Burial site believed linked to Vikings is centuries older


A MEDIEVAL burial ground discovered earlier this year in Rush, Co Dublin, is several hundred years older than it was originally thought to be.

While the discovery in June by semi-State body Eirgrid was met with much initial excitement, interested parties were then forced to wait until radiocarbon tests from Queen’s University, Belfast could more precisely conclude how old it was.

With the results finally available, it has been revealed the burial ground dates back to the 7th century. This would place it in the pre-Viking period during a time when Ireland was being Christianised.

“There was talk of this being a Viking site, but we are talking about a period that predates that by several hundred years,” said Gerry Clabby, heritage officer with Fingal County Council.

“We are at the beginning of this story so to speak – archaeologists are just beginning their investigations.”

The finding was made by Eirgrid workers as they laid pipes for the energy company’s €600 million east-west interconnector which will link Ireland’s and Britain’s national grid, with an underwater line from Wales to Rush.

Separately in Dublin yesterday, archaeologists presented details of discoveries around the Republic over the past three years, including the remains of a 7th century African trader in Bettystown, Co Meath, and evidence of the oldest farming communities ever found in Ireland, dating back some 6,000 years.

Established in 2008, the Irish National Strategic Archaeological Research Programme was developed to ensure the huge amount of archaeological work undertaken during the economic boom was translated into know-ledge of Ireland’s past.

Researchers said a journey back to 7th century Ireland could reveal some surprising similarities to recent boom times in the country.

Dr Aidan O’Sullivan of UCD school of archaeology said: “This society that emerges out of the darkness of late prehistory was the first Celtic Tiger economy.

“Archaeological excavations indicate that in some counties there were early medieval settlements every kilometre or so, meaning, they literally lived everywhere in the landscape.”

Among the discoveries discussed at yesterday’s conference were changes in burial practices from the time of the Christianisation of Ireland and the manner in which the inhabitants of the island of Ireland altered innovations coming from continental Europe to create a unique society.

Dr Edel Bhreathnach of UCD commented on what was learned about how various regions coexisted during the last centuries of widespread paganism between AD300 and 700.

“Burial findings at Carbury Hill, Kildare suggest that local males married women from Connacht and the southwest, suggesting evidence of carefully worked out marriage alliances,” she said.