A torc, also spelled torq or torque, is a large rigid or stiff neck ring in metal, made either as a single piece or from strands twisted together. The great majority are open at the front, although some had hook and ring closures and a few had mortice and tenon locking catches to close them. Many seem designed for near-permanent wear and would have been difficult to remove. Torcs are found in the Scythian, Illyrian, BC to the 3rd century AD. For the Iron Age Celts, the gold torc seems to have been a key object. It identifies the wearer as a person of high rank, and many of the finest works of ancient Celtic art are torcs. The Celtic torc disappears in the Migration Period, but during the Viking Age torc-style metal necklaces, now mainly in silver, came back into fashion. Torc styles of neck-ring are found as part of the jewellery styles of various other cultures and periods.Thracian, Celtic, and other cultures of the European Iron Age from around the 8th century
The word comes from Latin torquis (or torques), from torqueo , "to twist", because of the twisted shape many of the rings have. Typically, neck-rings that open at the front when worn are called "torcs" and those that open at the back "collars". Smaller bracelets and armlets worn around the wrist or on the upper arm sometimes share very similar forms. Torcs were made from single or multiple intertwined metal rods, or "ropes" of twisted wire. Most of those that have been found are made from gold or bronze, less often silver, iron or other metals (gold, bronze and silver survive better than other metals when buried for long periods). Elaborate examples, sometimes hollow, used a variety of techniques but complex decoration was usually begun by casting and then worked by further techniques. The Ipswich Hoard includes unfinished torcs that give clear evidence of the stages of work.Flat-ended terminals are called "buffers", and in types like the "fused-buffer" shape, where what resemble two terminals are actually a single piece, the element is called a "muff".
There are several types of rigid gold and sometimes bronze necklaces and collars of the later European Bronze Age, from around 1200 BC, many of which are classed as "torcs". They are mostly twisted in various conformations, including the "twisted ribbon" type, where a thin strip of gold is twisted into a spiral. Other examples twist a bar with a square or X section, or just use round wire, with both types in the three 12th– or 11th-century BC specimens found at Tiers Cross, Pembrokeshire, Wales. The Milton Keynes Hoard contained two large examples of thicker rounded forms, as also used for bracelets.
The terminals are not emphasized as in typical Iron Age torcs, though many can be closed by hooking the simple terminals together. Many of these "torcs" are too small to be worn round the neck of an adult, and were either worn as bracelets or armlets, or by children or statues. Archaeologists find dating many torcs difficult, with some believing torcs were retained for periods of centuries as heirlooms, and others believing there were two periods of production. Differing ratios of silver in the gold of other objects—typically up to 15% in the Bronze Age but up to 20% in the Iron Age—can help decide the question.There are several flared gold torcs with a C-shaped section in the huge Mooghaun North Hoard of Late Bronze Age gold from 800 to 700 BC found in County Clare in Ireland.
To the East, torcs appear in Scythian art from the Early Iron Age, and include "classicizing" decoration drawing on styles from the east. Torcs are also found in Thraco-Cimmerian art. Torcs are found in the Tolstaya burial and the Karagodeuashk kurgan (Kuban area), both dating to the 4th century BC. A torc is part of the Pereshchepina hoard dating to the 7th century AD. Thin torcs, often with animal head terminals, are found in the art of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, with some other elements derived from Scythian art.
Depictions of the gods and goddesses of Celtic mythology sometimes show them wearing or carrying torcs, as in images of the god Cernunnos wearing one torc around his neck, with torcs hanging from his antlers or held in his hand, as on the Gundestrup cauldron. This may represent the deity as the source of power and riches, as the torc was a sign of nobility and high social status. BC), and a high proportion of the few Celtic statues of human figures, mostly male, show them wearing torcs.The famous Roman copy of the original Greek sculpture The Dying Gaul depicts a wounded Gaulish warrior naked except for a torc, which is how Polybius described the gaesatae , Celtic warriors from modern northern Italy or the Alps, fighting at the Battle of Telamon in 225 BC, although other Celts there were clothed. One of the earliest known depictions of a torc can be found on the Warrior of Hirschlanden (6th century
Other possible functions that have been proposed for torcs include use as rattles in rituals or otherwise, as some have stones or metal pieces inside them, and representations of figures thought to be deities carrying torcs in their hand may depict this. Some are too heavy to wear for long, and may have been made to place on cult statues. Very few of these remain but they may well have been in wood and not survived. Torcs were clearly valuable, and often found broken in pieces, so being a store of value may have been an important part of their use. It has been noted that the Iberian gold examples seem to be made at fixed weights that are multiples of the Phoenician shekel.
