The Iron Age Bling That Would Make You the Torc of the Settlement

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Brocklebank

IN our modern age, it may be the top-of-the-range car in the drive or the new conservatory that lets the neighbours know we are doing rather well for ourselves. In the Iron Age, a gold torc around your neck would make the point no less succinctly.

Historians believe the neckbands are proof that even 100-200 years before the birth of Christ, keeping up with the Joneses was a familiar concern.

Indeed, Dr Fraser Hunter, one of Scotland's foremost Iron Age experts, says such ostentatious displays of wealth could be interpreted as the beginnings of the nation's class structure.

'In this period you are starting to see indiperhaps cations there were differences between certain people and many would want to show off their wealth,' he said. 'One of the ways they made out they were different from other people was by their jewellery and the fine textiles they wore.' There is no doubt the torcs would have attracted many admiring or envious glances among the farming folk in Stirlingshire where they were found.

The owner, who would wear a torc only for 'best', would be able to boast that he commissioned a craftsman to make it specially - or even that the torc originated in a far away land.

Not that he would have had any real concept of France at that time. In Scotland, Iron Age people did not even have a concept of their own nation, only of their locality.

But they knew their bling. And their fine clothes. Dr Hunter said there was a widespread misconception that Iron Age folk wore drab, dull clothing, when in fact it was often extremely colourful. It was the boom age of textiles, the finer and more extravagant the better, for that would indicate expense. Jewellery was all the rage - especially bangles, but not brooches, for Iron Age people had not invented the pin. Nor was the buckle in common use, so belts were formed by tying strips of leather or textile.

Most families relied almost entirely on farming for subsistence but some were more prosperous than others, inheriting more fertile tracts of land. …