Tuesday 16 July 2019

Rare gold hoard unearthed in Donegal goes on display

The objects were discovered ‘in perfect condition’ and date back to the late Bronze Age, experts said.

Young guests at the official opening of the Tullydonnell Hoard exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland (Julien Behal/PA)
Young guests at the official opening of the Tullydonnell Hoard exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland (Julien Behal/PA)

By Michelle Devane, Press Association  

One of the heaviest hoards of gold ever discovered in Ireland has gone on display at the National Museum.

The rare gold, unearthed in the east of Donegal, weighs more than four kilograms and experts say it dates back to the late Bronze Age.

The gold, which was found in a field in Tullydonnell Lower, has been added to the museum’s permanent gold exhibition, Ireland’s Gold, which showcases one of the largest and most significant collections of Bronze Age gold internationally.

Members of the group who discovered the gold hoard at Tullydonnell Lower (Julien Behal/PA)

Known as the Tullydonnell Hoard, it will go on temporary loan to the Donegal County Museum next year.

The National Museum’s Keeper of Irish Antiquities Maeve Sikora said the gold underwent extensive analysis by conservation staff over recent months and the results indicated it dated to between 1200 BC and 800 BC.

“The objects were discovered in perfect condition,” she said.

Chairwoman of the Board of the National Museum of Ireland Catherine Heaney, back left, Education Minister Joe McHugh, centre, and National Museum director Lynn Scarff, right, with young guests during the opening of the Tullydonnell Hoard exhibition (Julien Behal/PA)

Ms Sikora explained that the overlapping gold rings were circular in shape, but that it was not possible to determine accurately how they were used.

“They’ve been described as ‘arm bands’ because of their size, but it is thought more likely that gold was shaped in this fashion as a means to store wealth,” she said.

Education Minister Joe McHugh officially launched the exhibition at the archaeology museum on Dublin’s Kildare Street on Thursday alongside the people who discovered the gold.

On behalf of the Government, he thanked members of a family who found the items.

Mr McHugh said he had not previously realised Donegal was considered to be such an active area during the Bronze Age.

“This discovery is so exciting for Donegal because it gives us a rare and important insight into the history of our country, and it’s equally important for Ireland in that it adds to our already extensive collection of artefacts from this fascinating era,” he said.

Museum director Lynn Scarff said the hoard was the latest addition to “thousands of rare and beautiful artefacts” that the museum proudly displayed.

While Donegal County Museum curator Judith McCarthy said it was a “significant find” not only for Donegal but for Ireland.

“Donegal has a very rich and varied history stretching back thousands of years and the Tullydonnell Hoard forms an important part of this multi-faceted story,” she said.

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