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Co. Waterford

The Historical Importance of Viking-Age Waterford,
Clare Downham in Journal of Celtic Studies, 4 (2004) 71-96

Article in Waterford Journal "Decies" No. 60

An article entitle "A Preliminary Note on the Archaeological Site of Woodtown 6, Co. Waterford" by Richard O’Brien and Ian Russell has been published in "Decies" No. 60, the Journal of the Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society.

This site, beside the River Suir in Co. Waterford, was discovered in 2003 when the route of the proposed Waterford Bypass was archaeologically investigated. During 2003, test trenches were excavated and a Geophysical survey was conducted on the site.Specific archaeological assessment following this determined that Woodtown 6 probably represented a univallate enclosure approx 500m in length.

Archaeological excavation commenced in March 2004 and as a result the outer enclosure ditch wasrevealed, probably extending as far as the river. No above ground traces remained. A 7.9m gap in this ditch probably represents a gateway. Radiocarbon analysis indicated that a large defensive ditch was first dug beside the river in the early 5th century AD, late Iron Age/ Early medieval period.

Excavation of the ditch revealed three metalworking phases all predating 660AD. With the arrival of the Vikings in the mid-ninth century the ditch was recut and strengthened.Approximately 4,595 artifacts have been found some of which represent typical Scandinavian imports. The finds included a total of 174 lead pan weights, the largest rural assemblage of such objects in Ireland.

The finds included a broken sword, spear head, battleaxe, shield boss, a possible shield handle which were found in a grave cut. The acidic nature of the soil meant that no trace of a skeleton was found. The grave goods date stylistically between the 9th to 11th centuries.

The authors conclude that the first period of occupation dated from early fifth to the eighth century AD, and was native Irish in character. A second occupation dated from mid-ninth century to mid-eleventh century AD and may have been exclusively Viking in nature. It is unclear yet if these occupation period were continuous. The occupation of the site appears to end by c.1050 AD. This roughly coincides with the beginning of the earlies known occupation of Waterford City itself.

Viking Site may have been Town

Aerial photographs of the Viking site, believed to be a longphort, being excavated near Waterford city indicate the possibility that the site is much larger than originally thought. Crop marks shown in the photographs suggest that a large viking town, predating Waterford and Dublin may be located in the area. The settlement seems to stretch 1km inland and 1.5km along the riverbank. Professor Donnchadh Ó Corráin of University College Cork is quoted as saying that the site is as big as Hedeby, in Northern Germany, if not bigger. He said crop marks in the aerial photographs indicated a pattern of streets and houses.

The Minister responsible who is from Waterford has yet to decide on the site's future. Indications suggest that only a limited excavation will be sanctioned in order to avoid a costly rerouting of the bypass.

Major Viking settlement found in Waterford

The €300 million Waterford city bypass may have to be rerouted after the discovery of a major Viking settlement in excavations.

Professor Donnchadh Ó Corráin, professor of medieval studies at University College, Cork, said the site – home to the largest known Viking river camp, or longphort, in Ireland – was “of international importance”. Archaeologists have unearthed materials used in ship-building during the Viking raids of the mid-ninth century. The remains of a Viking warrior armed with a spear, a sword and a pin have also been recovered. The longphort, which dates from 850-870 AD, was believed to have been used as the command headquarters of a Danish chieftain called Rothlaibh or Rodulf, who sent raiding parties from Waterford up the Barrow, Nore and Suir rivers. The fortress dates from the second wave of Viking invasions, more than 50 years after the first recorded Viking raid in Ireland. Among the 350 items recovered are weights, measures, locks, chains, nails and a decorative figurine.

Viking artefacts found on Waterford road route

Radio Telefís Eireann Online. 01 May 2004

A suspected Viking settlement has been discovered along the planned route of the €300m Waterford City By-Pass. The National Roads Authority has confirmed to RTÉ News that it is treating the site as one of 'special interest' and it could demand 'a significant amount' of additional expenditure.

The NRA says this site was located at Woodtown last August, and, following preliminary excavations, several artefacts were located which suggest it was a possible Viking settlement. It is believed the planned road would affect one third of the site.

An NRA spokesman told RTÉ News that the NRA had been adopting a responsible approach by consulting with the Department of the Environment, the National Museum and the Heritage Council. He added there had been no prior evidence of such a site, despite an in-depth planning process.

He said the NRA believes that the by-pass can and should go ahead because the routing cannot be changed without restarting the planning process from the beginning. It argues the site should either be excavated and then built on, or 'preserved' - in other words, built over without excavation in order to protect what is underneath.”

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