Irish population in serious decline before Vikings arrived, research finds

Irish population in serious decline before Vikings arrived, research finds

Ireland’s population was in “serious decline” before the arrival of the Vikings, new research has found.

It had been assumed that the Irish population saw a steady rise across the centuries until the Famine in the 1840s.

But now academics at Queen’s University Belfast have produced an estimate of past population numbers which show there had been a decline for almost 200 years before the Vikings settled in Ireland in the 10th century.

They did this using rigorous archaeological data science algorithms, to analyse a database of archaeological sites discovered during Ireland’s “Celtic Tiger” years, when there was a boom in motorway building and other developments.

Dr Rowan McLaughlin said Ireland’s population appears to have gone into an unexplained decline around 700AD.

People dressed as Vikings during a reenactment of the Battle of Clontarf ion Dublin (Nial Carson/PA)
People dressed as Vikings during a reenactment of the Battle of Clontarf ion Dublin (Nial Carson/PA)

“Millions of people lived in Ireland during prehistory and the earliest Christian times,” he said.

“Around the year 700, this population in Ireland mysteriously entered a decline, perhaps because of war, famine, plague or political unrest.

“However, there was no single cause or one-off event, as the decline was a gradual process.

“The Vikings settled in Ireland in the 10th century, during the phase of decline and despite being few in number, they were more successful than the ‘natives’ in expanding their population.

“Today, genetic evidence suggests many Irish people have some Viking blood.

This large database has opened up a completely new perspective on the past that we simply could not obtain any other way.

Emma Hannah, lead author of the paper who is taking the work further with her PhD research added: “Often in archaeology we are focused on interpreting the evidence from a single site, but analysing quantities of data in this way allows us to think about the long term.

“Now we know these broad trends, we can better understand the details of everyday life.”

The research from Queen’s School of Natural and Built Environment has been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

- Press Association

More on this topic

Munster's labour movement and the independence struggle: A regional exception?Munster's labour movement and the independence struggle: A regional exception?

A strange brew of a man: The MP for Meath who believed he was a teapotA strange brew of a man: The MP for Meath who believed he was a teapot

Top of the class minister: McHugh rejects advice on historyTop of the class minister: McHugh rejects advice on history

Medieval gold seal, Viking silver arm ring and bronze age axes declared treasureMedieval gold seal, Viking silver arm ring and bronze age axes declared treasure


More in this Section

Daily Million players in Co Cork town urged to check tickets after one lucky player scoops €500kDaily Million players in Co Cork town urged to check tickets after one lucky player scoops €500k

Minister Flanagan announces passage of Family Law Bill 2019Minister Flanagan announces passage of Family Law Bill 2019

Gardaí have legal obligation to seize CCTV footage when investigating crime, court hearsGardaí have legal obligation to seize CCTV footage when investigating crime, court hears

European Affairs Minister visibly upset in Dáil while responding to Essex truck discovery tragedyEuropean Affairs Minister visibly upset in Dáil while responding to Essex truck discovery tragedy


Lifestyle

Antibiotics will not speed up recovery from a viral infection and can make the child feel worse, says Dr Phil KieranBattling bacteria: The pros and cons of giving antibiotics to children

I had to turn off Dublin Murders with 15 minutes to go. We were watching the first episode because I had to review it the following day for the Today Show on RTÉ.Learner Dad: 'I like to see myself as relaxed but I’m obviously bottling up a fair few anxieties'

Purchasing a thatched cottage was a decision that would change Liam Broderick’s life. Kya deLongchamps meets the long-time thatcherMade in Munster: Meet Cork thatcher Liam Broderick

We take a trip back through the Wolves singer’s most major fashion moments.As Selena Gomez surprises fans with new music, these are some of her best style moments

More From The Irish Examiner