ARCHAEOLOGY HOMEPAGE
SECTION 1 : Introduction
SECTION 2 : Multi-period sites
SECTION 3 : Mesolithic
SECTION 4 : Neolithic Settlement
SECTION 5 : Megalithic tombs and Neolithic burial practices
SECTION 6 : Bronze Age Occupation Sites
SECTION 7 : Bronze Age burial practices
SECTION 8 : Iron Age
SECTION 9 : Iron Age burial practices
SECTION 10 : Royal sites
SECTION 11 : Western stone forts
SECTION 12 : Early Medieval Period - Christianity
SECTION 13 : Ringforts
SECTION 14 : Crannógs
SECTION 15 : Medieval Dublin
SECTION 16 : Late Medieval Period
SECTION 17 : Anglo-Norman Towns
SECTION 18 : Anglo-Norman Fortifications
Acknowledgements

SECTION 15 : MEDIEVAL DUBLIN

The earliest references to Dublin in the seventh and eight centuries suggest the presence of an ecclesiastical foundation at Dublinn, on the SE side of Dublin Castle and a secular settlement at Áth Cliath, by the river Liffey. The ninth century saw the arrival of the Vikings, with contemporary annals documenting the establishment of a permanent longphort by 841. They were temporarily expelled in 902, only to return in 917 to establish a more formally organised town. One of the most significant discoveries at Fishamble Street/Wood Quay was the waterfront defences consisting of two small flood-banks followed by two defensive embankments replaced by a stone wall in c.1100. Due to excellent preservation conditions the excavations at Christchurch Place, Winetavern Street, Essex Street/Exchange Street and Fishamble Street/Wood Quay revealed intensive tenth and eleventh century habitation levels. This concentration of occupation in the eastern half of the later walled town rapidly expanded westwards in the eleventh century, which is seen by excavations along both sides of High Street.

The Anglo-Normans invaded Ireland in 1169 and by September 1170 the Hiberno-Norse or ‘Ostmen’ had been expelled from Dublin. The city was granted its first charter by 1172 and had rapidly expanded beyond the city walls into a large merchant port by the thirteenth century. The Anglo-Norman defences replaced or expanded the earlier walls and Dublin Castle was built in 1204, probably on the site of an earlier Hiberno-Norse fortification. The Anglo-Normans also brought a change in building techniques with the introduction of the sill-beamed structure and by the early thirteenth century stone buildings dominated. The excavations at Black Lane/Lamb Alley were particularly important in providing an overview of this change in building techniques from the Viking period right up to post-medieval stone structures.

General references

Burke, N. 1974  ‘Dublin’s North-eastern city wall: early reclamation and development of the Poddle Liffey confluence’,  Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 74C, 142-285.

Clarke, H.B. 1978  Dublin 840-c.1540: the medieval town in the modern city. Ordnance Survey, Dublin.

Clarke, H.B. 1990  ‘The topographical development of early medieval Dublin’,  In H.B. Clarke (ed.),  Medieval Dublin: the making of a metropolis, Dublin, 52-69.

Healy, P. 1990  ‘The town walls of Dublin’,  In H.B. Clarke (ed.), Medieval Dublin: the making of a metropolis, Dublin, 183-192.

Murray, H. 1983  Viking and early medieval buildings in Dublin, British Archaeological Reports, Oxford.

Ó Floinn, R. 1998  ‘The archaeology of early Viking Age in Ireland’,  In Clarke et al (eds),  Ireland and Scandinavia in the early Viking age. Dublin, 131-65.

Wallace, P.F. 1981  ‘Anglo-Norman Dublin: continuity and change’. In Ó Corráin, D. (ed.) Irish Antiquity, 247-66.

Wallace, P.F. 1992  The Viking age buildings of Dublin, Series A, Volume I, 2 Parts, Dublin.

Additional references relevant to various excavations by B. Ó Ríordáin

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1969  ‘Introduction’,  In C. Haliday, The Scandinavian kingdom of Dublin, v-ix. Irish University Press, Shannon.

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1970a ‘Dublin City’,  In T.G. Delaney (ed.),  Excavations 1970. Association of Young Irish Archaeologists, Ulster Archaeological Society and Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement. 6. 

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1970b ‘Dublin’, In D. M. Wilson and D.G. Hurst (eds), Medieval Britain in 1969, Medieval Archaeology 14, 186.

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1971. ‘Dublin City’. In T.G. Delaney (ed.) Excavations 1970. Association of Young Irish Archaeologists, Ulster Archaeological Society and Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement. 23.

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1972a  ‘Dublin’,  In L.E. Webster and J. Cherry (eds), Medieval Britain in 1972, Medieval Archaeology 17, 168.

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1972b  ‘New light on old Dublin’, Capuchin Annual 39, 53-63 (Republished as ‘Excavations in old Dublin’, in J. Bradley (ed.),  Viking Dublin exposed – the Wood Quay saga ( Dublin, 1984), 134-43).

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1973  ‘Dublin City’,  In T.G. Delaney (ed.),  Excavations 1972. Association of Young Irish Archaeologists, Ulster Archaeological Society and Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement. 11-12. (Reprinted in L.E. Webster and J. Cherry (eds), Medieval Archaeology 17 (1973), 151-2, with illustrations). 

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1974  ‘Dublin City’,  In T.G. Delaney (ed.) Excavations 1973 Association of Young Irish Archaeologists, Ulster Archaeological Society and Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement. 11. (Reprinted with additions and alterations in ‘Archaeology in Ireland today’, a supplement to the Irish Times, 23 April 1974, and in L.E. Webster and J. Cherry (eds), Medieval Archaeology 18 (1974), 206).

