NYU Student Discovers 900-Year-Old Irish Brooch

An NYU student discovered an 12th century Irish brooch in Connemara. (Photo courtesy NYU)

By Adam Farley, Deputy Editor
August / September 2016

An Irish American New York University student made a once-in-a-lifetime discovery in July when she spotted what turned out to be a 12th century kite brooch (pictured right) in the sand on Omey Island, near Cleggan, in Connemara, an area long associated with burials and pilgrimage.

McKenna McFadden, a film and television production major minoring in Irish studies at Glucksman Ireland House, made the discovery while touring the area with Connemara-based archeologist Michael Gibbons during a summer NYU program in Ireland.

McKenna McFadden on Omey Beach. Photo courtesy NYU.


“I found it while looking at rabbit burrows in the dirt deposits at the back of the beach. I looked down and saw the back of the brooch sticking out of the sand,” she told Irish America. “When I picked it up, I really wasn’t sure what it was, but it looked cool! I was curious as to what it was, but I figured it was something that someone lost a few years ago.”

When she showed the brooch to Gibbons, he “freaked out,” she said. The provenance of the ancient brooch, which would have been used to fasten a cloak or shawl, was verified by Galway city heritage officer Jim Higgins.

“I couldn’t believe that I just stumbled across it,” she said. McFadden has since donated the brooch to the National Museum of Ireland. ♦

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