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Early Bronze Age gold

A new hoard of Early Bronze Age gold from Coggalbeg, Co. Roscommon, to be exhibited at the National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology, Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

The National Museum of Ireland is delighted to announce that the hoard of Early Bronze Age goldwork which formed part of the contents of a pharmacy safe stolen from Sheehan’s Chemists, Strokestown, Co. Roscommon, in March 2009, will be exhibited at the National Museum - Archaeology, Kildare Street from 23rd June 2010.

The hoard consists of a gold lunula, a crescent-shaped collar, and two small gold discs dating to the Early Bronze Age c. 2300-1800 BC. The three objects had been placed in the pharmacy safe in 1947 and had only been seen by members of the Sheehan family on a couple of occasions since then. The opportunistic robbery of the safe led to this amazing discovery. In late March this year two Dublin men pleaded guilty to the burglary of the pharmacy and were given three year suspended sentences. Following the robbery of the safe the Sheehan family told the investigating Gardaí that in addition to family papers and belongings the safe contained three pieces of gold jewellery. Curators from the National Museum’s Irish Antiquities Division were able to assist Gardaí in identifying the type of objects most likely to meet the description provided by the Sheehan family. The description suggested a hoard of gold ornaments of the Early Bronze Age period. Because of the thin and flat nature of the objects and their extremely light weight (78g in total, about 2 ½ ozs) it became apparent that the hoard might have been missed completely when the contents of the safe were examined by the robbers. This eventually proved to be the case. The investigating detectives established that all the papers from the safe had been dumped in a skip in Dublin. As the refuse was due to be collected within a few hours of this information coming to hand, An Garda Síochána moved quickly to secure the skip and arranged for the refuse to be examined. The detectives who undertook this very unappealing task were rewarded by the recovery of the hoard, complete and intact.

Detective work of an archaeological nature undertaken by the National Museum of Ireland’s curators in the Irish Antiquities Division led to the identification of the original finder of the hoard and the place where the find was made. The finder was Mr Hubert Lannon, Four Mile House, Co. Roscommon, who had found the hoard when cutting turf in his bog at Coggalbeg, Co. Roscommon, in March 1945. Unfortunately, it was also discovered that Mr Lannon had died in his 93rd year just three weeks before the robbery in March 2009. However, his family were able to confirm that he had made a find in his bog which he had given to Mr Sheehan, the Strokestown chemist.

For further press information please contact:

Maureen Gaule

Marketing Department, National Museum of Ireland

Tel: 01 – 6486429 Mobile 087 2075133

E-Mail: mgaule@museum.ie

Website: www.museum.ieLinks to external website

Notes to the Editor:

This extraordinary series of events has led to the discovery of the most significant hoard of Early Bronze Age goldwork from Ireland for many, many years. From an archaeological perspective this hoard is of great significance. It includes a pair of gold discs, the first pair to have been found since the nineteenth century and the only pair found in the twentieth century. This is the second pair recorded from Co. Roscommon. Only 21 discs survive from Ireland. Of even more importance is the fact that this hoard represents the first recorded association of a lunula and gold discs. This has important implications for the dating of discs and lunulae as the discs are seen as representing the very earliest Beaker period sheet gold with lunulae believed to date somewhat later. This hoard suggests period of overlap between the two styles of early goldwork in the period from about 2300 BC to 2000BC.

The National Museum of Ireland remains indebted to the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, Mr Fachtna Murphy, and the all the Garda officers who were involved in the investigation of this case and in the recovery of this exceptional hoard. The Museum is also grateful to the Sheehan and Lannon families for their assistance in the archaeological investigation of the hoard.

The lunula and discs are now on exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

Opening hours:

Tuesday to Saturday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm Sundays 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm

Admissions to all exhibitions at the National Museums of Ireland are FREE

Available for Interview:

  • Eamonn P. Kelly, Keeper of Irish Antiquities
  • Mary Cahill, Assistant Keeper, Irish Antiquities Division

Images available on request.

 
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