More Viking sites likely, say archaeologists

ARCHAEOLOGISTS excavating the Woodstown Viking site in Waterford believe that a number of other such settlements exist at riverside locations in the south-east.

“If the Vikings moved six kilometres upriver of the Suir there is no reason why other settlements might not be on the Nore, Barrow and Slaney,” said Richard O’Brien, project archaeologist at the Woodstown site.

“There must be more of these sites out there,” he added.

However, heritage campaigners last night said it was imperative that the site at Woodstown, which is believed to be one of the oldest Viking settlements in Western Europe, should be fully excavated.

It is in the path of a major bypass.

The Save Viking Waterford Action Group (SVWAG) said that while all sites should be explored, it was vital that all efforts must be concentrated on ensuring a speedy decision is made by government on the preservation of the Woodstown site. “Yes there may be other sites, but we know there is this one,” said action group chairperson Dr Cathy Swift.

“There will be plenty of time to deal with other projects after this site is developed,” she said.

Above are some of the 5,000 artefacts which have already been removed from the Woodstown site. They include stone, glass beads, metal, lead weights and weapons.

Archaeologists say it is likely there was Irish occupation of the site at about the time of St Patrick (450 AD) and evidence of Viking occupancy from the 9th to 11th centuries.

Excavation is suspended while Environment Minister Dick Roche considers a number of reports on the site.

The SVWAG, which visited the Viking settlement in recent days, has again called for a full excavation of the site and the removal of artefacts to a purpose-built heritage centre in Co Waterford.

“It is now over six months since the National Roads Authority publicly announced that they wanted to see a full excavation. It is time for this government to get its act together and make a decision,” added Dr Swift.

She also criticised Mr Roche’s predecessor, Transport Minister Martin Cullen for making “unclear” statements on the site. “He’s a TD and a representative for Waterford.

“Mr Cullen had responsibility for the site for a year and it’s ridiculous he hasn’t a clear idea of where things are going,” said Dr Swift. A spokesperson for Mr Roche confirmed no decision has yet been made on the site, but said a statement would be made “as soon as possible”.

Mr Cullen said that he had always taken the view that the site was a significant heritage location, and he “fully supports” the approach being taken by the Minister for the Environment in relation to it.

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