15.1 : Back Lane/Lamb Alley, Dublin 96E0300

Site location: NGR: 315300/233700             SMR:DU018-020---

Tim Coughlan*

Fig.15.1.1: Location map of Back Lane/Lamb Alley, Dublin [OSI]

The site of Black Lane/lamb Alley is located in the south-western corner of the medieval walled town of Dublin, with a section of the town wall still standing at the north-western corner of the site (Fig. 15.1.1). The site was first excavated in advance of a proposed development in mid-October 1996, the excavation continued until to mid March 1997.

Plate 15.1.1:  Back Lane/ Lamb Alley. Timber structures looking north.            
[Tim Coughlan]

Plate 15.1.2: Back Lane/ Lamb Alley. Structure G looking north.             
[Tim Coughlan]

A single trench across the site was excavated and seven phases of activity were uncovered:

Phase I

This consisted of pits, post-holes, gullies and a substantial clay bank dating to the Viking period and earlier. The earliest feature consisted of ten post-holes set out along four roughly parallel lines representing a possible palisade. The bank would have stood at least 2m high and appeared to have been constructed in stages. A bone comb dating from the ninth to twelfth century was retrieved from one of the primary deposits.

Phase II

This was Late Viking/Early Anglo-Norman cultivation area running eastwards across the site from the base of the clay bank. A high proportion of shells may represent an attempt at fertilising the soil.

Phase III

This Early Anglo-Norman period was represented by a second deposit of at least 1m of clays on the bank. It is suggested this may represent an upcast of material from the Anglo-Norman ditch dug around the town. Forty eight sherds of pottery dated this phase of activity to the late twelfth/early thirteenth century.

Phase IV

This phase revealed evidence for the establishment of property boundaries and the construction of at least five post-and-wattle houses dated to 1170-1200 AD. A variety of pits, cess pits, fences, pathways and hearths were associated with these structures.

Phase V

Two timber-framed houses, one of which was semi-sunken were recorded and these date to 1200-1260 AD.

Phase VI

Stone buildings, stone walls and later medieval activity (1260-1550) date to this phase. All the timber structures were sealed under a large deposit of mixed clays which acted as a foundation for the stone buildings. A number of stone drains, a stone-lined hearth, an area of cobbling and a stone trough were also uncovered.

Phase VII

This post-medieval activity (1550-1900) consisted of cellars representing the rear of properties facing onto High Street. A number of drains, red-brick and wooden, barrel pits and a large wooden trough were also uncovered.

This excavation was particularly interesting as it provided strong evidence for a change in building techniques from the Viking period on. In the late twelfth/early thirteenth century there was a clear continuation of the Viking post-and-wattle construction, indicating that the arrival of the Anglo-Normans did not precipitate an immediate change in technology. In the early thirteenth century timber-framed houses replaced post-and-wattle construction and were larger and stronger structures of oak. The mid-thirteenth century saw a change again when buildings were constructed of stone.

Reference

This site has been partially published in Coughlan, T. 2000 ‘The Anglo-Norman houses of Dublin: Evidence from Back Lane’ in S. Duffy (ed.), Medieval Dublin I, 203-33 Four Courts Press, Dublin. No finds section was included in the publication.

15.2 : 5/6 Cecilia Street, Dublin 96E0003

Site location: NGR 31560/23410        
SMR: DU018-02046- NGR: 31568/23416

Linzi Simpson

Fig.15.2.1: Location map of 5-6 Cecilia Street, Dublin [OSI]

The site is located on Fownes Street Upper, a street thought to represent the eastern boundary of an Augustinian friary (Fig. 15.2.1). The western boundary is formed by Temple Lane, one of the earliest lanes in Dublin, probably of Viking origin. The Friary itself was constructed outside of the walls of Dublin in the eastern suburb c.1260.

Plate 15.2.1:5-6 Cecilia Street. Internal arch supported wall.               
[Linzi Simpson]

The excavation was completed in one season in February 1996 and revealed substantial remains of the Friary, the best preserved being a large limestone wall supported by a series of large arches and external buttresses. This was interpreted as the Friary precinct wall, continuing north past the limit of excavation. Within the wall the remains of a large medieval lime-kiln was uncovered, representing the earliest Friary remains on site, presumably used during the construction of the Friary. An internal arched wall was then built over and sealed the kiln; this was bonded with a second internal wall which ran along the southern boundary of the site and was bonded with the precinct wall at the eastern end. Traces of other internal walls were excavated as spreads of mortar and rubble. At the northern end of the site the foundations of the southeast corner of a large stone building were uncovered. This post-dated the Friary precinct wall and may represent the foundations of one of the mansions built c.1600. A series of later, regular limestone walls were also located throughout the site, incorporating the remaining Friary walls. These may represent the foundations of early eighteenthcentury houses. No associated habitation or floor levels were recovered, but an organic infill deposit did produce medieval floor tiles and some medieval pottery, including local Dublin wares.

References

Simpson, L. 1997  ‘5/6 Cecilia Street’,  In I. Bennett (ed.),  Excavations 1996. Wordwell Ltd., Bray, 20-21.

Simpson, L. 1997  ‘5-6 Cecilia St. West’,  Medieval Archaeology 41, 304-5.

15.3 : Christchurch Place, Dublin City E122

Site location: NGR 31510/23390            SMR: 018-020---

Breandán Ó Ríordáin

Christchurch place is situated south of Christ Church Cathedral and Winetavern St., east of High St. in the centre of the medieval city of Dublin (Fig. 15.3.1). For this reason it is not surprising that, like many of the other excavations in this area, the investigation at this site, begun in autumn 1972 on behalf of the National Museum  of Ireland and completed in January 1976, produced evidence of intensive occupation spanning a period from as early as the mid-tenth century to the late-thirteenth/early-fourteenth centuries.

