The Golden Torc
Found mainly by use of a metal detector in the fields of England, these wonderful and ancient artefacts can be valued most highly. The British Museum recently rewarded a metal detectorist for finding a torc with a payment of ?350,000 - US$662,000.
A torc, also spelled torq or torque (from Latin torqueo, to twist, because of the twisted shape of the collar) is a rigid circular necklace that is open-ended at the front. The ends of ancient torcs typically bore sculpted ornaments, frequently globes, cubes, or animal heads, and less commonly human figures. The body of the necklace was usually but not always wrapped. Although they were most often neck-rings, there were also bracelets with this shape. Torcs were made from intertwined metal strands, usually gold or bronze, less often silver.
"Torc" is the ancient Irish for "boar", similar to the gaulish "torcos". A relation could be made with the sacred value of the animal in celtic mythology suggesting a sort of equivalence between the necklace and the animal symbol of death and revival.
Torcs were worn by various peoples from the Bronze Age, about 1000 BC, until about 300 AD, including the Galatians (or Anatolian Celts), various Germanic tribes the Scythians and the Persians. However, it is best known as the typically Celtic necklace worn especially by Britons, Gauls, and Iberians.
One of the earliest known depictions of a torc can be found on the Warrior of Hirschlanden, a statue of a nude ithyphallic warrior made of sandstone, the oldest known iron age life-size anthropomorphic statue north of the Alps. It was a production of the Hallstatt culture of the early Iron age (800-475 BC). It is now in the W?rttembergisches Landesmuseum in Stuttgart
Depictions of the gods and goddesses of Celtic mythology frequently show them wearing torcs. The famous Roman copy of the original Greek sculpture The Dying Gaul, depicts a wounded Gallic warrior naked except for a torc. Examples have been discovered in Britain and Europe during archaeological surveys. A notable and exquisite example was found at the Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo burial mound.
It was said by some authors that the torc was an ornament for women until the 4th century BC, when it became an attribute of warriors. But most authors disagree, saying that it was a sign of nobility and high social status: a decoration awarded to warriors for their deeds in battle, as well as a divine attribute, since some depictions of Celtic gods wear one or more torcs. A possible symbolic meaning of the torc is thought to be that of a "freed slave". The woven metal cord worn around one's neck is broken, ending in a terminal bulb. Images of the god Cernunnos wearing one torc around his neck, with torcs hanging from his antlers or held in his hand, have been found. Torcs have also been found in the tombs of Celtic princes.
The Roman consul Titus Manlius once challenged a Gaul to single combat and killed him, and then took his torc. Because he always wore it, he received the nickname Torquatus (the one who wears a torc). After this, Romans adopted the torc as a decoration for distinguished soldiers and elite units during Republican times.
Treasure record - P&EE 69
Treasure ID: P&EE 69 Report year: 2000 Catalogue number:
Object type: Two Torcs And Three Bracelets In A Pot. Period: Bronze Age Dates: -1150 - -750
- Neckring 1: a penannular ring of thick gold bar of elliptical cross-section, the whole ring is decorated with incised radial lines except for a plain strip all along the rear face; there is more complex groove decoration near the terminals.
- Neckring 2: a penannular ring of thick gold bar of elliptical cross-section, decorated near the terminal zones only, with bands of close-set grooves.
- Bracelet 1: a ?C?-shaped ring of elliptical cross-section; the butt ends are ground flat.
- Bracelet 2: a ?C?-shaped ring of elliptical cross-section; the opening is narrower than Bracelet 1; the butt ends are ground flat.
- Bracelet 3: a penannular ring of almost ?D?-shaped plan and with an octagonal cross-section.
- Bronze fragment: a tiny fragment of rod or wire.
- Pottery vessel: an undecorated fineware bowl in a brown fabric with eroded traces of lightly burnished surfaces.
Discussion: The information on the context of this find is very good thanks to the diligence of the finders, the efforts of local archaeologists Paul and Charmian Woodfield and Brian Giggins, and the prompt action of Hayley Bullock of the British Museum?s Department of Conservation. As a result we have the first unequivocal association between a gold hoard and pottery for the British Middle to Late Bronze Age. This is of exceptional importance for helping synchronise the chronology of gold metalwork, which normally occurs in isolation, with the broader picture of social and economic development.
Excluding the fragment of bronze, which is too small and undiagnostic, all objects in the hoard can be identified as Late Bronze Age types. The pot form belongs to the Post Deverel-Rimbury tradition, and essentially to the early to middle phases of that tradition, which span the British Late Bronze Age, about 1150?800 BC. The gold types represented can all be accommodated within this date span, although it is not impossible that some of them first emerged a little earlier. The neckrings belong to a family distributed widely and thinly across the Atlantic regions of Europe, from Iberia to Ireland and Britain. Precise morphology and decorative schema are varied across this geographical range.
