CINCINNATI (AP) — A thousand years ago, the man marches into a thick forest outside of Oslo, Norway, ax in hand.
In the gentle curve of an oak tree trunk, he soon spots a plank. Then a timber in its solid, outstretched branch.
He sees a warship, a piece at a time. And his ax takes it. A piece at a time.
That’s what Viking imagination looked like: These ancient craftsmen almost unearthing fleets from the forest.
They found the trees that grew in shapes that fit the fast ship’s design. That way, they didn’t have to unnecessarily weaken it with carving and cutting. Its wood remained strong, flexible. Ready for the rough Scandinavian seas.
It’s partly because of this high-quality craftsmanship that we even could find the longest Viking vessel, that there is 25 percent of the once 122-foot-long vessel left today. And that the rowing boat, now called Roskilde 6, is at The Cincinnati Museum Center.
It’s one of four boats featured in “Vikings: Beyond the Legend,” which just opened. This is the first time Roskilde 6, discovered in 1996, has traveled to North America from the National Museum of Denmark. In addition to Roskilde 6, the exhibit features over 500 objects from the Swedish History Museum.
Using artifacts, interactive displays and reconstructions, “Vikings: Beyond the Legend” aims to dismantle inaccuracies and stereotypes surrounding these Norse seafarers who hailed from modern day Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
So the mission is to bring back to life that man who walked into the woods so many years ago. To tell his story and the story of a boat he built in 1025.
Actually, it’s the boat that he and a team of highly skilled workers construct, using axes and knives and drills to transform the wood of 18 oak trees.
It takes at least six months.
There are the blacksmiths there, too, who forge the ship’s iron nails. Each fits exactly into a drilled hole into the ship planks, the seats and mast. But the boat needs those who live off and with the land. The farmers.
They need the sheep that become the wool that becomes the ship’s sail. A sail that is more than 160 feet tall and wide, no less.
The hair from their horses is the rope raising the sail.
Once the armed crew of 100 boards, the wooden structure is now a warship.
It’s because of all of these people, all of these materials, that conservator Kristiane Straetkvern thinks Roskilde 6 belonged to a king. Her best guess? It was part of King Canute’s impressive fleet, his main weapon and source of power.
And he had a lot of power: He ruled the North Sea Empire, today’s Denmark, England, Norway and a part of Sweden, from around 995 to 1035.
It sank sometime after his death, at approximately 1050 in Roskilde, Denmark, and wouldn’t reappear until about 900 years later.
And when it did, it was by accident. Construction workers discovered it in a harbor there.
Right behind The Viking Ship Museum.
Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.enquirer.com
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