In 1840, a strange looking object was found at a depth of about two feet in a gravel pit at Perdiswell in Worcester. The object was thought to be prehistoric and was linked at the time with a barrow that was located close by. The ‘Perdiswell Barrow’ was probably originally Neolithic or Bronze Age in date (a Neolithic arrowhead was found here).
The object in question is a torc or neck collar. Torcs are usually associated with high-status individuals, and this was a very rare find. Jabez Allies recorded the discovery in his ‘Folklore and Antiquities of Worcestershire’ which was first published in 1840 as ‘A remarkable bronze fragment of a torc, or ornament for the neck … It is rather more than the third of the circle, and was probably broken in battle. An iron rod runs through its centre connecting the bronze pieces or vertebrae..’ This torc, found in Worcester, is not made of twisted gold wires as many are but is a beaded torc. It consists of twenty two copper alloy beads and twenty four spacers that are threaded onto an iron bar. Only the beaded segment remains but the other half of the torc would have been made of a solid bar. The tradition could be a native iron age one but it is thought as likely that this object belongs to the early Roman period.
It is of a type of torc that has its roots in the north of England and Worcester lies some way south of the usual distribution of this type of torc although a couple of other fragmentary examples have been recorded in the county by the Portable Antiquities Scheme in recent years (www.finds.org.uk). What the torc is doing in Worcestershire is just one of the tantalising questions that the object raises.
The object has been curated by The British Museum since the 1930s but will be returning to Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum on loan for the exhibition ‘On Tracks of Iron and Salt: Roman Worcestershire’ which opens on January 29th 2011. Worcester City Museums Service is grateful to the Department of Prehistory and Europe at The British Museum for the opportunity to display this fascinating object.
For more information regarding the exhibition ‘On Tracks of Iron and Salt’ please contact Deborah Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org