Four solid gold rings dating back thousands of years to the Bronze Age have been found in Co Donegal.
The National Museum of Ireland was alerted on Wednesday that four gold objects had been discovered and appeared to date back to the Bronze Age, the period from approximately 2500 to 500 BC.
Experts from the museum travelled to the site where the artefacts were discovered and carried out an investigation of the area to try and ascertain how and when the objects had been left there.
The four rings, which are large enough to fit around a person’s wrist, have been transferred to the national museum where they will be put on display once initial investigations have concluded.
Maeve Sikora, the museum's keeper of Irish antiquities, said the find had been a "chance discovery" and would play an important role in adding to the history of Bronze Age Ireland.
“Every archaeological find tells you something new about a particular period. For us it’s not just about the objects but also the context – it’s the whole package.”
Ms Sikora said specialists at the museum would examine the gold in order to ascertain how long the rings had been lying in the ground. Most Bronze Age objects are discovered through archaeological digs but some just show up by chance, she said.
“It’s an important archaeological find and will reveal something new about the area, that period of time and will add to our understanding of prehistoric Ireland and how rich the culture was then.”
Ms Sikora said the museum was unable to reveal at this time where exactly in Donegal the objects were found.
Lynn Scarf, director of the museum, thanked the “finders” and the local Donegal community for their co-operation and said the museum was delighted by the find. “We would also like to acknowledge our colleagues at the Donegal County Museum for their collaboration and assistance with this discovery, and look forward to working closely with them in relation to this find over the coming months.”
Minister for Heritage Josepha Madigan also congratulated the people who discovered the objects and said her department was working closely with the national museum in their initial investigations.
The last big Bronze Age discovery was in 2010 when a hoard of gold artefacts was recovered from a rubbish skip. The objects had previously been kept safe at a chemist’s shop in Co Roscommon after being discovered in a bog in nearby Coggalbeg in 1947 but were stolen during a robbery. Gardaí recovered the objects from the bin and they were handed over to the national museum.