wood quay stated ise less otherw
, un llace land/Pat Wa f Ire o l Museum
: Nationa images
All in a protest march some 20,000 strong in 1978 and, the following year, a three-week sit-in on the site under the banner ‘Operation Sitric’ (see ‘Further information’ on p.25), named after an 11th-century king of Dublin.
Despite legal challenges and the vociferous demonstrations, the campaign was ultimately unsuccessful in stopping the work. What it did achieve, though, was buying Wallace and his team vital extra time to carry out a much fuller excavation of the site than would have been possible under the originally agreed timeframe. Thanks to these excavations, which ran for seven years, we now know more about 10th- and 11th-century Dublin than any contemporary town north of the Alps, and only York (CA 58) and Waterford (in south-east Ireland – see CA 304) rival left Overlooking the Wood Quay excavations in the heart of Dublin. Fishamble Street, an area that yielded impressively well-preserved Viking houses, lies in the background to the left.
its revelations about urban life in Viking Age Britain and Ireland.
The project’s specialist reports have now been transformed by Wallace into a major new publication, telling the full story of the site and its gamechanging finds. The window that it opens on early medieval Dublin is set to transform our understanding of Viking Age towns.
Ploughshares to swords Dublin’s Viking Age is traditionally defined as stretching from the settlement’s foundation in c.AD 840 until the Norman Conquest of Ireland in 1170 – though with a culturally mixed material record from the 10th century onwards, perhaps indicating a mixed population, the period is more accurately characterised as ‘Hiberno-Scandinavian’ rather than ‘Norse’.
The site would quickly blossom into a wealthy commercial centre, part of a powerful political axis with York (which, until the mid-10th above The finds so captured the popular imagination that, in 1978, a 20,000-strong march campaigned to ‘Save Wood Quay’. The photo was taken by Thaddeus Breen from the roof of Christ Church Cathedral.
century, was ruled by the same dynasty), but its origins were on a rather humbler scale. Like Waterford, it began not as a town but as a seasonal raiding camp or longphort, and traces of this initial incarnation are thought to have emerged during Georgina Scally and Linzi Simpson’s later work on Essex Street and Parliament Street, where they uncovered the earliest-dated archaeology. This was a wide spread of plough marks, covering almost the entire excavated area. The marks all run in the same direction and never overlap, suggesting that they were only made once. It is thought that they represent a single event – not agricultural ploughing, but the clearing and preparation of land for building.
The result was a small riverside community, made up of just a handful of semi-sunken structures, dating
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: Thaddeus Breen photo