Viking-Era Boat Has Been Discovered Under an English Pub
Archaeologists from the University of Nottingham are currently studying what locals believe to be a Viking-era boat that was discovered buried beneath a pub car park in Wirral, England. The boat was first discovered by workmen in 1938, who partially exposed it at the Railway Inn pub in Meols. After making several invaluable notes and sketches, providing information about its design and features, the workmen reburied the boat. No further archaeological studies were conducted, until now.
A model of the buried possible Viking-era boat. ( University of Nottingham )
Locals Believe They’ve Discovered a Viking-Era Boat in Wirral
According to the University of Nottingham , the researchers gauged that the vessel had Scandinavian origins – Nordic in particular. Built using the clinker method, a shipbuilding technique commonly used by the Anglo-Saxons, Frisians and Scandinavians, the rumored Viking-era boat is estimated to be around six to nine meters (19.6 ft to 29.5 ft) in length and was most likely used for cargo or fishing purposes.
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“There has been intense local interest in this buried object for many years,” explained Dominga Devitt, chair of the Wirral Archaeology Community Interest Company, which is co-leading the investigation of the supposedly Viking-era boat. “It has been thought that the boat dates from the Viking era, but no professional investigation has ever been carried out to establish the truth, so everyone is really delighted at the prospect of what we might discover.”
Due to the boat's burial in waterlogged blue clay, the timber of the Viking-era boat has been preserved rather well. The waterlogged conditions have prevented oxygen from penetrating the wood, inhibiting the growth of bacteria. The researchers will be using radar scans and narrow bore holes to analyze the boat's structure and environment without causing damage to the ancient vessel.
The Railway Inn Pub in Meols, where the Viking boat has been discovered ( Rept0n1x / CC by SA 3.0 )
Scientific Techniques to Explore the Supposedly Viking-Era Boat
The archaeologists hope to learn more about the boat's age, origin and use, through radiocarbon dating and other scientific techniques at their disposal, such as dendrochronology and an analysis of the state of preservation of the wood and the degree of waterlogging of the environment. They also plan to investigate the surrounding area to determine if there are any other archaeological sites of interest.
Professor Steve Harding, the Director of the National Centre for Macromolecular Hydrodynamics at the University of Nottingham, and an acknowledged expert on Viking settlement and culture in the borough is collaborating with professional archaeologist Chas Jones and the Wirral Archaeology Community Interest Company.
“Our plan is to go down systematically with an array of about 100 narrow bore holes across a wide area in front of the pub where the boat lies – buried approximately 9ft (3m) underneath the surface and capture small samples of wood and surrounding environment for full analysis,” explained Harding.
“The boat is purported to be a very old wooden clinker (overlapping planks), a design of boatbuilding that originated in Scandinavia, and is buried in waterlogged blue clay – a great preservative – and similar to the clay in which the famous Norwegian clinker boats, the Oseberg and Gokstad were deliberately buried,” explained Harding at length in the Daily Express .
Professor Harding’s involvement brings another benefit – a biochemist by training, he is part of the impressive Saving Osberg Project . They are working to develop new biopolymer consolidants for the preservation of wooden artifacts, in particular the Viking-era Oseberg ship .
Locals are excited at the prospect of having uncovered a Viking-era boat, such as the Gokstad Ship seen here. ( Archivist / Adobe Stock)
Moving Forward: Research and Analysis of the Wirral Find
“The position and depth suggest it is very old, and it may even date from the Viking Age, when Meols was a vibrant seaport and Wirral hosted a large Scandinavian community,” stated Harding. Recent joint research with the University of Leicester has shown a high proportion of Y-chromosomal DNA of Scandinavian origin in the admixture of people from old families possessing surnames prior to 1600 in the area, which supports this possibility.
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The investigation of the buried Viking-era boat is a collaborative effort between the University of Nottingham, the University of Salford, the Wirral Archaeology Community Interest Company (CIC) and the Meols Medieval Village Preservation Society. The project is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which awarded a grant of £160,000 ($190,000) to fund the excavation and preservation of the boat.
The chemical analysis of the samples will be undertaken between laboratories at the University’s Sutton Bonington Campus, the British Geological Survey at Keyworth, the University of Oslo, and the NTH at Trondheim.
The excavation of the Viking-era boat poses an exciting opportunity for archaeologists to learn more about the history of the Wirral and its connections to Viking culture . The researchers hope that this find will shed light on the area's history during the early medieval period.
Top Image: Representational image of a Viking-era boat. Source: Noel Cook / Adobe Stock
By Sahir Pandey
Icke, J. 14 February 2023. “Nottingham scientists investigate an ancient boat buried under a pub car park” in University of Nottingham . Available at: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/news/nottingham-scientists-investigate-an-ancient-boat-buried-under-a-pub-car-park
Milligan, M. 15 February 2023. “Archaeologists Investigate Ancient Boat Buried Beneath Car Park” in Heritage Daily . Available at: https://www.heritagedaily.com/2023/02/archaeologists-investigate-ancient-boat-buried-beneath-car-park/146219
Manning, C. 7 February 2023. “Dig for lost viking boat to take place under Wirral pub car park” in WirralGlobe. Available at: https://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/23304220.dig-lost-viking-boat-take-place-wirral-pub-car-park/
Randall, I. 15 February 2023. “Mystery of ancient boat buried under pub car park set to be cracked after 85 years” in Daily Express . Available at: https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/1734973/ancient-viking-boat-nottingham-buried-pub-car-park-railway-inn-the-wirral
I’m glad they at least did NOT try to have us believe the boat was intentionally buried, or any silly nonsense like that. Initial question, is the boat intact or in a state of partial construction (not quite complete)? We do know that prior to the sudden emergence of the Ice Age (circa 115k BC) sea levels were hundreds of feet higher, which could explain the find. But fat chance they would date a wood core sample instead of the surface/sediment. Post Ice Age burials are a stretch – would require a catastrophic natural disaster or biblical flood, where no recovery efforts to salvage the boat were pursued. Just bear in mind the work it would have taken to construct the boat back then, using manual tools, time and labor; and so no boat merely run aground would have been abandoned.
Nobody gets paid to tell the truth.