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History Right Beneath Your Feet (Literally!)

Dublin in Irish is known as Baile Átha Cliath, coming from the old Irish settlement name Áth Cliath – which means ‘Hurdled Fort’. The history of this city dates back to over a millennium ago, and it is crazy to compare the timeline of events in this one city to the timeline of any American city.

I can’t help but notice the stark difference between the buildings and layout compared to American cities. My daily commute to Dublin City Centre for class is a walk past the historical Irish Houses of Parliament, now converted to a Bank of Ireland building used regularly by Dublin citizens. Trinity College itself is over 400 years old with buildings dating back to England’s rule in the 1590’s. It is amazing to see the intricate blend of old and new in the city’s design. With modern businesses occupying buildings with old architecture and government buildings surrounded by the super touristy Temple Bar area, it is interesting to imagine how Dublin today erupted from the various settlers of every era in world history. The city still carries remnants of the past intermingled with modern society.

The Dublin Castle, dating back to 1209 and representing Medieval and Viking settlements, is still used by the Irish government, with the State Apartments open to tourists and used for important press conferences and broadcasts. My visit to the Dublin Castle was especially astonishing since I was able to gain a better understanding of this plot of land’s involvement in Dublin’s history. The original elevated ground was part of a Viking settlement and developed into a medieval fortress by King John of England. By 1684, most of the original castle was burnt down in a fire, with some remains of the Viking and Medieval structures on display today. The New Castle, built upon the remains of the old settlements, stands today, having survived through momentous occasions leading to the independence of Ireland from the British.

Dublin today was literally built on top of these old Viking and Medieval settlements, with excavation of artifacts still being done to this day. This has led to many controversies in the news between those who want to conserve the history hidden beneath the streets of Dublin and those who want to continue to modernize the city.

A friend studying archeology at Trinity weighed in on this, speaking to me about the city’s current endeavor to develop an underground metro system to replace the current trolly “Luas” system. Every time digging for this metro starts, an archeologist needs to be called to excavate another ancient artifact dating back across the historical span of communities that have resided in this space. The metro system construction is far from starting since every step forward becomes a step back with the need to stop for excavation. My friend commented on the consistent need for archeologists in Dublin today, making her job prospects look pretty good!

Under Dublin’s streets lies the buried evidence of Monks, Vikings, Knights, and Colonial England. Every day, we are literally walking above years and years of history!

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