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Looted Irish treasure found in Britain

National Museum of Ireland
Coins such as these were returned to the National Museum (Pic: National Museum of Ireland)

A MAJOR haul of looted antiquities discovered in Britain and Ireland has been returned to The National Museum of Ireland.

On May 15, the Art and Antiques Unit of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, An Garda Síochána, handed over a collection of 899 metal-detected archaeological objects to the museum.

Some of the objects were recovered in Britain by officers of the Norfolk Constabulary with the remaining objects being recovered in Ireland by the Art and Antiques Unit.

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The collection was amassed by an individual, now deceased, who operated in the Co. Tipperary area with assistance from another person who did not reside within the jurisdiction.

The existence of the antiquities came to light following a tip-off from the British Museum that an important hoard of medieval silver coins from Ireland had been exported illegally to Britain.

The National Museum, the Norfolk Constabulary, the Art and Antiques Unit of An Garda Síochána and British police were all involved in the recovery operation.

Seamus Lynam, Acting Director of the National Museum said: “The recovery underlines the continuing threat posed to the portable archaeological heritage of Ireland by metal detectorists.”

Mr Lynam also stated that the recovery showed the determination of all involved to protect the nation’s heritage.

Norfolk Constabulary recovered 28 medieval hammered silver coins covering the reigns of Edward I- III and a flat copper axe dating to the Early Bronze Age between 2,500 – 2,000 BC. Many metal military buttons relating to the activities of the British Army in Ireland were also found.

Medieval finds include a number of decorative studs, the foot of a cauldron, thimbles and belt fittings.

The presence of such objects suggest that looters targeted sites such as castles and medieval churches, while the presence of Georgian and Victorian metal furniture mounts, spoons, coins and thimbles suggests the targeting of local estate houses.

Many items similar to those recovered have been offered for sale in recent times over the internet and are the subject of on-going investigations.

According to a spokesperson from the National Museum of Ireland it is normal practice not to put a value on items in the museum, and there are no plans to put the items on public display at present.

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