The National Museum is warning people that they are legally required to report any archaeological objects they discover within four days.
It comes after a man was prosecuted for the possession of unreported archaeological artefacts at Dundalk District Court.
Gardaí were alerted after a number of social media posts suggested that an individual was involved in the unlicensed use of a metal detector to search for archaeological objects and may have been in possession of these objects.
During searches at a premises, they uncovered a range of artefacts, including silver medieval coinage, part of a medieval horse harness and a detection device.
The man was convicted of an offence under the National Monuments Act and fined €1000.
"Property of the State"
The National Museum is warning people that they are legally required to apply for consent to use detection devices to search for archaeological objects.
It said that the laws are in place to protect Ireland’s national heritage and “all archaeological objects without a known owner are the property of the State”.
Maeve Sikora, Keeper of Antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland, expressed hope that the “significant judgement” in Dundalk would lead to more awareness of the laws.
“Ireland’s archaeological heritage belongs to everyone,” she said.
“Artefacts have survived for centuries and often millennia and should be available to be studied and enjoyed for generations more to come.
“No individual has the right to unnecessarily risk the preservation of our priceless archaeological heritage and we ask the public to be vigilant and to report any potential unlicensed metal detecting to An Garda Síochána.”
'That belongs in a museum'
Ms Sikora said the National Museum routinely deals with reports of objects discovered by chance.
“Such discoveries are reportable by law, and we care for these objects on behalf of the State,” she said.
“The Museum builds relationships with finders and their communities through this work and we would also like to thank the many genuine finders who contact us on a daily basis to report their discoveries.”
The museum said the unregulated use of detection devices “poses a serious risk to Ireland’s archaeological heritage”.
“Unlicensed archaeological searches risk damaging objects and losing the potential research value of a discovery by damaging the context of the find,” it said.
“This activity may result in the irreplaceable loss of knowledge of the past.”
If you discover an archaeological object, you can report it to the National Museum by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 01-6777444.
Advice to the public from An Garda Síochána on metal detecting is available here.