Mysterious Bronze Age findings go on display

HOW did Bronze Age Waterford people operate their steam rooms? What did houses in the area look like 5,000 years ago? And what links did the region have with Baghdad 1,200 years ago?

A multiplicity of questions but there are answers.

And they are all to be found in an extraordinary exhibition that explores the fascinating objects and archaeological findings from the recent excavations prior to the building of the N25 Waterford Bypass.

The National Roads Authority in association with Waterford Museum of Treasures is putting the finishing touches to the exhibition, which opens at the museum on Friday.

The show also contains audio-visual displays, artefacts and a unique insight into how Waterford has developed as a major trading hub over thousands of years.

The exhibition will be opened jointly this Friday by Transport Minister and local TD Martin Cullen and Dr Patrick F Wallace, the director of the National Museum of Ireland, and will run to the end of November.

Museum director Eamonn McEneaney said it offers a unique insight into the pre-history of the entire south-east region. “This exhibit features a lot of Stone Age flint, material and artefacts.

“It includes everything from a huge, Bronze Age urn which dates from 4,000 years ago in which an adult male was cremated, to pieces from a Viking site which include the weapons with which a warrior was buried. They include his sword, an axe handle, the centre of a shield, a pin, knives and pieces of stone.

“All these pieces seem to have been deliberately damaged as part of some sort of a ceremony. As part of the development works, the oldest house in the south-east, which dates back 5,000 years was uncovered.

“The pre-history of the whole south-east has been re-written through these works. Quite close to Newrath, excavators found what appears to be a Bronze Age steam room.

“It’s the most convincing evidence to date that they had steam rooms at the time.

“They uncovered a round, circular cut on the ground and a circular feature which held the fire for the steam.

“Outside that, they found a plunge pool.

“All these were uncovered in the area where the by-pass is being developed.”

The excavation works show how the landscape of the entire south-east has changed dramatically over the years, adapting to people’s needs. “The Viking material in particular shows us that Waterford was a major trading hub. We found so much silver and lots and lots of weights, all of which will be on exhibit.

“We also have part of a Kufic coin which was made close to Baghdad. It’s very interesting in a modern context and shows that even 1,200 years ago, Waterford had links with Baghdad.”

The exhibition opens late on Friday evening. Admission is free and guided tours can be arranged for groups by phoning 051-304500.

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