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Intricate jewellery found buried in a Staffordshire field is the earliest example of Iron Age gold ever found in Britain.

The collection, made up of four twisted metal neckbands called torcs, and a bracelet, was discovered by two metal detectorists just before Christmas.

Experts say they would have been owned by wealthy powerful women who probably moved from continental Europe to marry rich Iron Age chiefs.

Iron Age gold found in farmer's field is earliest ever discovered



One of four twisted metal neck ornaments discovered in the field


Sarah Knapton (external - login to view), Science Editor
28 February 2017
The Telegraph

Intricate jewellery found buried in a Staffordshire field is the earliest example of Iron Age (external - login to view) gold ever found in Britain.

The collection, made up of four twisted metal neckbands called torcs, and a bracelet, was discovered by two metal detectorists just before Christmas.

Experts say they would have been owned by wealthy powerful women who probably moved from continental Europe to marry rich Iron Age chiefs.

The pair who discovered the find had swept the field 20 years earlier and uncovered nothing. But after abandoning a fishing trip to go treasure hunting they came across the horde (external - login to view), which could be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. (external - login to view)

The torcs were buried nested together and archaeologists believe they may have been buried for safekeeping, or as an offering to a god, or an act of remembrance for someone who had died.


The collection of gold jewellery found in Staffordshire

Unveiling the torcs at a press conference on Tuesday experts said the unique find could date back as far as 400BC and was hugely significant and could reveal new details about the movement of Iron Age communities.

"This unique find is of international importance," said Dr Julia Farley, Curator of British & European Iron Age Collections for the British Museum. (external - login to view)

"It dates to around 400–250 BC, and is probably the earliest Iron Age gold work ever discovered in Britain.

“The torcs were probably worn by wealthy and powerful women, perhaps people from the continent who had married into the local community.

"Piecing together how these objects came to be carefully buried in a Staffordshire field will give us an invaluable insight into life in Iron Age Britain.”

The find was made by friends Mark Hambleton and Joe Kania.


Mark Hambleton and Joe Kania


The gold was found in a field in Staffordshire


“We weren’t expecting to find anything. I was just about ready to give up for the day when Joe said he thought he had found something," said Mr Hambleton. "We both looked at it and were speechless.”

After searching around the area they found the three remaining torcs.

Mr Kania added: “We have found the odd Victorian coin, but mostly it has just been junk. So I couldn’t believe it when I picked out this mud covered item and, on cleaning it off, I thought this might actually be gold.”

The pair contacted the landowners and Mr Hambleton was forced to sleep with the finds by the side of his bed before he could take the pieces to show Teresa Gilmore, a finds liaison officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme at Birmingham (external - login to view)

“I kept the gold right next to my bed to make sure it was safe until we could hand them in to the experts," he added.

"I used to go metal detecting with my dad when I was young and he said to me: 'Why are you bothering fishing? You should be back in those fields.'

“I am so glad we took his advice and pleased, of course, that he got the chance to see these amazing pieces and prove he was right all along.”


An expert studies the Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs

The pair had been given permission to search the land by owners, the Heaths, and if the find is declared treasure it will be sold and split with the family.

Stuart Heath, who farms 640 acres of land in the Moorlands, said: “Mark has detected on our land before and it is amazing to think these gold pieces have been lying undiscovered since long before we farmed here”.

“Archaeologists have surveyed the site and all though this is very much a one-off find. We will all be fascinated to hear more about how the collection found its way from Europe to Staffordshire thousands of years ago.”


The neck bands would have been warn by wealthy women from continental Europe


Archaeologists from Stoke-on-Trent City Council led the site investigations on the farmland in the Staffordshire Moorlands and say it is a “complete” find with no evidence of any other pieces on the land.

“This amazing find of gold torcs in the north of the county is quite simply magical and we look forward to sharing the secrets and story they hold in the years to come.”

An inquest will be held in North Staffordshire on Tuesday and Coroner Ian Smith will rule if the pieces are treasure.

Staffordshire County Council Leader, Philip Atkins, said: “As a county and as a council we are both proud and unbelievably lucky to be home to some truly exceptional finds including, of course, the Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold."


The jewellery hoard had been disturbed by ploughing

Iron Age gold found in farmer's field is earliest ever discovered* (external - login to view)
Last edited by Blackleaf; Feb 28th, 2017 at 04:16 AM..