The Viking ships house. Vikingskipshuset and det Historiske museet (the Historical Museum) form Universitetets Kulturhistoriske museer (the University Museums of Cultural Heritage) under the University of Oslo. The main attractions at Vikingskipshuset are the famous Viking ships Gokstad (found in Sandefjord), Oseberg (found in Tønsberg), Tune, and Borre (which is a burial mound cemetary). Prior to the building of Vikingskipshuset, the ships were stored in temporary shelters at the University of Oslo. There was an architectural contest to see who would be chosen to build the permanent home for these ships. Arnstein Arneberg, one of Norway’s most well-known architects, won the contest and with funding from Stortinget (Parliament), the hall for the Oseberg ship was built and it was moved in in 1926. The halls for Gokstad and Tune were completed in 1932. World War II delayed the building of the last hall until 1957, which houses the majority of the other finds, in large part from the Oseberg ship.
Although there is a lack of artifacts that remain from Vikingtiden (the Viking Age), Vikingskipshuset is home to the majority of remaining artifacts. Objects found in the museum include sledges, beds, carts (horse carts), wood carvings, jewelry, weapons, and other household items. It was tradition during that time to bury the dead with grave goods, often in a boat or ship. Like the ancient Egyptians, the kind of burial depended on the deceased social status. It was important to send the deceased off into the afterlife with the same kind of social standing that he/she held during life. Some people of high social standing were buried with slaves. If you haven’t been to Vikingskipshuset yet, I highly recommend making the visit. It is breathtaking to see the large ships and imagine how they were built, what it was like to sail them, and the people and places the ships and their crews encountered.
Vikingskipshuset is located on the Bygdøy peninsula, a 10-minute drive from Oslo Sentrum (the city center of Oslo). It is very easy to get to, by trikk (tram), bil (car), buss (bus), fot (foot), or drosje (taxi). The T-bane does not go out to Bygdøy. Once you are out there on the peninsula, there are other places to visit as well. The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, the Kon-Tiki Museum, and The Norwegian Maritime Museum are all in the vicinity. There are also several nice beaches, including the nude beach that I mentioned in an earlier post (the one that my dad and I stumbled upon). Enjoy your visit to Bygdøy!