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9/15/2016

TheFirstVikingsArchaeologyMagazine

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ApublicationoftheArchaeologicalInstituteofAmerica

The First Vikings


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Twoyearslater,JriPeets,anarchaeologistattheUniversityofTallinn,uncoveredevidenceofanother,far
largerandmoretechnologicallysophisticatedcraftjust100feetawayfromthefirstboat.Soonworkmenwere
rippingupanearbyroadtorevealthevesseltheydubbedSalme2thesmallerboatwouldlaterbecalled
Salme1.TheVikingstremendousgeographicreach,fromNovaScotiatoConstantinople,wasmadepossibleby
theirmasteryoftheocean,particularlythesail.However,archaeologicallyspeaking,theresnotagreatdealof
evidenceforsailingintheBalticuntilroughly820,whenresearchersthinka60footlongvessel,calledthe
Osebergship,wasbuilt.Discoveredin1904,theOsebergshipwasusedfortheburialofahighrankingViking
womaninwhatistodayNorway.

TheSalmesitemaychangeallthat,pushingthefirstevidenceforsailingbackacenturyormore.Though,again,
mostofthewoodhaddisappeared,bymeasuringthepositionofthemorethan1,200nailsandrivetsand
carefullylookingatsoilwherethewoodhadrotted,PeetsconcludedthatSalme2wasabout55feetlongand10
feetwide.Thecrafthadakeel,anelementcriticaltokeepingasailingshipuprightinthewater.Peetsbelieves
clustersofironandwoodnearthecenteroftheboatandpiecesofclothrecoveredfromthesoilareindicationsof
amastandsail.

Ifheisright,Salme2istheoldestsailingvesseleverfoundintheBaltic.Andotherscholarsareinclinedto
agree.IwouldthinkthatthebigSalmeboatwouldbetheperfectplacetofindthefirstexampleofasailbefore
theVikingAge,saysJanBill,anarchaeologistandspecialistinVikingshipsattheUniversityofOslo.Itsthe
sizeofvessel,saysBill,whereasailwouldmakealotofsense.Salme2,built,sailed,andbeachedahalf
centuryormorebeforethefirstraidsonEnglandheraldedthedawnoftheVikingAge,was,forallintentsand
purposes,aVikingship.TheSalme2vesselwascertainlycapableofcrossingtheopenseabetweenthe
SwedishcoastandSaaremaa,adistanceofabout100miles.Thevesselalsoshowsthatthekeytechnologyof
theVikingAgetookshapeatleastdecades,andmaybealmostawholecentury,before793.

Likeitsnearbysistervessel,Salme2broughtacrewwithitwhenitwasburied.Threedaysafterwestarted
digging,aswordwasdiscovered,andaftersomedaysskeletonsinrowsbegantoappear,saysRagnarSaage,
agraduatestudentwhoworkedwithPeetsontheexcavation.Ittooktwosummersofpainstakingworkto
excavateallthebodies:33inall,stackedneatlyfourdeep.Wecouldntbelieveoureyes,saysSaage.Itwasa
strangefeelingtodigthiskindofsite.

http://www.archaeology.org/issues/951307/features/941vikingssaaremaaestoniasalmevendeloseberg#art_page2

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9/15/2016

TheFirstVikingsArchaeologyMagazine

(CourtesyMargeKonsa,UniversityofTartu)
Thefirstboattobefound(top),calledSalme1,wasalightvesselthatwouldhavebeenrowedandnotsailed.Aswiththelargersailing
ship,Salme2,thesmallerboatcontainedskeletons(above),butinthiscasethemenwereburiedhaphazardly.

Takentogether,thetwoshipsrepresentatantalizingmystery.PeetsandKonsaagreethevesselswere
probablyburiedatthesametime,aspartofthesameevent.Basedontheboatsconstructionandtheartifacts
andremainsfoundinside,thearchaeologistsbelievethedeadmenwereScandinavian,probablyfromwhatis
todaySweden,150milesawayacrosstheBalticSea.ButwhatweretheydoinginEstonia?Andwhydidntthey
makeithome?

1(#art_page1) 2 3(#art_page3) 4(#art_page4) 5(#art_page5)

AlsointhisIssue:

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July/Aug2013(/)

MiniaturePyramidsofSudan
ArchaeologistsexcavatingonthebanksoftheNile

http://www.archaeology.org/issues/951307/features/941vikingssaaremaaestoniasalmevendeloseberg#art_page2

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