First Bronze Age gold torc found in Essex

A section of a Bronze Age gold flange twisted torc has been discovered in a field near Mistley in Essex by a metal detectorist. It was reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme three years ago, but has only now been officially declared treasure by a coroner’s inquest. This is the first Bronze Age gold torc found in Essex ever reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Flange twisted torcs were produced in the Penard metalwork phase of the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1300-1150 B.C.). They were made by cutting four longitudinal cuts into a solid gold bar to form an x-shaped cross-section, then turning the ends of the bar left and right to create the twisted effect. The ends were then forged into trumpet terminals.

The twisted band of the Essex fragment is about 5.8 inches long with one surviving trumpet terminal 2.4 inches long. At just over eight inches long all together, archaeologists believe this is less than half of the length it was when intact. It is dented on several points along the twisted edges, probably caused by agricultural work long after it was deposited. There are also three bends in it, and the sharp break end is likely modern as well. The terminal, which originally would have been bent back at the join with the twisted band, has been straightened out.

[Finds liaison officer Lori] Rogerson said a “highly skilled” goldsmith worked on it and “would have had to twist it, it’s a really soft material so it is at risk of tearing,”

“He or she would have known just the right point to stop before it broke, while getting those twists in,” she added.

British Museum researchers subjected the torc to X-ray fluorescence analysis to determine its composition. It is 75-77% gold, 18-20% silver and the remaining 5-3% copper. That makes it 18 karat gold.

Now that it has been declared treasure, a valuation committee will determine its fair market value and a local museum will be given the opportunity to pay the valuation sum to secure the torc. The money will be split 50-50 between the finder and landowner. The Colchester Museum hopes to acquire it for its collection.