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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Knarr – The Oldest Norse Merchant Ship

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A Knarr was a vessel used for cargo storage – it was a cargo ship that had a wide hull and was deeper and shorter than the standard longship. The reason for this was for it to store more cargo and for much smaller crews to operate it.

The meaning of Knarr in Old Norse is a type of ship built for long sea voyages and it was used during the famous Viking expansion.

The ship on average was around 16 meters and a beam of 5 meters. It could carry up to 24 tons and if compared to the cog – the difference was huge. But it was mostly used to transport various goods like wool, timber, wheat, furs, etc.

It was also used as a supply for food or support the warriors or traders that went on long expeditions. Various livestock was carried on these ships so it could be transported to the colonies of Iceland, Greenland and Vinland.

There are very little archeological findings of the knarr, only one has been found so far in the channel in Roskilde Fjord in Denmark. It was among two warships and a ferryboat. There were five ships found in total and they are displayed in the museum in Roskilde.


Greenhill, Basil (1976) Archaeology of the Boat

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