The Myklebust ship
The large Norwegian ship graves from the Viking age are unique in the global context. The Myklebust ship from Nordfjordeid on the west Norwegian coast is probably the largest Viking ship that has been found traces of in Norway, with a length of more than 100 ft.
The Myklebust ship was excavated from “Rundehågjen” on the Myklebust farm in Nordfjordeid in 1874, several years before Gokstad (1880) and Oseberg (1904). The Myklebust ship differs from the Oseberg and Gokstad ships because the grave was cremated. The ship burning custom was typical for the west Norwegian coast in the 8th and 9th century. The Myklebust grave is both the last and the largest cremation grave we know from the Viking Age.
The layer of coal in the grave can tell us something about the dimensions of the ship. The mound has a diameter of 100 ft and is 13 ft tall, there was also a wide moat all around the mound which was refilled in the 1800s.
There is reason to believe that King Audbjørn of the Fjords is the man who was buried in the Myklebust grave. He was mentioned in the sagas, and died in the battle of Solskjel in the year of 876. This correlates well with the dating of the grave to the last half of the 800s.
Experienced boat builders from Bjørkedalen in the Volda municipality started the construction of the new ship in the fall of 2016, they are building it the way we believe the original could have looked. The construction is being conducted in a hall by the fjord in Nordfjordeid – just beside the location for the Sagastad center, which will be ready for visitors in 2019, and just over 300 yards from the burial mound. The hall will have regular visiting hours during the build, so it is possible for visitors to watch the ship as it grows.
The Myklebust ship will be launched onto the fjord in 2019, and we will then be the first since King Audbjørn and his crew sailed on the fjord in Norway’s most glorious Viking ship.
The grave and the history
Rundehåjen, the mound where the Myklebust ship was found is only one of several burial mounds at the Myklebust farm in Nordfjordeid. Several of the mounds still exist, and collectively represents some of the most spectacular discoveries from the Viking Age in Norway.
In Rundehåjen there was found split rivets and shield bosses from the ship together with weapons, huge amounts of bones from animals. There were also bones from a man in the grave, not older than 30-35 years old when he died. There was also an enamelled bronze cauldron of Irish origin in the grave, decorated with three man figures. One of these figures has become known as the “Myklebust man”. The burial mound is dated to the second half of the 800s. Nearby there is another burial mound called Skjoratippen, which is quite unique both in national and international context. This mound contained at least six different graves, and several boats. This mound has been used over a period of over 200 years, from the 700s to the 900s. This kind of “dynasty” grave is quite special, and tells us that the Myklebust farm must have been a very rich farm for a long period of time. It was most likely the estate for the “King of the Fjords” who is mentioned in Snorre’s saga of Harald Fairhair.
There have been several rich discoveries from the Iron Age and the middle ages in Nordfjord, especially the inner towns (Stryn and Gloppen).
Sagastad will be a place to present these findings, and what they tell us about the people who lived here when the Myklebust ship still sailed the fjords.
We will also continue with the introduction of Christianity in Norway, and how the island Selje in the far west in Nordfjord became the headquarters for Christianity in western Norway, with a monastery and bishopric for a few centuries after the Myklebust ship was devoured by the flames.