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Monday 23 April 2018

Unlocking the past: mythical Viking village really exists

Louth County Museum curator Brian Walsh holds a replica of a silver brooch found on the site
Louth County Museum curator Brian Walsh holds a replica of a silver brooch found on the site

Elaine Keogh

A TINY village that previously existed only in folklore and fairy tales, a bit like Tir na nOg, has just been identified as one of the most important Viking sites in the world.

The Vikings wintered in two places in Ireland. One would become Dublin, the other was believed to have been lost in time. Not anymore.

A year after test trenches were dug on the 'virgin' site in Co Louth, the results of radio-carbon testing on some of the artefacts recovered have confirmed that 'Linn Duachaill' exists and is perfectly preserved underneath farmland in Annagassan.

An international conference will be held in Dundalk later this month to discuss the significance of the site -- which some academics already believe is one of the most important of its kind in the world.

Brian Walsh, curator of the county museum in Louth, said: "This site is mind blowing. It is untouched and it is basically virgin territory."

Another who always believed that the tales about Vikings in Louth were more than just stories handed down from generation to generation is the keeper of antiquities at the National Museum, Dr Ned Kelly.

"Linn Duachaill is enormously important because it is of the very earliest period of Viking settlement in Ireland. It was founded in 841 and the annals (of Ulster) tell us it was used over the next 50 years," he said.

"Radio carbon dating has conclusively shown we are dealing with a site of early Viking age," he added.

Linn Duachaill is beside the river Glyde some 60km north of Dublin and is just south of Dundalk Bay.

It was here the Vikings brought their long ships or 'longphorts' to be repaired.

The poor tides and shallow waters of Dundalk Bay meant the Vikings eventually chose Dublin as a location to repair their ships.

However, Linn Duachaill was also a large trading town, exporting Irish slaves and looted goods.

The future of Linn Duachaill must, according to Dr Kelly, not involve "willy-nilly digging of holes out of curiosity. We are looking for funding for further geophysical surveys. Then with research done we can proceed by key-hole excavation".

Both he and Mr Walsh believe the site has enormous potential for tourism. "This site is of such importance we feel it can contribute majorly into the local economy through heritage tourism," Dr Kelly added.

The conference -- open to academics and non-academics alike -- will be held in the town hall in Dundalk on October 22 and 23.

Irish Independent

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