rygh and his team only discovered fragments of the ship, they quickly realized it was once as long as 19 meters (62 feet) with a width of some 4 meters (13 feet) and having room for as many as 12 pairs of oars. 

This meant it would have had a crew of about 24 men but could possibly hold more than that. 

It was believed to have been constructed at the turn of the 10th century, and recent analysis has shown that it may have been a fast sailboat. 

Only a small number of grave goods were uncovered along with the fragments of the ship. 

The current theory suggests that the burial mound was disturbed and grave goods stolen at least twice – once during the Viking Age and a second time more recently in the 17th century. 

These thieves, along with the brutal processes of aging and degradation, have ensured that we only have a limited glimpse into the history of the Tune Viking ship. 

Detail of the Tune ship, showing the dots placed for running a complete 3D scan of the vessel. Photo: Peulle / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Pride of place now 

Though the karve found at Tune is not as famous as the two other Viking ships discovered in the same era – one at Gokstad (in 1880) and the other at Oseberg (in 1904) - it deserves equal recognition. 

Marking a milestone in archeological practice, it was the first time a Viking-era ship had been professionally excavated – by the standards of the time – under the supervision of a learned academic, Oluf Rygh. 

There was great excitement in the national and international press about the discovery of one of the most recognizable symbols of the Viking Age.

The Tune Viking ship stands as a proud testament to the seafaring prowess and cultural significance of people in Viking societies during the early medieval period. 

As part of the trio of ships that will take pride of place in another institution showcasing Oslo's recent cultural blossoming, it continues to inspire research, education, and appreciation for the rich history and legacy of the Viking Age, long after its last voyage. 

For more information on the Tune Viking ship, visit the Museum of the Viking Age here

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