Friday, January 26, 2007


Irish river find may be first discovery of Viking ship


Yahoo News
By Andrew Bushe
January 26, 2007

DUBLIN - An ancient boat discovered in a riverbed north of Dublin may be the first Viking longship found in the country, Environment and Heritage Minister Dick Roche said.

The wreck in the River Boyne, close to the northeastern port of Drogheda, was described by Roche as potentially an "enormously exciting discovery".

The vessel, nine metres (30 feet) wide by 16 metres long, was discovered accidentally during dredging operations last November but the find was not made public until now.

"It is described as clinker built, a shipbuilding technology dating from the Viking era but also still in use centuries later," Roche said.

"Clearly we have to wait and see what condition the vessel is in and have it dated. Carbon dating analysis of some of the vessel's timbers has been arranged by my department, with the results expected in a number of weeks."

The investigation and excavation operation will be completed by the end of March.

"It is likely to take considerably longer to fully examine and draw complete knowledge from what is being heralded as a potentially unique discovery in Irish maritime archaeological heritage.

"A find like this can tell us much about the technologies, trading patterns and daily lives of our ancestors and can open a window onto how life was in Ireland over a thousand years ago," Roche said.

Archaeologists in the heritage ministry are carrying out an inventory of wrecks in the country's rivers, lakes and around the coastline.

There are thought to be as many as 12,000.

The high number of wrecks is a result of the country being an island that imported many of its needs for centuries, suffered invasions and is close to major international shipping routes.

Usually ancient wrecks are preserved in situ but the newly discovered Boyne wreck is in mid-stream, so it cannot be left there.

"The wreck will be fully excavated and, if recoverable, be preserved and conserved for further investigation and ultimately public display, or reburied at a more suitable location on the river," Roche said.

Between 795, when they first raided Rathlin Island off Northern Ireland, and 1169 when the Normans invaded from Wales, Vikings established themselves in Ireland.

Most of the main coastal cities, including the capital Dublin, began as Viking settlements.

Before setting up trading bases, Viking raiders were attracted by Ireland's early Christian monasteries. Poorly defended, they were not only centres of learning but of wealth.


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