Bronze Age Gold Torc

The torc is much larger than usual examples and is regarded as the best found in England in more than a century. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA. A gigantic gold torc, so big one expert thinks it may have been worn to protect a pregnant woman, has been found by a metal detectorist in a ploughed field in Cambridgeshire. It was made from 730 grams of almost pure gold more than 3,000 years ago, and is regarded as the best found in England in more than a century. 

The workmanship closely resembles one from nearby Grunty Fen, found in 1844 by a man cutting peat, now in the collection of the archaeology museum of Cambridge University. However, like many torcs which were apparently buried for ritual reasons, that one had been coiled up: the man who found the Corrard torc in Northern Ireland three years ago first thought he had stumbled on an old car spring.

The find site is also within 50 miles of Must farm, the extraordinary bronze age village site in the shadow of a chip factory on the edge of Peterborough.

“There was a lot going on in bronze age East Anglia,” said Neil Wilkin, the curator of bronze age Europe at the British Museum, “but it’s been a while since we’ve had anything as hefty as this.”

Torcs are usually described as collars, with the longer ones thought by some to have been worn as belts, but Wilkin has checked in shops – he’s far too skinny for his own waist to be a helpful guide – and says this torc is longer than even extra-large waist measurements of men’s trousers.

Wilkin says they are never found buried with the remains of the dead, and were clearly associated with life – he wonders if it could have been loaned by the tribe to be worn as protection by a woman in late pregnancy.

Alternatively he ponders if it could have been a magnificent ornament to give extra value to an animal about to be sacrificed: “It would fit a goat or a sheep,” he said. 

The site and the finder have remained anonymous, but it was reported to the local finds liaison officer through the network of archaeologists recording archaeological discoveries, including treasure which must by law be reported, and voluntary reporting of lower value but historically priceless finds. The Treasure and Portable Antiquities schemes are run through the British Museum, which reported the latest haul of 1,008 treasure objects and 82,272 archaeological finds in England and Wales.