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Archaeologists find Viking Age shipyard

Archaeologists excavating at Birka on the island of Björkö, Sweden, have discovered a Viking Age shipyard.

Birka, commonly referred to as Sweden’s first town, was established during the mid-8th century AD on the shores of Lake Mälaren. The town emerged as a major trading hub for merchants and tradesmen across Europe and beyond.

Excavations conducted by researchers from Stockholm University uncovered a stone-lined depression on the shore zone with a wooden boat slop at the bottom. The team also discovered large quantities of boat rivets, whetstones made from slate and woodworking tools, suggesting that the site was a Viking Age shipyard.

shipyard1
Image Credit : Paul Parker – Stockholm University

Sven Isaksson, Professor of Archaeological Science at Stockholm University said: “A site like this has never been found before, it is the first of its kind, but the finds convincingly show that it was a shipyard.

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Through systematic survey, mapping and drone investigations, we can now show that Birka, in addition to the urban environment, also has a very rich maritime cultural landscape with remains of everything from jetties to boat launches and shipyards.”

Ships and shipping are characteristic of the Viking Age in the Nordic countries, both for warfare and for trade. One expression of Viking Age long-distance trade is the city-like trading posts that sprang up in the Nordic countries at the time.

Birka had a town rampart that surrounded the city for defence, legal, economic and social boundaries. Interestingly, the shipyard is located outside of the rampart, in addition to a boat landing site which is currently under investigation.

Stockholm University

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

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