Fig.15.3.1: Location map of Christchurch Place, Dublin [OSI]

The main period of activity occurred over a period of two hundred years, dating from the mid-tenth to the twelfth centuries. Attributable to this period were the remains of seven successive houses, repeatedly constructed on the same plot, the most notable of which was the discovery of a complete ground plan of a house of stave-type construction, probably dating to the eleventh century. It was rectangular in plan, 8m long by 5m wide and orientated east-west. There was sufficient preservation to determine that the walls were constructed of staves and vertical timber planks. The bases of the staves and intervening planks rested on wooden sill-beams at ground level. Three internal hearths and evidence that the side walls had been reconstructed suggested that the house was in use over a lengthy period. Internal divisions within the house indicated that one large room contained the central stone-edged hearth and a bench along each side wall. At the western end of the house two small chambers opened off the central passage and another abutting the eastern end-wall appeared to have included a privy, in the form of an under-floor wooden culvert which drained into a cesspit. A plank-floored vestibule with its opening in the southern side wall formed the entrance. A large number of artefacts were retrieved including several decorated leather scabbards, one bears the inscription reading EDRIC ME FECIT, a silver coin of the Sitric series, fish hooks, knife blades, nails, staples, pointed implements, arrowheads and small iron tools, barrel padlocks and keys, fragments of hair nets and textiles, weaving tablets and spindle whorls. Evidence of metal working and comb making was also detected.

All remaining houses were made of a post and wattle technique, including one, dating to the late-eleventh/early-twelfth century. It measured 9.5m X 4.45m, orientated E-W, had a 1m wide doorway with a stout oak jamb on either side and was located off-centre on the southern wall. The hearth was centrally placed, surrounded by surface of compacted mud and soil, the remaining floor was of brushwood. The walls were originally mud plastered. Associated finds included a late Viking iron sword with inscription, a small wooden weaving tablet, Hiberno-Norse and Anglo-Saxon coins and a rune inscribed wooden object resembling a spade or baker’s shovel. Close to the house was evidence for bone comb manufacture in the discovery of antler waste and single and double sided decorated combs, including one of whale bone. An area of metalworking was also recovered from the eleventh and twelfth century layers. Other finds from this phase include a wooden knife handle bearing Urnes-stye decoration and a wooden carving of a human head with Ringerike style decoration.

Latest activity was evident in the form of an extensive stone culvert, 30m long, associated with a partially demolished mortared stone building. Finds from this phase included sherds of a SW French type pottery and an English reckoning counter of c.1300 AD.

References

Ó Ríordáin, B. 1975  ‘Dublin City: Christchurch Place’,  In T. G. Delaney (ed.),  Excavations 1974, Association of Young Irish Archaeologists, Ulster Archaeological Society and Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement. 14-15.

Murray, H. 1983  Viking and Early Medieval Buildings in Dublin: a study of the buildings excavated under the direction of A. B. Ó Ríordáin in High Street, Winetavern Street and Christchurch Place, Dublin 1962-63, 1967-76, British Archaeological Reports, 119. Oxford.

Ó Ríordáin, B. 1981  ‘Aspects of Viking Dublin’,  Proceedings of the Eighth Viking Congress 1977, Odense University Press 1981.

15.4 : Dublin Castle E296/E297/E298/E323/E324

Site location: NGR: 31540/23400           SMR: DU 018-020---

Ann Lynch and Conleth Manning

Fig.15.4.1: Location map of Dublin Castle, Dublin [OSI]

Extensive archaeological excavations were carried out at Dublin Castle between 1985 and 1987 (Fig. 15.4.1). Ann Lynch directed excavations in the areas of the Cork Tower, the Bermingham Tower and the Children’s Court while Conleth Manning excavated at the Genealogical Office and in the area of the Powder Tower. The excavations were undertaken by the National Monuments Service. Prior to this, in connection with construction work in 1962, some archaeological excavation was undertaken in the Cross Block between the Record Tower and the Powder Tower by Marcus Ó hEochaidhe (Section 15.5).

The castle was constructed in the early thirteenth century, within the pre-existing south-east corner of the Hiberno-Norse town of Dublin, on low-lying ground which sloped gradually upwards towards the west and north and was bounded on its south and east sides by the Poddle River. The massive moat provided defence on the west and north sides and the thirteenth-century town walls extended from the south-west and north-east corners of the castle, thereby incorporating the castle in the circuit of the medieval town defences.

The Hiberno-Norse or pre-castle layers

Layers pre-dating the castle only survived outside the moat and inside the castle walls. In this limited area of excavation, nine separate phases of activity were identified. These ranged from a large cess pit and cobbled walkway in Phase 1 to possible property boundaries (Phases 2, 4 and 6), metalworking (Phase 3), post-and-wattle houses (Phases 5, 8 and 9) and a period of abandonment (Phase 7). These deposits were aceramic but produced numerous artefacts including an antler saw frame and an antler comb with a runic inscription. No definitive dating evidence was recovered for these early habitation levels but a date of around the tenth/eleventh century is suggested.

In the Powder Tower area, a narrow strip of ground was excavated just inside the north curtain wall of the castle and between it and the retained south façade of the thirteenth century building. Some lines of stake holes were uncovered as were deposits of clay that appear to represent house floors of the Viking period.

Within the circular interior of the Powder Tower and below its lowest floor level pre-castle deposits survived. The earliest feature uncovered here was part of the outer face of a north/south stone-faced bank. A short stretch of post-and-wattle fencing was found in front of the southern section of bank and this may have served as a breakwater. Layers of refuse were dumped over the bank and part of the timber-revetted face of a later bank was found at a higher level. These banks appear to be the eastern defences of the pre-Norman town.

