A thousand years ago, for reasons we will never know, the residents of a tiny farmstead on the coast of central Norway filled an old well with dirt.
Maybe the water dried up, or maybe it became foul. But when archaeologists found the old well and dug it up in the summer of 2016, they discovered an unexpected surprise: a carefully carved toy, a wooden boat with a raised prow like a proud Viking ship, and a hole in the middle where a mast could have been stepped.
“This toy boat says something about the people who lived here,” said Ulf Fransson, an archaeologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) University Museum and one of two field leaders for the Ørland Main Air Station dig, where the well and the boat were found.
“First of all, it is not so very common that you find something that probably had to do with a child. But it also shows that the children at this farm could play, that they had permission to do something other than work in the fields or help around the farm.”
The story of a small farm
Finding a 1000-year-old Scandinavian toy boat is not that common, but it's not that uncommon either. In fact, a similar boat, in both age and construction, was found in downtown Trondheim in 1900, when the road in front of what is now the Trondheim Main Public Library was dug up to install sewer pipes.
The finds from the city at that time included a big spoon, different handles, pegs made of wood and “a little boat,” according to the acquisitions list. This particular boat is even on display at the NTNU University Museum.
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