“It must be considered exceptional…”

The Irish Times today predicts [subs req] that the Republic of Ireland’s Environment Minister, John Gormley, is expected to make an order putting the Woodstown archaeological site in Co Waterford, unearthed in 2003, on the Record of Monuments and Places under the National Monuments Acts as recommended by the Woodstown working group’s final report on “one of the most important early Viking Age trading centres yet discovered in Ireland.”

It had been speculated that the site was a longphort, or ship stockade, but based on the evidence of some 5,000 Viking artefacts found there, the group concluded that Woodstown was also a major trading site in the late 9th century, occupied largely by Scandinavians.

The range of artefacts, including silver coins, suggested that they were wealthy participants in commercial activities and at least some of them were of high status, “as evidenced by the presence of one of the best-furnished Viking graves ever discovered in Ireland”.

There was “considerable on-site manufacturing activity, including iron, copper alloy, silver, glass and perhaps lead-working, woodworking, ship repair and textile production”. This made it “one of the most productive unwaterlogged sites of early medieval date” found here.

The Irish Times report continues

“Woodstown is the only site of this type in Ireland that has undergone archaeological excavation and the only one anywhere in Ireland or Britain to have produced evidence from occupation levels.

“It must be considered exceptional . . . ,” the group’s final report says. “The extraordinary assemblage of finds promises new insights into economic activity in this period and potentially into the origins of urban settlement in Ireland,” it suggests.

It recommends that all the finds should be displayed at the Waterford Museum of Treasures.

As for protecting the site itself, which is owned in its entirety by Mr Halley, the report says that, with his agreement, it could be acquired by the State or, failing that, taken into the guardianship of either the relevant local authority or the Minister for the Environment.

But they don’t recommend a full-scale archaeological excavation at this time.

However, the group’s final report to the Minister does not recommend a full-scale archaeological excavation of the site in the short to medium term, suggesting this would cost at least €10 million and that there were not enough archaeologists available to do it.

The Irish Examiner reports that

A plan for research at the 1,000-year-old Woodstown site outside Waterford city is to be drawn up, but Minister John Gormley accepted the recommendation of a working group that the area not be fully excavated.

and that

The site, which is privately owned, has been declared a national monument, which requires two months’ notice of proposed works to be given to the minister, but no stronger protections were considered necessary.

The final report doesn’t appear on the Environment Department’s website yet. But we do have the working groups May 2006 interim report [doc file]

As to the Woodstown site’s particular archaeological and historical significance it should be noted that there is a dearth of excavated evidence for Viking landfall sites and early Viking riverbank/shoreline settlements in Ireland. While historical sources abound with references to “Viking”, “longphort” and “dún”, to date no evidence for these settlements has come to light in archaeological excavation. Although the Dublin City excavations have yielded spectacular evidence for tenth and eleventh century occupation, the earliest evidence from extensive excavations in Waterford City dates from the mid-eleventh century. Historical sources refer to Viking bases in Waterford in the ninth and tenth centuries but there is no archaeological evidence to support this. In short, early Viking Age Ireland still represents a major lacuna in our archaeological knowledge. The site at Woodstown represents evidence for this earlier period and seems to contain many diagnostic elements for an early Viking Age riverbank site. As such, it’s significance would seem to reside in its representing the best opportunity which has arisen to date to shed light on this obscure but formative period of Ireland’s past during which many of our towns and cities emerged.

Other research, reported in the Guardian today, indicates that, as well as being responsible for great hoards of silver, the Vikings were extensive traders.

Archaeologists and scientists have revealed that 1,000 years ago cod was traded extraordinary distances across Europe, from the Norwegian Arctic to England and the Baltic.

The research may force yet another revision of the image of the Vikings, from longship ram-raiders, to mainly traders and colonising farmers, to the fishmongers of Europe. Vikings in York were eating cod caught off the Norwegian coast.

Their modern day descendants are still not apologising though.

Of course, “Another great Viking victory was at the Green Midget café in Bromley..”

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  • harry

    motorway to follow shortly.

  • ulsterfan

    Timeteam and Tony Robinson to the rescue.
    Seriously though if the site is as important as that then full protection should be granted as we have lost too much of our history to satisfy the demands of developers.
    Lets save the site forever and put commercial interests at the bottom of the pile.

  • A N Other


    Have to disagree with you there, Waterford is in desperate need of this bypass.

    As this morning’s events on Rice bridge proved (when some idiot managed to turn over an articuluated lorry!), the city is far too dependent on it’s sole bridge.

