A collection of nearly 900 artifacts from the late Bronze Age and medieval age were recovered from the UK and will be returned to Ireland. The treasures will be on display at the National Museum of Ireland from Tuesday, May 21, 2013. Treasure hunters using metal detectors are thought to be behind the illegal removal of the artifacts between 2009 and 2012.

The vast collection was built by an individual who lived in the Tipperary area, from which many of the finds in the collection originated from various sites. The Irish Times reported that the National Museum commented, “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 in the area.”

Dr. Ned Kelly, keeper of antiquities with the National Museum of Ireland said, “We know for a fact that metal detectors were used.” Using a metal detector without a license is illegal. The penalties include a jail sentence of up to four years and a fine up to $81,604.

The collection of 899 items includes medieval silver coins, a Bronze Age axe and spear-head. Kelly said about the collection, “The most striking part is probably the coin hoard. It includes 28 medieval coins that were all found together as well as 30 silver coins that are also medieval. There are coins dating from the reign of King John to Elizabeth I and from Georgian and Victorian times all of which suggests a range of finds were made.”

The artifacts are believed to have been illegally moved to the UK between 2009 and 2012. An investigation began in 2012. The British Museum was alerted to internet messages about metal detecting in Ireland.

The National Museum of Ireland has an excellent collection on the Bronze Age. The collection boasts a majority of the over 2,000 early Bronze Age axe heads found in Ireland. The museum also has many examples of early Bronze Age pottery collected from over 1,300 discovered graves. The later part of the Bronze age saw a decrease in pottery and an increase in metal objects due to advances in metal working technology and an increase in wealth.

A noteworthy hoard found at Dowris, Co Offaly contained about 218 items including swords, spearheads, axes, knives and razors. The museum collection’s objects from the late Bronze Age come from over 200 hoards of metalwork and finds in peat bogs. The peat bogs have preserved a number of organic materials such as wooden block wheels and woolen garments.