Viking Age gold and silver from Irish crannogs and other watery places

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Sheehan, John
Graham-Campbell, James
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Wordwell Ltd; Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland
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It has been observed that Viking Age gold finds in Scandinavia and Britain are frequently associated with watery environments and may represent ritual or votive depositions. There is also evidence, literary and archaeological, for the ritual deposition of some silver hoards in the Viking world. This paper considers the evidence of those Viking Age gold and silver hoards and single finds from Ireland that derive from watery locations, including crannogs and their environs. It is noted that all recorded gold hoards, with one exception, have an apparent association with water or watery places and thus conform to the patterns noted elsewhere. Most of the crannog finds, which are invariably of silver, are from the midland region, and it is noted that a high proportion of them contain ingots and hack-silver and are thus most probably economic rather than ritual in function. It is suggested that these types of hoards evidence a close economic relationship between the Hiberno-Scandinavians of Dublin and the Southern Uí Néill rulers of this area. Some of the remaining silver hoards—from bogs, rivers, lakes, small islands and shorelines—which vary in terms of their contents, with both complete ornaments and hack-silver being represented, may have been ritually deposited, but this is difficult to establish with any degree of certainty. A general discussion of ritual hoarding is presented, and it is concluded that this practice may have been more commonplace than has generally been accepted to date and that some, at least, of the ‘watery’ finds from Ireland were indeed deposited in a ritual context.
Ritual hoarding , Viking Age gold , Ireland , Crannogs , Hiberno-Scandinavians , Ireland , Viking Age , Votive depositions , Silver hoards , Gold hoards , Hack-silver , Viking Ireland , Viking archaeology
Sheehan, J. and Graham-Campbell, J. (2009) 'Viking-age gold and silver from Irish crannogs and other watery places', Journal of Irish Archaeology, 18, pp. 77-93.
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© 2009 Wordwell Ltd; Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland. This is an authenticated version of an article that has been published in the Journal of Irish Archaeology. Vol. 18 (2009), pp. 77-93.