    With the knock-on effect of tail-backs stretching back for 5KM past Slieverue; people in Passage East beseiged by queues for the only alternative route across the Suir (the Ballyhack ferry crossing).

    It’s bad enough the new bypass is being tolled; having a Green Party Minister with the power to hold this up won’t be tolerated.

    I always smile wryly when people outside of Waterford wonder why Martin Cullen manages to top the poll at each successive GE; it’s because he’s delivered significant improvements in infrastructure, industry & tourism (and no, I don’t vote for him!)

    …He’ll need all his considerable political clout to deliver this project on time!!

  • antichrist

    so give up a world-class site cause it would delay a bypass.

    you dopes do need a university after all

  • joeCanuck

    Routes of bypasses can be changed. Archeological sites locations cannot.

    Liked your pithy comment Harry.

  • A N Other

    Thanks for that very mature comment, antichrist.

    I don’t suppose you’re Brendan McCann in
    disguise??? (goggle will answer that for ya, kid…)

    So, it’s a “world class” site…

    Erm, ok…if this site is so important, why haven’t we seen an influx of “Swampy”/tree-hugging/shower averse types into East Waterford to protect it???

    Must be too busy with Tara & the M3….

    Work on the rest of the road is actually ongoing as we speak – as anyone who’s driven through Kilmeaden from the Cork side will attest to.

    I can guarantee you that you don’t have to earn a living traversing the endless traffic jams in Waterford, which are in no way aided by the absence of a secondary Suir crossing.

    In addition to full status for WIT, it’s something Waterford has been denied for too long.

    Local support is over-whelming in it’s favour -search the archives located here (editorials in particular) for further evidence.

    Cowen has just re-appointed Cullen to the cabinet; ergo, he realises the importance of keeping a minister in the SE.

    Expect the site at Woodstown to be perserved & the bypass to continue on it’s EIS-outlined path as a result.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I won’t delay you any longer from your “satirical works” with Phoenix magazine, or it’s ilk.


  • antichrist

    full status for wit. Ho-hum.

    Is this Waterford the self-appointed capital of the self-appointed ‘south-east region’?

    Here’s the news. Kilkenny hate ye and wont give ye a square inch.

    And Wexford think Kilkenny are soft on ye.

    Your town has a brilliant location and is an ugly dump. Vote all you like for Martin Cullen, the rest of Ireland laughs at this slimey incompetent dope.

    Clean up your city. Yep, yourselves.

    Be a proud Munster town and respect provincial boundaries.

    Sort out Ballybeg. And Tramore.

    Conserve and develop your heritage instaead of tarmacking over it.

    And then the rest of Ireland might have more time for ye.

  • A N Other


    “Here’s the news. Kilkenny hate ye and wont give ye a square inch. ”

    Thank you for telling me something all of Waterford already knows. What next? – that Friday follows Thursday!

    Still doesn’t stop a huge proportion of Kilkenny people being educated, employed & socialising in Waterford…

    “And Wexford think Kilkenny are soft on ye. ”
    That’s definitely a new one on me – do you proport to speak for that entire county?

    “Your town has a brilliant location and is an ugly dump. Vote all you like for Martin Cullen, the rest of Ireland laughs at this slimey incompetent dope. ”

    Agree on the location – and on certain aspects of the city being harsh on the eye.

    However, our local government minister has money flowing into the City (Bilberry & North Quay developments), so the aspects that you alude to
    are on the way to being reticified.

    “Clean up your city. Yep, yourselves.”
    Thanks for that – I suppose Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick & Belfast are litter-free zones?

    “Be a proud Munster town and respect provincial boundaries. ”
    I take it that this latter point is a jibe at the ongoing Ferrybank saga. In interests of trying to develop all areas of the City, I don’t exactly see
    KK Co Council falling overthemselves to improve the services there.

    “Sort out Ballybeg. And Tramore. ”
    You forgot to mention John’s Park & Larchville. But of course, social problems in working class areas are unique only to Waterford!!

    “Conserve and develop your heritage instaead of tarmacking over it. ”
    As I’ve said above, no-one cares less about the Woodstown site. If they do, show me where the protests are taking place.

    “And then the rest of Ireland might have more time for ye”

    Chip. Shoulder. Remove.


  • antichrist

    “Chip. Shoulder. Remove.”

    Drat! Cut to pieces again by rapier decies wit.

  • A N Other

    …Spoken like a true Kilkenny man!

    Must be difficult to play hurling when that whole county has 6 fingers on each hand?