Vestiges of a possible ditch or fosse were recorded within the foundations of the square tower, adjacent to the Birmingham Tower and may represent the remains of a defensive fosse belonging to the Hiberno-Norse town.

In the Cross Block pre-castle deposits were uncovered in 1962, including the remains of three post and wattle houses with stone-kerbed hearths. The excavator suggested a tenth-century date for the earliest levels.

The medieval castle

The lower portion of the outer facings of the west and north curtain walls and of the corner towers, were exposed. The moat which encircled the west and north sides of the castle was investigated at a number of points as were those portions of the town walls which abutted the Bermingham Tower and Powder Tower.

The Bermingham Tower: The excavations exposed a segment of the thirteenth-century battered base of the tower and the associated curtain wall which extended northwards from it. Earlier masonry incorporated in the thirteenth-century structures was exposed north of the tower and this early masonry may have been part of an enclosing or enceinte wall belonging to an earlier fortification.

Excavations uncovered the foundations of a square tower abutting the base of the Bermingham Tower on the west side. The digging of the moat and addition of a battered base to the early masonry wall also date to the thirteenth century.

The Cork Tower: The excavations revealed a portion of the battered base of the Cork Tower as it was re-built in the 1620’s and a series of intra-mural timbers had survived in its base.

The Powder Tower: Up to 6m of the tower survives above its bedrock foundation, the lowest 2m or so of the outer face is vertical on the north side; above this the wall has a batter. At most only a few courses (up to 1m high) of a finished inner face survived. The floor was originally of mortared masonry but was removed during medieval times. Beneath it were the pre-castle levels with 0.3-0.8m of deposits dating from about the fourteenth century above it containing evidence for metal-working.

Plate 15.4.1:  Dublin Castle. The Powder Tower under excavation.
[Con Brogan/John Scarry]

Fig.15.4.2: Reconstruction of the Powder Tower
[Aislinn Adams]

Entrance area: This area north of the old Genealogical Office, under the old Guardhouse and the La Touche Bank revealed the truncated base of the causeway leading across the moat to the gatehouse. It was revetted at each side by vertically faced mortared masonry. There was an original gap in the causeway, 2.5m wide, about half way across the moat, which appears to have been a drawbridge pit. Two later buttresses were found here supporting the corners of the causeway on the east side. A late narrow wall was inserted between the two corners and this had a narrow arch in it.

To the north of the causeway the base of an early ditch was found running east/west. This was either an early defensive ditch for the causeway itself or may have pre-dated the early thirteenth-century castle.

The curtain wall: Excavations on the site of the old Children’s Court exposed a short stretch of the thirteenth-century curtain wall that linked the Cork Tower with the castle gateway to the east. A longer section of the base of the curtain wall was excavated under Block 8, between the gateway and the Powder Tower. The curtain wall itself was founded on boulder clay and the trench for it was cut vertically through pre-castle deposits exactly where the inner or south face was to be built so that the wall face abutted the earlier deposits. The east end of the north curtain wall was excavated as part of the Cross Block excavations in the 1960s and contained the lower part of an original postern with steps descending into the moat immediately to the west of the Powder Tower.

The moat: The wide moat skirted the castle’s western and northern curtain walls and was designed to provide effective defence from the townward side. The full width of the moat was exposed at only the north-west corner, where it measured almost 22m. It was roughly U-shaped in section and had a maximum depth of c.10m below contemporary ground level.

The large arches in the town walls would have allowed the tide to ebb and flow around the moat throughout the thirteenth century. Once the arches were blocked up however, in about the fourteenth-century, the only water source would have been derived from natural springs, ground water and seepage from the Poddle.

When the Cork Tower was being rebuilt, the moat deposits were removed/disturbed. Closer to the town wall at the Powder Tower, the deposits were less disturbed and a wattle fence and a drain were uncovered. Elsewhere within the moat there was an accumulation of refuse deposits ranging in date from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries.

The town wall: In the Powder Tower area the moat was excavated up to the west face of the town wall where it joined the tower. An arched opening, about 7m wide, allowed the tide to flow through the moat. It was blocked in the late fourteenth or fifteenth-century. Above the arch was a subsidiary relieving arch to help spread the weight of the wall.

The thirteenth-century town wall also abuts the base of the square tower adjacent to the Bermingham Tower and extends westward from it across the castle moat. An arch was incorporated in the wall where it spanned the deepest part of the moat; it was later blocked up, probably in the fourteenth-century.

Post-medieval activity

By the seventeenth century trees were growing in the moat, property boundaries had extended onto it from the townward side and a series of simple timber revetments had been built along its sides. The remains of post medieval houses together with their drainage and sewage systems, were fully recorded during the excavations.

Conclusions

The Dublin Castle excavations have contributed significantly to our knowledge of the building history of the enclosing elements of this major thirteenth-century fortification and its relationship with the contemporary town defences. The changing role of the castle moat from defensive feature to refuse dump to building site reflects changing social and military conditions within the town. The artefactual evidence from the excavation also throws light on the social and economic conditions pertaining in the town adjacent to the castle from the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

Dublin Castle represents an important link in the development of castles in western Europe. Already in the late twelfth-century the concept of a great tower, serving as a last resort/symbol of lordship, was going out of fashion and the defensive elements of castles were being concentrated on the perimeter walls. In the early thirteenth-century large twin-towered gatehouses were coming into fashion along with rounded towers at the corners and interspersed along the walls, which provided flanking fire to protect the curtain walls. Dublin could be seen as almost a greenfield site where the new theories could be tried out in a single integrated plan.

