RTE Television

TV50: The Search For Viking Dublin

First broadcast in November 1969, this documentary uncovers the life and times of Viking Dublin as laid down in the archaeological site uncovered in Wine Tavern Street in Christ Church, Dublin. For six months in 1967 and 1968 and nine months in 1969, a team of archaeologists and support workers painstakingly uncovered the layer upon layer of rubbish and debris which lay under the foundations of this part of Dublin. It was here that the Vikings first laid down their settlements and it was here that we learn firsthand of the vibrant nature of this period in Irish history.

This is history as a living force, not just the history of kings, princes and battles but the felt history of everyday life. Here we learn that the fashion in boots has little changed since Viking times and that wood turners found time to make toy boats for their children while making doors, lintels and items of practical household use to earn a living. Here too we find that this town was affluent enough to import pottery from south west France, but that it made most for its own domestic needs. The ornamentation and design shows both Scandinavian and Celtic influences showing that the Vikings had certainly 'gone native'.

The excavation was undertaken by the National Museum of Ireland and led by Brendan O'Riordan who wrote and narrated the script. The notations and cataloguing were carried out by students from Ireland and Scandinavia. Each Spring as the archaeologists moved in to restart the excavation, a call went out to the local Labour Exchange for workers to help work the site. These men gradually came to have an affinity with the laborious task of gently extracting tiny pottery shards from the muddy soil.
The final scene shows the items, imaginatively displayed in the National Museum to the awestricken admiration of visiting schoolboys and the self evident pride of the Museum guards. It was a more innocent Ireland where knowledge garnered great respect.

James Plunkett Kelly received a Jacobs Award for this documentary "for making a serious and successful attempt to use television and television techniques to promote an interest in the arts by turning out programmes which combine entertainment and artistic integrity."

It was produced and directed by Don Lenox

TV50: The Search For Viking Dublin
  • RTÉ One, Tuesday, 00.15 am