Plain, expanded-terminal bracelets with round or oval band sections are a dominant form in the British/Irish Middle to Late Bronze Age. The two examples in this hoard are unusual only in their massive proportions, hitherto rarely seen. The third, faceted bracelet is again unusual in its precise form, but is clearly affiliated to lozenge sectioned, and other faceted bracelet types.
Dimensions and metal content:
- Diameter: 143.5mm x 135mm; thickness of bar: 15.1mm x 11.4mm; weight: 626.9g.
- Diameter: 145.9mm x 134.5mm; maximum thickness of bar: 12.9mm x 10mm; weight: 441.3g.
- Diameter: 84.7mm x 65mm; minimum thickness of bar: 14.5mm x 10.8mm; weight: 382.6g.
- Diameter: 81.4mm x 68.5mm; minimum thickness of bar: 14.4mm x 11.2mm; weight: 408g.
- Diameter: 73.6mm x 62.5mm; minimum thickness of bar: 9.2mm x 7mm; weight: 162.5g.
- (No measurements).
- Diameter of body: 210mm; diameter of base: 100mm; height: 100mm.
X-ray fluorescence analysis conducted at the British Museum indicated approximate gold contents as:
- 76 per cent;
- 85 per cent;
- 84 per cent;
- 85 per cent;
- 84 per cent.
Note: The landowner, English Partnerships, sought to deny that the finders had valid permission to search. The Treasure Valuation Committee, after considering statements from all parties concerned, disagreed and recommended that the share of the reward payable to English Partnerships should be reduced from 50 to 40 per cent in consequence, with the balance of 60 per cent being divided between the two finders.
Report author: Stuart Needham
Valuation applied: ?290000
Disposition: The British Museum hopes to acquire this find.
Dimensions: Weight: Discovery date: Thursday 7th September 2000
County: Buckinghamshire Parish: Milton Keynes
Finder: Gordon Heritage & Michael Rutland
Method of discovery: While searching with metal-detectors.
Treasure record - 2003 T117
Treasure ID: 2003 T117 Report year: 2003 Catalogue number: 25
Object type: Torc Period: IRON AGE Dates: 200BC - 50BC
Description: The find consists of a single Iron Age twisted multi-strand style torc with ring terminals similar to others found in Norfolk over the last 60 years. The torc is made of predominantly gold and silver, from four strands of wires twisted around each other two and a half times. Each of the 4 strands is made from 6 wires (c. 3mm thick). The strands are alternately twisted one clockwise and the next counter clockwise. The strands were cast on to the terminals. Evidence for this is clearly visible on one terminal. The terminals are essentially very similar to each other in shape, decoration and manufacture, although there are slight differences in size and shape (25-26mm high, 23mm long; the holes in each terminal are 15-16mm high and 14mm long). Each terminal is a basic ring, similar in form to the terminals of the Snettisham Great Torc, but lacking the elaborate La Tene or Early Celtic design. Each ring is plain and divided into two parts by a single raised scalloped line in a hollow running around the middle of each. This raised line is not quite central on either terminal. The terminals are probably solid, but this needs to be confirmed through further analysis. They may still contain clay cores around which they were cast. The collars of the terminals (18 x 16mm), where they attach to the four strands of the torc, are decorated with pellets. Each has 7 hemispherical pellets on the top, outer side and bottom of the neck of the terminal c. 5mm across each with 3 circular impressions c. 1mm across on them in a triangular arrangement. Around the actual neck of each terminal are alternating impressions; 13 small circular impressions on the outer surface, with 12 similar impressions on the surface directly facing towards the strands.
Discussion: The discovery adds to the gradually growing number of Iron Age torcs found in Norfolk and that are a particular feature of the county.
Dimensions: Internal diameter of approximately 20cm.
Note: The torc was clearly been damaged by recent agricultural machinery. The twisted strands are noticeably slacker on one half of the torc where there is clear evidence for recent damage. Close to the terminal at this end one strand is noticeably buckled. Approximately 10cms further along the strands are less markedly buckled, but a wire on one strand has been snapped. Finally, 10cms further on at the back of the torc there is another slight buckling of all the strands. Through comparing the torc with others found in Norfolk, one can suggest this torc was perhaps made between approximately 200 and 50 BC, but no closer dating is currently possible.
Report author: J D HILL
Valuation applied: ?80000
Disposition: Norwich Castle Museum, Accession No. 2005.218. Purchased with the assistance of the Friends of Norwich Museums, the Art Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund
Dimensions: Weight: Discovery date: Thursday 1st May 2003
County: South West Norfolk Parish:
Finder: Mr R Leech and Mr O Carter
Method of discovery: Whilst searching with a metal detector.
107/05 An Iron age Torc (2005 T52) ? The Committee recommended a valuation of ?350,000.