New stems for the Gokstad ship

What did the Gokstad stems originally look like? This was among the problems that had to be considered by ship reconstructor Vibeke Bishoff at the Roskilde museum. Fortunately, there are examples to be found.

The Gokstad stems as they appear at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo today are reconstructions. The originals had rotted away long before the 1880 excavation, and knowledge about Viking ship construction was rather limited at the time.

Today we know a lot more, and most experts agree that the reconstructed stems are wrong. So what shape did the originals have, and how were they attached to the hull planks?

After much research and many discussions Vibeke has come up with a solution; one that we intend to follow when building “our” Gokstad ship. Please see the attached drawings and photos.

Vibeke explains: “The type of stem comes from the Synnanå-find in Norway. It fits surprisingly well into the Gokstad hull. In their 1950 publication “The Viking Ships” professors Brøgger and Shetelig recommend this stem for Gokstad. Arne Emil Christensen used the same stem for his own drawings.

On the other side of the Oslo fiord, a textile fragment was discovered with the Tune ship. The fragment shows a similar stem, dating from around 900 A.D. – as does the Gokstad ship.