Apr 19 2013

Viking Archaeology returns after a decade to the Isle of Anglesey

 Excavation at Llanbedrgoch, Anglesey

Excavation at Llanbedrgoch, Anglesey

Pic: National Museum of Wales

After a gap of more than a decade, a team of archaeologists has returned to excavate at Llanbedrgoch, Anglesey reported the National Museum of Wales on 23rd August 2012. You can read more about previous seasons at this Viking-Age settlement here http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/archaeology/vikings/Mark Redknap and his team made an exciting discovery towards the end of the 2001 season – evidence that there might be an early medieval cemetery on the site. Are they right? Finds are appearing already, but what can they tell us? Watch this space to find out more!

First Viking settlement in North Wales

The first firm evidence of Viking settlement in North Wales has been found on Anglesey. The settlement consists of two large Viking-type halls and a third building, dating from the 9th or 10th centuries, together with a number of unusual high-status artefacts and evidence of farming, craftwork, and trade.

The site lies close to Red Wharf Bay, a large natural harbour that would have been a convenient stop-over point on the route between the Viking centres of Dublin and York. Little is known of Viking activity in the area, but historical sources refer to Viking raiding from c 840, and the attempted settlement of a certain Ingimund in 902-903, who had previously been expelled from Dublin. There is no evidence to link the new site with Ingimund, but late 8th and 9th century coins, and radiocarbon-dated charcoal from the site place it in roughly the same period (the carbon is dated to 760-1035 at 95 per cent probability).

The three buildings were found within a D-shaped ditched enclosure. Little has been found of the third building, but the other two seem to measure more than 12m by 8m, and have central hearths and possible evidence of benching. Their presence is marked by low stone footings for timber walls, but one of the buildings had been rebuilt – a line of post-holes marks its first phase – suggesting the site was occupied for at least two generations.

The most unusual find at the site was a large whetstone, with a bronze ferrule at one end in the shape of a pointed Viking helmet, attached to a suspension ring. According to the excavator, Mark Redknap of the National Museum of Wales, the whetstone appears to have been little used, and to have been more a symbol of rank than a functional object. Also found were a 10th century copper alloy ringed pin, and a small ornamental bronze bell perhaps worn as part of a woman’s dress.

Evidence of craft activity at the site includes iron forging and bronze and antler working. Quernstone fragments and animal bones suggest a working farm; and there is also evidence of trade, represented by six weights and by quantities of hacksilver – fragments of silver cut up for use in exchange. Dr Redknap said: `For years we have been looking for a site like this. It is clearly a high-status site, and it should prove extremely important in illuminating the Viking Age in the Irish Sea.’

British Archaeology, No. 10, December 1995

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