viking ship museum, oslo

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1100 years ago some bored Viking carved outline of his foot on ship deck. Found in Gokstadt ship, Norway

The Gokstad Ship was excavated in the late 1800s and is a permanent feature of the Viking Ship Museum at Bygdøy in Oslo.

For about a decade, from 890 to 900, the ship sailed on ocean voyages. The holes cut for oars along the upper hull are well worn, evidence that the ship had been used for more than just a funeral ceremony.

The ship’s deck was fitted with loose floorboards. These could be lifted up so that supplies and plundered treasure could be stored below deck. The outline of a foot covers two of these floorboards. There are two outlines of feet on the Gokstad Ship. One is a distinct right foot. The other is a weaker outline of a left foot on a different floorboard.The ship was buried on land in a massive grave and the loose floorboards were helter-skelter when it was excavated. So we don’t know whether the planks with left and right feet had been originally next to each other or had been the capricious result of two separate individuals.


Hanne Lovise Aannestad of the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo has measured one of her own feet against a tracing of the carved outline – because no one can actually step on the fragile floorboard, of course. The foot was smaller than hers, and even though people were generally shorter in the Viking days, this was probably a little person.