With bracelets, torcs are "the most important category of Celtic gold", though armlets and anklets were also worn; in contrast finger-rings were less common among the early Celts. BC, when it became an attribute of warriors. However, there is evidence for male wear in the early period; in a rich double burial of the Hallstatt period at Hochmichele, the man wears an iron torc and the female a necklace with beads. A heavy torc in silver over an iron core with bull's head terminals, weighing over 6 kilos, from Trichtingen, Germany, probably dates to the 2nd century BC (illustrated).The earliest Celtic torcs are mostly found buried with women, for example, the gold torc from the La Tène period chariot burial of a princess, found in the Waldalgesheim chariot burial in Germany, and others found in female graves at Vix in France (illustrated) and Reinheim. Another La Tène example was found as part of a hoard or ritual deposit buried near Erstfeld in Switzerland. It is thought by some authors that the torc was mostly an ornament for women until the late 3rd century
Many finds of torcs, especially in groups and in association with other valuables but not associated with a burial, are clearly deliberate deposits whose function is unclear. They may have been ritual deposits or hidden for safekeeping in times of warfare. Some may represent the work-in-progress of a workshop.After the early period, torcs are especially prominent in the Celtic cultures reaching to a coast of the Atlantic, from modern Spain to Ireland, and on both sides of the English Channel.
Some very elaborately worked torcs with relief decoration in a late form of La Tène style have been found in Britain and Ireland, dating from roughly the 3rd to 1st centuries BC. There may be a connection with an older tradition in the British Isles of elaborate gold neckwear in the form of gold lunulas, which seem centred on Ireland in the Bronze Age, and later flat or curved wide collars; gold twisted ribbon torcs are found from both periods, but also imported styles such as the fused-buffer. BC multi-stranded electrum Snettisham Torc found in northwestern Norfolk in England (illustrated), while the single hollow torc in the Broighter Gold hoard, with relief decoration all round the hoop, is the finest example of this type from Ireland, also 1st century BC. The Stirling Hoard, a rare find in Scotland of four gold torcs, two of them twisted ribbons, dating from the 3rd to 1st century BC, was discovered in September 2009.The most elaborate late Insular torcs are thick and often hollow, some with terminals forming a ring or loop. The most famous English example is the 1st-century
The Roman Titus Manlius in 361 BC challenged a Gaul to single combat, killed him, and then took his torc. Because he always wore it, he received the nickname Torquatus (the one who wears a torc), and it was adopted by his family. After this, Romans adopted the torc as a decoration for distinguished soldiers and elite units during Republican times. A few Roman torcs have been discovered. Pliny the Elder records that after a battle in 386 BC (long before his lifetime) the Romans recovered 183 torcs from the Celtic dead, and similar booty is mentioned by other authors.
It is not clear whether the Gallo-Roman "Warrior of Vacheres", a sculpture of a soldier in Roman military dress, wears a torc as part of his Roman uniform or as a reflection of his Celtic background. Quintilian says that the Emperor Augustus was presented by Gauls with a gold torc weighing 100 Roman pounds (nearly 33 kilograms or 73 pounds), far too heavy to wear. A torc from the 1st century BC Winchester Hoard, is broadly in Celtic style but uses the Roman technique of laced gold wire, suggesting it may have been a "diplomatic gift" from a Roman to a British tribal king.
A very late example of a torc used as ceremonial item in early Medieval Wales can be found in the writings of Gerald of Wales. The author wrote that there still existed a certain royal torc that had once been worn by Prince Cynog ap Brychan of Brycheiniog (fl. 492 AD) and was known as Saint Kynauc's Collar. Gerald encountered and described this relic first-hand while travelling through Wales in 1188. Of it he says, "it is most like to gold in weight, nature, and colour; it is in four pieces wrought round, joined together artificially, and clefted as it were in the middle, with a dog's head, the teeth standing outward; it is esteemed by the inhabitants so powerful a relic, that no man dares swear falsely when it is laid before him." It is of course possible that this torc long pre-dated the reign of Prince Cynog and was a much earlier relic that had been recycled during the British Dark Ages to be used as a symbol of royal authority. It is now lost.
There are mentions in medieval compilations of Irish mythology; for example in the Lebor Gabála Érenn (11th century) Elatha wore 5 golden torcs when meeting Eriu.
