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Skuldelev 3 was a 45 ft long and 15 ft wide cargo ship, possibly of the knarr type. It is make from oak, and was constructed somewhere in Denmark. It would have been well-suited to shorter journeys in Danish waters and the Baltic Sea. It would have held a crew of 5-6 and could reach a top-speed of 8.5 knots under sail. While Skuldelev 1 was an oceangoing ship, Skuldelev 3 was a smaller ship used on inland and more protected waterways. It may have even been carried over short distances overland and thus the emphasis was placed on lightness of construction.

Skuldelev 3 has not yet been dated by dendrochronology, which makes the dating of the first phase of the blockage the best clue as to the date of the ship. The blockage was constructed between AD 1070-1090, but by this time the ship was old and had seen some repairs.

Dendrochronology is from the Greek; δένδρον (dendron = tree), χρόνος (kronos = time), λογία (logia = study of). Also known as tree-ring dating, it is the method of scientific dating based on the analysis of tree-ring growth patterns.

As in the case of Skuldelv 1, the middle third of the hull was occupied by an open cargo hold. But whereas 1 had a floor of ceiling planking, there is no ceiling planking in Skuldelev 3 in the interests of lightness. Similar to Skuldelev 1, there was a raised deck covering the forward and after third of the hull. To keep the vessel light, the sides are very low.

Also, the side planking is 1.5 inches thick, only 1/2 an inch thicker than the bottom planking, and there are only two small side frames on either side of the hull. Instead, the sides of teh hull were strengthened by light interior strakes, called stringers.

The lower two stringers served as shelf strakes which supported the ends of the crossbeams. At the midship frame just forward of the mast there were 2 cross beams. The upper one is the most robust one in the hull and is securely fastened to the side of the hull at either end by a vertical knee and a pair of horizontal knees. The mast fit into a semicircular cutting on the after side of the crossbeam. In this way the mast was supported at deck level on three sides. Skuldelev 3 gives us our vest evidence to date for how the masts of Viking ships were supported by shrouds and stays. The mast of this ship had two shrouds on either side of the mast. Their lower ends were fastened to cleats fastened to the outside of the sheer strakes.

It was this kind of vessel (small, light merchantmen) that the Swedish Vikings were able to penetrate the river systems of Eastern Europe and Russia, and more remote centers such as Constantinople and the Caspian Sea.