The curious collection of a slightly mad scientist
A treasure hunter with a metal detector has unearthed a 3,000-year-old piece of ornate gold jewellery from a bog in Northern Ireland.
Ronald Johnston first thought the Bronze Age torc was an old car spring, he told the BBC.
The coiled metal, typically worn around the neck or waist, would actually have belonged to a Celt who had “access to extreme wealth,” said Armagh County Museum’s Andrea Kennedy.
Johnston had cleaned the mysterious metal and stuffed it in a drawer in his home in Enniskillen until he saw a photograph of another Celtic torc in a magazine. His brother Charlie Johnson took it to the museum.
“I really can’t believe it’s a valuable and ancient object. We didn’t know what it was,” Charlie Johnston told the BBC.
The torc would date from 1300 to 1100 B.C., Kennedy said.
A symbol of the Celts’ “delight in gaudy ostentation,” according to the ancient Greek philosopher Poseidonius, torcs carried distinctive designs created by local blacksmiths. The word torc comes from the Latin for “to twist” or torque.
Ribbon torcs such as the one found by Johnston were typical of north Ulster and north Connaught.
It is only the second one discovered on the Irish isle that is coiled like a spring as well as carrying the distinctive ribbon twist design, said Kennedy. Stretched out, it’s unusually large — 47 inches or 119 centimetres — so it would likely have been worn around the waist rather than the neck.
“Perhaps it was buried when the owner died and the coiling was a type of decommissioning so that it could no longer be worn,” she said.
“Alternatively it could have been an offering to the gods.”