London - Judging from the opulence of his tomb, he was a revered Viking warrior destined to take his place in Valhalla among the honoured dead.
Laid to rest in a 17ft boat with his sword, axe and bronze drinking horn, the powerful Norseman’s burial site has been discovered by archaeologists in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands.
The grave, unearthed in Ardnamurchan, is the first of its kind to be found intact on the British mainland and is thought to date from 1,000AD - the height of the “Second Viking Age”.
For almost 200 years, from the end of the eighth century until the reign of Alfred the Great, Danish and Norwegian pirates had harassed and looted the British coast at will, and towards the end of that period moved further inland in a war of conquest.
But in the 870s, Alfred - and later his descendants - united England against the Viking invaders, driving them out of their English strongholds and back to Scandinavia.
They did not return for more than a century, and when they did, peace was shattered.
The Anglo-Saxons, by now ruled by the hapless Aethelred the Unready, were once again put to the sword, and huge amounts of money and goods were extorted from the native population in the form of Danegeld - a tax raised by the Vikings.
By 1016, the conquest was completed when Canute became the first Danish king of all England.
It is from this period that the tomb dates, and its elaborate contents show how wealthy the Vikings had become. Many were converting to Christianity at the time, but from the artefacts laid to rest alongside him, it is clear this nobleman had been firmly committed to the old Norse religion.
The burial site is around 17ft long and 5ft wide - the same size as the Viking vessel the warrior was buried in, which has almost completely rotted away. Only some 200 metal rivets used to hold the boat together remain, with tiny splinters of wood attached.
Buried with him was an axe, a sword with a beautifully decorated hilt, a spear, a shield boss, a bronze ring-pin and pottery. Other items included a whetstone from Norway for sharpening blades and a ring-pin from Ireland, indicating he travelled long distances.
The warrior, of whom only two teeth and some fragments of bone are left, would have been laid to rest in a Pagan ritual. He was placed in the boat with his shield on top of him, then the grave was filled to the top with stones.
The bronze drinking horn and weapons would have equipped the raider for Valhalla, the giant heavenly hall where the bravest Viking warriors believed they would spend eternity.
Dr Hannah Cobb from Manchester University, who co-directed the project, said: “People have been fascinated by these boats for a long time but it is extremely rare to find a burial site intact, so it is of international importance.
“The artefacts and preservation also make this one of the most important Norse graves ever excavated in Britain.”
Viking boat burials were very rare because they were reserved for important figures, and many took place in coastal areas which have eroded away over the years, she added. - Daily Mail