The archaeological implications of the proposed development at Dublin Castle were considered from the very earliest stages of the project and there was close liaison at all times between the archaeologist and the project architects and engineers.

Post-excavation research and analysis followed on the excavation and specialist reports were produced on different types of finds, animal bones, human bones and environmental samples. The site supervisors produced provisional accounts and interpretations of the stratigraphy and a report was produced on the history. This work was completed before 1990 but the increasing workloads of the authors since then have militated against the preparation of the final report for publication.

References

A good overview article, from which this synopsis has been taken, is:

Lynch, A. & Manning, C. 2001  ‘Excavations at Dublin Castle, 1985-7’,  In S. Duffy (ed.),  Medieval Dublin II, 169-204.

Lynch, A. 1987  ‘Dublin Castle’,  Medieval Archaeology 31, 177-8.

Manning, C. 1987  ‘Dublin Castle, Royal Exchange Ward’,  In C. Cotter (ed.), Excavations 1986. Wordwell Ltd., Dublin, 17-18.

Manning, C. 2001  ‘The Powder Tower, Dublin Castle’, Archaeology Ireland. , Heritage Guide No. 14

Simpson, L. 2000  ‘Forty years a-digging: a preliminary synthesis of archaeological investigations in medieval Dublin’,  In S. Duffy (ed.),  Medieval Dublin I, 33.

15.5 : Dublin Castle  E748

Site location: NGR: 31540/23400  SMR: DU 018-020---

Marcus Ó hEochaidhe

Fig.15.5.1: Location map of Dublin Castle, Dublin [OSI]

Extensive archaeological excavations were carried out at Dublin Castle (Fig. 15.5.1) between 1985 and 1987 (Section 15.4). Prior to this, as a result of construction work in 1962, some archaeological excavation was undertaken in the Record Tower/Crossing Block by Marcus Ó hEochaidhe.

The castle was constructed on low-lying ground which sloped gradually upwards towards the west and north and was bounded on its south and east sides by the river Poddle. The massive moat provided defence on the west and north sides and the thirteenth-century town walls extended from the south-west and north-east corners of the castle, thereby incorporating the castle in the circuit of the medieval town defences.

 

Record Tower/Crossing Block           

The Record Tower was part of the original castle, thought to have been constructed in the thirteenth century. In 1814 it was fitted out as a repository for State papers and the present upper floor and battlements were also constructed. By the middle of the twentieth century the foundations of the Cross Block had become unstable and it was decided to rebuild the tower with pastiche façades. During the demolition archaeological layers became exposed prompting the first scientific archaeological excavation in medieval Dublin. Three areas were investigated.

  • The junction of the cross Block with the Record Tower.
  •  Mid-way along the Cross Block.
  • The northern end of the Cross Block where the east and north curtain walls meet the Powder Tower.

Plate 15.5.1: Dublin Castle. View of the Record Tower looking southeast
[Hugh Kavanagh]

The investigation also revealed evidence for post and wattle houses, some with stone-kerbed hearths that predated the castle. A tenth century date was suggested for the earliest levels. Unfortunately the excavation was never completed.

References

Lynch, A. and Manning, C. 2001  ‘Excavations at Dublin Castle, 1985-7’,  In S. Duffy (ed.),  Medieval Dublin II, 169-204.

Simpson, L. 2000  ‘Forty years a-digging: a preliminary synthesis of archaeological investigations in medieval Dublin’,  In S. Duffy (ed.) Medieval Dublin I, 33.

15.6 : Essex Street / Exchange Street, Dublin 96E0245

Site location: NGR 31540/23410

Linzi Simpson

Fig.15.6.1: Location map of Essex Street/Exchange Street, Dublin [OSI]

The site is bounded by the Liffey to the north and the Poddle to the east, within the north east corner of the area of Viking settlement at Dublin (Fig. 15.6.1). This area formed part of the tenth century town and is thought to have once been enclosed by defensive banks, though no evidence of any defences has been discovered. The excavation was carried out between September 1996 and continued into early 1997 in advance of a proposed development, and was funded by Temple Bar Properties. Three areas were investigated, a large block fronting onto Upper Exchange Street, a connecting site fronting onto Copper Alley and a third site fronting onto Essex Street West.

Plate 15.2.2: 5-6 Cecilia Street. Site during excavation.                             
[Linzi Simpson]

At Copper Alley the lowest levels of excavation produced foundations of an early rectangular post-built structure with a central hearth, which is dissimilar to other known Viking houses in this region. This may represent either a prototype/alternative or an earlier tradition. To the north, at Essex Street West a line of posts was discovered flanking a watercourse, in the manner of a fence revetment.

Traces of an early enclosure, in the form of a slot trench and large post-holes and an external house, were found on the higher ground to the east of the river. A period of cultivation followed this activity. Overlying industrial hearths/ovens indicate that this area was later used as an early Viking metalworking site. The watercourse was reclaimed and several Type 1 houses, for domestic and possibly industrial use and one Type 2, linked by a wattle path, were constructed at the north and south-eastern area of the site.

Throughout the eleventh and twelfth centuries the eastern side of the site was continually used a metalworking area and large structures with supporting corner posts were associated with this level. Poor preservation at the upper levels led to difficulties in interpreting the large numbers of post-holes uncovered. A deep deposit of clay and numerous open-air hearths represented the latest Viking levels.

Anglo-Norman activity resulted in a massive ‘quarrying’ of Viking deposits on the southern and eastern sides. This was then infilled with large deposits of garden soil and riverine silt, probably associated with the reclamation of the block north of the site in the 1260’s.

