‘Are we there yet?’

The floorboard from the Gokstad ship (Photo: Hanne Jakobsen)

The floorboard from the Gokstad ship (Photo: Hanne Jakobsen)

For many, the very mention of ‘Vikings’ conjures up images of ruthless barbarians and berserkers beaching their long dragon ships on far flung coastlines and riverbanks to kill and plunder. Even historians at one time or another can loose themselves too much in facts: thinking mainly in terms of dates, places, names and lineages.

That is why it is so special when discoveries come along such as this one reported on the Science Nordic web page, to remind us all that the people of the past could be just as ordinary as you and me. Particularly when it comes to long voyages of any kind.

Initially excavated in 1880 in Norway within a burial mound, the Gokstad ship was also a true ocean going ship, (evidenced by visible wear on the oar locks). It was during this time, in the 890s, that researchers believe that a footprint was sketched into the deck, perhaps by a bored Viking passing the time. It had gone unnoticed from 1880 until 2009 when the floorboards were being moved.

In fact, two footprints were found, one left and one right, however due to the boards being taken apart and reassembled in different positions during the initial burial, the researchers cannot say with any certainty that both prints belonged to one individual or two.

“Maybe this was his first voyage and the drawing of his foot took his mind off the test of his manhood awaiting him in English or Irish towns? Perhaps this outline is the foot of a person who grew famous and whose name has been passed down to us through the sagas?”

“We can only speculate. We’ll never know. In any case, we see the outline of an individual here,” says Aannestad.

By A H Gray

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