NLM-605352: Iron Age Torc from Caistor

Rights Holder: North Lincolnshire Museum
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Rights Holder: North Lincolnshire Museum
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TORC

Unique ID: NLM-605352

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Curatorial report by Jody Joy, British Museum

1. Gold-alloy torc fragment

Weight: 35.72g

Length: 81.2mm

Width: 32.8mm

Diameter of neckring: 4.0-4.5mm

Diameter of terminal: 11.5mm

Surface metal content: 71-73% gold; 24-26% silver; 3% copper

400 - 300 BC

Gold-alloy torc fragment with one surviving buffer-shaped terminal. The neckring is circular in cross-section and is comprised of solid metal between 4.0 - 4.5mm in diameter. One end is broken. The break is not old but it is partially abraded. The neckring has two bends. The first, more a kink, is approximately 40mm from the break. At the other end, the neckring is smoothly curved by nearly 180 degrees approximately 40mm from the terminal. The terminal 'flares out' from the neckring, trumpet like, to a maximum diameter of 11.5mm. Viewed head on, it is circular and has a clear edge with the metal slightly inward curving towards the centre, creating a distinct concavity (approximately 2mm deep at the centre). Viewed side on, the end of the terminal is approximately 3mm wide. Two parallel lines run along the circumference of the terminal. Running at right angles in the space between these lines are a series of equally spaced, short, perpendicular lines, which form the steps of a 'ladder'. Roughly 10mm from the terminal is a slightly raised boss which is delineated on either side by two lines running around the circumference of the neckring. A number of short, perpendicular lines link these, creating a 'corded' effect. Approximately 5mm further along the neckring is another set of paired lines again linked with short perpendicular lines.

Discussion:

The torc belongs to Eluère's (1987) 'Torcs with Buffer Terminals and Intermediate Collars' group and to Hautenauve's (2005) Type IIIa ('Torcs with a Large Body and Terminals without a Clasp'). These torcs have a distribution centred on north-eastern France and western Germany, with one from as far away as Bulgaria (see Jacobsthal 1944, Nos. 43-48). Well-known examples of this type include the torcs from the Waldalgesheim grave (Joachim 1995, 61-63). Eluère's and Hautenauve's classifications, however, both encompass a broad range of objects so must be treated with some caution.

There are two close parallels made from gold. The first is a torc in the collections of the British Museum (G&R 1867,0508.477) from France, believed to have been discovered in 1836 at Meung-sur-Loire in the Department of Loiret (Echt et al. 2011, 45). The second has recently been reported. It is from Heerlen in the northeast corner of the Netherlands (Echt et al. 2011). In both cases there are differences, however. The Meung-sur-Loire torc has a thicker neckring and more pronounced raised bosses. The Herleen torc terminals are flatter and there is incised decoration on the neckring close to each terminal, comprising of rings-and-dots and chevron lines. Bronze torcs of similar form to the Nr. Caister torc are also known, for example Nos. 1612 and 1899 from the Morel Collection in the British Museum (see Stead & Rigby 1999, Plates. 82-83) and a find from Medway, Kent (Jope 2000, Pl. 32a-b).

Torcs of this type are dated by Eluère (1987, 28) to the end of the 5th century to the late 4th century BC and by Hautenauve (2005, 67-70) to the second half of the fourth and the beginning of the third centuries BC. Joachim (1995) dates the Waldalgesheim grave to the beginning of the first quarter of the 4th century BC at the time of the transition from La Tène B1 to La Tène B2. Bronze torcs of this form are also typical of the Marne region and date from the beginning of the 4th century BC (Echt et al. 2011, 44). It must be stressed that this is a diverse group making dating difficult. However, the Nr. Caister torc most likely dates to between 400 - 300 BC but is possibly as early as the late 5th century BC.

To date no gold torcs of this type have been discovered in the British Isles. It should therefore be regarded as most likely to be an import and is a highly significant discovery as very few imports from the continent are known from this period. The decoration is distinctly worn, perhaps suggesting the torc was of some age when it was deposited. The break is consistent with a natural corrosion fracture. These are not uncommon in high-silver gold alloys meaning that the other half of the torc may still be in the ground.

The torc fragment is more than 10% gold and over 300 years old. It therefore qualifies as Treasure under the Treasure Act (1996).There is no evidence the lead weight is associated with the torc. It is therefore not treasure and should be disclaimed.

Jody Joy,

Curator of European Iron Age Collections,

British Museum

11th July 2013

Report by Martin Foreman

Gold

Torc. Solid circular section band of (estimated as if straightened) length circa 125mm and diameter 4.3-4.5mm expanded towards a probably cast moulded and decorated terminal of length circa 17mm with a beaded collar of diameter 7.5mm, and ending at a concave disc of diameter 11.7mm. The other end is broken with a rough surface. This identification arises from advice kindly proffered by Neil Wilkin (BM) and Alison Sheridan (NMS), correcting an initial identification by this reporter as a bracelet of earlier date.

In the description that follows, the width of zones is measured along the band towards its terminal; all ornament described is circumferential, though now partially obscured by wear or damage. It appears to have been cast with incised detail added in circumferential rings and by short vertical strokes. The expansion towards the terminal begins circa 11mm below the site of an incised and billeted band of width 1.7mm; there is then a plain zone 3mm wide, and then a further pair of incised and billeted bands either side of a bead, a configuration with a combined width of 5.3mm. A further plain zone of width 5.5mm is surmounted by a sharply everted discoid concave (1.3mm deep) terminal. The edge of the disc is flat, 2.9mm wide, with a further centrally set circumferential and billeted band of width 1.4mm.

