Cover Image: The twisted tale of the Corrard Torc

Niamh Baker
National Museums Northern Ireland

Cover image: Gold torc from Corrard, County Fermanagh. Belum.A2013.1 © National Museums Northern Ireland

The Corrard gold torc is one of the most impressive objects dating to the Middle Bronze Age ever discovered in Ireland. Found in Upper Lough Erne at Corrard, Co. Fermanagh, the torc is an item of jewellery, possibly once worn around the neck or waist. The torc has a gold content of c. 87%, the remaining metals being silver (c. 11%) and copper (c. 2%). Weighing in at 720 g, it must have been regarded as a high status item.

Gold bar torcs of this type date to c. 1300-1100 BC. Most are circular in shape forming a large ring or hoop, which could be opened and closed by two interlocking clasps at either end. There are nine other examples of this specific type of flange twisted torc from Ireland, including the two iconic torcs from Tara, Co. Meath which are on display in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

What makes the Corrard torc remarkable in an Irish context is that at some time in the past the shape of the torc was deliberately coiled to create a spring-like appearance. In its coiled state the torc measures c. 22cm in length and could no longer be worn around the neck, waist or arm. Other examples of coiled torcs have been found in Britain and France.

If not intended to be worn for personal use, it is possible that torcs may have been used as part of a ritual ceremony. The Corrard torc was buried in boggy ground and the coiling may have been an act of ‘decommissioning’, similar to the scenario as seen at Flag Fen, Cambridgeshire, where objects were deliberately broken and bent before being thrown into the water. The coiled shape certainly would have made it easier to transport, hide or bury in the ground.

The word torc is derived from the Latin torquere, ‘to twist’. This does not refer to the coiled spring-like shape but to the main body of the torc, which takes the form of a thin cross-section with four flanges and rounded terminals at each end. Gold is highly malleable and can be worked into this shape from a single square bar of gold by hammering and then twisting to create a spiral ribbon-like appearance. This treatment gives the object its typological name – a four-flange twisted bar torc.

Regardless of its function or reason for burial, the Corrard torc clearly displays the skill of the Bronze Age goldsmith and it reflects access to a highly sought after commodity at this time. Having been buried in Fermanagh for over 3000 years, this piece of Bronze Age gold jewellery was discovered in 2009. It is now in the collection of National Museums NI and on display at the Ulster Museum, Belfast.

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Calendar for EAA Members July-Oct. 2023

  • 12 July: Deadline for last AM bookings cancellation (no refund after this date)
  • 1 August: EAA Student Award submissions deadline
  • 1 August: TEA photo competition submission deadline
  • 2 August: EAA Secretariat sends out ballot papers to current Members
  • 30 August - 2 September: EAA 2023 Annual Meeting in Belfast
  • 1 September 12:00 CEST: Deadline for submitting votes in EAA election
  • 11 September 2023: deadline to publish on EAA web the video recording of the AMBM informal meeting, deadline to provide individualised secured access to an electronic ballot to all Full Individual Members
  • 11 - 15 September 2023: AMBM voting held per rollam
  • 30 September: Attendance certificates available at submission website
  • 1 October: Deadline for sending in articles and announcements for TEA fall issue
  • 2 October 2023: deadline to publish the results of the AMBM voting on the EAA website and by e-mail to all Full Individual Members
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    Behind the Scenes Chat with the EAA: Social Media Editor

    Win Scutt

    Nationality: British
    Institution: English Heritage
    EAA member since: 2017
    Position for EAA: Social Media Editor, 2020-2023

    TEA: Can you tell us a bit more about what a Social Media editor does?

    W. Scutt: It is mainly about posting on the EAA social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Mastodon and YouTube. In part it is to share the work of the EAA with the rest of the world, for example the latest paper in our journal, the European Journal of Archaeology or TEA; or our policy statements, for example our recent statement on Ukraine. We want the EAA to be noticed. We want the EAA to be recognised as the leading organisation for archaeologists in Europe and to be respected and consulted by politicians and influencers. We can share news of our members’ research and of archaeological research and news from the world. So, our social media is primarily outward-facing. We use it, too, to create a buzz before and during our annual meetings, sharing the call for papers and the programme. During our Budapest meeting, our tag #EAA2023 was even trending on Twitter in Hungary!

    TEA: Where you the first person to hold this position for the EAA?

    W. Scutt: Yes. It was a great innovation by the Executive Board under our previous President, Felipe Criado-Boado. I was appointed in June 2020, at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic. I was furloughed by English Heritage, so I had plenty of time to practise some new ideas. Most of our platforms were already established and were being updated by the Secretariat, but engagement was low.

