By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — In a find that rewrites the history of Dublin, arch’ologists have discovered that it was occupied by the British before the Vikings first sailed up the Liffey on a raiding foray more than 1,100 years ago.
Until now, it had been thought Norsemen founded the city in 841 when they built a defended settlement by Black Pool on the river and set up a pirate and trading kingdom that lasted more than 300 years.
The Norse name was Dyfflin the Irish Duibhlinn and hence the modern English name of Dublin.
Now a team led by arch’ologist Linzi Simpson has made "revolutionary" finds that show the area was settled by Anglo-Saxons in about 780.
The excavation in the western end of Temple Bar led to the discovery of a rectangular Anglo-Saxon house below the layers of Viking inhabitation.
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"We had expected to be just to be dealing with Viking habitation and deposits similar to other arch’ological sites in Dublin.
"It was very strange to come across something that just looks like it has been cut and pasted from Britain. It’s just extraordinary. There is no parallel for it," Simpson said.
"Most of the houses are circular, but this was of a very specific type. It was a domestic house with a hearth and a side entrance. When people saw it in the ground they just said, ‘Wow what’s that?’ "
A combination of carbon dating, the discovery of a comb that could only have come from Romano-Britain and the location of the house remains on the bedrock all confirmed the British had occupied the site before the Scandinavians arrived.
"We also found the house had been plowed out," Simpson said. "It could have been that the Vikings were preparing the ground or they could have just been very nasty to the people who had living there by raising it to the ground."
She and her team is now assessing a huge amount of finds made during the 1996-98 dig.
These include dress jewelry, amber pendants, timber bowls and spoons, dress pins and finger rings.
"We will be researching it for another 12 months," Simpson said. "There is definitely something big happening there which we are assessing. We have a whole level of massive post-holes which indicate there were substantial buildings. There is so much activity it is difficult to distinguish what is happening."
The team also found a "bizarre" selection of skeletons and fragments of human remains including a small child who appeared to have been interred in a grave.
"It is quite unusual at that level as children weren’t usually buried in a grave. They were normally thrown away with the rubbish — that is the way they were dealt with at that time.