BUFFER TORC

BROIGHTER, CO. DERRY
INSULAR LA TÈNE, 1ST CENTURY BC
GOLD
19.5 CM
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF IRELAND, DUBLIN
 

Perhaps the most frequently cited torc found in Ireland, this object has very elaborate decorative relief of raised S-curves that are connected to one another by small rosettes. The rosettes are on either side of the center of each S-curve, and as the pattern gets closer to the terminals there are snail-shell spirals lined with tiny rosettes. In the center of the rosettes are protruding knobs, which are typical of plastic style ornament. Françoise Henry beautifully and accurately described the design as both complying with and contradicting the laws of symmetry. In order to create the relief design, the craftsman used the repoussé technique on the flat sheets of gold. In between the raised decoration are concentric circles that were scratched onto the surface. The buffer torc is composed of sheets of gold that are formed into hollow tubes and bent into semicircles. On the ends of each tube are terminals through which cylinders penetrate, terminating in a mortice and tenon closure, an intricate locking device.

The torc was found with several other gold objects, including a modeled boat in Broighter in 1896 during land ploughing. Because the hoard was found in a flood plain not far from the old coastline, and because the objects were probably already old when deposited, it is believed that objects were used as votive offerings rather than as personal adornment. Archaeologist Warner suggest that the Celts dedicated the hoard to their sea god. Until recently, the integrity of the Broighter hoard had been undermined by a tale that described that torc as having been found in an umbrella. Archeologists speculated that the hoard was deposited by robbers, and doubts remained until gold analysis proved that the gold is characteristic of Irish La Tène objects.

Scholars have presented conflicted arguments regarding the origin of this torc. For instance it has been suggested that the torc was imported from northwestern Europe and that the boat was imported from India. Henry, however, claims that the torc was produced in a native workshop. After much deliberation, archaeologists have reached a consensus that the design is indeed native, but that the terminals were imported from Europe and assembled in Ireland. The terminals are very similar to those of European torcs.

 

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