A grassy field by the Suir River in Co. Waterford holds the remains of a Viking settlement from the 9th century, and a wealth of information about the pillagers’ evolution from violent raiders to skilled traders.
Uncovered in 2003, scholars regard the site at Woodstown as one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in Ireland’s history – it holds remains of houses, tools, weapons, ships, burial sites and more.
According to archaeologist Neil Jackman, author of The Journal’s Heritage Ireland series, the excavations “reveal a wealth of information about Viking craft, metalworking, and boat building. Pieces of silver and a large number of lead weights are direct evidence of the presence of Viking traders at the site.”
The findings give insight into how the Vikings established permanent settlements. They “reflect a wide range of Viking trading networks in the ninth century and include pieces of Irish-made jewelry and amber from the Baltic.”
One of the most important discoveries at the Woodstown site was the furnished burial site of a Viking warrior – the objects within were a clear indication of the his status as a leader, including his sword, spear, axe, shield, and smaller personal belongings. The objects are on display in Waterford Treasures at Reginald’s tower.
“Woodstown: A Viking Age Settlement in County Waterford,” edited by Ian Russell and Maurice F. Hurley, contains details and in-depth analyses of the artifacts, and is accompanied by a downloadable audiobook with music and sound effects.
The publication coincides with a yearlong celebration of Waterford’s Viking heritage, which marks the 1,100th anniversary of the the founding of Waterford city in 914 AD.
With 795 AD as the traditionally viewed year of the beginning of Ireland’s Viking Age, the Woodstown remains date early in the story, and the Woodstown excavations suggest Vikings were around the banks of the Suir even before 914 AD.
According to Russell and Hurley, the “sudden aggressive expansion and raiding is not completely clear, however it is possible that it is the result of a combination of factors like advances in ship design, navigation, a desire for wealth and status and perhaps through pressure brought about by an expanding population in their homelands.”