Thursday, January 28, 2010

Viking Remains Discovered in Dublin

Archaeological excavations in Dublin, Ireland have revealed the well-defined remains of a Viking House which is thought to date to the 11th century. The finding is one that will generate great interest for historians, archaeologists and the public alike.

Prior to the excavation at this site, evidence for Viking occupation on the north side of the river was very scant, although the existence of Oxmantown (Ostmanstown) was well attested in the records, especially those relating to the seizure of Dublin by the Anglo-Normans.

The findings at Hammond Lane/Church Street now suggest that a well-established settlement existed in this location during the 11th century with houses, laid out in long east-west properties, similar to those excavated by Dr. Pat Wallace for the National Museum thirty years ago along the Fishamble Street side of Wood Quay.

This house, measuring about 6.80m long by 5.80m wide, is a rather large one of its kind, which suggests not just that the area was settled and organised, but might have been relatively wealthy.

The house is aligned east west and is fronting onto the western side of Church Street. During the Viking period the original foreshore of the river Liffey was very much wider and shallower at the time and its shore lat just to the north of Hammond Lane.

Church Street was the original medieval route that led directly to bridge at Dublin, and it linked the defended dĂșn on the southern banks of the Liffey (the known enclosed Viking town as first revealed during the National Museum's excavations at Wood Quay/Fishamble Street, Winetavern Street, Christchruch and High Street) to the northern settlement known as Oxmantown.

What is also important is that there is evidence to suggest that there were other houses on either side in a row of organized properties along Church Street that may have fronted onto a roadway or street. This is a particulary important piece of the evidence, as it suggest that at this particular time in Dublin’s development, two centuries after the first Viking established their first base, Church Street was possibly as developed as Fishamble Street at this date. But then, this should not be surprising as it is located along the northern main route into what was a thriving port at the time.

These Viking-era houses are rectangular, made with timber walls of post-and-wattle and the interior was divided into three aisles. The hearth was in the centre aisle and this was flanked on either side by bed/benches, which were used as seating during the day and bedding at night. The corners were divided off into small little rooms or compartments, sometime used for storing water and other items. The roof, usually of sod and/or thatch was supported by four large internal within the house and by the substantial door jambs at each of the opposed entrances to the central aisle. The houses are generally positioned within property plots, bounded by post-and-wattle fences and there were sometimes latrines and smaller buildings in the rear of the plots.

Excavation director Colm Moriarty added, “It’s possible they were involved in working with antlers, making combs and that sort of thing. We have found pieces of chopped and worked antlers. They could then maybe have sold them out on the street at the front of the house.”

Excavations are ongoing and are being funded by, and conducted on behalf of, the Office of Public Works, prior to development at the site. Colm Moriarty is the Excavation Director and works for Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd.