British archeologists are investigating a possible Viking boat buried under the parking lot of a pub to determine its exact age and origin, the University of Nottingham in England announced last week in a press release.
The boat was reportedly discovered in 1938 by workmen, but they were told to cover it back up. The story of the discovery has interested locals since. Luckily, one of the workers who discovered it took precise notes, including a map and a sketch outlining its design, allowing researchers to make guesses on its age, function, and condition.
“There has been intense local interest in this buried object for many years,” Dominga Devitt, chair of the Wirral Archaeology Community Interest Company, said. “It has been thought that the boat dates from the Viking era but no professional investigation has ever been carried out to establish the truth, so everyone is really delighted at the prospect of what we might discover.”
The boat is believed to be buried under the parking lot of The Railway Inn, located in the Wirral borough in northwest England. The dig began on Saturday and is being conducted by Wirral Archaeology Community Interest Company with the permission of the pub owners, according to Wirral Globe. Also involved is University of Nottingham professor Stephen Harding, who is a Viking expert in the Wirral region.
According to Harding, the worker’s description from the 1938 unearthing showed a clinker-built boat — a design that was favored by the Vikings and originated in Scandinavia. Clinker-built ships have overlapping planks, as opposed to planks that are flush with each other in carvel-designed ships. The description also led researchers to believe that the boat was roughly 20 by 30 feet and was buried nine feet below the surface in waterlogged blue clay. Harding believes it is either a fishing or transport boat.
The clay is ideal for the boat’s preservation, Harding says, because it keeps bugs away, helping keep the wood intact. He also said that a find like this in this type of clay is extremely rare. The Nottingham press release says that archeologists plan on making 100 narrow boreholes down to the boat, which has been previously observed through radar scans. Nottingham explains that this type of dig helps preserve the vessel and minimizes damage, as opposed to exposing the whole boat through a full dig.
— Wirral Globe (@WIRRALGLOBENEWS) February 17, 2023
With the borehole samples, researchers will be able to perform an analysis of the wood and the environment surrounding it in labs at Nottingham and the British Geological Survey. They expect to do carbon-14 dating and dendrochronology, which uses growth rings to determine age. Harding hopes these tests will help confirm the type of boat and help “end the speculation.”
“It is not impossible the vessel may have derived from the time the area was heavily settled by Norsemen, or if not the descendants of these people: an investigation we did jointly with the University of Leicester has shown a high proportion of Y-chromosomal DNA of Scandinavian origin in the admixture of people from old families (possessing surnames prior to 1600) in the area,” Harding said. “But in all honesty we just don’t know and are keeping an open mind.”
The efforts are expected to last all week, and Wirral Globe notes that the results are expected to be released in May. “Like everyone around here, we all want to identify just what is there and if it really does date back to Viking times,” the owner of the pub told the outlet.