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28 November 2016
Huge Bronze Age gold torc unearthed in Cambridgeshire

A gigantic gold torc, so big one expert thinks it may have been worn to protect a pregnant woman, has been found in a ploughed field in Cambridgeshire (England). It was made from 730 grams of almost pure gold more than 3,000 years ago.
     The workmanship closely resembles one from nearby Grunty Fen, found in 1844 and now in the collection of the archaeology museum of Cambridge University. However, like many torcs that were apparently buried for ritual reasons, that one had been coiled up.
     "There was a lot going on in Bronze Age East Anglia," said Neil Wilkin, the curator of Bronze Age Europe at the British Museum, "but it's been a while since we've had anything as hefty as this."
     Torcs are usually described as collars, with the longer ones thought by some to have been worn as belts, but Wilkin said this torc was longer than even extra-large waist measurements of men's trousers. Wilkin said they were never found buried with the remains of the dead, and he wondered if it could have been loaned by the tribe to be worn as protection by a woman in late pregnancy. Alternatively, he thought it could have been a magnificent ornament to give extra value to an animal about to be sacrificed.
     The site and the finder have remained anonymous, but the discovery was reported to Helen Fowler, the local finds liaison officer through the network of archaeologists recording such finds. She said she was 'gobsmacked' when it came out of the finder's briefcase. The last torc she had handled was bracelet sized, but this one was far too big to fit on her weighing scales.
     Wilkin said the workmanship was astonishing: the torc was shaped from a square section bar of gold, and then twisted and burnished. "If you take callipers, and measure the gaps between the twists, they are absolutely spot on accurate."
     It is hoped Ely Museum will acquire the torc, with the reward shared between finder and landowner. The slightly shorter and lighter Corrard torc, found in Northern Ireland, was valued at up to £150,000 (€ 175,000 / US$ 186,000) three years ago.

Edited from The Guardian (28 November 2016)

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