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Welcome to History Buff, a blog for history lovers everywhere! History Buff brings news stories about archaeology from around the world together on one site. From finds in ancient Egypt to new discoveries in anthropology, History Buff wants to know.

Michelle Moran
Historical fiction author


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100 BC - The Snettisham Treasure

The 'Marriage Torc' from Snettisham. The upper part of the terminal of this gold torc shows a stylised human face. Does the main terminal represent a symbolic belly with the gold ring representing the umbilical cord that attaches to the other terminal?

The Snettisham treasure was first discovered in 1948. The field was being ploughed deeper than usual, and in the course of ploughing the ploughman discovered an interesting lump of metal. He took it to the foreman and asked him what it was. The foreman pronounced it to be part of a brass bedstead: and thus a gold torque - now one of the finest treasures in the Norwich Museum - lay for a week by the side of the field. Then more fragments of metal turned up and a local businessman recognised it as an antiquity, and took it to Norwich Museum where the keeper, Rainbird Clark, confirmed its importance. They returned to the field and the brass bedstead was recognised as being a gold torque.

Excavations were carried out in the vicinity and the sites of the hoards were discovered, shallow pits, numbered A B and C. From now onwards, every time the field was ploughed the ploughman was on the lookout for discoveries. Finds were made in 1950, 1964, 1968 and 1973.

By this time it was assumed that everything that was to be found had already been ploughed up, and there was nothing more left to discover. Thus when Squadron Leader Hodder in 1989 sought permission from the estate to use his metal detector in the field, permission was readily granted. At first he found little, though there were traces of metal fragments and one or two gold coins. However on 25th August 1990 he struck lucky. It was the Friday of the Bank Holiday Weekend, and he found something very interesting. Finding that the archaeologists were not present at the unit over the weekend and fearing that he should not leave his hole open, he decided to uncover it himself. It turned out to be a large pile of scrap metal all in a bronze container.

This suggested that there might be further hoards in the field, below the level of the plough, but vulnerable to the new power of the metal detector. The British Museum were called in, and Dr Ian Stead launched intensive excavations which have revealed five further hoards, have more than doubled the number of finds .

Mr Hodder s hoard is labelled hoard F. This was unusual in that it was a scrap hoard, that is a hoard of objects collected waiting to be re-cycled in the melting pot. But the next five hoards were repository hoards, in which treasures had been deposited for safe-keeping.

The big surprise was that three of the pits were double pits with two compartments one on top of the other. It seemed almost as if this was an anti-treasure hunter device designed so that a looter who found the upper pit would not think of digging down for the lower pit underneath. The objects were placed in a very definite order, for in each case the most precious torque was at the top of the lower installment.

By this time the British Museum team had cleared nearly quarter of an acre by hand down to the natural. They had been hoping to find evidence for Iron Age activity, but all they found - apart from the hoards - were the bottoms of half a dozen Neolithic pits. They therefore decided to use a box scraper to remove the plough soil over a somewhat larger area.

Finally, on the last day of the excavation, they hit gold, literally. This was Hoard L. The upper compartment consisted of a small nest of 7 silver and bronze torques. Then in a corner of the shallow pit, there was an opening to a larger pit which had the richest treasure of all. There were 2 bronze bracelets at the top, then two silver torques and finally ten gold torques: it was an unforgettable sight.

The most fantastic excavation photo of all. Hoard L , twelve torcs, gleaming with gold and silver as they were found in a pit in the ground.