    TEA: How has the job changed since you started?

    W. Scutt: The biggest change has been in the number of followers, many of them movers and shakers inside and outside the world of archaeology. Followers to our six platforms have increased from 14,050 to 35,358. In addition, under Jesper Hansen’s leadership, we have now agreed a wider Communications Strategy, which includes the SoMe strategy.

    TEA: Archaeologists are such a diverse group; can you tell us a bit about what drew you to social media? What is the most important and relevant part of your work for the EAA?

    W. Scutt: Archaeology is too exciting not to be shared with everyone! From the time I started as a museum curator it has always been my ambition to inspire people to take an interest in archaeology. As a sideline, I took up broadcasting with a regular slot on BBC Radio. When I started a 12-year stint as an archaeology correspondent for BBC Radio 5 Live in 2002, it was natural to share my weekly news updates on social media – on Facebook and Twitter, so that they could find out more. Sharing news about archaeology and promoting the EAA has been a great privilege and honour.

    TEA: We understand that you have had quite a diverse career—has it always been archaeology-focused?

    W. Scutt: It was my grandmother who inspired me to follow a life in archaeology. She had travelled with her mother, her aunt Maud and Cornelius (the chauffeur for the Rolls) through Egypt and Palestine in the 1930s. She gave me a collection of Roman and Greek coins which, at the age of 9, I identified and catalogued. I studied under Colin Renfrew at the University of Southampton and excavated with him in Melos, Greece; and supervised excavations at Hambledon Hill. It was my skills in numismatics that got me my first job as a curator in Plymouth Museums; from there to setting up an EU-funded Visitor Centre. But that drew me into the world of tourism and I was invited to set up a new degree course for Plymouth University at a local college. They let me establish a degree course in archaeology in collaboration with the Institute of Field Archaeologists (now CIfA). In 2011, I joined English Heritage as Education Manager and, a year later, as a Properties Curator. After a diversion into museums and then tourism, my career has come full cycle back into field archaeology and conservation.

    TEA: Can you tell us a bit about your future plans?

    W. Scutt: I am enjoying my current role as Senior Properties Curator so much that I am not planning to move on! But, I do want to spend more time publishing my research into prehistoric land division of the landscape around Dartmoor as well as my work on place-names in the landscape.

    TEA: How do you see archaeology changing in the future?

    W. Scutt: During my career, I have noticed how the most fruitful projects have been interdisciplinary. The boundaries between the humanities as well as with the sciences are becoming increasingly blurred. I look forward to them being almost non-existent! – when psychology, linguistics, performance and visual arts, music (and so much more!) intertwine.

    TEA: What/How does archaeology contribute to society at large?

    W. Scutt: It is easy for people to take their cultural identity for granted. At the recent Experimental Archaeology conference in Torun, Poland, I was struck by how important archaeology is to the people of Ukraine, in spite of the far more pressing problems of the war. The physical, emotional and intangible cultural heritage is crucial for all of our different and shared identities.

    TEA: What is the biggest issue facing European archaeology?

    W. Scutt: I think the biggest issue is convincing the general public of the importance of preserving our past from the threat of development and heritage crime as well as the importance of the research which enriches our shared understanding. There is a risk that we archaeologists live in our own bubble, complacent in the belief that others value our heritage as much as we do.

    TEA: What archaeology literature are you reading right now?

    W. Scutt: Although prehistory dominates my reading, I am actually reading a new book about one of the English Heritage sites I curate “Wroxeter: Ashes under Uricon” by Roger White. It is a wonderful exploration of historic perceptions through poetry, images and texts of one of Roman Britain’s largest cities.

    TEA: Describe your workspace in five words or less.

    W. Scutt: A cupboard and a view

    TEA: If you could have a conversation with any archaeologist living or dead, who would it be, and what would you choose as the topic?

    W. Scutt: I have had so many interesting and challenging conversations with Colin Renfrew, but I will never have enough! And it is usually about language in prehistory.

    TEA: If you could go back in time, would you go? Where and when?

    W. Scutt: A causewayed enclosure in southern Britain in 3600 BCE.

    TEA: Any advice to new archaeologists just starting out/joining the EAA?

    W. Scutt: Engage with the media! Ask your local radio station if they would like a regular feature on archaeology. Radio is hungry for archaeology! And so is TV.

    TEA: What is your favourite part of your job?

    W. Scutt: Meeting fellow archaeologists on excavations.

    TEA: Do you go to archaeological sites on vacation, or do you do other things?

    W. Scutt: Yes, as many sites as I can fit in without my wife realising – until it is too late!

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    Images courtesy of W. Scutt