Oslo (AFP)

Norway launched work on Friday to excavate a Viking ship, the first to be unearthed in the country for over 100 years, a rare discovery that may help increase knowledge about that era.

Buried about 50 cm underground in a mound covering a Viking burial, the boat of Gjellestad, named after the locality where it rests in the south-east of the kingdom, had been detected in 2018 thanks to a ground-penetrating radar.

The remains being in a very bad state according to the first observations, the Norwegian authorities decided to uncover them quickly before a complete deterioration.

Only three Viking ships in good condition have been discovered in the past in Norway, the last excavation going back to 1904 with the boat from Oseberg. All three are now on display in a museum near Oslo.

"With so few boats discovered, a new Viking boat will have a great impact on the understanding of the boats themselves, but will also provide valuable information to understand the whole historical period," said archaeologist Knut Paasche of the Norwegian Institute for Research on Cultural Heritage (Niku), in a press release.

In the age of the Vikings during which these warriors and merchants from Northern Europe furrowed the seas between the 8th and 11th centuries, it was customary to bury kings and dignitaries aboard a boat hoisted ashore and buried, with objects, under a mound.

"The Gjellestad boat is a discovery of exceptional national and international importance," said Culture Minister Sveinung Rotevatn, who gave the first shovel, in a separate statement.

The excavation work should last five months, according to archaeologists.

© 2020 AFP