Most Achaemenid torcs are thin single round bars with matching animal heads as the terminals, facing each other at the front. Some Early Celtic forms break from the normal style of torc by lacking a break at the throat, and instead are heavily decorated at the continuous front, with animal elements and short rows of "balusters", rounded projections coming to a blunt point; these are seen both on the sculpted torc worn by the stone "Glauberg Warrior" and a gold torc (illustrated) found in the same oppidum. Later Celtic torcs nearly all return to having a break at the throat and strong emphasis on the two terminals. The Vix torc has two very finely made winged horses standing on fancy platforms projecting sideways just before the terminals, which are flattened balls under lions' feet. Like other elite Celtic pieces in the "orientalizing" style, the decoration shows Greek influence but not a classical style, and the piece may have been made by Greeks in the Celtic taste, or a "Graeco-Etruscan workshop", or by Celts with foreign training.
Spiral ribbon torcs, usually with minimal terminals, continue a Bronze Age type and are found in the Stirling Hoard from Scotland, and elsewhere:"Although over 110 identifiable British [includes Ireland] ribbon torcs are known, the dating of these simple, flexible ornaments is elusive", perhaps indicating "a long-lived preference for ribbon torcs, which continued for over 1,000 years". The terminals were often slightly flared plain round cylinders which were folded back to hook round each other to fasten the torc at the throat. Other Celtic torcs may use various ways of forming the hoop: plain or patterned round bars, two or more bars twisted together, thin round rods (or thick wire) wound round a core, or woven gold wire. A rarer type twists a single bar with an X profile.
Except in British looped terminals, the terminals of Iron Age torcs are usually formed separately. The "buffer" form of terminal was the most popular in finds from modern France and Germany, with some "fused buffer" types opening at the rear or sides. In both buffer types and those with projecting fringes of ornament, decoration in low relief often continues back round the hoop as far as the midpoint of the side view. In Iberian torcs thin gold bars are often wound round a core of base metal, with the rear section a single round section with a decorated surface.
The c. 150 torcs found in the lands of the Iberian Celts of Galicia favoured terminals ending in balls coming to a point or small buffer ("pears"), or a shape with a double moulding called scotiae.The pointed ball is also found in northern Italy, where the hoops often end by being turned back upon themselves so that the terminals face out to the sides, perhaps enabling closure by hooking round. Both of these mostly used plain round bars or thin rods wound round a core. In the terminals of British torcs loops or rings are common, and the main hoop may be two or more round bars twisted together, or several strands each made up of twisted wire. Decoration of the terminals in the finest examples is complex but all abstract. In these two types the hoop itself normally has no extra decoration, though the large torc in the Irish Broighter Gold hoard is decorated all round the hoop, the only Irish example decorated in this way.
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The British Iron Age is a conventional name used in the archaeology of Great Britain, referring to the prehistoric and protohistoric phases of the Iron Age culture of the main island and the smaller islands, typically excluding prehistoric Ireland, which had an independent Iron Age culture of its own. The parallel phase of Irish archaeology is termed the Irish Iron Age. The Iron Age is not an archaeological horizon of common artefacts, but is rather a locally diverse cultural phase.
Celtic art is associated with the peoples known as Celts; those who spoke the Celtic languages in Europe from pre-history through to the modern period, as well as the art of ancient peoples whose language is uncertain, but have cultural and stylistic similarities with speakers of Celtic languages.
The Snettisham Hoard or Snettisham Treasure is a series of discoveries of Iron Age precious metal, found in the Snettisham area of the English county of Norfolk between 1948 and 1973.
The prehistory of Ireland has been pieced together from archaeological evidence, which has grown at an increasing rate over the last decades. It begins with the first evidence of humans in Ireland around 10,500 BC, and finishes with the start of the historical record around 400 AD. Both of these dates are later than for much of Europe and all of the Near East. The prehistoric period covers the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age societies of Ireland. For much of Europe, the historical record begins when the Romans invaded; as Ireland was not invaded by the Romans its historical record starts later, with the coming of Christianity.
The Gold lunula is a distinctive type of late Neolithic, Chalcolithic or early Bronze Age necklace or collar shaped like a crescent moon. They are normally flat and thin, with roundish spatulate terminals that are often twisted to 45 to 90 degrees from the plane of the body. Gold lunulae fall into three distinct groups, termed Classical, Unaccomplished and Provincial by archaeologists. Most have been found in Ireland, but there are moderate numbers in other parts of Europe as well, from Great Britain to areas of the continent fairly near the Atlantic coasts. Although no lunula has been directly dated, from associations with other artefacts it is thought they were being made sometime in the period between 2200–2000 BC; a wooden box associated with one Irish find has recently given a radiocarbon dating range of 2460–2040 BC.