Finds included Viking bone pins, antler combs, bone gaming pieces, amber pendants, metal dress-pins, quernstones, fragments of leather and textiles. More unusual were the finds of walrus ivory pins, an antler handle with a runic inscription panel of gold filigree, a bone trial piece and a rib-bone ruler marked out with the Viking ‘inch’.

References

Simpson, L.  1998  ‘Essex St. W./Lwr. Exchange St.’,   Medieval Archaeology 42, 159-60.

Simpson, L.  1998  ‘Essex Street West/Lower Exchange Street, Dublin’,  In I. Bennett (ed.),  Excavations 1997. Wordwell Ltd., Bray, 41-42.

Simpson, L.  1999  Director’s Findings: Temple Bar West. Temple Bar Archaeological Report No. 5. Temple Bar Properties, Dublin.

15.7 : Fishamble Street I, Dublin E000141

Site location: NGR:31500/23400 (general area)   
SMR: 018-020---

Breandán Ó Ríordáin

Fig.15.7.1: Location map of Fishamble Street I, Dublin [OSI]

Fishamble St. is situated within the walls of the medieval city of Dublin, in the area of the Viking settlement at Wood Quay and runs N-S from the Liffey southwards to the junction of Lord Edward St. and Dame St (Fig. 15.7.1). Two series of excavations were undertaken in 1975-6 by the National Museum of Ireland in an area just south of the enclosing medieval walls. The investigation recovered evidence that pre-dated the construction of the medieval city walls.

Two sections of a curved earthen bank, with associated palisades of post and wattle work and of vertical timber planking were discovered that pre-dated the old city wall. This feature may have acted as a flood barrier, protecting the site from the overflowing banks of the Liffey. An area of habitation was identified in the interior of the earthwork with finds of amber, including fragments and roughouts of beads and pendants, textiles and leatherwork, an iron arrowhead and wooden shaft, bone trial pieces, bronze pins and an Anglo-Saxon coin of tenth century date. A second, more substantial earthen bank was identified in section, which was associated with habitation layers of Viking-Medieval date. Further excavation of this area was by undertaken by Patrick Wallace in 1977 (Fishamble St II).

Reference

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1977   ‘Dublin City’,  In T.G. Delaney (ed.), Excavations 1975-6. Association of Young Irish Archaeologists, Ulster Archaeological Society and Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement.

15.8 : Fishamble Street II, Dublin E172

Site location: NGR: 3150/23400            
SMR: DU 018-020---

Patrick F. Wallace

Fig.15.8.1: Location map of Fishamble Street II, Dublin [OSI]

Fishamble Street is situated within the walls of the medieval city of Dublin, in the area of the Viking settlement at Wood Quay, running N-S from the Liffey southwards to the junction of Lord Edward St. and Dame St (Fig. 15.8.1). The excavations at Fishamble Street and Wood Quay, undertaken by the National Museum of Ireland are particularly important in that the level of preservation of the organic remains provided a continuous stratigraphic sequence of settlement in Viking and medieval Dublin. It provides valuable information for our understanding of the layout of tenth and eleventh century Dublin and of the beginnings of urban development in Ireland.

Nine waterfronts were unearthed at Wood Quay/Fishamble St. The first five were Viking in date and ranged from possible flood banks (early tenth century) to two defensive embankments (later tenth century) and a stone wall dating to c.1100. The first of the two defensive embankments was aligned on the river side with morticed planks and with a cobbled path leading to Fishamble St. on the other. This was later replaced by a larger more substantial bank, constructed of stone, gravel, earth and finally estuarine mud. This bank may have enclosed the entire settlement.

Fourteen trapezoidal-shaped plots or tenements of the Viking age were partially excavated along the Fishamble Street side of Wood Quay. Each plot had an individual wattle mat and log pathway leading to and from the waterfront and probably to a main street. Houses which spanned the entire plot had to have doors at each end and it was possible the use of the pathways was under the control of the individual plot owners. As many as thirteen successive building levels within the tenth to eleventh century period were investigated. All the structures excavated were rectangular in plan, had rounded corners and post-and-wattle side- and end-walls. The roofs may have been hipped or sloped, relatively steeply pitched and supported on two pairs of internal posts. The size position and number of buildings varied from plot to plot and from one building level to the next. Some plots, especially 4 and 9, were extremely wide and some, like the contiguous pair 5 and 6, were extremely narrow. Clearly properties of approximate size were not grouped together. Plots 5 and 6 are an exception and have a sequence of consistently narrow houses especially designed to fit into small plots which may have resulted from the subdivision of a single plot at a relatively early level. Successive buildings were often built in different places and were of different sizes and designs within the plot. An example of this was recorded at level 11, where a row of at least five houses was built side by side, each with a pathway to its end door. Plots were separated from each other by low post-and-wattle fences, sometimes with woven thorns at the top and no gaps or gateways. Pathways ran along by the fences. A number of rubbish pits were also excavated in the plots. One amber-working plot was the only evidence of industrial activity recorded.

The finds from Fishamble Street have been invaluable in providing information on the crafts and skills practiced in the Viking town as well as contacts with other countries through trade. Domestic artefacts belonging to coopers, turners, shipwrights, blacksmiths and carvers were recovered.

Ornamental pieces included a series of wooden pieces of eleventh century Hiberno-Norse Ringerike style. One of the Fishamble Street plots revealed evidence of amber working, the amber is thought to have been brought in from the Baltic or East England. 

Among the metal finds are 23 pre-Norman coins. The Fishamble Street Æthelred series is most remarkable for containing three coins from the Devonshire mints of Barnstaple and Exeter and four pennies from London, while the Cnut coin found was dated to c.1024-30 and minted at Gloucester. The high content of English coins from this excavation contrasted with the higher proportions of Hiberno-Norse coins from other excavations in Dublin. The hilt of a late Saxon sword was also found, as were several pieces of carved walrus ivory. A runic inscribed nummular brooch and a number of disc brooches were also uncovered.

