Rare 3,000-year-old golden torc unveiled to the public in Belfast

Dr Jim McAreevy, National Museums Northern Ireland, with he 3,000-year-old gold torc. Picture: Alan Lewis

A rare 3,000-year-old piece of gold jewellery unearthed in bogland by an amateur treasure hunter has been unveiled to the public at its new home — the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

The golden torc was dug up in Co Fermanagh four years ago by a local man who at first thought it was a spring from a car engine.

It was another two years before Ronnie Johnston figured it was rather more significant after noticing something similar in a treasure hunters’ magazine.

The item was subsequently declared a valuable artefact at a special treasure inquest at Northern Ireland Coroner’s Court and ultimately purchased by Stormont’s Department of Culture, Arts, and Leisure.

It has been hailed by experts as one of the most spectacular single items of prehistoric gold jewellery ever found in Ireland.

Dr Jim McGreevy, director of collections and interpretation at National Museums Northern Ireland, said the torc was a stunning addition to the museum’s Bronze Age collection.

“We are delighted that this beautiful piece of ancient jewellery, of which there are only nine other examples from Ireland, can now be enjoyed by visitors to the Ulster Museum.

“While we will never know who owned the torc, they clearly had access to a highly sought after item that was fashionable in Ireland, Britain, and France between 1300-1100BC.”

In its present condition the torc could not be worn as it has been deliberately coiled, appearing rather like a large spring. But it was originally designed to form a large circular hoop with two connections at either end. These are believed to have acted as interlocking clasps to allow it to be fastened and unfastened.

Only one other torc in Ireland has been deliberately coiled before burial, a practice more common in southern Britain. Some suggest it was buried when the owner died and the coiling a type of “decommissioning” so it could no longer be worn.


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