Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Viking Monuments and Sites / Vestfold Ship Burials and Hyllestad Quernstone Quarries

Date of Submission: 10/01/2011
Criteria: (iii)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Royal Ministry of Environment of Norway
State, Province or Region:
Vestfold Ship Burials: Horten, Tønsberg and Sandefjord municipalities in Vestfold county Hyllestad Quernstone Quarries: Hyllestad municipality in Sognog Fjordane county
Ref.: 5577

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Part of transnational serial nomination - Viking Monuments and Sites


The Viking serial nomination comprises land-, sea- and townscapes stretching from the North Atlantic to the Baltic Sea. Among the thousands of Viking sites from the eighth to the twelfth centuries AD, these nine nominated properties from six nations are outstanding examples representing the wide diversity of this early maritime culture.

In the Viking Age the Norse peoples - the Vikings - developed a maritime culture which had an enormous impact on Northern Europe and beyond. Within Scandinavia the Viking Period witnessed the transformation from tribal to state societies and a change of religions. The three Christian kingdoms that developed from this transformation, and out of which the present Nordic States evolved, were by the end of the Viking Age an integral part of Europe. Thus, in modem times, Viking culture has contributed significantly to the creation of cultural coherence, symbolic values and cultural identity in the Nordic region, and it continues to hold immense public appeal world-wide. This culture and its heritage developed in close interaction within a unique natural environment. It is composed of distinctive urban landscapes and monuments. The culture also produced one of the world's great literatures: the Sagas. Eddic poetry and runic inscriptions.

Harnessing the technology of the ship, Vikings used the sea for expansion, exploration, long-distance trade and overseas settlement. The travels of the Vikings brought them across the Baltic Sea and own the Russian rivers as far as the Black and Caspian Seas to Byzantium and the Caliphate of Baghdad, as well as west out into the Atlantic. They were the first to settle in Iceland and the first Europeans to reach Greenland and North America about 1000 AD. In so doing, the Vikings were the first people to succeed in opening routes across the northern hemisphere from North America to Asia, thus connecting different cultural regions of the earth. Adapted to very diverse types of natural environments, success was on the one hand in the use of regional resources and on the other hand in the development of social and political systems. This combination formed the basis for a rich cultural region. Internally, Scandinavia witnessed an economic, religious and social transformation aided by a boom in internal and cross-cultural communication during the Viking period. New institutions were developed, smaller regions were merged into larger units and the Scandinavians took part in European development on a larger scale. Scandinavia at the time of King Knut, in the early 11th century, was vastly different from the Scandinavia that was visited by the missionary Ansgar in the early 9th century.

The component parts cover a wide temporal and spatial range. They are of exceptional quality and diversity. They include trading towns, harbors, defensive structures. production sites, burial monuments, and assembly sites. Viewed as a whole these sites bear witness to the extent of Viking social and cultural development.


1. Vestfold Ship Burials

Borre N6S91415 E242865

Oseberg N6583173 E240877

Gokstad N656S400 E 228539 (Zone 33)

The Vestfold Ship Burials consist of three sites: Borre cemetery in Horten municipality, Oseberg ship burial in Tensberg and Gokstad ship burial in Sandefjord municipality. They are situated in the county of Vestfold on the west side of the Oslo fjord, south east Norway. The Vestfold region has the highest concentration of monumental burials in Viking Scandinavia. Their location in a coastal landscape along one of the main sailing routes reflects the maritime focus of the period.

The Borre cemetery consists of nine large and many small burial mounds and cairns over an area of 182.000m². Some of the mounds have a diameter of more are more than 4Sm and a height up to 6m. In 1852 the very first Viking ship was excavated here. Little of the ship remained and the mound was later removed, but objects found in the grave show artistic craftsmanship of the highest quality with beautiful animal and knot ornaments in what later was called the Borre style. In addition to the excavation of the ship grave. limited excavations have been performed in two of the large mounds.

The Gokstad mound was excavated in 1880 and supplied the first well-preserved Viking ship. The large amount ofadditional artefacts in wood and other materials, buried with a middle-aged man who had died in battle, gave unique insights in Viking culture.

The excavation of the Oseberg mound in t904 revealed that two females had been buried with a ship, a wagon. four sledges, all of them decorated with wood carvings of extraordinary quality. Besides, the wide variety of other artefacts, many of them unique occurrences, bear testimony of a refined aristocratic lifestyle. The ship found in Oseberg is the best preserved Viking ship, and the Oseberg finds are widely celebrated and have achieved iconic status worldwide.

After excavations the Oseberg and Gokstad mounds were restored and the ships and artefacts were displayed at the Viking Ships Museum in Oslo together with the finds from the Borre ship grave. The Vestfold Ship Burials add significantly to the understanding of Viking age and the ship's mythological and symbolic role in life and death in Viking culture.

2. Hyllestad Quernstone Quarries

N6810014 E20551 (zone 32)

Hyllestad Quernstone Quarries are located on the west coast of Norway, on the northern side at the outlet of the Sogne fjord in Hyllestad municipality, Sognog Fjordane county.

The natural condition for the quemstone production was the occurrence of a special type of rock: kyanitegarnet-muscovite-schist which lies along the north and eastem side of the Afjord. About 370 quarries are scattered over an area of about 27 km². Within this area clusters of quarries are scattered. Some places are so clustered with quarries and heaps of production waste that the original landscape is completely changed. Today the landscape is partly overgrown with bushes, but remains from quarrying are left untouched and found almost everywhere.

