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VIKING NETWORK IRELAND

VIKING WATERFORD


The establishment of a Viking settlement at Waterford by Sitricus, a Norwegian, is generally dated to 853 AD. It is recorded in the Irish annals that in 914 AD "A large fleet of Norwegians landed at Port Lairge (Waterford)." It is likely that the earliest settlement was a longphort and that this was the basis for the town which grew from it.

Between 1987 and 1990 about 20% of the Viking area of Waterford was excavated. The evidence from these excavations indicate that during the Late Viking Age the town was denselt populated, well defended, Christianised and prosperous.

Defences

The town had been surrounded by a defensive ditch up to 8m wide and a bank. A stone wall had been built against the outside of the bank and these defences may have been 4m high. A date of 1088 AD was obtained from wood found under the defensive bank.

Churches

Waterford Vikings had become Christian by the eleventh century and two churches, St. Olaf's and St. Peter's, were in existence early in the following century. Some architectural features of St. Peter's, including its semi-circular stone apse and two charcoal filled burials in its church yard, indicate close connections between Waterford and England during the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Finds

Comparatively few finds of the Viking Age were recovered. Most were pieces of pottery or plain bronze dress pins. A spectacular kite-shaped eleventh century brooch was found in a pit. Sawn pieces of red deer antler were recovered from the ditch fill representing waste from comb-makers workshops. Ham Green pottery from Bristol showed trading contacts with Britain.

Houses

The majority of the Waterford houses were recangular, wattle-walled, three-aisled buildings similar to those found in Viking Dublin. Sequences of up to seven superimposed houses were found.

Six semi-underground houses were found at Waterford. These were dug into the gravel to a depth of over 1m. They each had impressive stone-built entrances with corridors leading into a chamber. No hearths were found on these floors and it is probable that they were cellars. There was probably an upper storey to these houses which formed the living area entered from the street while the stone lined entrance to the cellar was from the back yard. Similar building are common in England including York but few are recorded from Ireland.


Sources

M.F.Hurley and O.B.M. Scully with S.J. McCutcheon, Late Viking Age and Medieval Waterford Excavations 1986-1992.

Howard B. Clarke, Proto-towns and Towns in Ireland and Britain in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries in H.B. Clarke, M. N Mhaonaigh and R. Floinn (eds), Ireland and Scandinavia in the Early Viking Age (Dublin, 1998).

Maurice F. Hurley, The Vikings in Munster - Evidence from Waterford and Cork in Archaeology Ireland, Vol 9 No 3, Autumn 1995 (The Viking Issue).

Maurice Hurley with Claire Walsh & Orla Scully `Waterford in the Late Viking Age' in Michael Ryan (ed), The illustrated archaeology of Ireland (Dublin 1991).


Updated July 2000 by the Viking Network
IRISH CO-ORDINATOR Michael Farry.

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