Much that is constructive can be achieved from analysis of death investigations that have failed to achieve desirable outcomes in terms of learning lessons about risks to health and safety and in terms of gaining an understanding as to how further tragedies can be avoided. This article reviews an "inquest" into the sinking in 1628 of the pride of the Swedish Navy, the Vasa, and the factors that led to the inquest failing to come to grips with the various design, building, oversight, subcontracting, communication, and co-ordination flaws that contributed to the vessel being foreseeably unstable and thus unseaworthy. It argues that Reason's Swiss cheese analysis of systemic contributions to risk and modern principles of Anglo-Australasian-Canadian death investigation shed light on how a better investigation of the tragedy that cost 30 lives and a disastrous loss of a vessel of unparalleled cost to the Kingdom of Sweden could have led to more useful insights into the multifactorial causes of the sinking of the Vasa than were yielded by the inquest.
Although there are several well preserved Viking boat burials from Norway, until recently palaeoecological research on their context has often been limited. Research on fossil insect remains in particular can provide valuable forensic information even in the absence of an actual body. Here we present archaeoentomological information from a boat burial at Øksnes in Vesterålen, northeast Norway, an area where Norse and Sami traditions overlap. Excavated in 1934, organic preservation from the burial was limited to parts of the boat and a clump of bird feathers which were preserved in the Tromsø University Museum, and from which fossil insects were recovered. The insect assemblage from Øksnes includes the blowfly, Protophormia terraenovae (Rob.-Des.), which indicates exposure of the body and the probable timing of the burial. The high numbers of the human flea, Pulex irritans L. from among the feathers, suggests that these, probably from a pillow under the corpse, originated from within a domestic context. Deposition of flowers as part of the burial is discussed on the basis of the insect fauna. The absence of a body and any associated post burial decay fauna implies its exhumation and disposal elsewhere and this is discussed in the context of other exhumed medieval burials and Saga and other sources.