Page last updated at 12:29 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 13:29 UK

Teenager finds buried treasure

By Freya McClements
BBC News

Conor and William Sandford
Conor Sandford with his father William and his 12th century find

"It looked just like the ring-pull on a Coke can."

That was 18-year-old Conor Sandford's first reaction when he pulled the artefact from the ground.

The flimsy-looking piece of metal was in fact a medieval silver ring.

On Tuesday it was officially declared treasure trove at an inquest at the Coroner's Court at Belfast.

Conor explained how he had been working on his father's farm in Kilmore, County Armagh, when he made the discovery.

"I was putting a fence post in on a field my father owns, called the Honeypot Field.

"I'd dug the hole and I had taken the soil out, and it was only when I was putting the soil back in that I noticed this wee thing sticking out.

"Dad's always talking about how old the farm is, so it made me take another look at it," he said.

Conor brought the ring to his father William, who initially didn't think the ring was valuable.

"Dad said he thought it was like something from a lucky bag," explained Conor.

"I then contacted Helen Geake from Time Team and she emailed me back to say that it looked at least 500 years old, and I should contact the Ulster Museum."

What is a treasure trove inquest
Held to establish who found the artefact, when and where
Heard in front of a coroner
The coroner decides if the find constitute treasure under the Treasure Act 1996
Treasure must be at least 300 years old and have a metallic content of at least 10%

He did so, and last August presented the ring to Cormac Bourke, the museum's Curator of Medieval Antiquities.

Mr Bourke identified it as a silver finger ring dating from the 12th century.

"It's very well-preserved, and it was relatively unworn," he said.

"This 12th century type of ring is characterised by the use of silver, although it may be an Irish sub-type.

"There are at least four similar rings in the National Museum of Ireland, all unprovenanced, but they have no parallel in Britain.

"The fact that there are these other rings suggests a degree of mass-production, but even so it could only have belonged to someone with economic resources, someone in the middle or upper echelons of society."

12th century silver ring
It is hoped that the ring will go on display in the Ulster Museum

Mr Bourke said the parish of Kilmore was the site of an early settlement.

"The name literally means 'big church', and it is referred to in later medieval records.

"There are no pre-Norman references to the site, but the name suggests it has been there a long time," he said.

Though officially the possession of the Queen, the Ulster Museum hopes to acquire the ring and eventually put it on public display.

The coroner, Brian Sherrard, commended Conor for dealing with his find "in a most honourable way".

The 18-year-old has just left school and is about to sit his A-levels before going to university to study "science, rather than history".

'Honeypot Field'

Once the ring is valued Conor will be entitled to a reward - but he said seeing the ring in the museum was all the reward he wanted.

"It's great to know that something I found will be in the Ulster Museum.

"It'd be no good just sitting in a drawer at home - this way people can use it to find out more about the history of the local area.

"But it was so lucky, if it hadn't been for the woman from Time Team we wouldn't have known it was valuable at all," he said.

"It was the location more than anything else," said William. "We know the area is very old.

"It was very appropriate - the ring was found in Honeypot Field."

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