Until 150 years ago, a large burial ground was located in Kvinesdal, and one of the largest mounds in Southern Norway, at Øyesletta, was located on the farms Øye and Slimestad. The burial mounds on Øyesletta were gradually destroyed as a result of the use of new machines and operating methods in agriculture. Today, there is not a single burial mound left, according to Nye Veier.

The burial mounds were located along the then main road over Øyesletta, over a stretch of several hundred meters. The exact number of mounds that were located there is unknown. Norwegian archaeologists barely managed to document the remains of the burial mounds before they disappeared completely.

Based on the preserved finds, the burial grounds on Øyesletta were in use in the period between 1500 and 2000 years ago. The findings show that the buried belonged to the upper strata of society.

These days, archaeologists have used modern technology to see what may have been preserved of the burial grounds - underground. The research takes place within the project "Archeology on new roads," which is managed by the National Heritage Board and Nye Veier AS. The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) has been responsible for the study, which is part of the preparatory work for the new E39 through Kvinesdal.

By using geo-radar technology, researchers identified the southernmost part of the large burial ground, along with the remains of several burial mounds. The most interesting find? 

A ship grave from the Viking Age.

Viking ship grave

"This is incredibly exciting. Both to make such a discovery, but also to see how the use of geo-radar (technology) gives us the opportunity to explore and document cultural history through new and exciting methods," archaeologist at NIKU Jani Causevic stated.

He was the one who operated the geo-radar and was the first to discover the boat grave in the geo-radar data.

The surveys were carried out under the auspices of the project "Archeology on new roads." NIKU researcher Manuel Gabler is responsible for the geo-radar surveys.

Jani Causevic (archaeologist at NIKU), Manuel Gabler (researcher at NIKU), Nils Ole Sundet (project manager from Agder County Municipality), and Claes Uhner (project manager from the Cultural History Museum, UiO). Photo: Nye Veier

"We have many years of experience with large-scale archaeological geophysics in different parts of Norway, but in Agder, this is actually the first time that we systematically use the method in connection with the project. That is why I think it is fun to not only test and demonstrate how the method can be used practically in the registration process, but also contribute with such an exciting discovery," Gabler said.

The boat is up to 8-9 meters long and has accommodated one or more deceased people. It appears to have been put into the ground before a burial mound was put over it. The state of the boat and potential items in it remain unknown. 

Special burial custom

The boat graves represent a special burial custom that existed in the Viking Age in many coastal settlements, both in and outside Norway's borders. This is the first time a boat grave has been found in Kvinesdal. 

"It is a fantastic result by our colleagues from the NIKU. (The fact) that they have also found several surrounding burial mounds can make it possible to understand the site better," project manager at the Cultural History Museum at UiO, Claes Uhner, said.

Most boat graves contain boats that are smaller than the one discovered at Øyesletta.

Boats are found only in a small minority of Viking Age tombs in a given area. They have been used by a small part of the population. 

"(The fact that) the project has managed to produce knowledge that we thought was lost is very exciting. This means that we can understand and convey better stories about society on Øyesletta in the Iron Age," project manager from Agder County Municipality, Nils Ole Sundet, stated.

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