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All torc, torc, torc...

Most of us have heard of the Great Torc of Snettisham. Did you know that Snettisham is the next parish south of Sedgeford? And that Sedgeford has its own torc?

The Sedgeford torc was found in 1965 by a farmer who was harrowing a field when his equipment was snagged and brought to a stop with a clatter. Lo and behold, he found an ancient gold torc twisted up in the machinery.

Made of gold and silver alloy wire 'rope', the torc was beautiful despite its damaged state, but it had only one terminal: the other had presumably been wrenched off when it was dragged up from its hiding place in the soil.

The Sedgeford torc, found 1965

The Sedgeford torc, view of the extant terminal

The Sedgeford torc ended up in the British Museum, where it remains. But where was the other terminal?

The answer to this question remained a mystery for almost 40 years.

Fast forward to 2004, and Steve Hammond is doing some metal-detecting in the same field during the annual SHARP Easter week field-walking ahead of season 9. He gets a strong signal. What does he find? None other than the missing terminal.

You can probably imagine the joy and rapture that this find created, and which it still inspires. The torc terminal, exquisite and perfect, was obsessively examined and photographed by SHARP members before it, too, went through the Treasure process and was reunited with the rest of this beautiful object at the British Museum.

Here are a few photos, including detailed views of the terminal decoration. You can see that it matches the other terminal exactly, and represents the work of a master artisan.

And of course, the back of the torc terminal is smooth and polished, for sitting comfortably against the bare skin of the wearer.

If you're interested in the technicalities of this glorious object, here is the official report, thanks to the British Museum and the Portable Antiquities Scheme:

"A gold terminal of an Iron Age torc; the object was found by Dr Hammond whilst metal detecting as part of a survey conducted by SHARP (Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project) as part of their long running study of the history and archaeology of the parish of Sedgeford."

"This terminal comes from the same Iron Age torc or neck ring discovered in 1965. When the 'Sedgeford Torc' was originally found one of the two terminals was missing. This discovery is almost certainly the missing terminal. It is identical in size and design to the earlier discovery. Equally, the sheared ends of the wires of the ropes matched perfectly the broken ends of those on the torc discovered previously."

Sedgeford torc terminal, found 2004 (Image: British Museum)

"Like the 'Great Torc' from Ken Hill, Snettisham, the 'Sedgeford Torc' is made from twisted gold wire 'ropes' that were fixed to hollow ring shaped terminals decorated with raised La Tene (so-called 'Early Celtic Art') design. This torc is made from an alloy of gold and silver. The body of the torc is made from 8 'ropes' each made three threads of twisted wires, themselves twisted together in the opposite direction. The terminal is made from a lost wax casting which a raised decoration of trumpet swirls and pellets. The front of the collar is decorated with 11 pellets each with 3 impressions against a background of 'basket weave' work. Basket weave is also used to highlight several of the voids created by the raised trumpet swirls on the main body of the terminals."

"The break in the coiled ropes so close to the collar of the hollow terminal allows how the terminal was fixed to the coiled ropes to be clearly seen inside the collar. It would appear that the terminals were cast on to the end of the coiled ropes, which has partially melted. A particular feature of this terminal is a bar of metal passing through the collar of the terminal and the end of the coil wire ropes. The bar is clearly inserted after the terminal had been cast on the body of the torc. Two small holes were carefully cut through the wall of the collar through the end of the coiled ropes. The holes cut through the collar at the front of the terminal cuts through part of the raised decoration. A bar of metal has then been passed through the holes from one side to another. The ends of this bar have then been shaped so it is almost invisible to a casual observer. The function of this very difficult operation is difficult to ascertain, but there are similar bars inserted through the other terminal of this torc. These include one through the collar. These bars were interpreted as an ancient repair when the torc was found in 1965. The actual function of these bars requires further work."

Sedgeford torc terminal, found 2004 (Image: British Museum)

"The breaks in the wires of the coil ropes show no sign of a deliberate cutting of the torc, but are more consistent with a break caused by shearing the wires through violently twisting the wire 'rope'. There is no evidence to suggest this was caused deliberately by people in the past. It is possible the break occurred when the main part of the torc was struck by agricultural machinery and this terminal remained held tight in the subsoil.

There is no direct dating evidence for this object. Other twisted rope torcs from Norfolk are suggested to date from the 2nd and early 1st centuries BC."

So that is the story of the Sedgeford torc, told over 40 years. Good, hey?

If you come to join us for Season 23 at SHARP this year, we can't guarantee you will find a torc, or even any gold coins, but we can guarantee you will have an amazing time and learn a lot, even if you already know a lot before you arrive.

To book for a course, or a volunteer place, visit our website and book soon! Places are filling up and the season is coming up fast...


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