Sunday, May 6, 2012

Gold torc found in Fermanagh declared 'important treasure'

Flange-twisted gold torc (c.1300-1100 BC) 
People ask me all the time whether artifacts (or artefacts, as they spell it in Ireland) really turn up with such regularity as they do in my novels. All I can say is that I don't have to make anything up!

Take this piece, for instance, a 3,000-year-old gold torc discovered in 2009 near Corrard in County Fermanagh by metal-detecting enthusiast Ronnie Johnston. Mr. Johnston thought the piece was a vintage car spring, so he washed it and stuck it in the back of  a drawer. Only after seeing pictures of another gold torc did he realize that he might have found something extremely rare and valuable.

When Mr. Johnston discovered what he had, he showed it to his brother, who went to the Armagh County Museum, and a hearing was set up with the local coroner to determine the torc's status and fate. Analysis showed it was 87% gold and 11% silver, which meant it was officially classifiable as 'treasure' and subject to treasure trove laws of the United Kingdom. (Fermanagh is one of the six counties of the Irish province of Ulster that remain part of the UK.)  

So now the torc will go to the British Museum for valuation, and then the British Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure will have to secure funding to purchase the object from Mr. Johnston in order to put it on public display. 

There are a couple of interesting things about this case... Use of metal detectors near historic sites is against the law in the Republic of Ireland, but not in the United Kingdom. And the torc will go to the British Museum rather than the National Museum of Ireland for examination and valuation. The eventual hope is that it will be returned to Northern Ireland for display in a museum.

Read more about the find here:

Thanks to my friend, Fermanagh flute player Laurence Nugent, for the heads-up on this!

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