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An excavation in central Dublin has uncovered a burial site with more than 100 medieval skeletons and the remains of an 11th-century church, which archaeologists say sheds light on how late Viking-era Dublin became Christian. Source: The Tablet.

The excavation is taking place within the walls of what was once Boland’s bakery, a Victorian-era biscuit factory. It is being carried out ahead of the building of an eight-storey hotel.

In the 12th-century, the site was part of lands belonging to St Mary’s Abbey, which was associated with the Savigniac and Cistercian orders.

Founded in 1139, St Mary’s was Ireland’s largest and wealthiest abbey, but it was demolished after 1540 following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.

Archaeologists excavating the site said they had expected to find burials from the 12th century linked to St Mary’s. However, they also uncovered two skeletons which predate the foundation of St Mary’s as well as the remnants of an older ecclesiastical building.

Carbon dating of one of the graves shows it predates St Mary’s Abbey by 100 years, indicating the presence of a Christian settlement on the site prior to 1139.

Edmond O’Donovan, director of excavations for Courtney Deery Heritage Consultancy, told The Irish Times: “Most of the skeletons are medieval, dating between 1200 and 1540, but there are definitely two that are 1000 years old. One of them is dated by their association with a kite-shaped stick pin, very datable to the 11th century, and probably a shroud pin.”

He said the burials show that when the abbey was established there was already an existing church and this was not previously documented before the dig.

“That tells us a little bit about the relationship between the late Viking population and Christianity – we see a Viking-age Dublin that is becoming Christian before the coming of the Anglo-Normans.”


Eleventh-century skeletons found in Dublin excavation (by Sarah MacDonald, The Tablet)