A Lidl grocery store that just opened in Dublin has the remains of an 11th century Viking home on display under its floor. When the building on Aungier Street near Dublin Castle was slated for redevelopment as a street-level retail space with student housing in the upper stories, a team from the Irish Archaeological Consultancy was enlisted to survey the site. They discovered the remains of the 1,000-year-old house, which only survived because this dwelling, very atypically for the time and place, had a cellar. It was dug out below ground level and the cellar was lined with masonry blocks. Wooden planks were then added to form the floor of the home. The planks are long gone, but the outline of the home is clearly visible thanks to the surviving stone blocks.
In order to preserve this unique dwelling of Hiberno-Norse Dubliners, the archaeological material was left in situ and covered by a thick plexiglass floor so customers can enjoy the history of the city while they shop. And not just medieval Dublin. There used to a be an 18th century theater on the site, and archaeologists also unearthed a brick “pit trap,” a hidden compartment under the stage that actors would burst out of to appear suddenly on the scene or drop into to disappear. The pit trap area, in a prime location right in front of the checkouts, was covered by plexi as well so it can be viewed while shoppers wait to make their purchases. I wonder if there will be a decline in impulse buying of candy and magazines now that customers have something cooler to fixate on in the checkout line.
The store has put up an array of information panels about the archaeological treasures under their feet. There are explanations of the finds and drawings interpreting the remains.
The foundations of the medieval parish church of Saint Peter, which served Dublin parishioners from c.1050 to c.1650, are also preserved beneath working areas of the new building.
“Hopefully this project sets a new benchmark for the treatment of archaeological heritage in the city. There has been a very collaborative approach from all sides.
“I think we have to challenge the Celtic Tiger approach of putting up a hoarding, excavating a site and then putting up a development,” said Dublin City Archaeologist Dr Ruth Johnson.
This video has great views of the Viking Lidl: