Friday, October 3, 2014

Oslo. The Oseberg burial ship. Viking Ship Museum, Woodcraft.

Focus on the woodcraft of Viking times, the detail, the faces, creatures, expressings, the doubletakes where a figure appears to be facing both stage right and straight ahead at the same time, but is really staring straight ahead at you.  Here, the Oseberg ship burial, dating from about 820 AD.  See

Viking burials. These took a variety of forms: cremation and burial ("onhumation"), cremation and placement in a formation of large stones in the outline of a ship, burial of an actual wooden ship with the remains on board, cremated? or whole?, and with goods and animal sacrifices (often horses) on board and around, and simple graves. See

The home-run of unearthing Viking burial ships, is the Oseberg ship 834 CE, where much woodcraft, evidence of vast trading routes, lifestyle, has been preserved. Two women were buried here, one with great pomp-accoutrements, the other less so. A queen? What was that status then?  Oseberg itself is to the south, and its trove was carried off by central culture people, for tourist ease, to Oslo. See its write-up, from an Irish source, Ireland as a Viking favorite not only for loot, but for settling; see .

Details of construction:  see  How big was it?  Found on board and alongside were skeletons 13 horses, 3 dogs and an ox, but I cannot find which were on board. See  

From another ship, see the compartment for the corpse(s), on top, not below. The compartment on the Oseberg ship had been broken into in the middle ages or so, and much was disturbed.

The Oseberg ship trove of finds included elaborately carved wagons and sleds.  

Remember horror vacui from old art courses?  This dismay at open spaces, perhaps not horror, but aversion, led the carver, artist, painter, to fill in every nook.  Click to enlarge here, and see the combination of natural forms, abstract designs, that do just that.

Some woodcraft incorporates interlacing designs that unify the whole.  These forms look underwater eel-like, dragon-like, sea-serpents/ but with legs, appearance of waves.  Click to big it up.

Zoomorphic posts. That identification comes from the Irish site, above.  Zoomorphic.  Creatures alive! or evoking life.  The aperture could have made room for poles through, for carrying.

This fellow from the other side, looks beused, or perhaps eyes wide, hoping dinner is coming. Not all are fearsome.  Some are companion-like, as would befit accompanying a great person to an afterlife, perhaps.

Sleds were also on the ship, not just carts.  We were interested in sleds, or sledges, because we learned that Halfan the Black and his sled and team of horses and companions fell through the ice farther north, at Lake Rand as it was called then, see at paragraph 9.  Scroll down.

The woodcraft on the sledge (synonymous with sled? we see both terms used) gives an interwoven wicker appearance.   Four sledges were found, three of them are carved ornately.

And, for cooking; a pot.

Beds were also found on board. Were these from the beds?

Fabrics also were found, showing source areas as far away as the Black Sea. 

A question is raised at this site concerning the narrow width of some textile pieces, and the small looms used to make them, see  

I recall from a few months in Nigeria some time ago that such narrow looms were common as not only portable, easily worked by someone sitting on a low stool or the ground, but allowed work on a lengthy piece to continue, long strand by long strand, to be sewn together when all were formed.  With the extensive trade between Vikings and lands far away, see, including North Africa, is it far-fetched to think that such a handy technology did not go to North Africa as well. See routes at

More animated woodworking.  Faces are not static.

The eyes stare without iris or pupil.  Unnerving.  What are the two appendages below the neck?  Hardly breast-like, and few men have two of the other.  The thought is also unnerving. Run!

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