Hopes that the Government might fund a full excavation of the Woodstown Viking site in Waterford appear diminished.
Local Labour Deputy Brian O’Shea tabled a Dáil question last week asking the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to outline his plans regarding the provision of a museum or heritage/interpretative centre at the site, and also about conducting a further dig there.
John Gormley – who attended an international Viking conference in the city during the recent Green Party convention – said in reply: “The view of the Woodstown Working Group, established to provide expert advice to [me], is that the archaeological findings in this case, which are entirely underground, are not suitable for presentation to the public on site and that the interpretation of the site and the display of artefacts should take place at the Waterford Museum of Treasures in Waterford City.”
And he added: “In light of the scale of the work already undertaken, and the comprehensive findings from it, which are being prepared for publication, there are no plans to conduct further archaeological excavations at this time.”
Last month’s three-day Hiberno-Norse conference closed with a call for a full excavation of the Woodstown site by NUI Maynooth history lecturer, Dr Colman Etchingham. He said that even from the “tantalising glimpses” uncovered to date, Woodstown had been shown to be one of the most important discoveries anywhere in Europe in decades.
Less than five percent of the site has been subjected to any form of archaeological investigation since it was saved by the re-routing of the N25 bypass in 2005. A publicly-funded full excavation to a high research standard, as proposed by the Waterford Trades Council, is “valid” now more than ever, Dr Etchingham said.
Experts believe the huge Suirside site, similar in size to 9th-century Viking Dublin, has major job-creation potential and study opportunities for WIT.