The ship, thought to be from the Vendel era (550-793) of Swedish prehistory, was found in Sunnerby on the island of Kållandsö in Lake Vänern in central Sweden and, according to Lake Vänern Museum, is the only known ship burial to be uncovered in Sweden.
Archaeologists from Lake Vänern Museum and Gothenburg University are busy excavating the find which includes equipment, gifts and animal sacrifices.
“In Sunnerby, the number of boat rivets found so far indicate that there is a ship hidden in the Kungshögen mound, that is to say a vessel of more than 10 metres and possibly up to 20 metres in length,” the museum writes in a statement.
The ship is a burial vessel and the museum reports that only people in the highest echelons of society were afforded such a grand farewell. The museum compares the find to the important Sutton Hoo ship burial find in south east England, though archaeologists believe the Swedish find is unlikely to yield as many significant artifacts as the Suffolk ship.
The ship would have been loaded with the deceased, animal sacrifices, equipment and gifts and the whole vessel set alight in a huge funeral pyre.
Annelie Nitenberg and Anna Nyqvist Thorsson, archaeologists at Lake Vänern Museum, hope that the Kungshögen find will help to shed light on Vendel era cultural life by Sweden’s largest lake.
Previously, Vendel era society had been understood to be focused in Uppland and the Mälardalen regions of central Sweden rather than further south on the shores of Vänern, Europe’s third largest lake with an area measuring 5,648 square kilometres.
The excavation of the Kungshögen find will now continue until October. After a break for the winter the work will resume in 2010.