The boat from Nydam

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Nydam Mose or Nydam Bog was an important place in ancient day where the locals would go and give sacrifices to the gods. One of these sacrifices were a large boat called the Nydam Boat and it is one of the best preserved early examples of Scandinavian boat building style which would be perfected a few centuries later when the Viking long ship were the best vessel seen in the North Atlantic up till this time and for several centuries after. Unlike the Viking ship this early boat didn’t have a sail so the crew would have to use the ore to take it across the sea. But it was a good vessel which could easily navigate the sea around Denmark in the North Sea or the Baltic Sea.

The building housing the Nydam Boat

The same type of boats were probably the ones which took the Anglers, Saxon and Jyder across the North Sea during the great migration of 5th and 6th century when England was colonized by the people of the continent to form the present population called the Anglo-Saxons.

Model of Nydam Boat with the ores.

The boat was built around 320 but it didn’t have a long life as a war vessel since it was sacrifices in 345 as part of an offering of spoils of war where the local army had defeated an enemy army of a fairly large size. There were at least 6 different offerings of the spoils of war at Nydam between 200 and 450 AD making the bog one of the best archeological treasures of weapons from this era. But the boat was the most important find.

A smaller boat found in Schleswig dating to around year 200

There have been several excavations in Nydam but the first major excavation took place from 1859 and continued until 1863 when it was suddenly stopped due to the breakout of war between Denmark and Prussia. This excavation produced many important findings including 3 boats – unfortunately two of these boats were lost during the confusion of the war – only the large Nydam boat survived the struggles.

The boat was placed in Flensborg in 1863 when it was restored – after the war the border changed and Flensborg was no longer an integral part of Denmark but had become a part of Prussia and in 1871 the German empire. The boat was lost for Denmark even though it had been an important part of the early history of the people of Denmark who lived in this area.

The boat was moved to Kiel in 1877 and remained here until the fall of 1941 when it was moved because of the many air raids on Kiel and other German cities. The German leader ship did consider this an important early find from the Aryan homeland so it had to be preserved for the future. It turned out to be prudent they moved the boat since the building it had been displayed in burned down during an air raid in May 1944.

After the war the ship was moved to a building next to the Gottrop Castle in Schleswig and it is still on display at this museum where you can go and see it today. The boat is 23 meter long and 3.5 meters wide and could transport a total of 45 men of which 36 had to row the boat to quickly get to the battle field.

You will notice a big ore at the end of the boat which was used for steering the boat. This ore is always placed on the right side of Scandinavian boats and is called styreåren. This ancient word has become an integral part of the naval language as the right side of the ship is called styrbord side in Danish or starboard in English basically just a slight transformation of this ancient Nordic name for the side of the ship where you had the old steering ore in ancient times.

Ancient finds

The boat is very well preserved and is one of the most interesting ancient Scandinavian boats you will find anywhere in the world. So it is well worth going to visit this old boat – and you can go and see the castle next door as well on the same ticket.

The steering ore

After all the hardship of the boat it finally came to visit its old homeland in 2003 when it was lend to the National Museet in Copenhagen and was part of a special exhibition for a year before it was returned to Gottrop Castle.

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