A Viking ship, which for 1,000 years has held the body of a chieftain, with his shield on his chest and his sword and spear by his side, has been excavated on a remote Scottish peninsula – the first undisturbed Viking ship burial found on the British mainland.
The timbers of the ship found on the Ardnamurchan peninsula – the mainland’s most westerly point – rotted into the soil centuries ago, like most of the bones of the man whose coffin it became.
However the outline of the classic Viking boat, with its pointed prow and stern, remained. Its form is pressed into the soil and its lines traced by hundreds of rivets, some still attached to scraps of wood.
An expert on Viking boats, Colleen Batey from the University of Glasgow, dates it to the 10th century.
At just 5m long and 1.5m wide, it would have been a perilously small vessel for crossing the stormy seas between Scandinavia, Scotland and Ireland. But the possessions buried with him suggest the Viking was a considerable traveller.
They include a whetstone from Norway, a bronze ringpin from Ireland, his sword with beautifully decorated hilt, a spear and a shield which survive only as metal fittings, and pottery.
He also had a knife, an axe, and a bronze object thought to be part of a drinking horn. Dozens of iron fragments, still being analysed, were also found in the boat.
The peninsula in the Highlands is still easier to reach by sea than along the single narrow road.
But with its magnificent mountain, sea and sunset views, it was a special place for burials for thousands of years.
The oldest, excavated by the same team three years ago, was a 6,000-year-old neolithic grave, and a bronze age burial mound is nearby.