This piece of Viking Age ship graffiti was identified on a wooden plank that was recovered during an archaeological excavation at Christchurch Place, Dublin. The dig, which was carried under the direction of Breandán Ó Ríordáin, revealed a series of Hibern0-Norse houses, as well as associated features, which mainly dated from the 9th to 11th centuries AD.
Although incomplete, the Christchurch Place graffiti appears to depict a ship of Scandinavian type. The vessel has a central mast, supporting a furled sail, which is secured by several rigging ropes. The fact that the ship’s sail is furled suggests that it is moored and it’s possible that artist was depicting a vessel they had seen docked in Dublin.
A distinctive figure is shown on the yard of the masthead, where he appears to be securing the sail. Comparable figures are known from a number of English town seals, including a late 13th century example from Sandwith (see image above, Christensen, A. E. 1988, p. 18).
The relatively small corpus of medieval ship graffiti from Ireland includes at least two other examples from Dublin. These were recovered from Viking Age contexts at Winetavern Street and both depict similar types of vessel (see image to right). Long and slender, with raised prows/sterns and a central mast, they appear to portray classic Viking longboats (see adjacent image).
Today these ship graffiti pieces can viewed at the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.
Christensen, A. E. 1988 ‘Ship Graffiti and Models’ in Patrick Wallace (ed.) Miscellanea 1, Medieval Dublin Excvavations, 1962-81. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, pp. 13-12