Pottery sherds were however the most numerous of the up to 30,000 artefacts retrieved from the Fishamble Street excavations and indicated again the extent of foreign trade. Cooking pots of Chester type, glazed pots imported from Late Saxon Britain and the excavation also proved that Normandy red painted and Ardennes vessels were imported in the eleventh century. A pair of lidded jugs of probable French origin was also discovered. Later in the twelfth century layers Dublin–made jugs became common among the pottery assemblage although trade with England was still evident at this time and the ceramic assemblage included Bristol, Chester and Glouchester wares as well as French vessels of Saintonge type.

References

Geraghty, S.  1999  Viking Dublin: botanical evidence from Fishamble Street, Royal Irish Academy, Dublin. 

Wallace, P.F.  1986  ‘The English presence in Viking Dublin’,  In M.A.S. Blackburn (ed.),  Anglo-Saxon monetary history: essays in memory of Michael Dolley. Leicester University Press, Leicester, 201-221.

Wallace, P.F.  1987  ‘The Layout of Later Viking Age Dublin: Indications of its regulation and problems of continuity’,  Proceedings of the Tenth Viking Congress, Larkollen, Norway, 1985. Universitetets Oldsaksamlings Skrifter, Oslo, 271-285.

Wallace, P.F.  1988  ‘Archaeology and the emergence of Dublin as the principal town of Ireland’,  In J. Bradley (ed.), Settlement and Society in Medieval Ireland. Boethius Press, Kilkenny, 125-160.

Wallace, P.F.  1992a   The Viking Age Buildings in Dublin. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.

Wallace, P.F.  1992b  ‘The Archaeological Identity of the Hiberno-Norse Town’,  Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 122, 35-66.

Simpson, L.  2000 ‘Forty years a-digging: a preliminary synthesis of archaeological investigations in medieval Dublin’,   In S. Duffy (ed.),  Medieval Dublin I, Four Courts Press, Dublin. 27.

15.9 : High Street, Dublin  E43

Site location: NGR: 31500/23300 (general area) 
SMR: DU 018-020---3263B

Breandán Ó Ríordáin

Fig.15.9.1: Location map of High Street E43, Dublin [OSI]

High Street runs parallel to the River Liffey, on the south side, and extends from Cornmarket to Christ Church. Located to the south of the Viking settlement site at Wood Quay and east of the later Dublin Castle, High St. was the principal street in the medieval period (Fig. 15.9.1). This excavation ran over two six-month seasons in 1962 and 1963 and was focused on a plot of land at the corner of High St. and Nicholas St. with Back Lane bordering the block to the south. It was undertaken prior to a street-widening scheme was undertaken by the National Museum of Ireland on behalf of Dublin Corporation. Evidence from the occupation debris below the eighteenth century cellars indicated activity dating from the tenth to the early fourteenth centuries.

Excavation established that the earliest settlement on this site was Viking, yielding finds of bone trial-pieces with Borre style design, a bronze needle case, a gilt bronze disc-brooch decorated in the Borre-Jellinge style and an ingot-mould of soapstone. Evidence of comb making, leather working and weaving was also recovered. Structural remains of the Viking and later periods indicated a series of single-storey, sub-rectangular, post-and-wattle houses, generally consisting of two spaced rows of undressed upright posts with a horizontal weft of rods or wattles between them. Ground plans gave measurements of an average building size of  8m X 6m.

Between 1967-72 further excavations were carried out at a site to the west, on a plot bordered by High St. and Back Lane (see E71-Ó Ríordáin, B).

References

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1971 ‘Excavations at High Street and Winetavern Street, Dublin’,  Medieval Archaeology 15, 73-85. 

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1976  ‘The High Street excavations’,  In B. Almqvist and D. Greene (eds), Proceedings of the Seventh Viking Congress, Royal Irish Academy/Viking Society for Northern Research, Dublin, 135-40.

15.10 : High Street, Dublin E71

Site location: NGR 31510/23380       
SMR: DU018-020---3263B

Breandán Ó Ríordáin

Fig.15.10.1: Location map of High Street E71, Dublin [OSI]

High Street runs parallel to the River Liffey, on the south side and extends from Cornmarket to Christ Church. Located to the south of the Viking settlement site at Wood Quay and east of the later Dublin Castle, High St. was the principal street in the medieval period (Fig. 15.10.1). Between 1967-72 excavations were carried out on a large ‘L’-shaped plot of land bordered by High Street to the north and Back Lane to the south (west of the 1962-3 excavations at High St. (see E43- Ó Ríordáin, B.).

As with the earlier investigation at High St., this plot revealed extensive evidence of occupation pre-dating the eighteenth century cellars. The thirteenth century layers yielded finds including a pewter pilgrim-badge, a lead seal-matrix, the figure of a centaur in bas-relief and a small bronze pilgrim’s flask/ampulla. The vast array of worked leather recovered, dating to the late twelfth/early thirteenth century, suggested a work area for more than one cobbler. Pottery dating to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries both imported and of local manufacture, was also present in abundance. Evidence for bone and antler working, especially comb manufacture, dating from the eleventh to the thirteenth century was also uncovered. The most notable of these finds was a number of carved bone trial pieces bearing panels of interlacements and geometric motifs including one of Ringerike style that may be compared with a panel on the shrine of the Cathach of Columcille (c.1062-1098). Finds of crucible-fragments, slag and vitreous material, in association with a workshop-hearth and some trial pieces suggested the presence of a metalworking area. Over 180 bronze pins and an eleventh century pewter disc-brooch were recovered. In the late tenth/early eleventh century levels two gold arm rings of Scandinavian type were found, while a silver coin (c. 941 AD) was recovered from the earliest occupation level.

