ON THIS DAY in the year 2000, it was announced that a tour guide working in Kilkenny's Dunmore Cave had made the discovery of a lifetime.
The ancient Dunmore Cave, in Ballyfoyle, County Kilkenny, is steeped in history and was once the site of a brutal Viking massacre in the year 928, in which almost 1,000 people-- mostly women and children-- were slaughtered by the invaders.
The cave is a popular educational tourist spot for those visiting Ireland's ancient East, and it was due to one of these educational tours that the incredible discovery was made.
A tour guide employed at the cave was picking up the litter left behind by tourists when he bent down to pick up a packet of discarded crisps and noticed, in a crack in one of the walls, a treasure trove of jewelry and coins.
The treasure is believed to have dated back to about 40 years after the massacre, with experts putting an age of 1,000 years on the precious items which included one-of-a-kind items which "have not been seen anywhere else", according to Dúchas archaeologist Richard Buckley who spoke to media at the time.
He said the items which were discovered made up "an important part of the Viking jigsaw", as it included conical silver wire Viking-age items which had not previously been found anywhere in the world, according to a BBC article written at the time of the discovery.
Victor Buckley, a senior archaeologist with Duchas agreed that the items appeared to be one-of-a-kind, especially the silver woven jewelry which experts believe could have been the buttons from a cloak.
"Nothing like them has been found in Scandinavia, either," Buckley told The Irish Echo at the time. "It is very, very fine stuff. A silversmith today couldn’t make anything better."
"This hoard dates from about 40 years after the massacre in the cave but, obviously, here was another tragedy because the person who hid it never came back," he told the outlet.
The treasure trove was stumbled upon a few months previously, but authorities had kept it secret so as to avoid thieves entering the caves, and the discovery was announced on January 13 2000.
The cave was sealed off to deter opportunists with metal detectors from chancing their arm, and the treasure trove was taken to Ireland's National Museum for examination and restoration.
As for the accidental archaeologist,there are little details about what became of him-- but he certainly had a new story to tell the tourists who visited Dunmore Cave.