Lead Forensics

How 3D Scanning is helping unveil the mysteries of a Viking Ship

May 14, 2024 | 3D Scanning, Museums & Collections, News

In the annals of history, sometimes the most remarkable discoveries occur by chance. Such was the case in 1886 when a Norwegian farmer, ploughing his fields, stumbled upon something unexpected buried beneath the soil. Little did he know that this chance encounter would unearth a myriad of information about an elusive chapter of Viking history.

The discovery was the Storhaug ship, a Viking vessel whose oak timbers, upon dendrochronological examination, were traced back to the year 770. Crafted with care and designed for speed and agility, this ship represented the best of Viking engineering, with hand-cut timbers expertly joined together with iron nails and wooden pegs.

Over the years, archaeologists unearthed the remnants of the ship, revealing an elegant ship with a wealth of ancient artifacts within. Fast forward to the present day, where the narrative of the Storhaug ship is being meticulously unravelled by modern maritime archaeologists, including Massimiliano Ditta, a dedicated researcher and PhD candidate at the Museum of Archaeology, University of Stavanger.

Through innovative techniques such as 3D scanning, Ditta has proposed the hypothesis that the Storhaug ship, traditionally thought to be a rowing vessel, may actually have been a sailing ship. Evidence such as the keel and pieces of the yard from the top of the sail, support this theory, suggesting that Viking nautical engineering had advanced sufficiently by the 8th century to harness the power of the wind, providing their ships with greater range and manoeuvrability.

Central to this research is 3D scanning technology which has enabled Ditta to capture intricate details of the Storhaug ship and its artifacts with unparalleled accuracy. The ability to produce high-quality, shareable 3D models has transformed the work, allowing findings to be communicated with colleagues, museum specialists, and the public. Moreover, the versatility and ease of use of 3D scanners have made them a staple tool in the field of maritime archaeology, showcasing the transformative impact of technology on historical research.

As Ditta continues his quest to unravel the mysteries of humanity’s seafaring past, the future of 3D scanning in maritime archaeology appears promising. Such technology will continue to assist the pursuit of uncovering new secrets hidden beneath the waves, one scan at a time.

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The PES Scanning blog provides information and news on the scanning and engineering services we offer. The blog also includes views from our team and information about projects we’ve been working on.