A 3,000-year-old Bronze Age axe has been recovered by gardaí after it was unearthed illegally in Limerick.
It's believed the axe - which dates to 1000-800 BC - was discovered with a metal detector.
Anybody who uncovers such an artefact is legally required to report them to the National Museum of Ireland, but that did not happen in this case.
Gardaí were alerted about the discovery by a member of the public after it was identified in a social media post, and the axe has now been recovered.
'Matter of grave concern'
National Museum Director Lynn Scarff said that such artefacts are under threat of deterioration as soon as they're taken from the ground.
She said: "It's also critical for our staff to study the 'find spot' because it can provide important evidence, both about the item and the area in which it was discovered.
"It's a matter of grave concern for us that the illegal use of metal detectors to search for archaeological objects continues and we want to appeal to members of the public to consider the greater public interest and the importance of these items to our national heritage, and to report any finds of note to us."
Maeve Sikora, Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum, noted that these kind of discoveries have the potential to reveal information about undiscovered settlements or rural activity.
She explained: "Microscopic analysis of similar axe heads suggests that they may have been used for woodworking."
Detective Superintendent Ken Keelan, meanwhile, said there is an ongoing Garda investigation into this case, and a file is being prepared for the DPP.