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Thread: Vikings in Ireland: Traces of Warriors Not Just Buried Beneath the Ground, They Are in the DNA

  1. #1
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    Vikings in Ireland: Traces of Warriors Not Just Buried Beneath the Ground, They Are in the DNA

    By Joanna Gillan

    As science progresses and archaeologists are forging new positive relationships with developers around Irish heritage, more secrets from Ireland’s Viking past are coming to light, and they are not just found in burial grounds, unearthed dwellings, and old settlements; they can be found in the DNA of the modern-day Irish people. The Vikings may have only been present in Ireland for three centuries – a drop in the ocean compared to its long and dramatic history – but recent research is showing that their influence was far greater than previously realised.

    Recent Research Shows Viking Influence Has Been Heavily Underestimated

    It has long been known that the Vikings – in Ireland’s case, the Norse and the Danes – eventually settled down and lived alongside the Irish clans, in some cases intermarrying and allying themselves with Irish chieftains.

    “As early as the middle of the ninth century we hear of a mixed race called the Gall-Gael (Gaill-Gaedhil) of partly Scandinavian and partly Irish blood, who began to collect formidable armies. Intermarriage and settlement must thus have been frequent at a date when it is customary to think of the Norse as mere occasional raiders along the coasts.” (Hull, 1931).

    The intermingling between the Vikings and the Irish is reflected in many of the surnames present in Ireland today: Doyle (son of the dark foreigner), MacAuliffe (son of Olaf), and MacManus (son of Manus), all originate from Viking warriors who married Irish women. Other Norse names found in Ireland include Cotter, Dowdall, Dromgoole, Gould, Harold, Howard, Loughlin, Sweetman and Trant.

    Viking Genes in Ireland

    It was widely assumed that the genetic contribution of Vikings to the Irish was relatively small, with just a few surviving surnames as their legacy. Supporting this belief was a genetic study conducted in (2006), which showed little remaining signature of the Viking ages in Irish DNA (McEvoy, B., et al., 2006). However, it only examined the paternal line of Irish individuals that carried Norse surnames and used only one percent of available genetic information.

    A more rigorous study conducted by the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin in December, 2017, revealed that the Vikings’ genetic contribution to Irish DNA had been largely underestimated. Their research pieced together a ‘DNA atlas’ using the genetics of 536 Irish men and women. Their results turned up a “surprising level” of Norwegian related ancestry, predominately from counties on the north or western coasts of Norway, where Norse Viking activity originated from.

    “The effect of the Norse Vikings on the genetic landscape of Ireland seems to be shared across Ireland, and not limited to regions of Norse settlement, e.g. Limerick, Waterford, Wexford, and Dublin,” the study authors reported in their paper published in the journal Scientific Reports."

    Just weeks later, another study concurred that the Vikings made a lasting impression on the DNA map of Ireland. Scientists from Trinity College Dublin (TCD), the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute at Cambridge, and University College London, mapped genetic similarities and differences between almost 1,000 Irish individuals and more than 6,000 from Britain and mainland Europe. They also found that the Irish have far more Viking ancestry than previously discovered.

    “Of all the European populations considered, ancestral influence in Irish genomes was best represented by modern Scandinavians and northern Europeans, with a significant single-date one-source admixture event overlapping the historical period of the Norse-Viking settlements in Ireland,” the study authors wrote in the journal PLOS One."

    Unlike the study conducted by the Royal College which found the genetic traces of Vikings spread across the whole of Ireland, the Trinity College study found that the strongest signals were in the south and central Leinster (consistent with the largest recorded Viking settlement in Ireland based in present-day Dublin), followed by Connacht and north Leinster/Ulster.

    “The long and complex history of population dynamics in Ireland has left an indelible mark on the genomes of modern inhabitants of the island” co-author of the study Professor Russell McLaughlin told the MailOnline."


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    Irish Roots: Viking surnames

    True hereditary surnames were only introduced in Scandinavia in the late 18th century

    There is no such thing as a Viking surname. True hereditary surnames were only introduced in Scandinavia in the late 18th century, more than 700 years after the heyday of Viking expansion. Hereditary surnames still don’t exist in that most Viking of countries, Iceland, where personal names continue to last only a single generation.

