Torc hoard is earliest Iron Age gold found in Britain

It’s the first gold hoard of the year! We’ve had Bronze Age weapons and Roman copper vessels packed with plants. Now we have a group of four ancient gold torcs discovered by metal detectorists in a cow pasture in Leekfrith on the Staffordshire Moorlands.

The torcs were found last December by Mark Hambleton and Joe Kania. Hambleton had scanned the field some two decades ago without success. They were about to give up when Joe Kania’s machine signalled the presence of metal. All they’d found up to that point was trash and a 19th century coin or two, so Hambleton had already packed up his metal detector when Kania pulled a gold torc out of the ground. Then another. And another. And another. Three of them are necklaces, one a bracelet. Three are complete and intact, the fourth broken, likely by agricultural interference. The torcs were about six inches beneath the surface about a meter (three feet) apart from each other.

Hambleton spent a fitful night failing to sleep with the hoard by his side. The next morning, the finders alerted the Portable Antiquities Scheme to their discovery. Stoke-On-Trent City Council dispatched archaeologists to the field but they found no evidence of further treasure. Hambleton and Kania defied the odds again, though, returning to the spot last Sunday where they discovered the second half of the broken torc.

The Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs were examined by Dr. Julia Farley, the British Museum’s Curator of British & European Iron Age Collections. She determined they were not of British origin, but likely from what is today Germany or France. Analysis of the gold content found that it was no less than 80% in every torc, making them more than 18 carat gold which is 75% pure. The torcs weigh between 31 grams for the smallest piece, the incomplete bracelet, and 230 grams for the largest. The one bracelet stirred particular excitement because it is decorated, etched with lines inside loops. This is some of the earliest Celtic art ever discovered in Britain. All of the workmanship on the torcs is extremely high quality. One of them even has an incredibly rare maker’s mark.

Dr. Farley:

“This unique find is of international importance. It dates to around 400–250 BC, and is probably the earliest Iron Age gold work ever discovered in Britain.

“The torcs were probably worn by wealthy and powerful women, perhaps people from the continent who had married into the local community. Piecing together how these objects came to be carefully buried in a Staffordshire field will give us an invaluable insight into life in Iron Age Britain.”

A coroner’s inquest was held in North Staffordshire on Tuesday. Coroner Ian Smith asked questions of experts about the hoard, its continental origin and how they pieces may have made their way to Leekfrith. After hearing testimony about the torcs’ age and precious metal content, the coroner ruled that the pieces are treasure trove. The next step is for the independent experts of the Treasure Valuation Committee to determine fair value of the torcs. Local museums will then be offered the first opportunity to raise the amount of the valuation. That money will be divided between the finders and the landowner.

Stoke-on-Trent, which is bidding to be a 2021 UK City of Culture, is mighty keen to secure the torc hoard. Another little hoard you might have heard of, the Staffordshire Hoard, spends half its time in Stoke and it has brought millions of tourists and their cash to the region. The Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs will be on display in the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-On-Trent, one of two local museums that share custody of the exceptional Staffordshire Hoard, for three weeks before they go back to the British Museum for valuation.

See Joe Kania and Mark Hambleton tell the story of the discovery (notice the awesome traditional dry stone walls behind them as they goof around for the camera in beginning; I love a quality dry stone wall) and Staffordshire officials glow with happiness over their shiny new babies in this video:


10 thoughts on “Torc hoard is earliest Iron Age gold found in Britain

  1. If you ever wondered what early Celts wearing this stuff would look like, cf. the Waldalgesheim chariot burial[01], its jewelry and particularly the Bronze flagon[02] with the little head on there wearing a (‘Mickey Mouse’) Celtic mistle crown.

    Very similar attire wears the Glauberg[03] priestchieftain and his stele[04] on his burial mound with his torque[05] (in more detail here[06]) and his mistle crown[07].

    There is, among other examples, also the ‘Pfalzfeld Column’, originally about 3.5 meters (11.5 ft) tall, cf. its depiction from 1609[08], and the 1.5 meter left of it today[09], with some more of those crowned heads.

    Even back then, I reckon, gold was -most likely- not for the average Joes, as a similar, not so golden[10] torque might illustrate, and there are more early Celtic items to be seen e.g. at the Keltenmuseum in Hallein[11].

    PS: Above, there are altogether eleven URLs (missing) that this platform’s “spam protection” is so far blocking. If I find the time, I might come back -as a special dedication to my fellow-poster deareme- with a more complete version of this spam – who knows ?

  2. Nobody ever seems to say “It was a Staffordshire war band burying the loot it had gathered in a raid on the South”. Yet the moment you reach the Vikings we assume that all their hoards are the result of theft.

    Sounds racist to me.

    Anyway, nice stuff.

  3. Deareme, the found a note: “This hoard of golden spirals belongs to Gunnar Gudmundsson and it was collected over the years all by himself” :p
    Here the list (fingers crossed !):

  4. I gave it a go in two installments, i.e. 5 and then 6 URLs. Hence, if Liv. finds them in his spambox he should be able to put them here.

    Eleven URLs in one installment is obviously spam-filtered in wordpress, or whatever the CMS might be here.


  5. Never mind, but the ‘real thing’ plus two installment posts with URLs makes THREE posts, i.e. the bit with 06-11 is still missing … so far:


    PS: Intentionally, I left out number [10] – …Har har 👿

  6. The racist DONALD TRUMP said to the Dailystormer “I believe HITLER was RIGHT”. faa Donald Trump is a racist with SEWER and the DailyStormer, he listens to satanic 666 sexist music… just google “Donald Trump SEWER 2154” and see FOR YOURSELF!! THE MUSIC th VIDEO IS about the KKK and Adfolf Hitler raping a 12 year old African-American WOMAN OF COLOR in front of her parents and then hanging MLK with Emma Watson and Taylor Swift!! TAYLOR SWIFT the racist white privileged cvnt said she voted “for donald trump twice” in her OWN WORDS!!! Say no to hate, say no to SEWER, say no to l DONALD TRUMP and EMMA WATSON and Tatylor Swift !! Deport racism today exy.

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