Nothing to find

That mound is only mother nature’s work, the experts said for many years. But one day in 1944, Erling Johansen is on his way from Fredrikstad to the neighbouring town, Halden. He works as a plumber but has begun to take an interest in traces of earlier times. The train slows down, and Johansen looks out the window. When he passes the field named Viksletta, he suddenly sees a high and exciting mound of earth.

Shortly after, Erling visits the farmer who owns the field to investigate this case.

“Don`t you know?” the farmer said, surprised. “That mound is Jellhaugen, where King Jell rests in his ship!” This local legend has been known for a while amongst the farmers.

This event might very well have been the spark that ignited Johansen’s interest in archaeology. In record time, he learns the subject of archaeology and gets a comet career in the professional community.

But the years go by, and only in 1968 does he finally start the excavations at Jellhaugen. Inside, he finds traces of a simple tomb, and later carbon dating shows that the tomb is from between 426-598 AD – that is, before the Viking Age.

Johansen understands that he is on the trail of something big: Jellhaugen bears resemblance with Oseberghaugen and Tuneskiphaugen. The same technique as with these two ship burial mounds.

On the other hand, the investigations showed that there have been grave robbers on the site in the ninth century, and Johansen must settle down with the fact that any ship remains must have been dug up and eroded by the ravages of time.

Erling Johansen (1919 – 2000)

But what was initially presumed to be an art of nature has turned out to be Norway`s second-largest grave mound. An oval mound. Eighty meters in diameter and 13 meters high. Unfortunately, the lucky plumber did not live long enough to see the famous Gjellestad ship, found with ground-penetrating radar in 2018, a few meters away from this mound. Not only that, a whole community and a large grave field lies there too. Quite cool. From nothing to find to this. That is science.

Join the intriguing journey to Gjellestad and experience what the archaeologists discovered. Click the green button below.

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