A Viking Ship on Display at the City Museum of Oslo
The Viking Age (793 - 1066 C.E.) was the time of the sleek, agile longship. Through the Vikings' advanced ship technology they became the dominant force in medieval warfare, politics, and trade.
The dragon-headed ships of the vikings (like the one pictured above) were known as Drekar. They were quickly made (about 2 to 3 weeks) and could cross open oceans with their large square sail or oar up and down rivers to be able to attack with speed never before seen in Medieval Europe. Their ships far surpassed the ships of the English and the Frankish. With their powerful navy, the Vikings won large territories from the North of England to the North of Africa.
With the success of their navy, the Vikings soon created many other kinds of ships that could aid them in more that just concurring. Among the new ships that the Vikings created there was the Knarr, a ship that could carry cargo and cross oceans. This ship enabled to Vikings to be able to establish colonies in Iceland, Greenland, and America. The Knarr, while similar to the Drekar, was higher and wider in length and had cargo desks installed.
With their powerful navy, the Vikings believed that they could get anywhere with their boats. Therefore, the Viking Ships were an important part of their burial rituals. To the Vikings, the ship symbolized safe passage to the afterlife. Each ship in preparation was securely moored, and anchored to protect the corpse's body. The ship was also filled with their belongings and other things that the Vikings believed would help them in the afterlife.
"Thus he [Odin] established by law that all dead men [men in terms of mankind, this included women] should be burned, and their belongings laid with them upon the pile, and the ashes be cast into the sea or buried in the earth. Thus, said he, every one will come to Valhalla with the riches he had with him upon the pile; and he would also enjoy whatever he himself had buried in the earth. For men of consequence a mound should be raised to their memory, and for all other warriors who had been distinguished for manhood a standing stone; which custom remained long after Odin's time."
The above passage describes the Viking Mythology behind the burial ritual. It describes how the deceased was first burned with their belongings so that they may take them with them to the afterlife and then was either buried or cast out to sea in a boat.
Ships were an integral part of life for the Vikings and through their technology were the masters of the water during the Viking Age, an age that last for over 200 years.