Thursday, 30 January 2014

Woodstown Viking

A commissioned illustration done for the NRA (National Roads Authority) of a Hiberno Norse man found in a Viking grave near the townland of Woodstown, just outside Waterford city. This is I believe is the only grave found in Ireland where all 4 weapons were in a single grave, i.e. sword, shield, spear and axe. As long as I remember, there is only 2 graves with all four found in Britain, so whoever this person was, he was a Viking of quite high status. Also I have been told that this is  the first illustration of a Hiberno Norseman based on archaeological evidence!

To start I would just like to thank Dave Swift for taking the time to give me some initial advice in regards Hiberno Norse clothing and weaponry and Stephen Harrison who was brought in by the NRA to give expert advice on the the grave, weaponry & costume and the period, as well as James Eogan of the NRA for taking the time to guide the whole process. Cheers lads, couldnt have done it without ye!

For more detail in regards the grave and find, ill just copy and paste the NRA's writeup:

"The first of numerous Viking raids recorded in the Irish annals was in AD 795 on Rathlin Island, but what did these heathen warriors look like? Using evidence from a grave excavated at the ninth-century Viking settlement site at Woodstown, Co. Waterford, artist J G O’Donoghue has visualised a Viking warrior with advice from Viking expert Dr Stephen Harrison. This is the first time a visualisation has been created of a Viking using evidence from Ireland.

As you would expect this warrior is a strong, well-built man, probably aged in his mid-thirties. He is not a thug, however, his eyes betray the intelligence that made the Vikings so successful in indentifying and exploiting opportunities for trade and settlement in the lands to which they ventured in the eighth and ninth centuries. His clothes and belongings indicate his wealth and status, his hair is groomed and his beard trimmed. He wears a woollen cloak. This is fastened at the shoulder with a ringed pin, a native Irish form of dress ornament that Viking men adopted and spread across north-west Europe. His tunic is decorated with tablet-woven bands.

The weapons and other belongings deposited in the Woodstown grave demonstrate the extensive contacts that Vikings had. These were prized possessions and, of course, were the basis of the ‘terror’ that the Vikings spread outside their homelands. However, the weapons also demonstrate the far flung Viking trading networks and how the Vikings were adept at adopting ‘technology’ from other cultures. Dr Stephen Harrison who has studied the weapons and other grave goods believes that the sword originated in the Carolingian world or was based on a prototype from there. In contrast the spearhead and axehead are of Scandinavian origin. The conical shield boss is different to the hemispherical shield bosses typical in Scandinavia; this design probably reflects Viking contacts with the Anglo-Saxon world. The sword is suspended from a leather belt. The other items suspended from the belt (from left to right) are a knife, a whetstone (made of a type of stone that probably originated in Norway) and a small purse. The purse could have contained a set of lead weights that would have been used for trading; the Woodstown site is notable for the large number of Viking lead weights that have been found. This reflects the importance of trading as a significant motivation for the ninth-century Viking raiding and settlement activity in Ireland.

A large selection of the artefacts from Woodstown, including all of the weapons, is on permanent display in the Waterford Treasures at Reginald’s Tower, Waterford City. For further information about Woodstown see Issue 1 and Issue 2 of Seanda magazine. "

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