Probably one of the rarest Ancient Celtic items we could ever offer is not a weapon but an object of wealth, rank and status for a warrior - a TORC!!! A torc neck ring was as important to an ancient Celt as a baseball hat is to a NASCAR fan! The torc was often the only thing worn in battle by raging ancient Celt warriors, often known for fighting in the nude. This example is more elaborate than most seen in that day as it features a DOUBLE ring terminating to a single end. A very high level of skill in the metal arts would have been required to manufacture this specimen, making it very expensive despite it being in iron. Furthermore, in the Early Iron Age which this could have come from, iron was actually considered a precious object as its circulation in ancient societies was rare.
This is a DOUBLE TORC featuring TWO hand-twisted and wrought iron rings that terminate into ONE twisted end on each side. You can see the variations of the twist in the metal owing to the handwork of the ancient Celt artisan who made this spectacular piece of jewelry. It is amazingly complete which is RARE for ancient iron objects. While Celtic women typically wore gold, and men too, an iron torc like this would have likely been worn by a male warrior. This is the only example we have ever seen for sale, coming from an old German collection dating to before the 1960's. As many of these were broken and offered in rituals to the gods, it is rare to find a complete example. Perfect to display with an array of Ancient Celtic weapons.
Around 2000 B.C., barbarian Celtic tribes invaded Europe. They first inhabited regions across Eastern Europe now known as Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and the Balkans. During the Bronze Age, they move westward and by the Iron Age in the 8th to 5th centuries BC, these tribes make their homes in what is now southwest Germany, eastern France and parts of Switzerland and Austria. This era is known as the Hallstat period named after a Celtic archaeological type-site in a lakeside village in Austria. After that, in the La Tene period, western Europe becomes heavily occupied by the Celts as they invade much of Germany, France, the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), the British Islands and Ireland. After this time, Celtic tribes spread eastward again, moving into northern Italy, Bohemia, Silesia, the Balkans and even into present day Turkey with a tribe called the Galatians establishing a Celtic city called Galatia. During the 1st century BC, the Celts were at the height of their power and were the dominant ethnic group in much of Europe, even ruling over the Germanic tribes. Among the many military victories the ancient Celts can lay claim to are the sacking of the cities of Rome and Delphi.
The Celts were largely a decentralized military aristocracy made up of independent chieftains ruling various geographical regions. They were famous to fight just for the sake of fighting and often, they were employed as mercenaries of the great armies of ancient times. Along with their reputations of chivalry, courage and maniacal bravery, their more aggressive tendencies were offset by a great sensitivity to the arts and philosophy. Highly unusual at the time, the Celts viewed both men AND women with equality, holding women in high regard with their matriarchal religion.
One of the famous works the Celts were known for was their masterful works in metal-smithing. Spectacular works can be found all over Europe left behind by Celtic masters in gold, silver, bronze and later, in iron. Much of the influence of Bronze Age European metal ornament lends itself to the influence Celtic master craftspeople.
A torc, also spelled torq or torque, is a large rigid or stiff neck ring in metal, made either as a single piece or from strands twisted together. The great majority are open at the front, although some had hook and ring closures and a few had mortice and tenon locking catches to close them. Many seem designed for near-permanent wear and would have been difficult to remove. Torcs are found in the Scythian, Illyrian, Thracian, Celtic, and other cultures of the European Iron Age from around the 8th century BC to the 3rd century AD. For the Iron Age Celts the gold torc seems to have been a key object, identifying the wearer as a person of high rank. Many of the finest works of ancient Celtic art are torcs. The Celtic torc disappears in the Migration Period, but during the Viking Age torc-style metal necklaces, now mainly in silver, came back into fashion.
Depictions of the gods and goddesses of Celtic mythology sometimes show them wearing or carrying torcs, as in images of the god Cernunnos wearing one torc around his neck, with torcs hanging from his antlers or held in his hand, as on the Gundestrup cauldron. This may represent the deity as the source of power and riches, as the torc was a sign of nobility and high social status. The famous Roman copy of the original Greek sculpture The Dying Gaul depicts a wounded Gaulish warrior naked except for a torc. One of the earliest known depictions of a torc can be found on the Warrior of Hirschlanden (6th century BC), and a high proportion of the few Celtic statues of human figures, mostly male, show them wearing torcs.
Torcs were clearly valuable, and often found broken in pieces, so being a store of value may have been an important part of their use. With bracelets, torcs are the most important form of Celtic status jewelry, though armlets and anklets were also worn. In contrast, finger-rings were less common among the early Celts. It is thought by some that the torc was mostly an ornament for women until the late 3rd century BC, when it became an attribute of warriors. However, there is evidence for male wear in the early period; in a rich double burial of the Hallstatt period at Hochmichele, the man wears an iron torc and the female a necklace with beads.
Many finds of torcs have been made, especially in groups and in association with other valuables, but not associated with a burial. These are clearly deliberate deposits whose function is unclear. They may have been ritual deposits or hidden for safekeeping in times of warfare. Some may represent the work-in-progress of a workshop. After the early period, torcs are especially prominent in the Celtic cultures reaching to a coast of the Atlantic, from modern Spain to Ireland, and on both sides of the English Channel.