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Viking Dublin Comes to Life

Viking Dublin was the foremost port of the Norse world, 'filled with the wealth of barbarians' according to a contemporary writer. But although it was one of Europe's leading slave and trading centres dealing with incoming silks from Byzantium, wine from France, amber from the Baltic, pottery from England and exporting fleeces, hides and, in its early days, slaves from Irish monasteries, it was a dirty place, smelly and crammed into a space about the size of a modern supermarket parking lot.

The Viking Adventure, which started drawing crowds from the day it opened, is a realistic recreation of part of this tenth-century town. It is an imaginative spin-off from the excavations carried out at Dublin's Wood Quay between 1974 and 1981. This dig, the largest urban excavation in northern Europe and one which yielded over two million artefacts and fragments and thousands of environmental and bone samples, is the most important of its kind because of the picture it gave of tenth-century town layout.

Many of the finds went on show in the Merrion Row annexe of Dublin's National Museum; pieces of weapons, jewellery, pottery, human bones and so on; a typical glass case museum display hardly likely to fire the imagination. Pat Wallace, assistant keeper of the museum who had directed the excavations at Wood Quay, was not particularly happy with the display but what can a museum chronically short of money do? But luck was to shine on Viking Dublin.

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