Vänern Wreck Probably Not a Viking Ship


Vanern wreck

A month ago news of a wreck found in Sweden’s largest lake, Vänern, made the rounds of international media. The story gained traction by an early mention of Viking ships and weapons found alongside the wreck.

Finder Roland Peterson from the Väner Museum now explains that though the ship-building technique used in the wreck was available already in the Viking Period, it then survived for centuries even into the 19th century. He thus deems it possible but not certain that the vessel is very old.

I’ve taken some small part in the discussion. Though I know little of ship types, I have some knowledge of smaller Viking Period objects. My buddies Martin Skoglund and Niklas Ytterberg sent me pictures and x-rays of the purported weapons. I am quite sure that they are a) not weapons, and b) not from the Viking Period. In fact, they appear to be two parts of the same iron object: long, rod-shaped, pointy, with a spiral groove around the point and a handle at the base. My guess is that it is a ship’s aft flagpole from the past 400 years.

Hear Roland and myself being interviewed on Swedish national radio about the find.

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Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

4 thoughts on “Vänern Wreck Probably Not a Viking Ship”

  1. Your comment suggests something about what makes a find newsworthy. In the U.S., if it’s Scandinavian, it must have a connection to Vikings or it might as well not exist. If it’s a fossil primate, it must be one of our direct ancestors (and so another of those Missing Links) or it might as well stay in the ground. If it’s a bullet wound in a body, it’s always measured according to how far from the heart, as if that were the only vital organ in there. Kind of odd, isn’t it?


  2. I don’t see the resemblance to weapons either. MIght be a flagpole. If so, and if they belong together, I would assume the pointy part to be the base (with spiral grooves to facilitate attaching it to a wooden deck) and the knob to be the top (much like modern day flagpoles).

    Any chance of the long pointy bit being some kind of auger?


  3. Nice to hear your voice for once 🙂
    I agree what you said in the interview, that it’s actually more interesting if we don’t know what the item/s is. What’s this widespread fascination with weapons?


  4. The spiral groove looks more decorative than businesslike to me, but it’s hard for me to tell since I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

    Weapons, Viking ships… All comprehensible to people whose perspective of Scandinavia’s past is heavily conditioned by written evidence.


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