Archaeologist hails ‘extraordinary’ Viking village find in Dublin

Terrace of houses from 11th century reveals treasure trove of artefacts

An archaeologist has described the discovery of a well-preserved Viking-era terrace in Dublin as an “extraordinary find”.

The four adjacent Hiberno-Norse properties with gardens and cobbled stones dating from the around the 11th century were found during excavations for a hotel development in Dublin.

The site in Dean Street is owned by the Hodson Bay Group who plan to open a 234-room hotel in the Coombe area next year.

Further excavations found two other settlements from a later period. One dating from the 13th to the 14th century had evidence of industrial activity including a tanning pit and two lime pits.


Vaulted cellars

The upper level dating from the 17th century revealed ovens, vaulted cellars, kilns and cobbled working areas.

The site has been waterlogged for almost the last millennium. As a consequence organic material, including leather shoes and wooden utensils, have been very well preserved.

Archeologist Aisling Collins, whose team made the find, said they were lucky to make such a discovery.

“It’s incredible. You could work on a site like this all your life and never find anything like this. It’s that significant. The artefacts we have found are very unique,” she said.

Among the objects found in the excavations were a copper alloy, decorated stick pin, a 12th century copper alloy key and worked bone objects. Shards of pottery were found in several locations.

The most significant find was a rare example of graffiti art carved onto a piece of slate depicting a figure on a horse with a shield, sword and two birds present. The slate was found to the rear of one of the houses which was made from wattle.

Industrial activity

There was evidence of industrial activity with the presence of a tanning pit, lots of animal horn and two lime pits.

To the north of the site was a stone built medieval well with steps leading down to the water. There were two medieval wall foundations also present.

Another layer led to the discovery of a copper alloy merchant’s weighing scales, a 13th-14th silver King Edward coin and medieval pottery - mostly local and some imported. Medieval floor tiles were discovered with very unusual ceramic bird that looks like a dove.

Hudson Bay director Johnny O’Sullivan said the company intends to incorporate elements of the discovery into the design of the hotel and to keep a section of the site for preservation.

“So many corporate hotels are bland, but we are delighted to have such a compelling story to tell,” he said.

The site has been cleared and the artefacts are now in storage. They will eventually be given to the National Museum of Ireland for cataloguing and preserving.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times