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Vikings Seminar

The National Museum of Ireland will later this month to host a high-profile seminar on new Viking archaeological discoveries.

The seminar, which is being staged part of the commemorations to mark the millennium of the Battle of Clontarf, involves a day of talks exploring new and exciting discoveries from the Viking Age.

Following the major success of Dublin City Council’s Battle of Clontarf festival, attended by more than 60,000 visitors over the Easter weekend, the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology will now bring together several international experts from museums in Ireland and abroad to present the some of the latest findings relating to the Vikings in Ireland, Britain and Scandinavia.

The talks will be of particular interest to those who will be unable to make it to the British Museum’s new ‘Vikings: Life and Legend’ exhibition in London, as exhibition co-curators Dr Gareth Williams and Dr Anne Pedersen will both speak at the seminar. The exhibition has been developed in partnership between the National Museum of Denmark, the British Museum, and the National Museums in Berlin, and also features several artefacts from the National Museum of Ireland’s collection. Dr Williams explained,

‘The NMI has long been known both for its outstanding Viking collections, and as a centre of expertise in Viking archaeology, and I have benefited from both in the past, both in support for my own research and in the generous loans of objects from the NMI collection to our current exhibition ‘Vikings: life and legend’ at the British Museum.

That exhibition has been developed in collaboration with the National Museum of Denmark, and aims to highlight new research from around the Viking world, so it’s great to be part of an event involving experts from all three institutions, presenting new discoveries and interpretations from all three countries.’

Dr Pedersen is one of two world-renowned Viking experts from the National Museum of Denmark due to speak at the seminar. She will discuss the recent results of excavations at Jelling in Demark, an archaeological complex associated with royal power and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Her colleague Dr Maria Panum Baastrup will speak about looted and imported Irish artifacts discovered in southern Scandinavia.

The programme also features a talk on newly-discovered Viking sites outside Dublin by the Keeper of Irish Antiquities, Eamonn P. Kelly of the National Museum of Ireland. The National Museum’s curator Dr Andrew Halpin and conservator Carol Smith will speak about some newly-discovered Viking weapons currently on display as part of the Museum’s new exhibition ‘Clontarf 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin’.

Combined with Dr Gareth Williams’s talk on the Viking conquest of England, the day-long seminar will help to reveal the story of the Vikings in Ireland beyond the bloody battlefield of Clontarf, as well as provide some insight into Ireland’s position in the wider Viking world.

Seminar Details

Venue: National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

Date and Time: Saturday 24th May, 10 A.M – 4 P.M.

Admission Fee: €10 (Payable on the day, tea and coffee included)

Places limited. Booking is essential. Not wheelchair accessible. For more information or to book a place contact the Education Department by phone: +353 (1) 648 6334 or email:

This seminar is being organised in association with the Embassy of Denmark in Ireland, and is supported by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Programme Information and Speaker Biographies

Dr. Anne Pedersen, Curator, National Museum of Denmark

A Royal Palisade - Recent results of excavations at Jelling in Jutland, Denmark

The Jelling monuments in eastern Jutland have attained almost iconic status in the studies of the social and religious transformation of Viking Age Denmark. Excavations have taken place here since the early nineteenth century but recent discoveries since 2006 have revealed new and unexpected features: remains of buildings and not least traces of an immense palisade enclosing an area of 12.5 hectares, far more than any known farmstead of the Viking Age. The complex was built at the time of King Harald Bluetooth in the second half of the tenth century.

Dr. Anne Pedersen is a curator and senior researcher at the National Museum of Denmark. She is the author of publications on Viking and early medieval subjects, including burial practices and material culture. At present Dr Pedersen is principle investigator of the National Museum Jelling Project. She also is co-curator of the touring Viking exhibition (Copenhagen, London, Berlin).

Dr. Gareth Williams, Curator, British Museum

The Viking Conquest of England: Not as smooth as planned

The reign of Ethelred II (978-1016) saw an escalation in Viking raids on England which saw the payment of massive tributes in silver, and ultimately the Danish conquest of England, first by Svein Forkbeard in 1013 and then by his son Cnut in 1016. However, the recent discovery of a mass burial from near Weymouth in Dorset indicates that not all Vikings in England at this time were so successful…

Dr. Gareth Williams has been a curator at the British Museum since 1996, specialising in the Anglo-Saxon and Viking periods. His research interests include coins and currency, and warfare and military organisation. He is the curator of the BP Exhibition ‘Vikings: Life and Legend’ at the British Museum March 6 - June 22, 2014.

Eamonn P. Kelly, Keeper of Irish Antiquities, National Museum of Ireland

Some new Viking sites outside Dublin

In Irish Viking studies the perception grew that Viking settlement in Ireland was overwhelmingly an urban experience. The picture has been altered by the growing awareness of the existence of Viking rural settlement, especially in coastal areas, and by the identification of Viking fortresses referred to in the Irish annals under the term ‘longphort’. The talk will present and discuss some of these new sites.

Eamonn P. Kelly is the Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland where he curates the national archaeological collections.

Dr. Maria Panum Baastrup, Curator, National Museum of Denmark

Foreign Artifacts in the Hands of Vikings - Looted & Imported Irish Objects Discovered in Southern Scandinavia

In Denmark literally thousands of metal objects from the prehistoric and medieval times are found each year with metal detectors. In recent years large numbers of amateur archaeologists have made an important contribution to the scanning of Danish fields for ploughed-up antiquities. The large amounts of finds are handed over to the National Museum of Denmark. Among these finds are objects that have been looted and imported from Ireland. These finds give us new insight into the Viking world and their contact with their Irish neighbours. Some of the new finds will be presented in the lecture, along with a discussion of why the Irish objects were valuable to the Vikings, what the objects were used for and who used them.

Dr. Maria Panum Baastrup is a curator at the National Museum of Denmark. At present she is working on a project to develop a visitor centre in Jelling and on research with metal detector finds from Denmark from the Viking Age and early medieval times.

Dr Andy Halpin, Assistant Keeper, Irish Antiquities Division and Carol Smith, Archaeological Conservator, National Museum of Ireland

Back from the deep: Newly discovered Viking Age weapons

Recent discoveries of Viking-type weapons, broadly contemporary with the battle of Clontarf, allow fresh insights into the complexities of defining material cultures in Ireland in the later Viking period. The loss of these weapons in wet environments (the river Shannon and Lough Corrib) has led to the survival of a lot of exciting and important information which is being revealed by conservation work in the National Museum of Ireland. Curator Andy Halpin and conservator Carol Smith will present the wide range of information – archaeological, military and cultural – which these new discoveries have yielded.

Dr Andy Halpin is Assistant Keeper in Irish Antiquities Division of the National Museum of Ireland and is lead curator for the ‘Clontarf 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin’ exhibition. His research has focused on the archaeology of Dublin and on medieval (including Viking) weapons and warfare in Ireland. Publications include The Port of Medieval Dublin (2000) and Weapons and Warfare in Viking and Medieval Dublin (2008).

Carol Smith is an archaeological conservator and archaeologist. She has been working in the Conservation Department of the National Museum since 1999.

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