Archeology

This Remarkable Viking Age Find: The Only Intact Wagon Unearthed, Sheds Light on Its Mysterious Purpose.

The exceptionally well-preserved wagon was found in a burial mound in Oseberg near the Oslo Fjord in Norway.

The Oseberg cart, the only complete Viking wagon ever found. Image credit: Kulturhistorisk museum, UiO/CC BY-SA 4.0/Eirik Irgens Johnsen

The artifact that is commonly known as the “Oseberg cart” was found inside the Oseberg Ship and is the only complete Viking Age wagon ever found. The ship, which dates from the mid 9th century and is regarded as the most sumptuous relic of a Viking burial, was found in a burial mound in Oseberg near the Oslo Fjord in Norway in 1903.

The ship’s interment into its burial mound dates from 834 AD, but parts of the ship date from around 800, and the ship itself is thought to be older. Inside, archaeologists found the bones of two women who were buried in the mid 9th century. Judging by the rich furnishings, one was probably a queen, while the other may have been her slave or servant. The ship, which is widely celebrated and has been called one of the finest finds to have survived the Viking Age, is on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Bygdøy, along with some of its contents.

Although the grave had been disturbed in antiquity and precious metals were absent at the time of discovery, a great number of everyday items and artifacts were found inside the ship during the 1904-1905 excavations. These included, apart from the richly carved four-wheel wooden cart, bed-posts, wooden chests and many pieces of furniture, tapestries, and kitchenware such as an iron cooking.

One of the most interesting objects discovered inside the Oseberg ship is the so-called Buddha-bøtte or Buddha bucket – a pail with two identical figures seated in the Lotus position forming the joints of the pail handle. According to Viking Rune, Vikings could in fact meet Buddhist missionaries during their expeditions, as evidenced by a sixth-century Buddha statuette from northern India found on the island of Helgö, Sweden (currently on display in the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm). That said, the Oseberg Buddha does not seem to have been imported from Asia, but most probably originated from Ireland or England, according to researchers. But then, who is the person represented on the bucket, if not Buddha from Asia? Is it a meditating Viking? A Norse god? This remains a mystery.

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