4,500-year-old ship discovered among Viking artifacts in Galway


Archaeologists used radiocarbon dating to establish that one of the boats dates to 2500 BC. Other items found in 2014 include several battle axes and other weapons.

The ancient artifacts were discovered by Captain Trevor Northage, a marine surveyor mapping the lake to update British Admiralty charts, in 2014. The National Monuments Service Underwater Archeology Unit (UAU) then carried out a series of investigation dives.

The 4,500-year-old log boat sank into the mud when it sank and was covered over time. A mixture of organic sediments and lake water helped in the preservation process. Even the seats of the boats are preserved.

The three Viking-style battle axes will form a centerpiece of the National Museum of Ireland. Memorial exhibition of the Battle of Clontarf, marking the 1000th anniversary of the battle and the death of King Brian Boru.

The weapons, including bronze spearheads and a rare wooden spear, were recovered for safekeeping by the National Museum. For now, there are no plans to refloat the boats.

The oldest of the ships is the 4,500-year-old Annaghkeen log ship, close to the age of the Giza pyramids in Egypt. Northage pointed out, speaking to the irish timethat it had been at the bottom of the lake for 3,500 years when the Vikings arrived.

The 12m boat is very similar to the Lurgan boat found in 1902 and the Carrowneden boat found near Ballyhaunis, County Mayo in 1996.

UAU archaeologist Karl Brady said: “Annaghkeen’s boat was made from a very large tree, and it took a lot of skill and effort to make it.

“The fact that the three boats are located within 30 miles of each other suggests that they were made by the same builder, or that there was a vogue for early boats of the age of the bronze of this type.”

Brady believes another boat, dating to the 11th or 12th century, found near Carrowmoreknock on the Lough, may have been raided when it sank. They believe the warriors were Irish.

Ireland’s then Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, called the find “exceptional” and said all artefacts were protected under the National Monuments Act.

He also commented that the artifacts provide “a unique insight into a wide range of prehistoric and medieval activities, including raiding, hunting, woodworking, boat building, trade, travel and transportation”.

* Originally published in April 2014.

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