A lucky metal detectorist has found a huge Bronze Age gold torc or circular belt that is being called the greatest archaeological find in England for more than 100 years, says a story about the find in The Guardian. The torc is almost pure gold, and experts believe it was fashioned more than 3,000 years ago. The article says an expert believes that the torc or gold ring is so big that a pregnant woman may have worn it around her expansive waist. The person with the metal detector, who is not being named, found the 730-gram (25.75 ounces or 1 pound 9.75 ounces) torc within 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) of Must Farm, a highly important Bronze Age village that burned and was preserved in the peat of a marsh. However, the exact siteor even type of site where the detectorist found the torchas not been identified.
The type of torc resembles one found in 1844 in Grunty Fen, which is not far from Cambridgeshire. That torc, found by a man cutting peat, is in the collection of Cambridge University’s museum of archaeology. The one from 1844, however, was coiled up, unlike the huge torc found recently.
This gold torc, now in Cambridge University’s archaeology museum, was found by a peat cutter in 1844, also near Cambridgeshire, not far from where the latest find was made. (Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology photo)
Archaeologists reported the discovery to the local finds liaison official Helen Fowler of the Treasure and Portable Antiquities schemes of the British Museum. The Guardian says recent finds of 1,008 treasures and 82,272 archaeological objects have been reported in England and Wales. This latest find is considered a national treasure, not just an archaeological object. The Guardian reports that Ms. Fowler described herself as “gobsmacked” by the torc when the person who found it produced it from a briefcase. She has handled torcs before, but the most recent one she had touched was sized for a wrist.
Most torcs are about the size to fit a neck. But this one was far too big to weigh on her scale, and she had to carry it back to her office from Peterborough Museum, where she had met with the finder. Neil Wilkin, a curator of the Bronze Age at the British Museum, called the torc’s craftsmanship astonishing and said it apparently was made from a bar of gold, twisted and burnished, its gaps between each twist measured precisely.
The Great Torc, Snettisham, buried around 100 BC. The torc is one of the most elaborate golden objects from the ancient world. It is made from gold mixed with silver and weighs over 1 kg. (CC by SA 3.0)
Some bigger torcs are believed to have been worn as belts, but this one is bigger than a huge man’s waist. Wilkin thought maybe this one had been worn by a woman far along in pregnancy as protection or to give an animal about to be sacrificed extra significance. He said this torc is big enough to fit a sheep or a goat. No torc has ever been found buried with human remains, so it is thought they were associated with life rather than objects to accompany the dead.
Throughout history and prehistory all over the world, many valuable goods have been found in graves, but never a torc in the British Isles. “The torc is still being valued, but it is hoped Ely Museum will acquire it, with the reward shared between finder and landowner,” The Guardian article states. “The slightly shorter and lighter Corrard torc, found in Northern Ireland, was valued at up to £150,000 three years ago.” That is about 187,200 U.S. dollars as of November 2016.
Featured image: A golden torc found by a metal detectorist may be worth upwards of $200,000. (PA photo by Dominic Lipinski)
By Mark Miller