Hodson Bay Group Hotel, The Coombe

Exciting Viking Find in The Coombe


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An extremely well-preserved Viking terrace of houses has been discovered after archaeological excavations on a site at 124-128, The Coombe, Dublin 8.

Archaeologist Aisling Collins carried out the excavations at the site of a new hotel development on The Coombe, near St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was overseen by the City Archaeologist, Dr. Ruth Johnson on behalf of Dublin City Council.
According to Ruth, “This find was highly revealing about Dublin’s past. Aisling and her team initially discovered late 17th century foundation remains of several stone and red brick buildings, boundary walls and cobble surfaces in the upper level.”


“The most remarkable find was an inscribed slate bearing graffiti of a warrior on horseback.”

Further excavations revealed the remains of three large stone property boundary walls and an unusual stone well with steps down into it, associated with industrial activity, in yards to the rear of 13th/14th century houses which originally stood closer towards the street frontage. The walls were recorded and removed to reveal a thick layer of post-medieval garden soils. The medieval houses themselves remain un-investigated and they have been preserved in-situ and will be incorporated into the design, under the hotel ground floor lobby.

Artefacts recovered around the medieval walls and yards include a 13th century English King Edward silver coin, a bronze merchant’s weighing scales and an unusual pottery bird. Beneath the 14th century walls were even earlier plots, respecting almost the same alignments right through from the 12th – 20th century. Previous excavations undertaken at 118-123 The Coombe in 2008 had found evidence of an early roadway and at least six post and wattle houses, each in its own property plot, separated by boundary fences.

These houses were of classic Viking Dublin style familiar to us from the 10th and 11th century levels at Wood Quay, but the radio-carbon dates were 12th century, from around the time of the Anglo-Norman Invasion.

The hotel excavations revealed a further four 12th century house plots, representing the continuation of the Hiberno-Norse streetscape. Ruth acknowledged, “The most remarkable find was an inscribed slate bearing graffiti of a warrior on horseback on one side with a doodle of a second horse and some letters of the alphabet on the other. The warrior has a sword in his left hand and carries a small triangular shield. A bird sits on his head and another bird flies upside down, pecking at the rear hoof of his horse. The initials Bd or Dd are carved above the picture.”

The slate is currently being analysed by the City Archaeologist, who is an expert in Viking Age art, with help from multidisciplinary experts from Ireland and Scandinavia. All the artefacts are now in storage and will be eventually deposited with the National Museum of Ireland.

This article is sourced from Dublin City Council’s FIRST POST publication, April 2018

Image of an inscribed slate bearing graffiti of a warrior on horseback
An inscribed slate bearing graffiti of a warrior on horseback

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