Northern Ireland

Roman rings found at County Down beach declared as treasure

Roman artefacts found by Brian Murray
Image caption Dr Greer Ramsey said discoveries of Roman artefacts in Ireland were "incredibly rare"

Two Roman rings and a silver belt buckle found at a beach in County Down have been declared to be treasure by a coroner in Belfast.

The three items were discovered by Brian Murray, using a metal detector at Murlough in Dundrum Bay.

They have been described as extremely important and rare Roman artefacts in the context of Irish history.

They will be sent to the British Museum in London for further examination and valuation.

Mr Murray, from Newtownards in County Down, will get 50% of the value.

Collecting

A treasure trove inquest was held on Wednesday to establish the circumstances around how the artefacts were discovered.

To be classified as treasure, objects must be at least 300 years old and have a metallic content of at least 10%.

Image caption Brian Murray discovered the rings at Murlough beach in County Down

Mr Murray said he discovered the items within five minutes and within an area of one square metre.

"I was actually collecting militaria on the shores of Murlough - it was an American training area during the second World War," he said.

"I found the small ring first and within five minutes retrieved the other big ring and the buckle."

He said the items were the "most valuable" he had ever detected.

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Media captionBrian Murray, who found the artefacts, said he knew he had discovered something "sensational"

"I'm a keen fan of Time Team, so I knew I had something sensational, especially in the big ring."

"It's like fishing for mackerel and catching a salmon.

"It's not about the money, it's about the thrill of finding that - it was the last thing I expected to find when I went down to the bay."

Significance

Dr Greer Ramsey, an expert from the National Museums of Northern Ireland, said it was possible the items had all belonged to the same person.

"Roman material is incredibly rare, so this makes this hoard of special significance," Dr Ramsey said.

"Most of the other finds of Roman material do occur along the east coast, so you image they were trade contacts or perhaps even settlers or people who were shipwrecked and washed ashore.

"It is possible that it belonged to a burial and someone was buried at sea. It is equally possible that somebody was wearing it when their ship went down."

He added: "This is putting the north-east of Ireland on the Roman map."

The buckle is similar to those found in Britain dating to the 4th century AD.