A torc, also spelled torq or torque, is a large, usually rigid, neck ring typically made from strands of metal twisted together. The great majority are open-ended at the front, although many seem designed for near-permanent wear and would have been difficult to remove. Smaller torcs worn around the wrist are called bracelets instead. 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. The Celtic torc disappears in the Migration Period, but during the Viking Age torc-style metal necklaces came back into fashion.
Terminology and definition 
The word comes from Latin torquis (or torques), from torqueo, "to twist", because of the twisted shape of the collar. The ends of ancient torcs typically bore sculpted ornaments, frequently globes, cubes, or animal heads, and, less commonly, human figures. The body of the necklace was usually but not always wrapped. Although they were most often neck rings, there were also bracelets with this shape. Basic torcs were made from intertwined metal rods, or "ropes" of twisted wire, usually gold or bronze, less often silver, iron or other metals, but elaborate examples, sometimes hollow, used a variety of techniques.
The torc first appears in Scythian art from the Early Iron Age, introduced to Celtic Europe around 500 BC (see also Thraco-Cimmerian). An early Scythian torc is part of the Pereshchepina hoard of the 7th century BC. Later examples are found in the Tolstaya burial and the Karagodeuashk kurgan (Kuban area), both dating to the 4th century BC.
It also has predecessors in gold necklaces of the European Bronze Age, which are sometimes also called "torcs", for example, the three 12th–11th-century BC specimens found at Tiers Cross, Pembrokeshire, Wales, and the Milton Keynes Hoard, which contained two large examples.
Celtic torcs 
Depictions of the gods and goddesses of Celtic mythology frequently show them wearing torcs. The famous Roman copy of the original Greek sculpture The Dying Gaul depicts a wounded Gaulish warrior naked except for a torc. Examples have been discovered in Europe during archaeological surveys.
In roughly the 3rd to 1st centuries BC some very elaborately worked torcs with relief decoration in a late form of La Tène style have been found in Britain and Ireland. A famous 1st-century BC example is the Snettisham Torc found in northwestern Norfolk in England, while the single hollow torc in the Broighter Gold hoard is the finest example of this type from Ireland, also 1st century BC. The Stirling Hoard, a significant, rare find of four gold torcs dating from the 3rd–1st century BC was discovered in a field in Stirlingshire, Scotland, in September 2009. The hoard may have belonged to a noble of high status, possibly the chieftain of what would become the Pictish Caledonii people. Such burials are likely to be either buried with the owner or a votive sacrificial offering to the gods.
Another example from the 1st century BC is the Winchester Hoard, which was built in the Iron Age style but using Roman "technology", hence suggesting it may have been a "diplomatic gift" from a Roman to a British tribal king.
It was said by some authors that the torc was an ornament for women until the 4th century BC, when it became an attribute of warriors.
A very late example of a torc used as ceremonial item in early Medieval Wales can be found in the writings of Gerald of Wales. The author wrote that there still existed a certain royal torc that had once been worn by Prince Cynog ap Brychan of Brycheiniog (fl. 492 AD) and was known as Saint Kynauc's Collar. Gerald encountered and described this relic first-hand while travelling through Wales in 1188. Of it he says, "it is most like to gold in weight, nature, and colour; it is in four pieces wrought round, joined together artificially, and clefted as it were in the middle, with a dog's head, the teeth standing outward; it is esteemed by the inhabitants so powerful a relic, that no man dares swear falsely when it is laid before him." It is of course possible that this torc long pre-dated the reign of Prince Cynog and was a much earlier relic that had been recycled during the British Dark Ages to be used as a symbol of royal authority. This treasure is now sadly lost.
Torcs are also found buried with women, for example, the gold torc from the La Tène period chariot burial of a princess, found in Waldalgesheim, Germany, and another found in a woman's grave at Reinheim. Another La Tene example was found as part of a hoard buried near Erstfeld. The famous heavy silver "bull torc" found in Trichtingen, Germany, dates to the 2nd century BC.
The torc was a sign of nobility and high social status and possibly a divine attribute, since some depictions of Celtic gods wear one or more torcs. Images of the god Cernunnos wearing one torc around his neck, with torcs hanging from his antlers or held in his hand, have been found.
The Roman Titus Manlius in 361 BC challenged a Gaul to single combat, killed him, and then took his torc. Because he always wore it, he received the nickname Torquatus (the one who wears a torc). After this, Romans adopted the torc as a decoration for distinguished soldiers and elite units during Republican times.
The Snettisham Hoard, perhaps the stock of a goldsmith, c. 75 BC
The Snettishham Torc
Northern Galician torcs.
Northern Gallaeci torc (Artabri type). Archaeological Museum of A Coruña, Galicia.
Torc from Burela, Galicia. Museo Provincial de Lugo.
Gold Celtic torc found in Vix, France, 480 BC.
See also 
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- The Illyrians by J. J. Wilkes, 1992, ISBN 0-631-19807-5, page 223, "Illyrian chiefs wore heavy bronze torques"
- Jim Cornish, Elementary: Viking Hoards, on the Centre for Distance Learning & Innovation Website
- Art Saved: Three Bronze Age Torcs, on the Art Fund Website
- "Treasure Annual Report 2000". Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2001. pp. 13–15; 133. Retrieved 2010-07-26.
- Roman Silver Torque with Two Roman Denarii Pendants (late 1st-3rd century AD), on Ancient Touch Website
- Wade, Mike (2009-11-04). "1m golden hoard rewrites history of ancient Scotland". The Times (London). Retrieved 2010-05-25.
- Alberge, Dalya (8 September 2003). "Golden hoard of Winchester gives up its secret". The Times. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
- "Treasure Annual Report 2000". Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2001. pp. 16–18;133. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
- Vision of Britain: Gerald of Wales, The Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin through Wales, Chapter 2
- Iron Age Western Europe from c. 800 B.C. - La Tène, on the Images from World History Website
- Cicero, De Officiis, III, 31