Longest known Viking ship goes on display at British Museum

A 37-metre-long Viking warship, never before seen in the UK, has been unveiled. The ship, which came to Britain in a ‘flat pack’, is the longest ever found. Known as Roskilde 6, it was excavated from the banks of Roskilde fjord in Denmark during the course of work undertaken to develop the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum in 1997. Since the excavation, the timbers have been conserved and analysed by the National Museum of Denmark. The surviving timbers – approximately 20 per cent of the original ship – have been re-assembled for display in a specially made stainless steel frame that reconstructs the full size and shape of the original ship.

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A 37-metre-long Viking warship, never before seen in the UK, has been unveiled.

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The ship, which came to Britain in a ‘flat pack’, is the longest ever found.

Known as Roskilde 6, it was excavated from the banks of Roskilde fjord in Denmark during the course of work undertaken to develop the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum in 1997.

Since the excavation, the timbers have been conserved and analysed by the National Museum of Denmark. The surviving timbers – approximately 20 per cent of the original ship – have been re-assembled for display in a specially made stainless steel frame that reconstructs the full size and shape of the original ship.

The construction of the ship has been dated to around AD 1025, the high point of the Viking Age, when England, Denmark, Norway and possibly parts of Sweden were united under the rule of Cnut the Great.

The size of the ship and the amount of resources required to build it suggest that it was a royal warship, possibly connected with the wars fought by Cnut to assert his authority over the short-lived North Sea empire.

The warship forms part of the British Museum’s new Vikings exhibition, Vikings: Life and Legend. The exhibition will reveal what it meant to be a Viking, and highlight the vast cultural network – with contacts from the Caspian Sea to the North Atlantic – created by Viking expansion from the Scandinavian homelands.

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On display alongside Roskilde 6 will be swords and axes, religious images, looted treasures and ostentatious jewellery of gold and silver.

The Vale of York Hoard – which consists of 617 coins, six arm rings and a quantity of bullion and hack-silver – will be shown in its entirety for the first time since it was discovered by metal detectorists near Harrogate in 2007.

It is the largest and most important Viking hoard discovered since the Cuerdale Hoard was found in Lancashire in 1840, part of which will also be included in the exhibition.

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, said: “The reach and cultural connections of the Viking Age make it a remarkable story shared by many countries, not least here in the British Isles.

“New discoveries and research have led to a wealth of new information about the Vikings, so it is a perfect moment to look again at this critical era.

“Temporary exhibitions of this nature are only possible thanks to external support so I am hugely grateful to BP for their longstanding and ongoing commitment to the British Museum.”

Vikings: Life and Legend is on show at the British Museum from 6 March to 22 June.

To view images of some of the exhibition highlights, click here.

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Plus, listen out for our podcast with exhibition curator Gareth Williams, due to go online today. You can also read his feature, ‘How the Vikings Ruled the Waves’, in the March issue of BBC History Magazine, on sale now. To access the magazine digitally, click here.