New hoard of Early Bronze Age gold from Coggalbeg opens at museum

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 was officially opened by Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, yesterday (Thursday ). Safe Secrets: the Story of the Coggalbeg Hoard will be on display until Summer 2012.

The hoard consists of a gold lunula, a crescent-shaped collar, and two small gold discs dating to the Early Bronze Age c2300-1800BC. 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.

Commenting on the new exhibition, Minister Deenihan said: “An extraordinary series of unlikely events led to the discovery of the most significant hoard of Early Bronze Age goldwork from Ireland for many years. From an archaeological perspective this hoard is of great significance. I am delighted to be here to officially launch this exhibition in this dynamic museum, which in its own right, has established itself very firmly as one of the most important educational and cultural resources in the country.”

Dr Patrick Wallace, director, National Museum of Ireland, is particularly pleased that the exhibition has come to the Museum of Country Life, Turlough Park. “This exhibition continues our policy of bringing important treasures to our Country Life branch. Following the success of the Cross of Cong in 2010, the Coggalbeg Hoard is sure to captivate visitors when they see it on display over the coming year. The courageous role of the Garda Síochána should also be remembered.”

Following the robbery of the safe the Sheehan family told the investigating gardaí that the safe contained three pieces of gold jewellery. From the description provided by the family, curators from the National Museum’s Irish Antiquities Division believed the jewellery to be gold ornaments of the Early Bronze Age period. Because of the thin and flat nature of the objects and their extremely light weight 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.

Exhibition opening hours from Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm; Sunday 2pm to 5pm; closed Mondays. Admission is free.


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