This hands-on, interdisciplinary project got its start in the fall of 2005. After the success of our two previous projects, the Viking Cargo Boat and the Medieval Cart, we decided to try one last project from the Medieval Period.
Again we turned to Arne Emil Christensen and the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway. He and the museum supplied us with plans for two sleds as well as historical information.
The Gokstad ship is part of a burial site that was excavated in 1880 on the coast of the Oslo Fiord. The ship had been pulled ashore and was let down in a trench. A dead man had been placed in a burial chamber built amidship. Equipment for the ship including three small boats, horse trappings and a sled were also found on board. More than ten horses were sacrificed and placed in the trench as well. Analysis of the year-rings of the oak has shown the ship was built about 895 and buried 10-15 years later. The sled which was found with the ship is believed to be of the same age.
The Gokstad sled was constructed of oak and was an ornamental, grave-good sled. It measures 7 feet 5 inches long, 34 inches wide and 20 inches high. No traces of paint have been recorded and no sled box was found. The sled, however, did contain carvings.
The Oseberg ship was found in 1904 in a burial mound located on a farm in Slagen, Norway. A burial chamber was built into the stern of the ship and held the remains of a young girl and an old woman. The grave contained many artifacts including four sleds, an ornate cart, saddle, and the remains of more than 10 horses, oxen, cows, tents, beds and other domestic items. Analysis of the year-rings of the wood has shown the ship was built in the years 815-820 and buried 15-20 years later. The sled which was found with the ship is believed to be of the same age.
The Oseberg sled was constructed of beech and was a simple, working farm sled. It measures 7 feet 5 inches long, 34 inches wide and 32 inches high. No traces of paint or carvings were found on the sled, but it included the sled box.
A sturdy and well built sled would be able to carry a load of about 1000 pounds on firm winter snow and about 600 pounds on summer grassland. It would be pulled by two horses about the size of present day Icelandic horses.
In addition to the information supplied by Arne Emil Christensen and the Viking Ship Museum, we have also been able to obtain technical support from Dodie Sable and Raynor Leiby.
Arne Emil Christensen is the retired head of the Viking Ship Museum and professor emeritus of the Kulturhistorisk Museum with the University of Oslo. He has helped us with sled plans and various sled building suggestions. Dodie Sable is the owner of New Promise Farms. She along with Raynor Leiby of Leiby’s Carriage Service helped with various suggestions on horse harness attachments to the sleds. Without the help of these talented individuals our sleds would still be an idea.
Our goal for this project is to successfully replicate the Gokstad and Oseberg sleds and then drive the Oseberg sled with a 600 pound load around the football field.
The Oseberg sled will be donated to the Swedish American Museum Center in Chicago, Illinois, while the Gokstad sled will be donated to the Saga Museum in Reykjavik, Iceland.
*Statement by Edward Eisenhuth*
Works Cited & Consulted
Christensen, Arne Emil. The Earliest Ships: The Evolution of Boats Into Ships. Havertown, Pennsylvania: Casemate Publishers and Book Distributors, LLC, 2004.
Paine, Lincoln P. Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia. Boston/New York:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997.
Minersville Area School District, P.O. Box 787, Minersville, PA 17954
Alcoa Engineered Products
Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Pottsville
Fairlane Village Mall
Frew Brothers, Inc.
First National Bank of Minersville
James W. Quandel & Sons, Inc. Ready Mix Concrete
John Hester Embroidery & Screen Printing
Kent Eisenhuth Media
Lowe’s Home Centers
Minersville Business and Professional Association
New Promise Farms
Penske Truck Leasing
PPL Electric Utilities
Siegel Lumber Company
Tredegar Film Products
Wegmans Retail Service Center
Mrs. Elizabeth Farrell, Project Secretary
Mrs. Annie Buzalko, Sled Signs
Leandra Martin, Gokstad Carvings
Nicole Schultz, Sled Banners
Minersville Area Sled Builders: Samantha Barnes, Shawn Barto, Mike Doyle, Dane Farrell, Sarah Guthrie, Ashli Hubler, Matt Joy, Alex Kalinich, Rory Lipsett, Allison Malusky, Leandra Martin, Dave Mullin, Matt Quinn, Adam Saurazas, Nicole Schultz, Meghan Shimksy, Brittany Slane, Greg Tatusko, Kristen Tellez, Autumn Umberger, Tony Vasura and Matt Weisbeck.
Darlene Robbins, President, Northeast Pennsylvania Manufacturers & Employers Association
Leiby's Carriage Service, Horse Driving Team
Mrs. Diane Rugg, Crate Lettering
Kent Eisenhuth Media, Website Updates
Pennsylvania Department of Education, Sled Transportation Donation
Alcoa Engineered Products & Billig Trucking, Inc., Oseberg Sled Transportation to Chicago
Swedish American Museum Center, Permanent Home of the Oseberg Sled
Teresa Ward, Jade International, Inc., Shipping of the Gokstad Sled to Iceland
Saga Museum, Permanent Home of the Gokstad Sled