Viking Excavation in Scar: Buried In Boat, Destroyed By Tides

Posted by Ms Elly on

Viking Excavation in Scar: Buried In Boat, Destroyed By Tides 

Back to 1985, the 1,100-year Viking mystery was refused to be unveiled. 

It was after a storm that a farmer named John Dearness was walking along the shore in Scar, on the island of Sanday, Orkney, Scotland. There he discovered some bones protruding out from the grounds and he thought it belonged to the resting place of a sailor. John was right but this sailor was more than a millennium of years older than him. He saw a lead object and decided to bring the lead object to his home only. 

After showing his friend what he had taken from the seashore, they decided that it belonged to the car battery that had no use at all and threw it into the kitchen drawer. Shut down and the secret was left unsolved. 

John passed away shortly after without hearing the disclosure of the secret.

Five years after the lead object was thrown into the kitchen drawer, an archaeologist Julie Gibson paid a visit to this small island and happened to hear about the "discovery" of John who was laid to rest years ago. She asked to see the lead object, feeling that it was more than just a piece from the car battery, she brought it to her lab and what she found was just amazing.

It was identified as the piece from a lead weight which people had used to weigh metal. 

Then a group of archaeologists turned back to the small island to examine the supposed grave of a sailor. And it did turn out to be a grave, a Viking grave indeed. 

The bones protruding from the dunes in the Scar site where the archaeologists discovered the Viking burial grave

The bones from the grave protruding in the archaeological site (Cre: Historic Scotland)

This site was often inflicted by the storms leaving the site damaged and what was buried didn't remain as the way they used to be. 

Feeling an urgent need to rescue the site from more exposure to the tides and storm, they carried out an immediate excavation. 

They found a Norse boat that could possibly date back to 875 or 950 A.D. Although the ship was completely gone after years of damage, what left in the site revealed that there once was a ship lying there carrying someone to their afterlife like the Viking tradition of boat burial. About 300 signs of rivets were detected there. 

The marks of Viking ship in Scar that is forever gone because of exposure to tides

The remaining of the ship's appearance when the excavation took place. The yellow dots mark the places of the rivets. (Cre: Historic Scotland)

It was a 6.5-meter-long wooden boat, plank-built and powered by oar. By the time the excavation was carried out, half of the ship was washed away by the fierce tides. 

The pit where the ship was buried was dug too big so those who buried the deceased had to put more stones inside to fit the ship to the pit. 

Inside the burial grave, the archaeologists found out the remains of three individuals: a man at 30s, an elderly woman at 70s, and a kid, unknown sex, at 10 or 11. 

Along the remains of these individuals were the good graves buried with them. The most famous one is a whalebone plaque. Next to the man was a warrior sword, a quiver, eight arrows, a bone comb, and 22 gaming pieces. 

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