A County Tyrone family could be in line for a reward after finding a rare Bronze Age gold bracelet on their land.
Farmer Gary Sproule accidentally unearthed the precious artefact while ploughing over a field at Castlegore near Castlederg last April. The intricate item is believed to date from almost 1,000 years before the birth of Christ.
An inquest was held yesterday in Belfast at which the item, which would have belonged to an important warrior or priest, was officially classified as treasure.
Under the law, a ‘treasure trove’ inquest must be held by the coroner to determine the significance of such finds. The finder of the item, as well as the landowner, are often then entitled to a discretionary reward.
Speaking after the inquest, Mr Sproule said he was pleased that the bracelet had been dealt with through official channels.
“I can’t believe something like this has been in the ground all this time,” he said. “Three generations of my family have lived here. It’s hard to believe the last time this land was ploughed was when my ancestors were using smaller ploughs or even horses.
“When I saw it I knew it had to be something special. It looked extremely old but it was in amazing condition. I couldn’t believe that it hadn’t been damaged, as it’s about 3,000 years old. It’s amazing to think that there were Bronze Age settlers right here on my doorstep.”
His wife Valerie said the family had been “blessed” to find such a rare object. “It’s not every day you can say you found a piece of Bronze Age history in your back field,” she said. “It’s important for Irish history that we uncover these treasures and I’m just delighted it was found after all this time.”
Expert witness Richard Warner, a former archaeologist at the Ulster Museum, said that although a detailed analysis of the bracelet had not been carried out, similar objects have been found to contain 80% gold and 15% silver.
“It would have been owned by a wealthy person, possibly a priest, a high ranking warrior or tribal chieftain,” he said.
Mr Sherrard described the bracelet as a “remarkable find” and urged anyone else finding such items to ensure that they are reported to the authorities.
According to the National Museum of Ireland, a similar piece dating between 900-700BC was found around 300 years ago in Killymoon, Co Tyrone, although unlike the find at Killymoon, which was a plain design, this recent discovery is highly decorative.
The Coroner also ruled yesterday that a separate find of a gold Bronze Age purse or ‘bulla’ should be considered a treasure.
The item, which is around the size of a 50 pence piece and dates from 950 to 800 BC, was discovered by Bangor man Glen McCamley, using a metal detector on land belonging to farmer John Kennedy at Inch in Downpatrick.