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The Celtic Gold Ornaments

Nature volume 68, page 201 (02 July 1903) | Download Citation



THE decision in the Court of Chancery that the gold ornaments from the north of Ireland, and bought as long ago as 1897 by the British Museum, are treasure trove, and, therefore, are to be taken from the Museum and handed over to the King, will produce a curious effect on the mind of the intelligent foreigner. But when he is told that the action at law is due to the persistent claims of the irreconcilable Irish party, he will probably begin to understand the position, from analogous conditions in his own country. The whole affair is to be regretted, but it must in fairness be stated that the entire blame lies at the door of the Irish executive, and that but for their incomprehensible apathy in making no effort to secure the ornaments before the British Museum ever entered the field, there would have been no need for a costly lawsuit. There is, however, a wider application of this particular example, arising from the contention of the Irish archæologists that all antiquities found in Ireland must remain there. Foreign students coming to an institution like the British Museum will expect to find there, primarily, an adequate representation of the archæology of the British Islands— surely not an unreasonable expectation in the central museum of the Empire. But if the Irish contention is to prevail, Scotland will claim equal rights, and Wales also when it decides on a capital for the Principality, so that the earnest student, not generally a wealthy individual, will be compelled to seek out what he wants in widely separated cities. There are, of course, arguments in favour of such a course; but, as a practical matter, there are, in fact, ancient remains enough in these islands to admit of the central museum having a fair comparative series, without in any way damaging the local museum. A little mutual understanding is all that is wanted, and it is to be hoped that the parochial idea that seems to prevail in Dublin will not be thought worthy of Edinburgh. London, after all, is the capital of these islands, and, for one foreign or English student in Dublin or Edinburgh, there are fifty, or, may be, a hundred, who work in London. The greater the number of workers, the greater will be the benefit to science.

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