Tuesday 17 September 2019

Illegally found Bronze Age axe recovered after its sighting on social media

Unearthed: Matthew Seaver, of the Irish antiquities division at the National Museum of Ireland, with the axe. PHOTO: Julien behal
Unearthed: Matthew Seaver, of the Irish antiquities division at the National Museum of Ireland, with the axe. PHOTO: Julien behal
Claire Murphy

Claire Murphy

A miniature axe from the Bronze Age has been recovered by gardaí and handed to the National Museum of Ireland after a member of the public saw it on social media.

Representatives from the museum said it was understood that the artefact had been unearthed as a result of illegal metal detecting and it was not reported to the National Museum, as is required by law. It was spotted on social media and reported to gardaí. A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Bronze Age axe dates to approximately 1000-800 BC. Previous finds of similar axe heads suggest they may have been used for woodworking.

The National Museum has called on members of the public to report any potential discoveries of archaeological objects, as they may deteriorate if not treated with care.

"The moment artefacts of archaeological significance are taken from the ground, they are under threat of deterioration and it's also critical for our staff to study the 'find spot', because it can provide important evidence, both about the item and the area in which it was discovered," said National Museum of Ireland director Lynn Scarff.

"It's a matter of grave concern for us that the illegal use of metal detectors to search for archaeological objects continues, and we want to appeal to members of the public to consider the greater public interest and the importance of these items to our national heritage, and to report any finds of note to us.

"Thankfully, this impressive axe-head was spotted on social media and a vigilant member of the public reported it.

"We would like to pay tribute to An Garda Síochána, and in particular Garda Patrick Buckley at Adare garda station and Superintendent John Deasy and members at Newcastle West garda station for their work to secure its recovery. It's a great example of active and responsible citizenship, working with the authorities to protect our shared heritage."

Maeve Sikora, keeper of Irish antiquities at the National Museum, said: "Each discovery has the potential to reveal information about undiscovered settlements or ritual activity, so it's very important finds are reported to us, and as soon as possible after their discovery. Analysis of similar axe heads suggests they may have been used for woodworking."

Detective Superintendent Ken Keelan, of the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said using a metal detector without a licence to search for archaeological objects was an offence under the National Monuments Act.

Irish Independent

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