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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Exhibition has axe to grind on Viking myths

Published 10/04/2014 | 02:30

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CUS Leeson St students Samuel Byrne, James Murphy and Paul Woods, (all 10 years old) pretend to be marauding Vikings at the launch of the National Museum and Trinity College Dublin celebration of Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf
Battle axes which are  part of the exhibition
Battle axes which are part of the exhibition
The Shrine of Stowe Missal which is inscribed with the name of Donnchad Mac Brian's name - Brian Boru's son - who became King of Munster.
The Shrine of Stowe Missal which is inscribed with the name of Donnchad Mac Brian's name - Brian Boru's son - who became King of Munster.

THEY are perceived as marauding invaders who pillaged from the natives.

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But a new millennium exhibition which celebrates Ireland's last High King, Brian Boru – as well as the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 – is also challenging commonly held perceptions of the Vikings.

The Viking Ireland exhibition opens at the National Museum of Ireland today and Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan said the museum had already garnered international attention.

"It's going to attract huge interest and it is already, the number of enquiries we've had about it is very encouraging," Mr Deenihan said.

However, the new exhibition also explodes the widely-held perception of Vikings with "ground-breaking" new evidence, said Dr Andy Halpin, the museum's curator,

Yesterday, Mr Deenihan pointed to the significant impact the invaders had on Ireland.

"At a time they were seen as invaders and plunderers but now we're beginning to see them as people who established cities like Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, Cork and Limerick and settlements around the coastline," said the minister.

Running concurrently to the exhibition in the National Museum is another exhibit in the Long Room in Trinity College which focuses on Brian Boru specifically.

Mr Deenihan yesterday paid tribute to Brian Boru, the country's former High King.

"It's the last time really you had someone in control of the whole of Ireland – native rule, so it's quite significant," he said.

Weapons, like swords and battle-axes, as well as hoards of silver, are displayed in the Kildare Street museum as part of the Viking Exhibition.

Although there is no archaeological evidence from the Battle of Clontarf, a sword found in Dublin in 1970 may have been used in the fight. The three-foot-long iron weapon is on display in the museum.

All evidence explaining what might have happened on April 23, 1014, comes from discovered manuscripts that were written at the time. It is commonly believed Brian Boru descended upon Dublin to fight the Viking invaders, overthrowing them but losing 4,000 men in the process.

Irish Independent

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