Viking settlement unearthed in Cork

A 1,000-YEAR-OLD settlement, described by experts as one of the most significant Viking finds outside Dublin’s Wood Quay, has been discovered in Cork.

Archaeologists yesterday confirmed the remarkable find off the city's South Main Street is the first firm proof that Vikings lived in the city.

"It's a wonderful discovery," said National Museum director Dr Pat Wallace. "What they have stumbled on is evidence of a Hiberno-Norse house of urban type in a non-Viking town."

However, it is unlikely the Viking site will be preserved. Student accommodation, commercial units and a car park are planned for the site.

"Academic debate has raged for years about whether or not Vikings settled in Cork. There was documentary evidence but no physical proof of a Viking settlement, until now," said one of the site directors, Máire Ní Loingsigh, of Sheila Lane Archaeologists.

Archaeologists on site confirmed yesterday that the remains of a rectangular house dated to 1050AD, are the earliest known Viking settlement in the city. The site is next to the city's South Gate Bridge, within sight of St Fin Barre's Cathedral. The Viking house measures eight metres by five.

Sections of mud and wattle walls, door posts, sections of the bow of a Viking boat, fragments of decorated hair combs, metal artefacts and shoe leather have been found and recorded. Fish bones and scales and cat skulls have also been found.

City archaeologist Maurice Healy described the find as "one of the most exciting in the city".

"The Viking settlements of Dublin and Waterford were up on higher ground, but this settlement shows they settled in a swamp, using the defensive character of the marsh for their own safety it is unique.

"We think the people here ate hake and pike and raised cats until they were a year old, and then killed them for their fur," said the site's other director, Deborah Sutton.

The remains of 10 individual houses have so far been uncovered and it looks as if more could be found as the dig continues.

Ms Sutton said her team will continue the dig in consultation with Cork City Council. She has also uncovered parts of the old city wall, dating from the later Norman era, nearby.

Developer Paul Kenny owns the site and is paying for the archaeological dig. He plans to build a mixed scheme of student accommodation, commercial units and 125 car parking spaces.

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