What are Portable Antiquities?; The Great Torc; Stonehenge. England.

What are Portable Antiquities?

Portable Antiquities are items and artefacts that can be moved around and are not fixed in place.

Over the years the general public have found huge amounts of portable antiquities and some of these are sold or kept in private collections. Although through moving the items a large amount of information about its past, relation in the landscape and evidence to its history are lost, by recording and documenting them we can research the items and still gain some valuable information.

Hoard of Iron Age Coins ©Portable Antiquities Scheme
Hoard of Iron Age Coins
©Portable Antiquities Scheme

People remove items for all sorts of reasons – digging a new veggie or flower patch in the garden, metal detectors, people out walking – and in most cases it is better that the item is removed as it may be stolen or destroyed by others unaware of its situation.

The British Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) is a programme set up after the Treasure Act of 1996 was introduced in Britain. It encourages people who have found items to register them so they can be further researched.

The PAS have a database which now has over 1 million items registered. That is 1 million items that we may not have known about had the Scheme not been in place. The PAS also supply information to owners of antiquities, and this includes

  • How to conserve what you find
  • How to store your items
  • How to properly clean and protect your items
  • How to display your items
Silver Tot Ring ©Portable Antiquities Scheme
Silver Tot Ring
©Portable Antiquities Scheme

The PAS also keep an eye on the illicit sale of our history by working in partnership with sites like eBay, making sure people are not selling items they find, which means our history is lost forever.

Check out the awesome work the PAS do at The Portable Antiquities Scheme



  • Hoard of Iron Age Coins – ©Portable Antiquities Scheme from London, England [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Silver Tot Ring – ©Portable Antiquities Scheme [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.



Archaeology Wow!! – The Great Torc

The Great Torc is one of many items found at the village of Snettisham in Norfolk, England, in 1950 when a field was being ploughed. The items found together are called the Snettisham Hoard and included torcs, bracelets, jet and metal. The greatest piece is the Great Torc. The date for the Hoard has been estimated at c.75 BC.

The Great Torc ©Johnbod
The Great Torc

The torc is a neck ring that is open at the front. They were in use between the 8th century BC and the 3rd century AD. They are made of gold and silver elements which is complicated and required great skill. The Great Torc is made by 8 small threads of gold twisted together, done 8 times. Then the 8 small ropes twisted together to form the torc. The ends, which are cast in moulds, were added after this was done and show elaborate craftsmanship.

The Snettisham Hoard included 75 complete examples of torcs, with 6 styles. They were found within the site of an oval enclosure covering 8 hectares but it is not known what the relationship is between the hoard and the Iron Age site.

Torcs are beleived to have been a sign of status and to have symbolic significance. The Roman writer Cassius Dio wrote (6.2.4) that Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni Tribe who ruled the area where the hoard was found, wore one around her neck.

The name Torc comes from the Latin torques which means to twist.


  • Harding. D. W. 2007. The Archaeology of Celtic Art. Oxon: Routledge.
  • Megaw. R., & Megaw. J. V. S. 2005. Early Celtic Art in Britain and Ireland. Oxon: Osprey Publishing.
  • The Great Torc – ©Johnbod (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons



Archaeological Site Guide – Stonehenge, England

Stonehenge is probably the most famous archaeological site in the world. Situated in the county of Wiltshire in England, the site has drawn attraction, speculation and mythology through time.

Facing NE From Inside Stonehenge ©Wiki Commons
Facing NE From Inside Stonehenge
©Wiki Commons

The site dates back to the Neolithic period and some postholes that were beleived to be the first on the site date back to 8000 BC. Stonehenge is set within a landscape that is full of Neolithic and Bronze Age sites, some still being discovered to this day.

The remains of Stonehenge consist of a ring of stones which was once surrounded by a ditch and back. Archaeologists believe it was constructed over a number of different periods.

Phase 1 – c.3100 BC, bank and ditch added measuring around 110m diameter.

Stonehenge Phase 1 ©Wiki Commons
Stonehenge Phase 1
©Wiki Commons

Phase 2 – c. 3000 BC, postholes uncovered from a timber structure

Phase 3 I – c.2600 BC, a stone circle of 80 bluestones was added to the centre of the site,  transported from Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Phase 3 II – 2600-2400 BC, 30 large sarsen stones  added to make a 33m diameter circle which had 30 lintels resting on top. They were on average 1.1m thick and there was 1 metre between each stone. Five trilithons stood outside of the circle which measured 13.7m across. There was a gap at one side which gave it a horseshoe shape.

Phase 3 III – 2400-2280 BC, the original bluestones were placed back on the site just within the outer circle of large sarsen stones.

Phase 3 IV – 2280-1930 BC, the blue stones were rearranged and spaced between the two sarsen rings.

Phase 3 V – 1930-1600 BC, part of the blue stone circle was removed.

1600 BC onwards – Two concentric rings were cut outside of the sarsen stones,  X ring had 30 holes and Z ring was cut with 29 holes.

Plan of Stonehenge ©Wiki Commons
Plan of Stonehenge
©Wiki Commons

There are many stories around the building and development of this amazing archaeological site. Folklore, mythology and rumour have all had their say in its building and uses.

Stonehenge is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a Scheduled Ancient Monument and under the care of the National Trust. Their new visitors centre is well worth a visit, especially to see how the British army used the site to train soldiers for the First World War – adding yet more interesting facts to the already famous site.

Recent archaeological investigations have revealed a complex of more circles within the landscape. Further investigations suggest that the site had a roof. One thing is for sure, the history of Stonehenge is fascinating and each year gives us more clues about its amazing past!



  • The Stonehenge Riverside Project – https://web.archive.org/web/20081026122920/http://www.shef.ac.uk/archaeology/research/stonehenge.
  • English Heritage – Stonehenge – http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge.
  • Stonehenge secrets revealed by underground map – http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-29126854.
  • Plan of Stonehenge – ©http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stonehenge_plan.jpg#filehistory


Great Books to Read…….


Great Web Pages to Look At…….


Activity – Word Search 19 December 2014

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