Two Iron Age torcs and a composite piece of jewellery return to near to where they were deposited millennia ago
The Snettisham Treasure is the largest assemblage of Iron Age bronze, silver and gold objects ever found in Europe.
It is in fact a number of separately buried hoards containing of torcs (neck rings), coins, ingots and other objects. As with most hoards of this type, the torcs are the most striking feature of the treasure.
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Torcs have been retrieved from Iron Age sites across Britain, but more have been found in Norfolk than in any other county.
The treasure’s discovery goes back to November 1948 when a field in the North Norfolk village was being deep ploughed for the first time.
It was during this process that farm worker Raymond Williamson’s ploughshare uncovered a large metal object. Assuming it was part of an old brass bedstead, he placed it on the edge of the field where it lay for several days.
Experts from Norwich Castle Museum were only contacted after more artefacts were uncovered. They immediately identified them as Iron Age torcs made from gold.
Williamson’s discoveries had already become known as the Snettisham Treasure when two years later ploughman Tom Rout unearthed another torc. This one was massive – a whole kilogram of expertly-crafted gold. Now known as the Great Torc, it is on permanent display at the British Museum in London.
Over subsequent decades, a dozen or so major finds were made in the area. Some of which made their way to the British Museum while others now reside at Norwich Castle Museum.
In 1989 metal detectorist Cecil Hodder was granted permission to detect on the site. At first he found little, however in August 1990 he uncovered a large pile of metal scraps in a bronze container. This suggested that there might be further hoards in the field.
Dr Ian Stead from The British Museum launched intensive excavations which revealed four further hoards. Then, on the last day of the excavation archaeologists made an amazing discovery. They uncovered a fifth pit containing bronze and silver torcs and buried beneath were even more torcs of bronze, silver and gold.
It is two of these torcs that have, together with a fascinating assemblage piece, gone on display at Lynn Museum.
Taken together the hoard consists of over 150 gold torc fragments and more than 70 of them are complete torcs while other objects are made of metal and jade.
Experts agree that they date to around 70BC and although the origins are unknown, their location has led to suggestions that they were high status objects belonging to the Iceni tribe who were a significant power in Eastern Britain during the Iron Age and early Roman era.
Their temporary display at the side of a Norfolk farmer’s field notwithstanding, this is the first time they have been displayed close to where they were found.
“It’s incredible to think they were made, used and buried more than two thousand years ago,” says Museum Curator Oliver Bone. “These precious artefacts connect us with our ancestors and their way of life from all that time ago.”
“I am delighted that we have the opportunity to display these beautiful and important items so close to where they were found for the first time.”
The Snettisham Treasure can be viewed at Lynn Museum until August 18 2019.
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