Dr. Colmán Etchingham, a lecturer in the history department at N.U.I. Maynooth, has called for the full excavation of a major early Christian and Viking site at Woodstown, Co. Waterford. Or at least a commitment from the government to do the same. Speaking in his position as chairman of the final session of the “Viking Woodstown and Hiberno-Norse Waterford” conference, this week, Dr. Etchingham also stressed the crucial work of the “Save Viking Waterford Action Group” in rescuing the site from disappearance under the N25 Waterford City bypass;

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/0329/1224267279087.html

According to Dr Etchingham, Government policy would have otherwise “allowed the road to run through the site”.

You don’t say?

…“The conference has shown that less than 5 per cent of the site has been subject to archaeological investment to date.

“What has been found is wonderful but it is tantamount to glimpses of what could be there.” Dr Etchingham said that the site is “one of the most important” sites to be found anywhere in western Europe.

“Public investment in excavation would provide jobs in the region and would help tourism in the area,” he added.

The site should be excavated over a long period of time to a high standard, he said.”

 

Here’s hoping that you get the commitment, but don’t hold your breath. Frankly, it seems amazing that they reprieved the site at all. Regarding the former, I note the following from An Taisce, back in June 2004 and whistling in the wind, as usual;

“1. The Minister’s Announcement: The Minister for the Environment, Mr. Martin Cullen T.D., has signalled his intention to sanction an excavation of the internationally important Viking site at Woodstown, Co. Waterford. An Taisce welcomes this declaration of intent.

2. An International Panel: The National Monuments Committee of An Taisce feels it is imperative that this excavation encompasses the entire site, rather than simply the ‘road- take’. The excavation of a site with the potential and significance displayed at Woodstown can only be credibly directed by an Internationally recognised group of experts. This formula has already been successfully used on major Viking excavations such as Birka ( Sweden) and Kaupang ( Norway).The acclaimed results of these excavations were achieved under the auspices of a pan-European group of experts, including the Irish representative, Dr. Patrick F. Wallace, Director of the National Museum of Ireland and former Director of the Wood Quay Viking site. If the island of Ireland is to retain credibility regarding our shared European Heritage, it is imperative that such a body be tasked with conducting such prospective investigations of the Woodstown site.”

Keep trying though. That’s the thing.

According to the “Viking Waterford” website, the excavation to date – “much of it by JCB” (and whose textbook will carry a chapter on that ‘technique’?) – has uncovered; “over 600 features such as house-gullies, pits and fireplaces… and over 5000 objects, including silver ingots, ships nails, coins from Byzantium and Viking weaponry.” Not bad for less than 5% investigated – no wonder they’re itching to get in there properly.

Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city, was founded by the Vikings in 914 CE. Its name, although it sounds both English and descriptive, is in fact an anglicisation of the Old Norse “Vedrafjord”.