Looted Irish Treasure Recovered in Britain

A hoard of treasure including medieval silver coins, some military items and a Bronze-Age axe and spear-head that were looted from Ireland have been recovered and returned to the National Museum of Ireland.



The use of metal detectors in Ireland requires a licence. It is suspected that several people searched for and found the historical treasures between 2009 and 2012 and removed them illegally. Some 899 items were removed from the County Tipperary area, a location that was already in the news this year for the discovery of a 17th Century Pot of Gold Found in the Foundations of an Irish Pub. Some of the newly recovered coins date to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The bronze spear-head dates to between the years 1400 and 900 B.C. – some three millenia ago!

Doctor Kelly is the keeper of antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland:
The most striking part is probably the coin hoard. It includes 28 medieval coins that were all found together as well as 30 silver coins that are also medieval. There are coins dating from the reign of King John to Elizabeth I and from Georgian and Victorian times all of which suggests a range of finds were made.

The British Museum are believed to have reported internet messages about the illegal theft of the items to their Irish counterparts. With the assistance of the Norfolk Constabulary in the UK parts of the vast hoard were recovered and returned to Ireland.

Seamus Lynam is the Acting Director of the National Museum:
The recovery underlines the continuing threat posed to the portable archaeological heritage of Ireland by metal detectorists. Many items similar to those recovered have been offered for sale in recent times over the internet and are the subject of on-going investigations. The recovery shows the determination of the National Museum, the GardaĆ­ and other State bodies to protect the nation’s heritage and demonstrates the ability to recover important heritage objects even when they have been illegally removed from the jurisdiction.

This episode highlights the difficulties faced by not just Irish but all National Museums in preserving their nations heritage. Without the assistance of the British Museum it is unlikely that the 899 items would ever have been returned to Ireland, where they can be studied and viewed by tens of thousands of people.

by Michael Green
Home Page