Friday 24 November 2006

Time is running out to view city bypass excavation finds

ONLY a few days are left now to see the exhibition in Waterford Museum of Treasures of the objects found in the NRA excavations before the building of the Bypass.

On display among many other fascinating finds (the flint tools of the first peoples in the South East; a Bronze Age leisure centre - the steamroom in Slieverue that has been making the headlines and the magnificent Newrath burial urn) are those from Woodstown including the weapons from a Viking warrior’s grave - the only time in Ireland that the full weaponry (sword, spear, battleaxe and shield boss) have been found, as well as a knife, honestone and ringpin.

This probably reflects the status of the warrior and the wealth of the community who buried him. The conservation in September 2006 revealed that the sword and the boss were deliberately struck and broken - decommissioned - before being placed in the grave in what must have been a very dramatic part of the burial ceremony.

The ‘funeral’ and in a position where everyone approaching would see the mound represented a very conscious political statement on the part of the warrior’s community.

Who were these Vikings who lived out at Woodstown by the bank of the river? Were they the ancestors of us in Waterford on this site? Just how much interaction was there between them and the existing people in these parts? Do the little bell and the other small objects displayed represent booty from the raids on monasteries in these parts? If only these objects could speak! The shield boss is similar to those found in the Viking cemetery near Heuston Station Dublin and suggests Vikings who had been away from Scandinavia for some time. The pommel (top of the sword) has given a date of about 850 to the sword, thereby dating the burial. The lead weights, the largest collection found to date in Ireland and the quantity of hack silver, undoubtedly suggest trade, at the very least the dividing u p of booty among the warriors.

The two amber beads and the marvellous find of a coin minted in 8th century present-day Iraq are redolent of the Vikings’ great mastery of the sea and of the river systems of Europe and further afield and of their trade networks. But don’t take our word for it, come and experience for yourselves! Running to 30 November, open 10-5pm. Admission free, •1.50 to strike a reproduction coin.

A series of lunchtime talks are running on Tuesdays during the run of the exhibition, 1.15-1.45pm. Just one talk left now - on 28 November Dr John Sheehan will talk about Viking silver in Ireland. All welcome!

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