    So why does Sean de Bhulbh’s magisterial Sloinnte na hÉireann: Irish Surnames list no fewer than 97 Irish names that have Norse or Viking roots? All the stranger when you consider surnames only began to be widely adopted in Ireland from the 11th century, well after Viking power in Ireland was broken. But there is no doubt about the origins of these names: McAuliff, son of Olaf; Groarke, Mag Ruairc, son of Hrothkekr; McBirney, son of Bjorn; Reynolds, Mac Raghnall, from the Norse first name Ragnall. Some might have originated with Gaels imitating their neighbours, but the simplest explanation is that Viking settlers adopted Gaelic naming practices, dropping their own single-generation names.

    Other Norse-origin names provide evidence of the importance of those naming practices. Doyle is Ó Dubhghaill, from dubh, “dark”, and gall, “foreigner”, a descriptive formula first used to describe the invading Vikings, and in particular to distinguish darker-haired Danes from fair-haired Norwegians. O’Loughlin and Higgins both stem directly from words meaning literally “Viking”, Lochlann in Irish and Uigínn, an Irish version of the Norse Vikinger. These names are permanent badges of otherness – think “Johnny Foreigner” – but families were perfectly prepared to adopt and endure them, a measure of just how intense was the need to have a hereditary and patronymic surname in medieval Ireland.

    We adopted them early and we adopted them with gusto. Extended family networks were the very essence of Gaelic society: what better way of flagging your network than embodying it in your name?

    Which is why there were no Viking surnames except for Irish Viking surnames.

    Irish Roots: Viking surnames

    02 I 2021.

    One of my Geography teachers Mr Edmundson several times remarked " There were no towns in Ireland of Irish origin, it wasn't the Gaelic custom to build towns. The Irish towns were Viking founded with good ports - Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Limerick, etc."

    Hardly a century of Surnames in Iceland.

    Icelandic Surnames - Nordic Names Wiki - Name Origin ...
    From Nordic Names - - All rights reserved. In Iceland the use of surnames is forbidden by a law, which passed in 1925. There are a few exceptions: If a family had a surname before 1925, they have been allowed to keep using it. Thus, only about 10 % of the Icelanders have a hereditary surname, most commonly a (Danish) secondary patronym or a farm name both from Iceland and from …

    Again everything is inter-connected.

  4. #3

  5. #4

    Dublin and the mainland of Scotland

    The Scandinavian Kingdom of Dublin

    Scandinavian Kings were polygamists,, marrying and repudiating without control. And not withstanding their Christianity, some of our Irish Monarchs were tainted by the manners of the age, as even Charlemagne, the anointed champion of the Church, was a bigamist and worse. Certain it is that their matrimonial connections were of a most complicated character. Thus Aedh Finnliath, who had married Maelmurrie . . .

    Thus allied to the Kings of Scotland and Ireland, Aulaf also connected himself with the Lord of the Isles. He married Auda, daughter of Ketil Flatneff Chief of the Hebrides; and their son Thorstein the Red, married Thurida, whose Scandinavian father, Eyvind Ausstman was husband of Rafarta, one of Cearbhall’s daughters.

    We have already seen that the Picts of Scotland had a common origin with those on the sea coast of Ulster, where the Northmen first settled. While they were thus plundering and settling among the Irish and Irish Picts, they were pursuing the same course with the Scots and Picts of Scotland.

    The Northern Picts had been the victims of the early invaders; so had been the Scots, or men of Alba. In A. D. 835, Cinaedh, son of Alpin, King of the Scots, sought assistance from his kindred in Ireland, and Godfraidh, son of Fearghus, Chief of Orghialla (Ulster), went to Alba to strengthen the Dalriada, and thence, perhaps, at the request of Cinaedh, son of Alpin, became Chief of the Hebrides also.

    In A. D.839 the Southern Picts were invaded and in “a battle by the Gentiles against the Men of Forten, Eogannen M’CEngus ( King of the Picts ) and his brother Bran, were also slain with a multidude of others, this being possibly the expedition mentioned by Saxo Grammaticus, in which Regnar Logbrog slew the Chiefs of Scotia, Pictavia and the Western Isles.

