Viking boat burials in the spotlight at Friday’s free online seminar

The Oseberg boat burial, Norway, under excavation in 1904.

From the massive and rich ship burials found in Scandinavia, to the small rowing boats used in boat burials on Scottish isles, the distinctive Viking burial rite making use of a boat to carry the dead into the next life has always fascinated.

On Friday afternoon, as part of the ongoing University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute research seminar series, Dr Colleen Batey will explore the variety of Viking boat burials, with examples from Orkney, Lochaber, the Western Isles and beyond.

The vessels themselves, the grave goods accompanying the dead and the excitement of recovery are all elements combining to make this an exciting aspect of the Viking Age.

The whalebone plaque recovered from the Scar boat burial in Sanday, Orkney, in 1991. (Sigurd Towrie)

The most evoked images come from the writings of Ibn Fadlan and his travels on the River Volga where he encountered the burial rites from death to final release and wrote down his experience in candid detail. His viewpoint was as a “superior” traveller and this is reflected in his report, but it does provide a useful starting point for helping us understand something of the rites behind the physical remains we have in the archaeological record.

From the massive and very rich ship burials found in Scandinavia – Oseberg in particular – to the small rowing boats used in the insular context, there is much variety to be explored. The discoveries from Westness, Rousay; Scar, Sanday and more recently at Mayback in Orkney will be considered, in addition to the burial from Swordle Bay, Ardnamurchan, and Kiloran Bay, Colonsay, as examples of the distinctive burial form.

The free online seminar is at 4pm GMT on Friday, December 11. For details on how to view, click here.

One thought on “Viking boat burials in the spotlight at Friday’s free online seminar

  1. Content Catnip Wednesday, December 9, 2020 (11:47pm) / 11:47 pm

    Very interesting! Thank you Sigurd hope to one day go to Orkney to see the magnificent relics there!

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