Antiquities discovered by the public “fill in the gaps in the collections” – museum curator


Antiques found in the ground by members of the public in Northern Ireland have helped fill gaps in museum collections, a curator said.

Some 24 objects have been shown to be treasures over the past 10 years, according to a response to the Freedom of Information Act.

Under the Treasure Act, objects must be reported to the Coroner’s Service before an inquest is conducted to determine whether or not it is treasure.

The PA news agency can reveal that all 24 items were acquired by the National Museums of Northern Ireland (NMNI).

Two Roman rings and part of a belt buckle were found by a member of the public in Murlough in 2014 (NMNI / PA)

A number of them are currently on display at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

NMNI’s curator of archeology, Dr Greer Ramsey, said they had “significantly filled the gaps in our collection.”

He said what they get is “the lucky draw” as people find items, but described it as “a major and meaningful part of our job.”

“There is no doubt that they have considerably enriched our collections,” he said.

Dr Ramsey has brought to light two bronze age gold jewelry found near Downpatrick, Co Down and Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, a Roman plank found at Murlough in Co Down and a Viking silver arm ring found near of Ballinderry in Co Antrim as being of particular importance.

Dr Ramsey explained that it is rare to find gold objects from the Bronze Age, especially “superb examples of craftsmanship”.

One is a delicately decorated 3cm ‘bubble’ that would probably have been worn around the neck as a locket, while the other is a torc that would likely have been worn around the neck or waist.

Dr Ramsey said the torc is the only such example in Ireland that was coiled like a spring, adding that at that time the island was considered the prehistoric Eldorado of Western Europe due to the quality and quality of its gold work.

“They filled a really important gap in our collection and our knowledge of Bronze Age gold jewelry work because these are two superb examples of craftsmanship,” he said.

Dr Ramsey said the Murlough treasure, which was recently on display at the Ulster Museum, is important because Roman material is very rare in Ireland.

Unlike Great Britain, the Romans did not come to Ireland.

Two of the items are gold rings while the third is part of a military silver buckle. All dates at the end of the 4th or the beginning of the 5th century AD.

As to how they ended up on the Irish coast, Dr Ramsey said they could only speculate that they might have been owned by a British migrant, trader or a returning Irishman who had lived on from Roman lands or served in their army.

Alternatively, it’s possible that they belonged to someone returning home who was stranded or buried near shore.

Northern Ireland Treasure Hunters
Treasure hunter Michael Thompson holding a Viking-era silver arm ring he found in the Ballinderry area of ​​County Antrim using a metal detector (PA)

Meanwhile, one of the latest finds to come to the museum is a silver Viking arm ring that was found by Michael Thompson in Ballinderry, Co Antrim in 2018.

Dr Ramsey said Viking articles were unusual in Northern Ireland compared to the Republic where there were colonies in Dublin and Waterford.

He said it could be taken to the Ulster Museum for display.

“The largest Viking burial outside of Scandinavia is in Dublin, but when you enter the northern part of Ireland Viking artefacts are much rarer, so when they do show up it really matters,” did he declare.

Records kept by monks in 800-1000 record a Viking fleet on Lough Neagh, near where the arm ring was found.

He described the Vikings as having a love of money, adding that the arm rings would have served a dual purpose as attractive jewelry but also used as currency, with someone’s coins being “hacked” to be used as coins. cash.


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