    It might be suggested that ”when all the foreign tribes of Ireland” had submitted to Aulaf he may have desired to extend his dominion over the Picts of Scotland also. Certain it is that he proceeded to subdue them in A. D. 865; for in that year according to the Annalists of Ulster, “Amlaiv and his nobility went to Fortren together with the foreigners of Ireland and Scotland, and spoiled the Cruithne (the Picts), and brought all their hostages with them.”

    In A. D. 869, Aulaf in conjunction with Ivar again invaded Pictland, and after a siege of four months took and destroyed its capital; but Aulaf being slain while leading an army against Constantine, King of the Scots, Ivar returned to Dublin where he died in A. D.872.

    The sons of Aulaf, however, did not abandon the conquests of their father. Oslin remained in Pictland, where he was slain by a stratagem of the Albanenses, in A. D. 875.

    But though the Kings of Dublin ceased to have a dominion in Scotland, their connection with it continued throughout the tenth century. Nor is it impossible that when the foreigners were driven out of Dublin, in A. D. 901, Ivar the grandson of Ivar, attempted to reconquer Pictland; but was killed by the men of Fortrenn with a great slaughter about him, in A. D. 904.

    About this period it is somewhat difficult to decide whether the Kings of Dublin should be termed Ostmen or Irish. After their conversion to Christianity, intermarriages with the Irish became more frequent, but not less irregular.

    Book: The Scandinavian Kingdom of Dublin by Charles Haliday published Dublin 1881. Pages 120 - 122

    19 II 2021.

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    About half of the paternal side had ancestors from Orkney Island, Scotland and Cork, Ireland. Vikings settled in the area after raids and begin farming, or they established towns without raiding due to available farming lands. Hence, Norway does not have long growing seasons and has typical poor soil for farming. Viking is a way of life like exploring, trading, raiding and settling, so our ancestors also came eventually to the United States for land and farming. In the spirit of exploring, even NASA named two probes, Viking 1 and Viking 2, for Mars exploration. To this day, I still have a few older relatives in Norway and young cousins.

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    Christian takeover - Yiolner or Odin-tide made Christmas

    The Venerable Bede has preserved a letter from Pope Gregory to the Abbot Mellitus, directing him to tell St. Augustin in England that he (the Pope) had on mature deliberation determined “that the temple of the idols in that nation ought not to be destroyed but let the idols that are in them be destroyed; let holy water be made and sprinkled in the said temples, let altars be erected and relics placed,” ”That the nation seeing that their temples are not destroyed may more familiarly resort to the places to which they have been accustomed. And because they have been used to slaughter oxen in sacrifices to devils, some solemnity must be exchanged for them on this account, as that on the day of the dedication or the nativities of the holy martyrs, whose relics are there deposited, they may build themselves huts of the boughs of trees about those churches which have been turned to that use from temples, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasting, and no more offer beasts to the devil, but kill cattle to the praise of God in their eating, and return thanks, &c., &c.”

    Almost universally the Christian missionaries everywhere pursued this course. At Upsala in A.D. 1026 the great temple of Odin was converted into a Christian Church, and in Scandinavian settlements, where no enclosed temple existed, churches were dedicated to St. Michael, St. Magnus, to St. Olave, or to the Virgin Mary, at the places previously consecrated to the worship of Thor and Freyja, other pagan memorials or monuments being sanctified with Christian emblems. Hence we frequently find the pillar stones or bowing stones either marked with a cross, or overthrown and stone crosses raised where they stood, and the sacred wells of Baldur, the son of Odin, with the sacred wells of other heathen deities, becoming the holy wells of St. John or St. Patrick. With similar views the great Saxon and Scandinavian festivals were exchanged for Christian festivals occurring at the same time of year, the slaughter of oxen to idols, and the feast which followed, being exchanged for innocent banquets and revelry. Nevertheless the pagan practices which Gregory endeavoured to turn to Christian purposes were not wholly eradicated. The Christian converts still knelt at the holy wells and went southwards round them, following the course of the sun, and yet continue to do so in many parts of Ireland, where they still place bits of rags as votive offerings on the sacred ashtree or hawthorn which overhang these wells. They continued and still continue to light their May fires and to pass through or over them. They continue to place boughs of everygreen trees in their places of worship at Christmas, and in some instances, they even continued to the Christian commemoration the pagan name. The great feast of Yiolner or Odin (Yiolner or Odin-tide made Christmas) was superseded by the Christmas festival, yet to this hour there are many parts of England and Scotland, as well as Denmark and Norway; where Christmas is termed Yioletide. The Paschal festival of other countries is with us called after the goddess Easter, whose festival was coincident, and the days of the week dedicated to Woden or Odin, to Thor and to Freyja, retain their names nearly unchanged in Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

    Book: The Scandinavian Kingdom of Dublin by Charles Haliday published Dublin 1881. Pages 171 – 174.
    21 II 2021.

