Viking Age Ship Burials: A History of Research

Viking Age Ship Burials: A History of Research

Paper by Luna Polinelli

Given online by the Icelandic Society of Archaeologists on February 3, 2022

Abstract: Boats form a subset of funerary objects increasingly found in Viking Age burials, which have been the subject of much scholarly debate, particularly from the 19th century onwards. Since the Middle Ages, it was generally known that Scandinavians were buried in boats before Christianization, since mentions of this custom are found in Icelandic sagas and in the account of ibn Fadlan.

This conference aims to present an overview of the research carried out in this field. Initially, the primary sources will be approached in order to examine their content in the light of the archaeological archives. Then, I will move on to the presentation of the debates that marked this area. We will see how researchers approached boat burials and how these burials were identified and recorded. In addition, the different theories regarding the interpretation of the boat burial custom will be presented and discussed. This study of the history of boat burial research is part of my doctoral project which aims to propose a new interpretation of this custom and to analyze boat burials, in order to compile them into a complete catalog, which will serve as a useful tool to facilitate future studies and research in this area.

Luna Polinelli is a PhD student at the University of Iceland. Click here to follow her on

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