A timber-framed structure was found in a pit with the fill suggesting it was used as a privy and a rubbish pit; it was dated to the late thirteenth/ early fourteenth century.

Post and wattle structures were encountered at all levels but no complete house plan was recovered. Two wooden thresholds were examined, one of which had a stout oak jamb on either side of the entrance with a slot for the wattle-work walls, a type seen at the excavations at Winetavern St. (see below).

In the thirteenth century levels a number of timber-framed buildings were found. A late eleventh century well-preserved 1m wide plank pathway was also excavated.

A shallow grave dug into the underlying boulder clay contained an extended female skeleton. Analysis of the stomach contents revealed knotgrass (Polygonum spp.) and goosefoot (Chenopodium album).

References

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1971  ‘Excavations at High Street and Winetavern Street, Dublin’, Medieval Archaeology 15, 73-82.

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1972  ‘Dublin City’, In T.G. Delaney (ed.) Excavations 1971. Association of Young Irish Archaeologists and Ulster Archaeological Society. 28-29.

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1976  ‘The High Street excavations’,  In B. Almqvist and D. Greene (eds), Proceedings of the Seventh Viking Congress, Royal Irish Academy/Viking Society for Northern Research, Dublin, 135-40.

15.11 : Winetavern Street, Dublin  E81

Site location: NGR:31500/23400 (general area)   
SMR: DU 018-020

Breandán Ó Ríordáin

Fig.15.11.1: Location map of Winetavern Street, Dublin [OSI]

Winetavern Street is located immediately north of Christ Church Cathedral and adjacent to the Viking settlement at Wood Quay, bordering the present day Dublin Corporation Civic Offices (Fig. 15.11.1). It runs from the Liffey on the north and southwards to Christ Church Place in the heart of the medieval city. The excavation was carried out over four years between 1969–73 and recovered evidence of activity spanning over several centuries, though later building caused much disturbance to the later medieval and post medieval strata. The excavation was focused on the undisturbed layers that dated from the ninth/tenth to the thirteenth centuries. The material from these excavations demonstrates contact with both Scandinavia and Western Europe.

The eleventh to thirteenth century strata produced many wooden bowls, platters and barrel staves, some unfinished, suggesting the presence of wood-turners and coopers in this area. In a late eleventh century context two planks were found bearing incised sketches of a ship, while two small wooden models of ships were discovered in later levels. The eleventh century levels also yielded decorated and slightly glazed pottery sherds of French origin.

The 1971 season excavated an early eleventh century post and wattle structure, 6m long by 5m wide. The doorway was preserved midway in the northern sidewall with a wooden threshold. Both jambs included a groove on their outer face. The innermost of the two bands of wattle work forming the sidewalls had been slotted into these grooves. A wooden pivot, on which the door swivelled, was close to the inner face of the western jamb. The presence of a dowel hole also suggested the door had a low board acting as a door stop.

In the tenth century levels, a 14m long post and wattle boundary fence stood to a height of 0.30m. The earliest habitation layers revealed a house or workshop with a sunken floor and walls of closely set timber planks. The rectangular floor was on average of 1m below the normal ground surface of the period. The house was aligned north-south, with a doorway, with two timber thresholds in the northern end wall. Immediately outside the doorway was a porch-like feature. Finds included a bronze Anglo-Norman strap-tag a decorated Viking needle case, a large double-sided decorated comb, fragments of amber, wooden barrel staves and a clay crucible.

Other finds from this phase of the excavation included bone combs, bronze pins, a small openwork quadrangular bronze brooch similar to examples form Birka and Hedeby, iron nails, fish-hooks and needles.  In the ninth/tenth centuries in particular there was much evidence for metalworking including strands of bronze and gold wire. A number of pits, both storage pits and cess-pits, were associated with the earlier settlement on the site. 

Plate 15.11.1: Winetavern Street. Toy wooden boat
[http://www.ncte.ie]

The excavation of a timber-lined pit was also completed. It consisted of a frame of four corner posts with horizontal cross-members rebated on the outside of the posts. It was timber lined but no floorboards were present. On the western side there was evidence suggesting material had been-backfilled to stabilize the structure. In the stratum overlying the pit, an Edward I coin (c. 1286-1292) was recovered and over 200 sherds of pottery, including Ham Green ware and Bordeaux ware and glass were recovered from the pit itself. The nature and deposition of the pit fills suggested that initially the structure was used as a cess-pit and later became a convenient receptacle for general refuse.

An extended skeleton, orientated east-west, with the skull at the east, was discovered below the earliest habitation material. No grave goods were present.

References

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1971  ‘Excavations at High Street and Winetavern Street, Dublin’, Medieval Archaeology 15, 73-82.

Ó Ríordáin, A.B. 1972  ‘Dublin City’,  In T.G. Delaney (ed.),  Excavations  1971, Excavations 1975-6. 15. Association of Young Irish Archaeologists, and Ulster Archaeological Society. 28-29.

15.1 : Back Lane/Lamb Alley, Dublin 96E0300
15.2 : 5/6 Cecilia Street, Dublin 96E0003
15.3 : Christchurch Place, Dublin City E122
15.4 : Dublin Castle E296 / E297 / E298 / E323 / E324
15.5 : Dublin Castle E748
15.6 : Essex Street / Exchange Street, Dublin 96E0245
15.7 : Fishamble Street I, Dublin E000141
15.8 : Fishamble Street II, Dublin E172
15.9 : High Street, Dublin E43
15.10 : High Street, Dublin E71
15.11 : Winetavern Street, Dublin E81