Gold torcs from the Ipswich Hoard

Iron Age, around 75 BC
Found near Ipswich, Suffolk, England

Five of these gold torcs were found during construction work near Ipswich in 1968. The sixth was found nearby about a year later. They are one of two of the most famous collections of Iron Age gold torcs in The British Museum. The other, much larger, was found at Snettisham in Norfolk.

Torcs are ornaments worn around the neck. A person would have had to have had a neck smaller than 18.7 cm in circumference to wear these examples.

Scientific analysis by the Department of Scientific Research at the British Museum shows that the torcs are made from an alloy (mixture) of 90% gold and 10% silver. This is an important discovery as it helps archaeologists to estimate more accurately when they were made. Gold objects made from between 150 and 75 BC have a high percentage of gold. Gold objects made after 75 BC have more and more silver mixed with the metal. The scientific results suggest this set of torcs were made around 75 BC. But highly valuable objects like these might have been worn for many years before they were buried.

Each torc was made by twisting two rods of gold around each other. The ends, the 'terminals', were each cast on to the twisted rods using the lost wax technique. Each terminal is hollow, the La Tène-style decoration cut into the clay mould so that it stands up from the surface of the ends, which were then polished. Each terminal, of all the torcs, has a slightly different pattern from its pair.

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Gold torcs from the Ipswich Hoard

  • Detail of a torc from the Ipswich Hoard

    Detail of a torc from the Ipswich Hoard

 

More information

Bibliography

S. James and V. Rigby, Britain and the Celtic Iron Ag (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

Dimensions

Diameter: 58.7 cm

Museum number

P&EE 1969 1-3 1-5;P&EE 1971 2-3 1

BCB85144;BCB84827;BCB84828;BCB84829;BCB84830;BCB84831

Location

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