We have just recently returned from Göteborg. I visited the Göteborg City Museum to see, among other things,

The Äskekärr ship

When it sailed one thousand years ago, the Äskekärr ship was a so-called knarr. This was a type of ship designed particularly for sailing and transporting great loads. It was a 16-metre-long merchant ship with a high freeboard. Judging by repair work, it had been used for sailing for about 100 years. The ship is dated to the Viking Age. The Viking Age began when the Scandinavians plundered the monastery on Lindisfarne in England, in 793, and it ended with the Battle of Hastings in 1066, when the Scandinavian North Sea domination was broken. The Äskekärr ship had no stem and stern posts when it was found, which makes it difficult to know exactly what it looked like. Several attempts have been made to reconstruct the ship. An active sailing society, The Gothenburg Viking Ship Society has built a full-scale reconstruction of the ship, called Vidfamne. The fragments of the Äskekärr ship can now be viewed at the City Museum in Göteborg, just as they were when they were discovered in the clay banks of the Göta älv river. Runes were discovered while the ship was being pieced together. The rune Fé was found inscribed in one of the strakes. This stands for cattle, livestock or riches. It is also the first sign in the Viking Age runic alphabet, the so-called futhark. There are also runes on the mastfoot. These derive from the older runic alphabet which fell out of general use during the 8th century.

Further reading: Borg, Jan, Monica Gustafsson and Mats Sjölin. The Story of the Viking-Age Ship from Äskekärr. Göteborg: Göteborgs Stadsmuseum, 2000. [1]+142 pp. [75-76: two runes and rune-like signs on a Viking Age boat.]


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