Back around the year 900 anno domini, a very wealthy Norse man was buried with a full panoply of grave goods. These included the Gokstad ship—79 feet long, 17 feet wide, and could hold a maximum crew of 70 people—and also included three smaller boats: a 6-oared boat (seksring), a 4-oared boat (faering) and another boat which is rarely described in the literature because it was not as well preserved as the other two.
The Skogar Þrostur is based on the Gokstad faering boat.
Along with his own small armada, the man in the Gokstad grave was buried with many more goods to see him into the next world:
- Five bed frames
- 64 round shields, tied in place on a shield rack. The shields were painted alternating black and yellow and there were two of them for each oar port.
- A wooden sledge
- A 750 litre wooden cask for water, buckets, and kitchen gear
- The verge boards (uprights) for an A-frame Viking tent
- Three iron fishhooks
- What might be a back pack—possibly for hunting.
- A two-sided game board made of oak with playing pieces made of horn.
- Pieces of horse harness
- Six cups and a plate made of wood
- Twelve horses
- Six dogs
- The earliest known Peacock found in Northern Europe
What wasn’t found:
- No sword
- No jewelry
- No gold
- No silver
The grave was robbed of such things long before archeologists excavated the ship.
So what can we deduce from this? The man in the grave was probably a King. Maybe Olaf Gudrødsson from Vestfold who, according to the Heimskringla, died about then.
The Norse had portable, knock-down beds. And tents. They used sledges to get around on the snow, with horses to pull them. Even very wealthy men liked to fish and play board games. He might even have liked to cook, though most people think the cooking gear was part of the camping goods. The Norse may have liked to hunt for sport—-the possible back pack has a drawing of what may be a deer and is certainly a dog on the lid. Not to mention the 6 dogs sacrificed to follow him into death. They imported things, probably even live peacocks, from vast distances.
And most stunningly of all, they built breathtakingly beautiful ships. The lines of the Gokstad Ship are the most beautiful, classic, simple, and proportioned I have ever seen. Vast numbers of stylized representation of not only Viking ships, but of ships in general, use the Gokstad prow as a model. Stunning.