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28 November 2011
The mystery of the golden torcs

The discovery of two golden torcs in the bed of a stream in Yorkshire (England), is raising more questions than answers. Who made them? How did they get there? Who did they belong to? How old are they?  
     The first question is probably the most intriguing one. They were found by metal detectorists, almost a year apart, in the bed of a stream near Towton. Towton found fame in 1461 CE by being the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the War of the Roses, but was not known for its Iron Age gold working. The torcs are, in fact, very similar to others found in Norfolk (the Snettisham Hoard), so were probably made by the Iceni rather than the native Yorkshire Brigantes.
     The most logical explanations of their relocation to Towton was either via trade, plunder or as a gift. A gift is probably the most likely solution, the clue being in their location, the bed of a stream, having been washed there from a nearby burial site (torcs of this quality were only worn by nobility or high ranking tribal elders). The first torc has been dated at between 100 and 70 BCE with the other one believed to be older. Until this discovery the most northerly find to date had been near Newark in Nottinghamshire.
     The tragic part of the story is that we may not be able to learn any more from these artifacts as they could possibly be sold to a private collection. The torcs are on show at the Yorkshire Museum in York, who are looking to raise £ 60,000 to keep them in the public domain. All donations are welcome and anyone interested can either visit the museum or go to their webste www.yorkshiremuseum.org.uk

Edited from Culture24, The Press, Yorkshire Post (22 November 2011)

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