The grocery store offers a magical glimpse at an active archeological site.

Imagine walking into a grocery store and suddenly finding yourself transported back in time, surrounded by the sights and sounds of a bygone era.

That’s exactly what shoppers in Dublin, Ireland experienced when they stepped inside the newly opened Lidl store.

The innovative supermarket not only offers customers a convenient shopping experience but also provides a captivating glimpse into Dublin’s rich history.

Milk, Cheese, Bread, and a Viking House?

When you head to a brand-new grocery store, you expect to see an excellent selection of local cheeses or a curated offering of healthy snacks.

What you don’t expect to see is a museum-worthy exhibition of archaeological discoveries, including a Viking house and a historical church.

The Lidl development team was building their new grocery store in Dublin’s historic district when they got a surprise worthy of the district’s name. The construction team came across what was clearly a very well-preserved piece of the past, so they called in an archaeology team to consult. 

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The team was expecting to find pieces of an old church, but were surprised when they found that the site held a well-preserved basement of a family home. The basement dated to the 11th century, around 1070 A.D.

Researchers believe that the home was built in the Middle Ages by Hiberno-Norse people who settled in Dublin. The term refers to Irish people descended from Scandinavian Vikings.

© RTÉ 2023

Despite being a thousand years old and from the Middle Ages, the Viking house basement was similar to the ones we see today, made from limestone with plank floors. 

“The amazing thing about it is it’s an everyday structure. …. It’s somewhere that people, you know, sat down in the evening and did a bit of craft work while they were sitting around the fire.”

– Paul Duffy, archaeological director of the IAC

The supermarket and the archaeologists worked together to create something unique and amazing

It was clear to everyone involved that the preserved home had to be open to the public. There were lots of old historical churches around, but this home was a unique discovery for Dublin.

“It is a unique structure for Dublin. We don’t know of anything quite like this in the city.”

– Paul Duffy

So the supermarket installed glass panels on the floor to showcase the historical wonders, along with plaques explaining to visitors what lay beneath. 

The Viking house was not the only discovery

Included in the discoveries on display for Lidl’s customers is an 18th-century theater “pit trap” where actors would hide before popping up on stage as if by magic, as well as a 13th-century wine jug and the foundation of the church of Saint Peter, which operated at the location in the Medieval times. 

Lidl’s management had the opportunity to give back to the city that welcomed them with open arms. Not only did they choose to preserve an amazing piece of the city’s history, they also invested in making sure the site was accessible to anybody who was interested in seeing it in and stepping, even if momentarily, back to the Dublin of the middle ages.

The project is an amazing example of collaboration

These archaeological remains are a spectacular token from the past and the whole preservation project is an example of how businesses and historians can come together and create something both accessible and sustainable, without forbidding businesses from using the land. 

We hope to see many more projects like this, with spectacular windows into the past, being supported and funded by local businesses that prioritize preserving the history that surrounds them.

“I think—the […] model of, put up a hoarding and excavate a site, and then put up a development—I think we have to challenge that […]Is that sustainable, and what does that bring to the city?’”

– Ruth Johnson, city archaeologist for Dublin