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Welcome to the Big Book of Torcs – which is not a book at all, but an interactive website (meaning, they’d welcome feedback) about British Iron Age torcs.

Tessa Matchling is secretary of the Prehistoric Society and Roland Williamson is a craftsman of museum-quality replicas. They got talking about how these things were made, and this website grew out of it.

It’s an interesting topic. Torcs come in all shapes and methods of manufacture. They were a high status item, sometimes maybe a sign of office or rank. Men, women and (maybe children) wore them. Some were a simple twist of metal and some were amazingly elaborate.

After the Romans beat the Celts in one battle in 191 BC, they looted 1,500 torcs (officers?).

They were sometimes buried with the owner, sometimes deliberately broken and put into graves and sometimes buried together in groups. Sometimes when they are buried together, they are interlocked. Sometimes wear patterns show they were worn for a long time, by more than one person.

So, status symbol, portable wealth, mark of rank, personal branding and probably something…eh…spiritual? Archeologists are too quick to put spiritual significance on ancient objects, but it’s clear torcs were significant things.


Comment from Pupster
Time: October 5, 2023, 12:19 am

Worn around the neck mostly, like a neck bracelet. I didn’t know so I had to search. Is torc fashion commonly known? I had no idea.

Comment from Anonymous
Time: October 5, 2023, 11:42 am

I’m not dead Sweas just decided to give up gaming. Spending too much time on it. Definitely avoiding Starfield.

Like the torc site. Along those lines, Jonas Lau Markussen has a lot of material out there on Nordic style art. He’s taken many artifacts, jewelry, rune stones and drawn out and categorized the designs. He’s built quite a catalog now and he’s even put together a photo reference site of the objects. Also along those lines, where you as dissatisfied with “The Dig” film as I was?

Comment from Surly Ermine
Time: October 5, 2023, 2:14 pm

Yeah, that anonymous was me. Changed it twice but it didn’t stick.

Comment from Carl
Time: October 5, 2023, 4:13 pm

Ermine – What didn’t you like about “The Dig”? I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Comment from Jon
Time: October 5, 2023, 4:31 pm

Dang it I was already thinking about rereading the Saga of Pliocene Exile and now you have to remind me again? Lul finishing a David Drake collab book first, Hell’s Gate. Sorcerers meet Science with Telepathy, war happens. Good book.

Comment from Surly Ermine
Time: October 5, 2023, 4:54 pm

I just wanted the focus to be more on Saxon artifacts Carl. I guess I should look for a documentary instead.

Comment from Anonymous
Time: October 5, 2023, 6:05 pm

Ermine – OK. I was disappointed not to see more of the artifacts from the Sutton Hoo excavations but the film was more about the relationships between the individuals involved in the dig. The local self-taught archaeologist who made the initial discoveries v. the condescending professionals wanting to exclude him, the ailing landowner (she died not long after) all going on in the knowledge that war was approaching.

Comment from Carl
Time: October 5, 2023, 6:08 pm

That was me at 6.05 pm. I forgot to enter my name.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: October 5, 2023, 6:34 pm

In the true story, the British Museum guys were very deferential and respectful of the amateur’s ability. His name escapes me.

I was annoyed by the completely unnecessary and made up romance arc, but I’ve forgotten what that was about.

I tried to find a reference but couldn’t, so I left this out of the post: I’ve read that lots of the torcs buried together right around the same time (something like 100AD). Like whatever their ceremonial purpose might have been ended for everyone all at once.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: October 5, 2023, 7:23 pm

@Jon — Thanks for the reminder! I read the Julian May books 30+ years ago and enjoyed them thoroughly and they may well deserve an encore.

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