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Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
CC License:

Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
CC License:

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Unique ID: CAM-E5D871

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Awaiting validation Find awaiting validation

The 'East Cambridgeshire' torc is a four-flange twisted bar torc of Middle Bronze Age date, known to belong to the Penard phase of c.1300-1150 BC (Taylor 1980, 62; Needham 2001; Roberts 2007). It is made of three separate components: two very similar, undecorated, bent-back, 'trumpet'-shaped, terminals affixed at either end of an exceptionally long (126.5cms, excluding the terminals) spiral twisted bar with very regular cruciform (i.e. '+' shaped) cross-section. The advantages of casting such an elaborate torc in three pieces is discussed by Taylor (1980, 61-2). A neat collar is positioned between each terminal and the torc bar, and these obscure the method in which they were fixed to one another, which may have been by use of 'solder' (i.e. using a filler metal between the join, one that melts at a lower temperature than the torc body or terminals: see Murgia et al. 2014). However, scientific analysis at the British Museum by Harriet White (see below) found no affirmative evidence of variation in the gold composition along the length of the torc. This may reflect the care and skill with which they have been fixed.
There is an approximate gap of c.2.25-2.5mm between the flanges and the arms/flanges having a length of c.3.3-5mm. The spiral of the bar has been created by twisting it in an anti-clockwise direction. The edges of the flanges are slightly 'lipped' or 'burred' and this appears to have been an intentional finish, creating a pleasing aesthetic. This is a known feature of other, similar, torcs and it has been suggested that it was created by the heavy burnishing rather than hammering of the edges (Taylor 1980, 61). More work is needed to understand the precise details of the 'East Cambridgeshire' torc in particular and flange twisted gold torcs in general (but see Eogan 1967, 1994, 53-8; Taylor 1980, 60-62 & in passim).
The weight of the 'East Cambridgeshire' torc (732g) makes it one of the heaviest of its type (i.e. bar torcs as defined by Eogan 1967) ever found in Britain and Ireland (see Ibid.), comparable to the recently discovered Corrard torc from near Belle Isle, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland (c.720g, NI 12.03; Ramsey 2012; 2013). The length of the 'East Cambridgeshire' torc (126.5cms, excluding the terminals) is one of the largest ever found in Britain and Ireland, again comparable to comparable to the recently discovered Corrard torc from near Belle Isle, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland (Ibid.).
Some recent modification, damage and scuffing to the surface of the torc results from its discovery and its uncoiling (see scientific analysis, below). As a result is not possible to be sure exactly how the torc appeared when it was deposited. Examination of the distortion on the torc (together with the finder's description) does, however, rule out a number of options: it is extremely unlikely to have been coiled in the manner of the torcs from Grunty Fen, Cambridgeshire; the two torcs from Hampton, in Cheshire; Ropley in Hampshire (Taylor 1980, 135). The torc is unlikely to have been looped twice over (i.e. to create a double stranded torc) as is the case for the twisted torcs from the Towednack hoard (Hawkes 1932).
The analysis of the distortion to the torc and the 'loose bundle' described by the finder suggests that when discovered the terminals were not in contact (i.e. together, as they are now) but may, instead, have been some distance and angle apart. Their exact position is currently being explored using 3D illustrative/reconstruction techniques at the British Museum and it is hoped that a better reconstruction of how the torc appeared when discovered will be forthcoming. Whether the appearance of the torc at the time of discovery was the same as that at the time of deposition is, however, a moot point. While there is no evidence for the torc having been struck by agricultural equipment, taphonomic causes cannot be ruled out.

Torc body:
Circumference (external): 126.5cms (excluding the terminals)
Diameter through the body of the torc: c.9-10mm
Width of 'arms' of cruciform cross-section: c.1mm
Spacing between flanges: c.2.25-2.5mm
Approximate length of flanges from centre of torc: c.3.3-5mm
Diameter of Terminal A (max. i.e. at end of terminal): 13.5-14mm
Diameter of Terminal B (max. i.e. at end of terminal): 13.5-14mm
Diameter of Terminal A (at point of recurve on bent-back terminal): 5mm
Diameter of Terminal B (at point of recurve on bent-back terminal): 5mm
Diameter at collar (where Terminal A joins flange twisted gold bar): 9mm
Diameter at collar (where Terminal A joins flange twisted gold bar): 9mm
Length of Terminal A: 108mm
Length of Terminal B: 107mm
Total weight: 732.4 g

Scientific analysis of the 'East Cambridgeshire' torc by Harriet White (full report appended):
Non-destructive X-ray fluorescence analysis of the torc indicated a surface composition of approximately 86-87% gold and 12-13 % silver, the rest being copper. This composition is consistent along the length of the bar and terminals.
The torc is described by the finder as being 'loosely bundled' when recovered, but has since been opened up to form one single loop. The flanges are distorted in two areas, one more severely than the other, at approximately one third and two thirds along the length of the bar. In one of these areas the edges of the flanges have been scraped to expose fresh metal across five twists, indicating this surface damage is recent. In the absence of a photographic record of the torc as-found, the positioning of the areas of distortion and damage may help inform on its orientation in burial and morphology prior to it being opened out to a single loop.

