Farmer in Ireland Unearths Golden Objects from the Bronze Age
The BBC has reported that a farmer in Ireland has discovered a treasure trove of golden rings. The find was made in County Donegal and it was unearthed entirely by accident. It is believed that it could be several thousand years old and is one of the most exciting archaeological finds in recent years in the country. Now investigators from the National Museum of Ireland are trying to determine the exact nature of the golden objects that were uncovered.
Farmer Makes an Historic Discovery
The farmer, Norman Witherow, uncovered the gold objects when he was digging a drain in a field, somewhere in the townland of Convoy, the exact location has not been disclosed. Mr. Witherow dug up the hoard which was buried under several feet of earth. At first, the farmer was underwhelmed by his find, as each ring was coated in clay and he had no idea of what the objects were made of. So, he placed the find in the boot of his car and took them to a jeweler, who told him that they could be of historic interest.
The farmer then took the objects to local officials in the Donegal County Museum who instantly knew that the rings were something very special. They immediately notified the National Museum of Ireland who sent investigators to examine the rings. According to the Irish Independent, Maeve Sikora, keeper of Irish antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland, has praised the farmer for turning in the find to the authorities. In the past many locals who discovered artifacts of archaeological interest had kept them and not alerted the local councils, which is required by Irish law.
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The four gold artifacts have diameters of almost 10 cm (4 inches). (© National Museum of Ireland)
Uncommon Golden Objects
Experts from the National Museum of Ireland have conducted a preliminary examination of the find. Their provisional observations have led them to date the gold rings as being from the Bronze Age. Experts believe that the find could date to the Late Bronze Age, approximately 1250 to 500 BC. The Irish Independent, reports that researchers believe that ‘the deposition of hoards of objects is a characteristic of the late Bronze Age in Ireland’. The experts also have established that the rings are made of a gold alloy. The objects have now been taken back to Dublin for further examination. The site of the find is also being examined so that investigators can establish the context of their burial to provide additional insights into the discovery.
Bronze Age Deposits in Ireland
Ireland has a rich Bronze Age heritage and it is not unusual for artifacts from the period to be unearthed, such as the golden ornament discovered in 2014 in Roscommon. However, the condition of the golden rings is remarkable, and they are not like anything else found previously in the country. The Donegal find could be one of the most significant Bronze Age discoveries since the mid-nineteenth century.
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The four gold artifacts with measurement guide. (© National Museum of Ireland)
The nature of the golden rings is a matter of conjecture at the moment. They would appear, at first glance, to be some form of ornament most likely bracelets. However, the BBC reports that the assistant curator of the Donegal County Museum, has stated, "I personally don't think they are bracelets - they wouldn't even fit up my arm." This has led to speculation that the golden rings were possibly some form of currency and this is exciting experts on the Bronze Age. This would indicate that societies in the period were much more advanced than thought.
After the items have been thoroughly examined and cleaned they are expected to be put on display at the National Museum of Ireland. The farmer who unearthed the golden objects hopes to visit the museum and view his findings, which are now the property of the Irish state. The Donegal Museum hopes to apply to have the rings returned to the county for an exhibition.
The find is important in itself and demonstrates the wealth and sophisticated culture of prehistoric Ireland. However, if the golden rings can be determined to be a form of currency then this could revolutionize our understanding of the period. All of this because of a chance find by a farmer digging a drainage ditch.
Top image: The four gold rings recovered from County Donegal, Ireland. Source: Caroline Carr, Donegal County Museum.
By Ed Whelan