Yorkshire Museum

Iron Age Gold Torcs

These two gold bracelets, which were found by metal detectorists near Tadcaster, have been declared the first Iron Age gold jewellery ever found in the north of England.

The two ‘torcs’ were both found in the bed of a stream near Towton, North Yorkshire, the first in May 2010 and the second in April 2011.

They are similar in appearance, with the main body of the bracelet made up of two gold wires, twisted together.

They probably would have belonged to an extremely wealthy, possibly royal, member of the Brigantes tribe, who ruled most of North Yorkshire during the Iron Age.

The first has been dated to 100BC-70BC, while the second could be older still.

Similar bracelets have been found in Britain, mainly in Norfolk which in the Iron Age was home to the Iceni tribe.

The Brigantes were not known to deal in gold jewellery until the discovery of the torcs – until now the furthest north torcs had been found was in Newark, Nottinghamshire.

The torcs are very similar in appearance to those found in the Snettisham Hoard in Norfolk, which was most likely to have been Royal treasure belonging to the Iceni.

This raises the possibility that the bracelets were spoils of war, a gift or used in trade between the two tribes.

The site and the nature of the finds has also intrigued experts, with torcs previously found in hoards rather than just single pieces. There is also no history of them being found in water, which raises the possibility that the two examples were washed away from an original burial site.

Please note: The Yorkshire Museum is home to an extensive and varied collection of items and artefacts. Whilst we make every effort to display a broad spectrum of our collections it is not always possible for all our collections to be on display at once.