Ship grave hall passage – the Oseberg monument as compound meaning
Herschend, Frands (Uppsala University)
11th International Saga Conference, University of Sydney (2000)
The ship in the grave from Oseberg is 23 metres long (Brøgger et al. 1917; Christensen et al. 1992). It stands next to a river on its keel on the rollers that made its journey on land possible. A mound covers the ship. Some time after the construction of the monument, perhaps a hundred years or so, someone made a an impressive straight cut into the mound, broke through the roof of the grave-chamber, smashed most of the equipment and took out the remains of the two women buried there. It is doubtful whether this disturbance was primarily a matter of plundering the grave or a matter of destroying the grave chamber and moving at least one of the deceased to a more suitable situation (cf. Brøgger 1945; Myhre 1992, pp. 280 ff.; Krogh 1993). During the excavation in 1904, the excavators found several skeletal remains of the older of the two buried women on what must have been the floor of the trench used by those who broke in and removed the deceased. Given the fact that only a few bones remained in the chamber we can conclude that the deceased themselves were among the prime objects for those who first opened the mound. Oseberg is thus not only a burial and its monument is is also an opening.