The 'East Cambridgeshire' torc has a number of close comparanda among the four-flange twisted type variety from both Britain and Ireland. In England and Wales there are a number of examples (see Eogan 1967, 166-9), most notably the examples from Grunty, Cambridgeshire (Ibid., no. 32) and Soham, also in Cambridgeshire (Ibid., no. 33), both of which are located in relatively close proximity to the findspot of the 'East Cambridgeshire' torc. In Ireland there is the aforementioned Corrard torc from Co. Fermangh and other notable Irish finds, most impressively, the two famous (albeit far more heavily decorated/elaborated) torcs from Tara, Co. Meath (see Ramsey 2012 for fuller list of Irish comparanda).
The size of the 'East Cambridgeshire' torc raises the question of function. In line with the vast majority of ornaments from the Middle Bronze Age, flange twisted torcs have never been found within graves (Roberts 2007). As a result, the way in which they were worn is difficult to establish beyond doubt. It has long been recognised that the diameter of flange twisted torcs vary considerably. The largest have been described as 'girdles' or belts, while others are neck sized, yet still others are girdle/belt sized but have been coiled as if to form armlets or leglets. Ramsey (2013) has noted that the largest torcs, of which the 'East Cambridgeshire' torc is one, are too large for most modern waists. Ramsey noted that the 'limit normally stocked in waist size for men's trousers by UK retailersis 36 inches' (Ibid.), by comparison the 'East Cambridgeshire' torc has a diameter of c.49 inches. This may suggest that the torc was designed for a very large waist or to be worn as a 'sash' from shoulder to pelvis, or indeed for non-human use: on a statue or ceremonial animal.
The functionality of coiled torcs has been questioned and it has been suggested that they were too narrow to be worn on the arm or leg, the coiling instead serving as a means of decommissioning the torcs prior to deposition (Ramsey 2012), or for concealing them more easily (Varndell 1986). The likely distortion of the 'East Cambridgeshire' torc may have served similar purposes, although questions regarding original appearance and taphonomic effects were raised above.

As a single object of prehistoric date, comprised of more than 10% of precious metal (in this case gold), the 'East Cambridgeshire' torc qualifies as Treasure under the stipulations of the Treasure Act (1996).

Eogan G. 1967. 'The Associated Finds of Gold Bar Torcs', Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 97, 129-175.
Eogan G. 1994. The Accomplished Art - Gold and Gold-Working in Britain and Ireland during the Bronze Age, Oxford.
Hawkes, C.F.C. 1932. 'The Towednack Gold Hoard', Man, 32, 222-39.
Murgia, A. Melkonian, M. & Roberts, B.W. 2014. European Bronze Age Gold in the British Museum ( (Accessed: 13/2/16)
Needham, S. 2001. 'When expediency broaches ritual intention: the flow of metal between systemic and buried domains', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 7, 275-98
Ramsay, G. 2012. Treasure report NI12.03, Unpublished report on a Middle Bronze Age gold torc from Corrard, near Belle Isle, Co. Fermanagh.
Ramsay, G. 2013. The Corrard gold torc - Bronze Age jewellery with a twist to the tale (Accessed: (Accessed: 13/2/16)
Roberts B. 2007. 'Adorning the Living but Not the Dead: Understanding Ornaments in Britain c.1400-1100 cal BC. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 73,135-167.
Varndell, G. 1986. The Sculthorpe torc, The Antiquaries Journal, 66(ii), 386-7.

Neil Wilkin, Curator, European Bronze Age Collection, Department of Britain, Europe & Prehistory, The British Museum
Harriet White, Scientist, Department of Conservation and Scientific Research, Department of Britain, Europe & Prehistory, The British Museum
22nd February 2016 (Updated 3rd March 2016)

Find of note status

This is a find of note and has been designated: County / local importance

Class: Flange Twisted Torc

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Submitted for consideration as Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2015T715


Broad period: BRONZE AGE
Period from: BRONZE AGE
Period to: BRONZE AGE
Date from: Circa 1300 BC
Date to: Circa 1150 BC

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Weight: 732.4 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Saturday 26th September 2015

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Ms Helen Fowler
Identified by: Ms Helen Fowler
Secondary identifier: Dr Neil Wilkin

Other reference numbers

Treasure case number: 2015T715

Materials and construction

Primary material: Gold
Completeness: Complete

Spatial metadata

Region: Eastern (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Cambridgeshire (County)
District: East Cambridgeshire (District)
To be known as: East Cambridgeshire District Area

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
General landuse: Cultivated land
Specific landuse: Character undetermined

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: CAM
Created: 3 years ago
Updated: About one year ago

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