Archaeologists believe they have found the shipwreck of a possible medieval vessel in the largest lake in Norway, the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment revealed earlier this month.
The shipwreck is dated sometime between 1300 and 1850, meaning it could potentially be from the Middle Ages. It was discovered by researchers who were searching for surplus ammunition and explosives previously dumped in the lake.
“Because this is a freshwater lake, the wood in such a ship is preserved,” Norwegian University of Science and Technology marine archaeologist Øyvind Ødegård told Science Norway. “The metal may rust, and the ship may lose its structure, but the wood is intact. A similar ship to the one we now found would not have survived for more than a few decades if it had gone down on the coast,” he added.
Scientists had been mapping the bottom of the lake in search for explosives and ammo that had been dumped between the 1940s and 1970s by an ammunition factory. While analyzing sonar images, they spotted what they believe to be the stern of a ship. The wood ship was located 1,350 feet deep in Lake Mjøsa, and researchers believe it is 33 feet long.
Based on the observation that the stern of the ship was distinct from the bow, archaeologists believe that it would have been built sometime after 1300. Viking ships are much more likely to be identical on both ends and would have come from before 1300, the outlet notes. Other features distinguishing this ship from a Viking one include it having a central rudder, while a Viking ship rudder or steering oar would likely be on the starboard side of the hull.
Archaeologists also observed that this ship was built by overlapping the planks, which helped make it lighter. The result, according to the outlet, is what is referred to as a “clinker-built” ship, as opposed to “carvel-built,” which have smooth joints. This method of shipbuilding was popular during medieval and ancient times.
Prior to this discovery, archaeologists state that they had expected to make interesting finds in the project. Ødegård describes the lake as a “mini ocean,” adding that he believed “the chance of finding a shipwreck was quite high, and sure enough, a ship turned up.” The lake is about 60 miles north of Oslo, Norway’s capital, and has been a busy trade route since the Viking age.
Around 20 different shipwrecks have been found in Lake Mjøsa, but all of them were discovered at depths between 20 and 30 meters. This expedition, which began weeks ago, was the first time researchers have explored past those depths. Scientists have so far been unable to further examine the wreck or capture the site with camera equipment due to poor weather and limited visibility.