herald

Saturday 25 November 2017

Make a raid on Viking history

I have vague recollections of a childhood trip to a Dublin Viking exhibition, which had mock-medieval villages and a couple of frightening moments when dressed-up actors appeared out of nowhere, scaring the bejaysus out of me.

That was more than 20 years ago and the exhibit I visited is long gone. However, just down the road, beside Christchurch is the newly revamped Dublinia, offering a tour through Viking and medieval Dublin.

The centre is full of sounds and smells, with talking heads telling stories and explaining medieval life. It's interactive, too, with costumes to try and lots of things to pick up and investigate. I was tempted to write my name in the runic alphabet -- but it was disappointing that the letter B in runes is, eh, the letter B.

Curator and Education Officer Sheila Dooley showed me around. The information archaeologists can glean from what's there, or not there, is baffling. The Vikings first came in 841, and were responsible for creating the first towns, including our own Dubh Linn (Black Pool).

While they have a bad reputation, what with all that raiding, it seems the Irish were at it too!

With the ground floor taken over (ha-ha) by Vikings, the second floor is concerned with medieval times (600-1500AD). Upstairs, you are greeted by a great big model of Dublin at the time. In various rooms you can experience a medieval fair, a merchant's house and a rather unpleasant room detailing things such as the Black Death of 1348, which wiped out half the inhabitants within the city walls, and leprosy.

I couldn't shake the memory of the mannequins that were real people from my last experience though, and some of the figures are so lifelike, it's a bit creepy. I never entirely gave up on expecting them to move.

The third floor is all about bringing what you've seen into the context of modern archaeology, History Hunters is 'CSI meets history', and it's amazing to see the minutiae of an archaeologist's work.

Dublinia is open from 10am to 5pm. Tickets cost €6.95 (adult) and €4.95 (child), with a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) costing €20. www.dublinia.ie, tel (01) 679 4611

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