*Special thanks to sci-news.com for this:
Archaeologists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) University Museum have uncovered a toy boat dating back as far as 1153 AD in an abandoned well in Ørland, Norway.
“A thousand years ago, for reasons we will never know, the residents of a tiny farmstead on the coast of central Norway filled an old well with dirt,” the scientists said.
“Maybe the water dried up, or maybe it became foul. But when we found the old well and dug it up in the summer of 2016, we discovered an unexpected surprise: a carefully carved toy, a wooden boat with a raised prow like a proud Viking ship, and a hole in the middle where a mast could have been stepped.”
“This toy boat says something about the people who lived here,” added NTNU University Museum archaeologist Dr. Ulf Fransson, one of two field leaders for the Ørland Main Air Station dig, where the well and the boat were found.
“First of all, it is not so very common that you find something that probably had to do with a child. But it also shows that the children at this farm could play, that they had permission to do something other than work in the fields or help around the farm.”
Finding a 850-year-old Scandinavian toy boat is not that common, but it’s not that uncommon either.
In fact, a similar boat, in both age and construction, was found in downtown Trondheim in 1900. The finds from the city at that time included a big spoon, different handles, pegs made of wood and a little boat.
But in the Middle Ages, Trondheim was already established as a trading post and a city, one that was the nation’s capital during the Viking Age until 1217.
The concentration of people, and the wealth generated by trade almost certainly ensured that at least some children had the time and ability to play — and thus toys, like the boat, to play with.
“The find from Ørland, however, is very different. The Middle Age farm here is far from the sea, it is not that strategically located. There are other farms in Ørland that were better located,” said NTNU University Museum archaeologist Dr. Ingrid Ystgaard, head of the entire Ørland Main Air Base project.
“Thus, this medieval farm was probably not the richest farm in the area, far from it. Yet life here was good enough so that someone had time to carve the toy boat for a child. And the child had time to play with it.”
“Boats were among the most technologically advanced objects made in the Middle Ages,” Dr. Fransson said.
“If you built a Viking ship or a knarr (a type of boat), both children and adults would have thought it was very important, it was very specialized construction.”
“This is a ‘real’ boat. You don’t have to do this much work to make a toy for a child. Whoever made it worked to make something that also looked like a boat.”
“A realistic looking toy boat would thus have been perceived as really cool, just like kids today think that race cars or planes are really cool.”