The Japan Times
January 16, 2000
Compiled from Reuters, AFP-Jiji

Viking items in Ireland mystifying


DUBLIN — A cache of Viking artifacts found in a cave in southern Ireland is baffling archaeologists.

The items — discovered by a heritage worker cleaning up the cave — include coins, bronze and silver ingots, and conical objects made of silver wire.

"Nothing like these have been seen anywhere, let alone in the Viking world. There is no parallel," said Andrew Halpin, keeper of Irish antiquities at the National Museum in Dublin, Friday.

"We think they could be ornaments for garments, or some kind of cloak fastener but we're not sure. It's a very important find for academics studying this era," he said.

Victor Buckley, senior archaeologist with the heritage service Duchas, said: "It is very, very fine stuff. A silversmith today couldn't make anything better."

The cache, found in County Kilkenny, south of Dublin, includes Anglo-Saxon coins dating from 940, confirming historical evidence that the Vikings maintained settlements in Ireland and northern England at the time.

Halpin said the cave may have been used as a refuge and the artifacts probably formed part of someone's personal wealth that was stashed away for safekeeping during an emergency.

A Viking presence at the site had been well-established, he said, and there were records of a massacre of about 1,000 people in the cave about 40 years before the earliest date on the coins.

Vikings first carried out hit-and-run raids on Ireland in 795 and founded settlements, including most of Ireland's existing major communities, around 840.

The trove was found by a tour guide cleaning up litter in the huge Dunmore Cave, a national monument that was the scene of the massacre by Vikings in 928. The victims were members of the local Osraigh tribe.

"This (cache) dates from about 40 years after the massacre in the cave, but obviously there was another tragedy because the person who hid it never came back," Buckley said.

ANDREW HALPIN of the National Museum in Dublin on Friday examines some conical items made of silver that were found in an Irish cave. REUTERS PHOTO