  9. #7

    The viking age in ireland


    At the end of the eighth century the first Viking raiders appeared in Irish waters. These raiders came exclusively from Norway. The first recorded raid was in 795 on Rathlin Island off the coast of Antrim where the church was burned. On the west coast the monasteries on Inismurray and Inisbofin were plundered possibly by the same raiders. The Scottish island of Iona was also attacked in the same year.

    For the first four decades, 795-c.836, the raids followed a clear pattern of hit-and -run affairs by small, probably independent, free-booters. Attacks were usually on coastal targets no Viking raid is recorded for areas further inland than about twenty miles. These attacks were difficult to defend but the Vikings were sometimes defeated. In 811 a raiding party was slaughtered by the Ulaid and the following year raiding parties were defeated by the men of Umall and the king of Eóganacht Locha Léin. By 823 the Vikings had raided around all the coast and in 824 the island monastery of Sceilg, off the Kerry coast, was attacked. The monastic city of Armagh was attacked three times in 832.

    In the first quarter century of Viking attacks only twenty-six plunderings by Vikings are recorded in the Irish Annals. During the same time eighty-seven raids by the Irish themselves are recorded. An average of one Viking raid a year can have caused no great disorder or distress in Irish society. Attacks on Irish monasteries were common before the Viking Age. The burning of churches also was an integral part of Irish warfare. Wars and battles between monasteries also occurred in Ireland before the coming of the Vikings. Irish monasteries had become wealthy and politically important with considerable populations. The Vikings attacked the monasteries because they were rich in land, stock and provisions. They also took valuable objects but this was not their primary concern.

    Intensified Raids and Settlements

    From c. 830 Viking raids became more intense in Ireland. In 832 for instance, there were extensive plunderings in the lands of the Cianachta who lived near the sea in Louth. In 836 the Vikings attacked the land of the Uí Néill of southern Brega and attacked the lands of Connacht. In 837 a fleet of sixty ships appeared on the Boyne and a similar fleet on the Liffey. Soon afterwards Vikings made their way up the Shannon and the Erne and put a fleet on Lough Neagh.

    The Vikings wintered for the first time on Lough Neagh in 840-41. In 841 they established a longphort at Annagassan in Louth and at Dublin and used these bases for attacks on the south and west. They wintered for the first time at Dublin in 841-842 and in 842 another large fleet arrived. Also in this year there is the first reference to co-operation between Vikings and the Irish though this may have occurred previously. A fleet was based on Lough Ree and the Shannon and built a fortified position on the shores of Lough Ree from where they ravaged the surrounding countryside in 844. Máel Seachnaill, overking of the Uí Néill attacked the Vikings, captured a leader called Turgesius and drowned him in Lough Owel in Westmeath.

    From now on Irish kings began to fiercely fight back against the Vikings. Because they now had fixed settlements or fortified positions they were vulnerable to attack. Máel Seachnaill routed a Viking force near Skreen, County Meath and killed 700 of them. At Castledermot, in Kildare, the joint armies of the kings of Munster and Leinster defeated a large force of Vikings. The newly founded Viking settlement at Cork was destroyed and in 849 the Norse territory of Dublin was ravaged by Máel Seachnaill. The Vikings were now a factor in the internal politics of Ireland and were accepted as such. Norse-Irish alliances became commonplace.

    During the years 849-852 new Vikings, probably from Denmark, arrived in the Irish Sea area and many battles took place between the new arrivals and the more established Vikings. In 853 Olaf the White arrived in Dublin and with Ivar, another Viking, assumed sovereignty of the Viking settlement there. Along the Irish coast were other Viking settlements. Vikings at Waterford attacked the King of Osraige but were slaughtered in 860. There was a longphort settlement at Youghal which was destroyed in 866. In 887 the Limerick Vikings were slaughtered by Connachtmen and in 892 the Vikings of Waterford, Wexford and St. Mullins were defeated.

