Torc fragment cross-joins AKA how to make a torc jigsaw!

During the process of creating the Torc Treasury database, I kept noticing multiple fragments of the same, very distinctive, gold alloy torc coming up in Snettisham Hoard F.

[Well, I think they’re all from Hoard F, the problem being that although they all – bar one, but more about that later! – have a 1991 prefixed British Museum accession code, only one has the Hoard letter given and that’s F. So until we see the long awaited Snettisham volume, Hoard F it will be and, as will become apparent from this blog, if they aren’t all from Hoard F that will be even more exciting, but anyway back to the bits!]

The pieces comprise eleven fragments of a twisted wire neckring torc, with double ring terminals. The torc is made from two thick (7.9-9.5mm) hammered and faceted wires, twisted into a 16.1-16.8mm cross section neck ring. Each terminal has been created by bending the ends of each wire into a loop to form a double ring.

The torc is clearly broken, but it is broken in different ways: the majority of breaks appear to be metal fatigue (perhaps happening in the ground, or upon excavation) or result from the torc having been intentionally snapped. However, the two small pieces from the collection have clearly been cut.

Having collated all the pieces I started to wonder how much of the torc was present. But from the photos on screen in front of me, it was very difficult to tell. So I decided to print the pieces out and see. I scaled the images so they were the same size, printed them out and cut them up.

Having a Blue Peter moment…

[To those shouting, ‘You could’ve done it in Photoshop!’, yes, I could. However, for me, the thinking process goes with the doing: I’m very much a ‘hands and eyes to brain’ kind of person and the physical process helps me understand far better than doing it on a screen ever could. So there!]

Once I’d got all the pieces cut out, I put them all together and, ta dah, I actually had a complete torc jigsaw!

The torc jigsaw.

However, interestingly, it would appear that one half of one of the terminals is missing and, despite a check of the British Museum catalogue, it’s just not there – half a terminal has gone. I think the most likely explanation is a disturbed context, but it might suggest that that the torc was broken before it went in the ground and one of the pieces never got to the hoard.

Torc jigsaw showing missing half of left terminal.

Another fact that might support this is the presence of the two small cut fragments, which would appear to derive from a section close to one of the terminals, probably the one shown. The fact that they are cut, rather than snapped, would suggest an intentional fragmentation of this torc by cutting it close to the terminal. Which, to be honest, seems a little odd….but then that’s not entirely uncommon in the Iron Age.

The two small cut fragments.

The other interesting aspect is that one of the small fragments has an accession number from 1992, suggesting it was added to the catalogue at a later time (although it’s still within possibility it was found during the 1991 excavations). Had it been found later, this might suggest another, completely separate, context for the cut fragment.

Now having the jigsaw done, I could also look for comparable torcs elsewhere in the assemblage and it wasn’t long before I was able to find a sibling. Found in Hoard D in 1951, this complete torc is almost identical in dimension, wire diameter, neck ring cross section and hammered technique…..the Jigsaw Torc’s big brother or sister?

Sibling torc. Images © The Trustees of the British Museum

So what does all the above mean? Well, we will need to do more research into this, but at present we know that:

  • The pieces represent an almost complete torc.
  • That the torc is missing part of a terminal.
  • That it appears to have been cut in at least two places prior to deposition.
  • That other breaks may be depositional, but could be intentional.
  • That if it all comes from Hoard F, then we have an intentionally cut (and, perhaps, depositionally fragmented torc) added to the hoard.
  • But that if it comes from more than one hoard then we have very good evidence for more than one hoard linked in time and space by the cross-joined pieces of a single torc.
  • That the similarity of these pieces to the torc found in 1951 in hoard D would suggest the same workshop or maker for both, again linking more than one hoard through the same making technique and form.

…and finally, that making a torc jigsaw is quite a good way to get over the symptoms of a covid vaccine injection!!! 🙂

Jigsaw pieces….

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