A Viking Burial Described by Arab Writer Ahmad ibn Fadlan

The Oseberg Ship

The Oseberg ship, a well-preserved Viking ship discovered in a large burial mound at the Oseberg farm near Tønsberg in Vestfold county, (Photo: norskevaapen.no) 

Norse funerals, or the burial customs of Viking Age Norsemen (early medieval Scandinavians), are known both from archeology and from historical accounts such as the Icelandic sagas, Old Norse poetry, and notably from the account of Arab Muslim writer Ahmad ibn Fadlan.

Throughout Scandinavia, there are many remaining burial mounds in honour of Viking kings and chieftains, in addition to runestones and other memorials. Some of the most notable of them are at the Borre mound cemetery in Norway, and Lindholm Høje and Jelling in Denmark.

A prominent tradition is that the ship burial, where the deceased was laid in a boat, or a stone ship, and given grave offerings in accordance with his earthly status and profession, sometimes including sacrificed slaves. Afterwards, piles of stone…

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