After 20 Years, Amateur Metal Detecting Friends Find the Oldest Iron Age Gold Jewelry in Britain
Two amateur treasure seekers have unearthed extremely valuable jewelry which is speculated to be the oldest Iron Age gold ever discovered in England. The four torcs – three necklaces and one bracelet – were found separately about a meter (3 ft.) apart and buried just beneath the surface of a farmland by Mark Hambleton and Joe Kan.
The Amateur Treasure Hunters Couldn’t Believe Their Eyes
The collection, which is now called the “Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs,” was discovered in December 2016 on a farmland within the parish of Leekfrith, in the Staffordshire Moorlands, England. Ironically, the two metal detecting friends discovered this hoard of amazing quality Iron Age gold jewelry, after returning to Staffordshire which they had previously searched unsuccessfully, to the point they decided to change their hobby and turn to fishing for nearly two decades now. As Mr Hambleton, 59, said and the Belfast Telegraph reports:
"I'd had enough, I'd taken my detector off and packed up. He (Joe) shouted to me 'I think I've found something quite significant'. He pulled this big torc out of his pocket, and dangled it in front of me. When I'd got some air back into my lungs, my head had cleared and my legs had stopped wobbling, I said 'do you realise what you've found there?"
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He went on to “confess” that he kept the collection by his bed overnight until they could report it. The next day, he delivered the gold over to experts at Birmingham, and archaeologists were brought in to investigate the finds site by Staffordshire County Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
The collection has been named the Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs. (Staffordshire County Council)
The Unique 2,500-Year-Old Find is of International Importance
Archaeologists suggest that the Iron Age torcs were probably made in modern-day Germany or France during the 3rd or 4th century BC. Experts examining the treasures can’t be sure why the items were buried, but they speculate that they could have been buried for safekeeping or as an offering to the gods.
Two of the pieces, a collar and a bracelet, are designed of twisted gold wire. The bracelet features stunning Celtic decorations, which are considered to be some of the earliest Celtic art from Britain.
One of the gold torcs which was discovered on Staffordshire farmland by Joe Kania and Mark Hambleton. (Staffordshire Council/PA)
Dr. Julia Farley, curator of British & European Iron Age collections for the British Museum, told Belfast Telegraph,
"This unique find is of international importance. 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."
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To the question if there could be more finds awaiting discovery, Dr. Farley added: "It's hard to know - we'll never know unless people find things."
An official appraisal of the treasures will soon take place, but a fund-raising campaign is expected to be launched within weeks in order to secure the jewelry for permanent public display. For their discovery, the two incredibly lucky friends will split the find 50/50 with landowner Stuart Heath, as Daily Mail reported.
Top Image: The Leekfrith Torcs. Source: StaffordshireCC/CC BY SA 4.0