    Ivar, joint king of Dublin died in 873 and there were struggles and division in Dublin for the next two decades. In 902 the kings of Brega and of Leinster combined again the Norse of Dublin and defeated them, destroyed their settlement and expelled them from Ireland. By his time extensive cultural assimilation had taken place between the Irish and the Norse. Olaf, king of Dublin in the middle of the ninth century was married to the daughter of Áed Finnliath, king of the northern Uí Néill. The Hiberno-Norse also had gradually become christianised. The annals in recording the death of Ivar in 872 said that “he rested in Christ”.

    The Second Phase of Viking Attacks on Ireland

    By the first decades of the tenth century opportunities for Vikings in Britain and the Europe were limited. It is not surprising that they chose to attack Ireland again. From 914 large fleets again began to attack Ireland, these Vikings came from those already settled elsewhere in Britain. Munster was ravaged widely in 915 and the king of Tara was defeated when he went to the aid of the Munstermen. The king of Leinster was killed in a battle with Vikings under the leadership of Sitric at Leixlip. The king of Tara was killed in a combined Irish attack on the Norse of Dublin in 919. For the next two decades the Norse kings of Dublin were also trying to establish their power in York. Their activities in Ireland gradually became more confined to Dublin and its immediate hinterland. The Irish began to counter attack with growing success. Dublin was burned by the king of Tara in 936 and was sacked in 944. Its power had declined considerably by the second half of the tenth century.

    The Wars of the Great Dynasties

    One of the great leaders of this period was Brian Boru of Dál Cais in County Clare. He had defeated the Vikings of Munster. His great rival was Máel Sechnaill 2, King of Tara who had defeated the Norse of Dublin in 980. Brian at times made alliances with Norse as in 984 when the Norse of Waterford attacked Leinster by sea while he attacked by land. In 977 an agreement was made between Brian and Máel Sechnaill that the former would be king of the southern part of Ireland while the latter would be king of the northern part. In 998 the two kings co-operated in an attack on the Norse of Dublin.

    A sculpture of Máel Seachnaill in Trim, Co. Meath, by James McKenna.

    The next year the Dublin Norse allied with the Leinstermen revolted and were defeated by Brian. He spent January and February 1000 in Dublin, plundering the city and destroying its fortress. He expelled Sitric, king of Norse Dublin who could find refuge nowhere else in Ireland. He returned, gave hostages to Brian and was restored. Brian now claimed the kingship of the whole island and Máel Sechnaill submitted.

    In 1012 Leinster revolted against Brian and the Norse of Dublin assisted them. Brian and Máel Sechnaill together attacked Leinster and blockaded the city of Dublin from September to Christmas before returning home. Knowing that the attack would be renewed the Norse set about getting help from allies. Sitric, king of Dublin visited Sigurd, earl of the Orkneys who agreed to be in Dublin on Palm Sunday 1014. Sitric then went to the Isle of Man and persuaded two Viking leaders Brodar and Ospak to support him.

    Brian and Máel Sechnaill marched to Dublin but a dispute arose between them and Máel Sechnaill took no part in the battle. Battle was joined at Clontarf on Good Friday 1014 and after a long battle Brian’s forces were victorious. Brian himself was killed. Sigurd and Brodar were also killed though Sitric who remained inside the town during the battle survived.

    In subsequent traditions, both Irish and Norse, Clontarf became a heroic battle of saga and story-telling. Fearsome portents and visions were said to have been seen by both sides on the eve of the battle. A fairy woman appeared to Brian’s followers and foretold disaster. Saint Senan appeared to Brian’s followers the night before the battle demanding compensation for an attack by Brian on a monastery years before. In the Isle of Man there were ghostly assaults on Brodar’s ships and ravens with iron beaks and claws attacked his followers. Evil portents were seen throughout the Norse world even in Iceland. Everyone wished his ancestors to have participated in the great battle.

    While the battle of Clontarf was not a simple Irish against Norse battle it did signal the end of the power of Norse Dublin and the effective end of the Viking Age in Ireland.

    The Vikings in Ireland | Nigel Borrington
    2013 /
    13 VIII 2021.

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