The Hyllestad Quemstone Quarries testify to the mass-production and bulk-trade which emerged in the Viking Age. Quarrying seems to have started in the eighth century on a scale designed to meet local needs. Towards the end of the Viking Age, production was taken to industrial levels and this continued into the following centuries. The change from small-scale to industrial production bears witness to the refinement of logistical organization and economic growth of the Viking Age. The stone from the quarries in Hyllestad is easily recognizable. and quernstones have been distributed in wide-ranging trade networks. They are found in large quantities in Denmark and Sweden and also in several towns and settlements elsewhere in northern Europe.

The coastal location of the Hyllestad Quarries demonstrates the significance of maritime communication so essential to Viking culture.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Criterion (iii)

The selection of sites bears an exceptional testimony to a unique cultural tradition in which the ship became the essential feature. Due to the natural environment of lakes, rivers and sea the use of waterways and the development of navigational skills had a long tradition. In the Viking Age ship technology was taken to a new level. Vikings were the first to settle in Iceland and the first Europeans to reach Greenland and North America about 1000 AD. In so doing, the Vikings were the first people to succeed in opening routes across the North Atlantic to North America and eastward to the Russian Plain and Byzantium, connecting continents and cultural regions. Internally, Scandinavia witnessed an economic, religious and social transformation aided by a boom in internal and cross-cultural communication during the Viking period. The component parts represent key attributes of Viking culture while the ship is the common feature throughout. In modem times, Viking culture has contributed significantly to the creation of cultural coherence, symbolic values and cultural identity in the Nordic region, and it continues to hold immense public appeal world-wide. The component parts demonstrate clearly the key features; expansion, cultural communication and a strong narrative tradition past and present.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

1. The Vestfold Ship Burials

Vestfold Ship Burials are well-preserved archaeological sites and structures of the Viking age. The mounds at Oseberg and Gokstad are partly excavated and then restored, while several of the Borre mounds have not been touched since the Viking Age. All three sites have a significant potential for supplying new scientific information.

The State Party has endeavored intensively and successfully in recent decades to preserve these historical-archaeological sites and to care for them with lasting effect.

2. Hyllestad Quernstone Quarries

Hyllestad Quemstone Quarries are exceptionally well-preserved archaeological sites with a high degree of authenticity. Only a limited number of small scale archaeological investigations have been undertaken, and no reconstruction has been carried out. The State Party has endeavored intensively and successfully in recent decades to preserve this historical-archaeological site and to care for it with lasting effect.

Comparison with other similar properties


The transnational project unites properties already appointed as Viking Age World Heritage with the newly nominated sites of Danevirke and Hedeby as well as Grobina, the Danish fortresses, the Vestfold Ship Burials and Hyllestad Quemstone Quarries. They all rank among the most important historical places in the Viking Age and have moreover, as archaeological sites, contributed essential insights into Scandinavian culture of this period. In this period the Nordic region developed from being a peripheral zone of Europe to being an integrated component of the Christian West. Of exceptional value is the good condition of preservation displayed by the project's combined monuments, ideally complemented by Iceland's rich supply of written records and by other outstanding archaeological finds such as the ships from Gokstad and Oseberg. Corresponding nominations for the period between the 8th and the 12th century AD have to date not been represented on the World Heritage List.

1. The Vestfold Ship Burials

The earliest ship burial in Northern Europe is the Sutton Hoo grave from East Anglia in England, from the early 7th century. The earliest such graves in Scandinavia, built c.780-90, are Storhaug and Grenhaug at Avaldsnes in South-Western Norway. From then on until the most recent ones in the early 10th century, ship burials in Northern Europe are a distinct Viking feature. From written and artefactual evidence we know that ship burials were not uncommon. But from no other region in the Viking worl d are they so numerous, magnificent and well preserved as from Vestfold.

The ship mound in Rolvse}' in East Norway where the Tune ship was found is destroyed and the Avaldsnes mounds are poorly preserved and their authenticity is corrupted by roads and modem buildings.

Even though there are some other extraordinary burial sites in Scandinavia like Lindholm Haje, Gamla Uppsala, Ladby and Jelling, the Vestfold ship burials form a memorial landscape that also holds a major symbolic role in modem times.

2. Hyllestad Quernstone Quarries

In the late Viking Age several types of production reached an industrial level aimed at long-distance trade. The remains are particular copious from the production of iron from bog ore, quern stones, whetstone, soapstone, and reindeer hunting. No production sites from any of these types of industrial production have neither the scale and the authenticity of the Hyllestad quarries nor the maritime connection, the feature that links the sites in this serial nomination, as evident as in Hyllestad.

Quarries of soapstone, like the ones in Kvikne, Piggåsen in Akershus and Solerudbruddet in Østfold, are either rather small or the remains from Viking age quarrying are more or less removed by more recent quarrying. The latter is also the case with the famous whetstone quarries in Eidsborg in Telemark. No iron extraction site or reindeer trapping system has the extent of the Hyllestad quarries and -they do not convey the industrial character of the activity, its products and the method of production as clearly. In Hyllestad failed products are lying scattered around, the numerous small quarries are very visible, as are the huge heaps of wasted stone.

Around 14 sites with quern stone quarries can be found in Norway, the largest ones in Selbu, Brønnøy, Vågå and Saltdal in addition to the Hyllestad quarries. Only the Saltdal quarries in Nordland date back to the Viking Age. The production in the Saltdal quarries was conducted on a much smaller scale than in Hyllestad, and the trade-networks and distribution of the stones were not as far reaching.

In Germany, Rhineland, there was a large production of basalt quernstones in Mayen. Of these quarries little is left from the Viking Age. There is also a large quernstone quarry in Malung, Sweden, but this was not as widely traded as the stones from Hyllestad.