Originally created 04/23/04

Trinket found in England could be part of ancient necklace



LONDON -- An ornate trinket found in an English field by a metal detecting enthusiast is probably the missing part of an ancient gold necklace at the British Museum.

But the museum dismissed widespread speculation Wednesday that the ornament belonged to Boudica, a British warrior queen who led a failed rebellion against the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago.

The chunky 2-inch-wide ring, decorated with a swirling motif, was discovered last week by Steve Hammond, 65, a retired chemist scanning a field in Sedgeford in the eastern county of Norfolk.

Hammond found the piece several inches beneath the ground's surface, said Chris Mackie of the Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project, which oversaw Hammond's field walk.

Photos of the trinket appeared to show it is the missing end-ring - or terminal - of a gold torque found in Sedgeford 39 years ago that now belongs to the British Museum, museum spokeswoman Hannah Boulton said. A torque is a twisted metal collar or necklace that was worn by ancient Teutons, Gauls and Britons.

"Our curator hasn't had a close look at the terminal that's been found, but he's reasonably sure that it's the other end" of the torque, Boulton said. "Until it's brought to the museum and fully investigated, we won't know. We're just going on the photos for now."

Hammond, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, told the Daily Mail newspaper that he mainly finds old buttons and shotgun-cartridge ends. "I have been metal detecting for 30 years and this is the most fantastic thing I have ever found," the paper quoted him as saying.

The British Museum has hundreds of torques similar to the broken one found in Sedgeford, which curators believe was buried around 75 B.C. It is 7.3 inches long and "particularly ornate," Boulton said.

It is made from gold wire twisted several times over to form eight separate ropes. The ropes were in turn twisted together to form one thick chain, and hollow gold terminals cast in molds were added at either end.

Many of the British Museum's other torques were found near Sedgeford between 1948 and 1990, including "the Great Torque from Snettisham," which the museum describes as the most famous object from Iron Age Britain.

British newspapers speculated Wednesday that the Sedgeford torque may have belonged to Boudica, queen of the Iceni people, an Iron Age tribe that lived in an area that today includes Norfolk.

Boudica led a revolt against the Roman rule of Britain in A.D. 60-61, about 17 years after the island's conquest. She defeated a Roman army and destroyed the eastern city of Colchester, then the capital of Roman Britain. Her armies then sacked London and Verulamium - now known as St. Albans - before being crushed by the Romans. Boudica is thought to have killed herself with poison.

Boulton dismissed the idea that the Sedgeford torque could have belonged to Boudica, as it was buried more than 100 years before she lived. But she said that it may have been somehow connected to the Iceni.

The newly discovered terminal will be sent to the British Museum for study. After it is evaluated, the museum may buy it.

On the Net:

British Museum: www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk

Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project: http://www.sharp.org.uk/menu.htm