The Broighter Gold or more correctly, the Broighter Hoard, is a hoard of gold artefacts from the Iron Age of the 1st century BC that were found in 1896 by Tom Nicholl and James Morrow on farmland near Limavady, in the north of Ireland. The hoard includes a 7-inch-long (18 cm) gold boat, a gold torc and bowl and some other jewellery. A design from the hoard has been used as an image on the 1996 issue of the Northern Ireland British one-pound coins and the gold ship featured in a design on the last Irish commemorative one-pound coins. The Broighter Collar and Broighter Ship also featured on definitive postage stamps of Ireland from 1990–1995. The National Museum of Ireland, who now hold the hoard, describe the torc as the "finest example of Irish La Tène goldworking". Replicas of the collection are kept at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.
The Frasnes Hoard was accidentally unearthed in 1864 by foresters digging out the roots of a tree near Frasnes-lez-Buissenal in Hainaut, Belgium. The torcs and some other pieces are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The Stirling torcs make up a hoard of four gold Iron Age torcs, a type of necklace, all of which date to between 300 and 100 BC and which were buried deliberately at some point in antiquity. They were found by a metal detectorist in a field near Blair Drummond, Stirlingshire, Scotland on 28 September 2009. The hoard has been described as the most significant discovery of Iron Age metalwork in Scotland and is said to be of international significance. The torcs were valued at £462,000, and after a public appeal were acquired for the National Museums of Scotland in March 2011.
The Milton Keynes Hoard is a hoard of Bronze Age gold found in September 2000 in a field near Monkston in Milton Keynes, England. The hoard consisted of two torcs, three bracelets, and a fragment of bronze rod contained in a pottery vessel. The inclusion of pottery in the find enabled it to be dated to around 1150–800 BC.
The Newark Torc is a complete Iron Age gold alloy torc found by a metal detectorist on the outskirts of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England, in February 2005.
The Sedgeford Torc is a broken Iron Age gold torc found near the village of Sedgeford in Norfolk. The main part of the torc was found during harrowing of a field in 1965, and the missing terminal was found by Dr. Steve Hammond during fieldwork by the Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project in 2004. The torc is now displayed at the British Museum.
The Winchester Hoard is a hoard of Iron Age gold found in a field in the Winchester area of Hampshire, England, in 2000, by a retired florist and amateur metal detectorist, Kevan Halls. It was declared treasure and valued at £350,000—the highest reward granted under the Treasure Act 1996 at that time.
There are two notable Ipswich Hoards. The first was a hoard of Anglo-Saxon coins discovered in 1863. The second was a hoard of six Iron Age gold torcs that was discovered in 1968 and 1969. The latter hoard has been described as second only to the Snettisham Hoard in importance as a hoard from the Iron Age, and is held at the British Museum.
The Celtic brooch, more properly called the penannular brooch, and its closely related type, the pseudo-penannular brooch, are types of brooch clothes fasteners, often rather large; penannular means formed as an incomplete ring. They are especially associated with the beginning of the Early Medieval period in the British Isles, although they are found in other times and places—for example, forming part of traditional female dress in areas in modern North Africa.
The National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology is a branch of the National Museum of Ireland located on Kildare Street in Dublin, Ireland, and dealing with Irish and other antiquities. In general, the museum covers the history of Ireland from the Stone Age to the Late Middle Ages. Many important artefacts from the museum were featured in The Irish Times feature and book A History of Ireland in 100 Objects.
Gold working in the Bronze Age British Isles refers to the use of gold to produce ornaments and other prestige items in the British Isles during the Bronze Age, between circa 2500 and c.800 BCE in Britain, and up to about 550 BCE in Ireland. In this period, communities in Britain and Ireland first learned how to work metal, leading to the widespread creation of not only gold but also copper and bronze items as well. Gold artefacts in particular were prestige items used to designate the high status of those individuals who wore, or were buried with them.
The Cordoba Treasure, or Tesoro de Córdoba in Spanish, is the name of a major Iron Age silver hoard found on the outskirts of the city of Córdoba, Spain in 1915. The entire treasure was purchased by the British Museum in 1932, where it has been on public display ever since.
The Ourense Torcs are a pair of Iron Age gold torc neck rings found near Ourense in Northwest Spain in the 1950s. They were acquired by the British Museum in 1960.
The Great Torc from Snettisham or Snettisham Great Torc is a large, Iron Age electrum torc or neck-ring, the most spectacular object in the Snettisham Hoard of torcs and other metalwork found near the village of Snettisham in Norfolk, East Anglia. The perfectly intact torc is outstanding for its high level of craftsmanship and superb artistry. Soon after its discovery it was acquired by the British Museum.
The Leekfrith torcs are four Iron Age gold torcs found by two hobby metal detectorists in December 2016 in a field in Leekfrith, north Staffordshire, England. The find consists of three neck torcs and a smaller bracelet, which were located in proximity to each other. They are believed to be the oldest Iron Age gold jewellery found in Britain. Subsequent archaeological examination of the area did not uncover further objects.