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Ireland’s Viking Towns

Ireland’s Viking Towns

By Patrick R Wallace

The Vikings in Ireland, ed. A.­C. Larsen (Roskilde: The Viking Ship Museum, 2001)

Introduction: Comparison of recent excavation results from Irish Viking Age towns in terms of location, layout, defences and buildings show that they have many physical traits in common, that there is such a thing as the Hiberno-Norse town and that the results of the Dublin excavations should no longer be studied in isolation. This examination is restricted to comparison of location, layout and defences and building types, i.e. the main built features äs they survive in the archaeological record. Taking a glance at the relative quantities of archaeological information available for Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, Limerick and Cork we will look at the evidence for location before examining the layout of streets and plots, and the defences and houses of Dublin and the other towns.

Although recent archaeological excavations have yielded evidence for urban layout and building types in the later 9th Century as well as continuity of settlement both in relation to location and actual nature from the late 9th into the 10th centuries, Dublin’s early history is conventionally divided into a 841-902 first phase and a post 917 second phase, the gap representing the exile (mainly to England) of the Dublin Vikings. The idea that the second phase is that which developed into the later 10th Century town (referred to äs dun in Irish sources) has now to be re-examined. So have views on the nature of the earlier longphort settlement and exactly when, how and for what reasons it became a town.

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