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National Museum of Ireland recovers Bronze Age axe found through illegal metal detecting

The museum is now appealing to the public to report discoveries of archaeological objects.

NO FEE NMI DISCOVERIES OF ARTEFACTS JB5 (1) Matthew Seaver, Assistant Keeper, Irish Antiquities Division, National Museum of Ireland with the recovered axe Source: Tom Honan via Julien Behal Photography

A MINIATURE BRONZE Age axe dating back to around 1,000-800 BC has been recovered by the National Museum of Ireland and gardaí in Co Limerick after photos of it emerged on social media. 

It is understood that the artefact was unearthed as a result of illegal metal detecting and it was not reported to the National Museum, as is required under legislation. 

However, gardaí were successful in recovering the artefact after it was reported by a member of the public.

A file is subsequently being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecution. 

Using a metal detector without a licence to search for archaeological objects, carrying out excavation to recover such objects and cleaning or altering recovered objects are all offences under the National Monuments Act 1930 to 2014.

Promotion of the use or sale of metal detectors for searching for archaeological objects is also an offence under legislation.

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image2 (1) The Bronze Age axe dates back to around 1,000-800 BC Source: Julien Behal Photography

The National Museum is now appealing to members of the public to be vigilant about reporting discoveries of archaeological objects. 

“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,” National Museum of Ireland director Lynn Scarff said. 

Therefore, 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.

Scarff thanked gardaí, and in particular Garda Patrick Buckley, Superintendent John Deasy and members at Newcastle West Garda Station, for their work to recover the artefact.

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