Viking Finds in Ireland

Archaeological finds in Ireland have revealed much about society in Ireland during the Viking age, from weapons, to crafts and clothing, and their locations also help us to pinpoint centres of activity at this time.

There have been many discoveries of hoards and burials in Ireland, of gold and silver coins and jewellery. As silver has been accepted as the ‘money’ used in Viking times these finds indicate places of trade and economic activity. All the gold hoards found have been found in in “watery places” such as crannógs, bogs and rivers. This suggests rituals of depositing valuables in these perhaps sacred places, in order to gain favour in the Otherworld. Other silver hoards found in Ireland have been in the midlands and as silver had economic value at the time, this may reflect the economic relationship between the Vikings of Dublin and the Southern Uí Néill rulers of the time. 

This also reminds us that the crannógs where places of high status and still inhabited by clans at this time. There are ten recorded finds of hoards from crannogs, seven of which are in Co. Westmeath. One of the hoards found on a submerged crannog in Lough Ennell includes five unique and sizeable ingots of 3.1kg each and make this amongst the heaviest of Viking hoards discovered in the world. These finds also tell us much about the wealth of the Irish (possibly Uí Néill) kings at the time!

Viking Remains in Dublin- Dublin accounts for nearly half of the Viking burials with weapons identified in the British Isles!

The sheer quantity of dead young men reflects the huge number of Viking adventurers coming to Ireland at this time, something which is supported in the annals’ records of casualties in the numerous contemporary battles of the Viking Age. Excavations at Wood Quay in 1978 as well as later excavations in 1990 and 1993 have told us a lot about the Viking presence in Dublin and elsewhere in the 10th and 11th centuries.

1860  - at Bride Street along the River Poddle valley, the site of the longphort established in 841 was investigated. In a burial here, a sword, a spear-head and a shield boss found implied the remains of an important warrior. The sword had been bent before burial which may suggest its being put out of use with the death of its owner.

In the Suffolk Street/College Green area another Viking burial-ground was found. This was earliercalled Hoggen Green and comes from the Norse term ‘haugr’ meaning grave. More graves were found here in the 19th century containing more swords shields and spear fragments.

A much larger graveyard was discovered at Kilmainham and Islandbridge in the 19th century, revealing at least 35 bodies, mostly males of fighting age again buried with weapons and arms, but also items associated with trade such as weights and scales. This supports the theory that there were in fact two longphorts built in the Dublin area. 

Other burial sites were discovered in the 19th century, including a female in the Phoenix Park and warrior graves in Kildare Street, Cork Street, Parnell Square, Mountjoy Square and Donnybrook.

2001 - The first Viking burial was uncovered at Ship Street Little. The skeleton of a young man was found here thought to be aged between 25 and 29 years. Another shallow grave also contained a patterned sword and rings and beads. He had died between 665-865 AD.

2003 - Four more burials at South Great Georges Street in Dublin revealed the remains of four young males aged between 17 and 29, who had been buried with knives, shield bosses, combs and decorated pins. The remains were situated around the edge of the original Dubh linn or ‘black pool’, from which the city got its name. three of the young men had apparently been buried also around the 7th century, whilst  the other  somewhere between 786 and 955. Two of the dead warriors were from Scandinavia and the other two from Norse colonies in Scotland.

2005 - West of here at Golden Lane O’Donovan found two more burials. One was of an elderly female, the other a younger male aged from 20-30 years old. The female’s grave contained decorated bone buckle and the male’s a spear-head, knife and a belt buckle. These date from 688-870, similar to the previous finds.

Other Viking Treasures and Graves Found in the Counties of Ireland

Antrim - Three male skeletons, one  with silver brooch, another with sword and a third with copper ladle, iron cauldron and copper  rings at Rathlin Island; one male skeleton with sword, spearhead, comb and ringed pin at Larne; silver armring hoards  found at Cave Hill, Garron Point, near Cushendall.
Cavan - Silver armrings found with a hoard of ingots at Rivory, near Cavan (The lakeland County) town near many lakes.
Clare - Silver armring hoard found in the Shannon and amber necklace in Glencurran Cave, in the Burren , Co. Clare.
Cork - Silver armring hoards at Kilbarry and Macroom; rings at Lohort, near Kanturk, Co. Cork.
Donegal -  Silver arm rings at Carrowmore, Inishowen, the largets peninsula on the isalnd.
Down - Female skeleton with oval brooches, a bowl, chain and textile fragments at Ballyholme on Belfast Lough; hoards at Maheralagan and Newry.
Dublin -  Significant finds at Woodquay; extensive burial ground at Kilmainham and Islandbridge (More detail above)
Galway - One skeleton with sword, spearhead, shield-boss and dagger at Eyrephort, west of Clifden, Co. Galway.
Kerry - Armring and neckring at Fenit; cave burials at Clooghermore, Tralee.
Kildare -  Hog-back burial with axe-head and iron weapons, at Castledermot, Co. Kildare.
Kilkenny - Rings and hacksilver at Derrynahinch; ingot fragments, silver and burials (including a childs grave) at Dunmore Cave; coin hoard west Kilkenny; arm ring and ingot hoard at Dysart
Laois -  Silver ring and ingot hoard at Ballyadams: longphort site at Dunrally, thought o have been that of Rodolf and destroyed in 862 according to the annals by Cearbhall and Cinnétig.
Limerick -  Silver hoard at Carraig Aille, the huge ring-fort near Lough Gur; ingot and coin hoard at Mungret c953; sword at Cooperhill.
Longford - Silver ingot and armring hoard and brooch fragments at Lough Kinale, Ballywillin, Co. Longford.
Louth -  Silver ingot and coin hoard at Killincoole and Monasterboice; fragments at Millockstown,; longphort site at Annagassan
Mayo -  Large hoard of 25 silver armrings: more at Knock
Meath - Coin and ingot hoard at Leggach: brooch, armring at Loughcrew, west of Kells; burial with horse harness at Navan with human and horse remains.
Monaghan -  Sword from Moynalty; silver armring hoard at Emyvale, north Co. Monaghan.
Offaly - Ingot and coin hoard at Rahan.
Sligo -  Longphort identified at Knoxpark.
Tipperary -  Silver armring hoard at Bog of Cullen and Rathmooley; Anglo-Saxon style sword from Lough Derg.
Waterford - Silver hoard with fragments of armrings and ingots at Kilmacomma; silver hoard with armring fragments and coins at Knockmaon; extensive, fortified settlement site with male burial outside at Woodstown.
Westmeath -  Armring hoards at Athlone and nearby; silver ingot hoards at Ballany, Nure and Carrick; silver armring hoard at Coolure Demesne and Lough Sewdy; mixed armring and ingot hoard at Creaghduff; ingot hoards at Dysart (one with brooch) and other ornaments in fragments as well as coins; mixed armring and ingot hoard at Hare Island; mixed ingots with pins and gold finger rings at Marl Valley; sword with gaming board, long bow and other Viking style artefacts from Ballinderry.
Wexford -  Ingot hoard at Blackcastle; excavated house at Bride St in Wexford town.
Wicklow -  One skeleton with oval brooches and silver chain between Three Mile Water and Arklow; sword from The Morragh outside Wicklow town.