Gardaí recover Bronze Age axe found in Adare following tip-off
Officers called in to help trace the item after picture of it spotted on social media
Matthew Seaver, assistant keeper, Irish Antiquities Division, National Museum of Ireland with the 3,000-year-old Bronze Age axe head recovered by gardaí. Photograph: Julien Behal
Officers from the arts and antiques unit of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation were called in to help trace the item after a picture of it was spotted on social media.
Maeve Sikora, keeper of Irish antiquities at the museum, said the “socketed axe head”, which was probably used for carpentry or wood-working around 1,000BC, was unearthed as a result of “unlicensed metal detecting”.
“It’s a beautiful little bronze axe,” she said.
“We are very grateful to the member of the public who reported it to us, and also to An Garda Síochána locally in Adare, but also the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, who assist us in tracing these things.”
It is illegal to use a metal detector in and around national monuments and archaeological sites in Ireland without a licence from the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
Offenders face a fine of up to €63,486 and/or up to three months imprisonment.
Anyone who digs up an archaeological object without an excavation licence may be guilty of an additional offence under the National Monuments Acts.
Ms Sikora said Adare is “incredibly rich” in archaeological value, with a number of late Bronze Age hoards discovered in the area, and warned amateurs against breaking the law by searching for artefacts.
“My advice would be that there are many other elements of community archaeology and other things to get involved in, and I would really advise against using a metal detector, because you run the risk of damaging archaeological monuments, which are not always visible above ground, but also archaeological deposits and objects,” she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme.
“This case is a good example of (the problem) - my view is that these objects belong to everybody and the National Museum’s responsibility is to ensure that these objects are preserved for future generations.
“It is a serious matter.”
The Bronze Age axe is undergoing conservation work for damage to the socket and it is hoped to put it on public display in the future.
Detective Superintendent Ken Keelan of the National Bureau for Criminal Investigation said the case is “currently the subject of an ongoing Garda investigation and a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions. ”
“Gardaí would again remind people of their legal obligations and requirements under the National Monuments Act,” he added.