PERHAPS THE MOST ENDURING CONTRIBUTION WHICH VIKINGS MADE TO IRELAND was through their foundation of major coastal towns, most notably those at Dublin, Limerick, and Waterford. However, Vikings also established many smaller settlements which have generally received less attention. In this paper I comment on a range of Viking-influenced settlement, including raiding bases, towns, coastal stations, and rural sites. A broad definition of the word ‘viking’ has been used to refer to people with Scandinavian cultural affiliations active outside Scandinavia.
This avoids the semantic difficulties posed by ethnic labels: for example, at what point should a Scandinavian settler in Ireland be called Hiberno-Scandinavian? What of Irish people who came to dwell in Scandinavian colonies, whose children may have borne Norse names and adopted Scandinavian cultural traits? The difficulties of being over-specific with ethnic terminology has been emphasised in recent studies, where the argument has been made that ethnic identities are subjectively, rather than objectively, created or assigned. Such ambiguities carry over into the interpretation of material culture in Ireland.
The first records of Viking-attacks on Ireland relate to the 790’s. Pádraig O’Riain has suggested that the earliest form of Viking-settlement consisted of ships remaining at anchor near a shore or riverbank during a raid. The carrying of booty to Viking-ships is recorded in early Irish accounts
of the Vikings and recent discoveries in Dublin may support his theory.