Ships and Men

The exciting recent discovery of an intact Viking Age male weapon burial in a 5m. boat on the Ardnamurchan peninsula has been widely reported in the media today, for instance The Guardian. Apparently, the artefacts are fantastic – the electronic version of the Guardian article has a nice short film of an axehead being dug up. We all await further details. And luckily, a few of the guy’s teeth have been preserved, so we will soon know what he ate and where he grew up, once Janet Montgomery has done her work of stable isotope analysis. Ardnamurchan, though isolated today, is of course on the main seaway from Norway, through the Northern and Western Isles, and down to the Irish Sea, so it is not at all surprising to find such a burial there, rather than on the islands, which is where all previous ones have been found.

The excitement is tinged with sadness at the almost simultaneous announcement of the death of Ole Crumlin-Pedersen, the nestor of Viking boat and ship studies. He’s the third eminent Viking to die (all of them far too young) within the last six weeks or so, following hard on the heels of Mark Blackburn and Richard Hall. May they all have a splendid feast in Valhalla together, while the surf pounds outside, as Ormr Barreyjarskáld might have said at the Ardnamurchan funeral:

Útan gnýr á eyri
Ymis blóð fara góðra.

Ymir’s blood [the sea] crashes out there on to the sand-bank of good vessels.

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