Snettisham Iron Age hoards

For over 2,000 years, hundreds of gold and silver torcs lay hidden in a Norfolk field. The hoards buried at a large sacred site near Snettisham in Norfolk are some of the most important archaeological discoveries in Britain. Ground-breaking scientific analysis has revealed the extraordinary technological skill of the metalworkers who made these objects.

In 1948 a farmer unearthed these objects while ploughing. Thinking that they were part of a brass bedframe, he left them beside the field. They are in fact tubular torcs made of thin gold sheet, hammered out by hand and decorated with Celtic art. More than ten separate hoards have been uncovered at Snettisham since the 1950s.

Some of the hoards buried at Snettisham contained just a few torcs, or even just one. The ‘Great Torc’, one of the most famous finds, is made from over 1kg of gold and silver. The ends are elaborately decorated with Celtic motifs, and the neck ring is made from 64 wires in eight separate coils.

It took great expertise and skill to make a torc. Metalworkers twisted many wires together to form a neck ring, sometimes around a wooden core. A process called lost-wax casting was used to make the terminals. They applied wax to the ends of the wires and modelled it into shape. Around this they made a clay mould that they heated to melt away the wax. Molten metal was poured into the cavity left behind. The projections on one torc show where the metal was poured. These projections were usually removed, as they have been on the other torc, where all traces have been polished away.

Recent scientific analysis at the British Museum has revealed that torc makers sometimes twisted wires around wooden cores, and knew how to gild bronze using a complex technique involving gold and mercury.

See these beautiful objects in our exhibition Celts: art and identity, until 31 January 2016. Plus find out more in the exhibition catalogue by curators Julia Farley and Fraser Hunter.

The Snettisham Great Torc, 150 BC–50 BC. Found at Ken Hill, Snettisham, UK 

Electrum torc, formed of two bars twisted together, 150 BC–50 BC. Found at Ken Hill, Snettisham, UK

Gold torc from the Snettisham hoard, 150 BC–50 BC. Found at Ken Hill, Snettisham, UK

Electrum torc from Snettisham (Hoard G), 150 BC–50 BC. Found at Ken Hill, Snettisham, UK

Silver torc from Snettisham hoard, 150 BC–50 BC. Found at Ken Hill, Snettisham, UK

Northern European Silver Torque, late 4th century BC

Silver torque is fashioned as two thick strands of twisted wire that meet in the front in a Herakles knot. The thicker twists are augmented by a thinner strand of metal. The twists fade out towards the clasp of the torque, which is fashioned as two knobbed, U-shaped hooks that interlock at the back.


My two newest torc bracelets!

The one on the left is made by Cruzan Gold, which I got while I was away earlier this month.  It’s made of sterling silver, brass, and copper all twisted together with knots for the ends.

The one one the right is made by Wulfhund Jewlery.  This one is pewter, and takes the wolf head design on the ends from Scandinavian and Nordic designs found in ancient viking art.

There’s only one force on Earth that can short-circuit a man’s better instincts, put fire in his veins and make him dive headlong into danger with no regard for his own well-being. Vengeance, Saleem. I’m here to kill you.
—  Tony DiNozzo, straightforwardly admitting that he did not care if he lived or died, so long as he avenged Ziva’s death in the process.

Celtic Gold Ribbon Torc, found near Belfast, Co. Antrim, Ireland, c. 1200-1000 BC, Late Bronze Age Ireland

Craftsman created this torc by beating an ingot of gold into a strip of about 1 mm and twisting it to achieve the desired effect. The surface was then shallowly and elegantly fluted. The gold ribbon narrows towards the ends, where it is worked out on both sides into rods that interlock to form hooks. The hooks are capped with small, unadorned knobs.

Archaeologists have found approximately 120 ribbon torcs in Britain and in Ireland, primarily in Northern Ireland. At the end of the 2nd millennium BC, Southern Britain and Ireland were introduced to the technique of ribbon torcs in the form of imported bronze torcs. In the next millennium, the popularity of the ribbon torcs was revived.


Torc for maille-man

Once again, thanks for the frequent appreciation! It turns out we have similarly sized wrists. I made this from an 8" piece of copper pipe (“How to” will follow). It can either fit snug around the wrist or grip partly up the forearm, which is where I prefer to wear it. The runes are carved in Elder Futhark and they say, “Maille-Man” in honor of you. Wear it with pride, my friend.