Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Irish Treasure Hunter's Daughter 'had no idea'


The Gardai (police) in Roscommon and Dublin noticed something interesting among a haul of stolen goods they recovered from a Dublin house when they apprehended two suspected burglars. Among the items which they determined had been recently stolen from a Strokestown chemist's safe, was a Bronze Age gold Lunula and two gold Sun Discs. The deceased finder's daughter from whom the'd been stolen claimed she had "no idea of the value" or the age of the artefacts which she'd kept locked in a safe for 40 years.

In Ireland since the 1926 antiquities act it has been illegal to search for archaeological artefacts without a licence and an obligation to report all finds was introduced. That doesn't stop some people; as a result, objects such as these are removed from their original archaeological contexts and priceless archaeological information is lost forever. In this case the finder decided to keep these items for himself, and any information about where they came from was lost with his death.

Following the Derrynaflan Hoard court case in the 1980s the law was strengthened with regard to metal detecting. Current Irish law states that any and all artefacts found, belong to the state and must be reported. The National Museum has no legal obligation to reward anyone for doing so, but generally does to encourage reporting. It did not work this time though, did it?

The writer of Blather.net which I used as a basis for this report comments:

such priceless artefacts belong to ALL the people of Ireland who share the right to have such national treasures safeguarded and presented to the public. Along with the right NOT to have to pay inordinate prices to get their own heritage back from other thieving Irish ****s, I mean, people, who plundered it
from its find spot in the first place. Ireland has one of the most progressive legislation in Europe when it comes to this type of thing. Spare a thought for our neighbours in England, where metal detecting on private land IS legal. Known battlefields and archaeological sites which have not been scheduled by the government are sometimes used to hold metal detecting 'rallies', with the landowners permission. The Portable Antiquities Scheme is sometimes forced to set up a stand [there], in the hope that 'participants' voluntarily bring over their finds for examination. It is a rare case where Ireland leads the way on certain issues and legislation. Now, of course the Strokestown find was probably nothing of the sort. At all. The said items will be formally presented to the National Museum sometime this week. No doubt through gritted teeth. But all's well that ends well. Thanks to several thieving bastards, separated by four decades, we can now take solace in the fact that as it went unreported to the Museum, there's no need for a 'finders fee'.
Photo: the lunula and sun discs.

4 comments:

ender said...

Thanks for the link. As you may see from my side, the MD apologist brigade is alive and well. It's blogs like this, from 'actual' British Professionals, that demonstrate to the world that MD delusions of grandeur are not shared by everyody in the business...

Cheers.

Marcus Preen said...

"It's blogs like this, from 'actual' British Professionals, that demonstrate to the world that MD delusions of grandeur are not shared by everyody in the business..."

Absolutely. Whether "plain wrong" is represented as "right" depends where you look.

In America, for instance, a lot of archaeologists seem to be able to bring themselves to call a thieving spade a spade...
http://www.tallahassee.com/article/20090404/COLUMNIST06/904040311/1006/OPINION

That article ends up - "The ultimate solution is education....This is our heritage and we need to protect it" which is true enough (although education might also be usefully supplemented with punishment, as in the case of shoplifters and burglars).

But that word "education" means different things in different places. In America it means teaching people not to steal what isn't theirs. In Britain the same word is the central plank of PAS's mission but it is used in a weasel way to mean carry on with what can't be justified, but give us a modicum of data. In return, we'll betray our beliefs as archaeologists and rational members of society and proclaim to the world that you're not acquisitive, selfish or vandalistic and pretend that what our own personal and professional ethics absolutely prevent us from doing ourselves is just fine when you do it.

What a shambles. I wouldn't like to be employed doing that. A security guard that stands outside a supermarket cheerfully asking people to list what they've stolen....

Andrew said...

Cool pic of the lunula, where did you get it?

Paul Barford said...

Followup:
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/0326/1224267098958.html

TWO DUBLIN men have received suspended jail sentences for their role in the robbery of priceless “national treasures”, now in the National Museum, which they unwittingly dumped in a rubbish bin.

Gardaí had to place a protection order on rubbish dumped outside flats in Dublin and go through the contents of a skip to retrieve the 4,000- year-old artefacts, a lunula and two gold discs, Roscommon Circuit Court heard.

Both accused were on bail at the time of the offence and Judge Anthony Kennedy said that while he would not go so far as to recommend they get a finder’s reward, he said he would give them credit for co-operating with gardaí and helping to ensure that these treasures were found.

Robert Dempsey, Earl Court, Reuben Street, Dublin, who pleaded guilty
to burglary at Sheehan’s Pharmacy, Strokestown, Co Roscommon, on March
27th, 2009, was given a three-year suspended sentence.

The court was told that since the robbery he had gone to the National
Museum to view the artefacts which they had dumped.

His co-accused Anthony Dowling (35), Fortlawn Drive, Blanchardstown, Dublin, who pleaded guilty to possession of stolen goods, was given a
two-year suspended sentence.

Dowling, who acted as a lookout at the front door of the pharmacy on
the night of the robbery, was given an eight-year sentence last month for his role in a serious assault.

Judge Kennedy heard that on the night of the raid at Sheehan’s
pharmacy, Dempsey had used his shoulder to “bust” open the door while owner Sunniva Sheehan slept in the adjoining residence.

The judge praised the “excellent” Garda investigation. Gardaí tracked
down the cars used in the raid through CCTV footage from a toll plaza which caught them as they headed back to Dublin at about 5am.

Det Sgt John Costello of Roscommon Garda station, who carried out
searches at addresses at Reuben Street and in Finglas, said the
accused had no idea of the value of the goods stolen but helped to
locate them when told that they were of “national significance”.

A protection order was placed on rubbish which was due to be collected from Reuben Street the following day, and the contents of a skip were removed to Kilmainham Garda station. Sgt Costello subsequently discovered the lunula and gold discs.

Judge Kennedy said there was no explanation as to why the men had come to Strokestown but it was ominous they had targeted a pharmacy as if looking for drugs.

The court heard that the men had stolen the safe containing the
artefacts and other papers as well as some cosmetics, aftershave,
deodorants and medication. The artefacts, which date back to 2000 BC, had been placed in a safe 50 years earlier by Ms Sheehan’s father and were in an A4 envelope. The defendants had thrown the envelope into a black refuse bag which they dumped.

Judge Kennedy was told that both men came from poor backgrounds.
Dowling had been on methadone for 10 years having gone on heroin at
17. He was jailed last month for his role in an attack on a man whose hand was chopped off with a sword in a Dublin pub.

Dowling had been armed with a claw hammer while his accomplice had
used a samurai sword to sever the hand in the Deputy Mayor pub in
Meekstown in January 2008.

 
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