Ladby ship

Ladby ship

The Ladby ship is a major ship burial, of the type also represented by the boat chamber grave of Hedeby and the ship burials of Oseberg, Borre, Gokstad and Tune in South Norway, all of which date back to the 9th and 10th centuries. It is the only ship burial discovered in Denmark. It was discovered southwest of Kerteminde on the island of Funen.

The grave is situated within an ordinary burial site, from the Viking Age. Excavations revealed an abundance of grave goods consisting both of objects and of animals. It was previously dated to the early 10th century, based on a gilded link of bronze for a dog-harness, decorated in Jelling style, that was found there.

The grave had been extensively disturbed and, since only a few small human bones were found, this has been interpreted to be a translation, i.e. removal from a heathen to a Christian grave. Another more likely interpretation is that the struggle for dominance by King Harald Blåtand and his heir, Svend Tveskæg, may have led to the grave being desecrated. It was, after all, a symbol of power very visible to all who travelled or lived in the area, glorifying the minor king buried there. By removing the deceased and chopping all his grave goods into hundreds of pieces within a few years of the burial, the attackers presumably gave his heirs a great blow to their family prestige.

The excavation was performed by G. Rosenberg, conservator, and P. Helweg Mikkelsen, pharmacist, between 1934 and 1937. Their original drawings constitute the primary source-material for information on the find. P.Helweg Mikkelsen also showed himself to be a patron of historical landmarks by paying for an arched building to be raised over the site, which was then covered with earth and grass. This was then given to the National Museum, which had full responsibility for the site until 1994, when it passed to Kerteminde Area Museums.

Now an interpretive centre displays many of the original finds and gives an overview of the Viking era on northeast Funen. The new building also has a ship burial under construction in the basement, a full-size replica of the ship. It will show the scene as it may have looked right after the funeral, with the deceased chieftain lying on a bed with all his grave goods, near his four dogs and his eleven horses. There will also be an interpretive audiovisual show about the Vikings' beliefs regarding the journey to the kingdom of the dead, based on Norse myths.

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