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Newly-discovered 3,000-year-old gold torc on display at Colchester Castle

Torcs were ostentatious neck rings

Date issued: 30 September 2019

A Bronze Age gold torc found at Great Dunham, Norfolk, is joining a hoard of contemporary torc fragments from Woodham Walter in Essex, on display at Colchester Castle for the first time since their discoveries.

Torcs were ostentatious neck rings clearly marking the high social status of their wearers. The Great Dunham torc was buried complete, perhaps as a ritual offering or to be reclaimed after a period of danger such as inter-tribal warfare. The Woodham Walter fragments, however, appear to have been deliberately cut up leading archaeologists to believe that they were from a metalworker’s hoard. Recent research suggests that they may have been a sacrificial offering from a far larger collection of gathered metals being recycled for the creation of new high-status objects or as trade.

Senior Curator, Glynn Davis at Colchester Museums said: “The Great Dunham torc is a stunning object which is hard to believe is more than 3000 years old. It shows what our own hoard of damaged torcs would have looked like when complete but may also demonstrate changing fashions and religious behaviours toward the end of the Bronze Age.”

The Great Dunham and Woodham Walter gold torcs would have been buried a long way from the likely origin of their raw material – probably Wales or Ireland – further hinting at the wealth and power of their owners. The distances from these sources also demonstrates the extraordinary connections and trading networks evident during this early period.

Councillor Julie Young, Portfolio Holder for Culture and Performance and Deputy Leader of the Council said: We are extremely grateful to Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery for loaning us this beautiful item of ancient jewellery for display in our new exhibition, ‘Adorn’. Like many of the objects within the exhibition, it tells a fascinating story that researchers are only now beginning to uncover.’

Adorn: Jewellery, The Human Story is the first exhibition to be held at Colchester Castle since it reopened in 2014 following a major refurbishment and has been two and a half years in the planning. Visitors can journey through time from Bronze age beginnings, to today’s modern makers taking in items that are over 3,000 years old.

For more information about Colchester Castle and Adorn: Jewellery, The Human Story, visit colchester.cimuseums.org.uk/adorn.

The exhibition will be running until February 16, 2020.

Entry to Adorn is included in Castle admission.

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