In 2008 traces of two Pre-Viking Age ships along with skeletons and prehistoric items were discovered in Salme in Saaremaa. These findings are unique for the large number of the buried (a total of 41 fallen warriors) and the lavish grave goods. The burial ships in Salme are unique in Estonia and have been deemed the most significant unearthing of Viking history in the last decades. Their uniqueness is not only important for Estonia and has gained attention in Europe and beyond. One could argue that this discovery has rewritten Viking history and brought to light new information about Viking raids.
Research has now lasted 10 years has reached its end. The findings from the ships in Salme have returned to Saaremaa and will be put on display on 21 May 2021 at the exhibition ‘Vikings before Vikings’ in Saaremaa Museum. In cooperation with the University of Uppsala there will be an international conference ‘Vikings before Vikings’ taking place in Kuressaare on 6.-7. May 2022.
Findings from the Viking ship in Salme will be displayed for the first time at the exhibition in Saaremaa Museum // Photos: Maanus Masing / Saarte Hääl
The ship burials in Salme are scientifically unique. The findings unearthed from the ships – Norse swords, whalebone game pieces, remains of shields, spearheads and so on, buried alongside the dead – are extraordinary in the context of Estonia and neighbouring regions. The scientific significance of the findings is only now being realised. These prehistoric ships have gained much attention from communities across Europe. They’ve been a popular tourist attraction for Saaremaa ever since the first shipwreck was uncovered in 2008. Today tourists can visit the locations of the ships, which have been fitted with a concrete sculpture and an information board. Since 2011 three wooden statues of ancient warriors stand by the Salme River, staring over the river at the location of the prehistoric ship, where the other 42 warriors are buried.
Author: Taniel Vares, Saaremaa muuseum