Longitudinal lines along the band resembling seams appear on opposite sides of the band for circa 40mm of its length, with intermittent continuations thereafter. It is uncertain if these are mould lines or the result of hammer working or finishing. The interior of the band as it was found appears rougher in texture than the external surfaces, which appear gently facetted and more highly polished ?by wear? when closely examined, with occasional series of fine laddered chatter marks along what are now its outer edges. Comparable marks suggesting fine beating appear all around plain zone between the bead and the disc of the terminal. The concavity of the terminal also appears to have protected a very finely finished surface which owes its smoothness to percussive finishing rather than casting, and protected by its form from abrasion. Several short deep nicks, typically of length 2.5-4.5mm and width 1.3mm appear across the band, one very close to its broken end. The object is sharply bent circa 40mm from its terminal with a further kink circa 50mm from that bend which departs from what may have been the original plane of the band.

The overall profile of the terminal is reminiscent of the collared form of a range of later Iron Age artefacts, for example the terminals of linch pins or biconvex dumb-bell buttons or strap loops. Neil Wilkin kindly notes the similarity of the terminals to those of British Museum object GR1867,0508.477 which is reported as having been found in the Department of Loiret, near Orleans, in central France, and was acquired in the 19th century. No further details of its provenance are known, but a La Tene date of 400-200 BC is suggested. The BM object lacks the elaboration of the decoration on the edge of its terminal discs or buffers, though their overall form resembles that of this example. The East Yorkshire connection with Northern France, exemplified by the chariot burials of the Iron Age Arras [East Yorkshire] Culture, suggests at least the possibility of a regional origin for this piece, though further flung contacts cannot be dismissed (see below). Dr Kevin Leahy also kindly draws attention to the torcs in the 'great Waldalgesheim grave [Germany, on the Rhine]. This is fourth century BC'. He notes that the discovery of a comparable piece in Lincolnshire is most important. Some of the group from Waldealgesheim bear bulbous ends with buffer terminals, which do not appear to be concave, albeit with exuberant floral decoration of a much higher quality.

While its presently incomplete form might be ascribed to the ritual killing of a precious object or to adventitious damage, the mass of the object raises an alternative possibility. When checked, it equates to 8.06 units of the standard module for bullion calculated for Viking Age Dublin: of 4.43gms (Wallace, P.F. 1987,'The Economy and Commerce of Viking Age Dublin', in Duwel, K. et al (eds), Untersuchungen zu Handel und Verkehr der vor-und fruhgeschichtlichen Zeit in Mittel-und Nordeuropa. Teil IV. Der Handel der Karolinger-und Wikingerzeit, Gottingen). The correspondence is markedly closer than its relationship to the contemporary alternative Scandinavian system based on a module of 4.07gms. The latter is more commonly respected by weights ascribed to Danelaw contexts, but the two systems operated side by side during the 10th-century ascendancy of a Viking kingdom of York and Dublin, up to 954, when Eric Bloodaxe was expelled from York (cf. Haldenby, D. and Kershaw, J. in prep: 'Lead Weights from Cottam: new evidence for bullion exchange on the Yorkshire Wolds' [2013], a draft report intended to be offered as a note to Medieval Archaeology ). The nicks noted on the band are a familiar feature of hacksilver ingots and objects, arising from testing with a knife to ensure they did not conceal base metal cores. Circumstantial support of this suggestion comes from the reporting of a domed plano-convex lead weight from the same site, found on the same day. The domed form is widely known from Viking contexts, and the mass of that weight, at 35.05gms, is equivalent to 7.91 Dublin units. The working hypothesis is that an Iron Age antiquity was acquired and converted for use in the bullion economy in the first half of the 10th century, and that it was deposited in a Danelaw settlement using the Dublin Viking system of weights and measures for its bullion transactions. Other items apparently observing this system include a recently reported silver rod fragment with a concave terminal from Roxby cum Risby, North Lincolnshire, cut to a weight of 4 Dublin units (NLM-B73440). A gold torc from near Telford, West Midlands, has also been cut down to a weight approximating to 8 Dublin units (WMID-C53CB8).

Length (as found): 80.9mm, Width (as found): 25mm, Weight: 35.74gms.

Notes:

Found alongside: NLM-606A30

Valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee on 14th March 2014 at £1,500.

Find of note status

This is a find of note and has been designated: Regional importance

Subsequent actions

Current location of find: Acquired by The Collection
Subsequent action after recording: Acquired by museum after being declared Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2013T130

Chronology

Broad period: IRON AGE
Subperiod from: Early
Period from: IRON AGE
Subperiod to: Late
Period to: IRON AGE
Ascribed Culture: Gallo-Belgic style
Date from: Circa 400 BC
Date to: Circa 300 BC

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 80.9 mm
Width: 25 mm
Weight: 35.74 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Thursday 28th February 2013

Personal details

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Other reference numbers

Other reference: NLM21938aa
Treasure case number: 2013T130

Materials and construction

Primary material: Gold
Manufacture method: Cast
Completeness: Incomplete

Spatial metadata

Region: East Midlands (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Lincolnshire (County)
District: West Lindsey (District)
To be known as: Caistor

Spatial coordinates


Grid reference source: From a paper map
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 10 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
Current location: Acquired by The Collection
General landuse: Cultivated land

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: NLM
Created: 9 years ago
Updated: 22 days ago

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