How to make a Celtic torc| Curator’s Corner Season 1 Episode 7

How to make a Celtic torc| Curator’s Corner Season 1 Episode 7


Hello, I’m Julia Farley I’m the curator of the European Iron Age collections
at the British Museum. And welcome to my corner. One of my favourite things about the job that
I do as the curator of the Iron Age collections
is that I get to share with all of you guys the things that I know and that I’ve gradually
been learning about all of the incredible objects that are
in the collections of the British Museum. Particularly Iron Age and Roman gold and silver
working and some of the objects that I was interested
in learning about how they were made are torcs or big metal neck rings like this
one. I’m able to pick this one up in my hands and
be quite relaxed with it because this isn’t part of our collection, this is actually an object which I made. And I wanted to learn about what was needed
if you’re starting from first principles to make a neck ring like this. And this one is just about the simplest kind
of torc that you can get. I wanted to be able to demonstrate for you
how I made it, it took quite a long time and I started with
casting a bar of bronze. The Iron Age ones tend to be made of gold
and silver, but it turns out that those are quite expensive
metals to work with, particularly if you’re just beginning. So I went with bronze, cheaper alternative, though actually slighter harder to work with, it’s a much stiffer metal and harder to forge. So you cast out an ingot and once that’s cooled down then you hammer it into a long thick piece
of wire or rod. And then forged out we think with a square section so you can hammer down
one side, rotate, hammer down the other side, rotate, hammer down the other side, until you’re gradually forging out this square
piece of wire. One of the things that this made me realise, is how incredibly difficult it is to make
wire by hand in this way and I may have given up in the end and done some of this iron making on a rolling
mill, which they wouldn’t of had in the Iron Age because its a very very labour intensive task and I think it really made me realise, all
of these things are not one person jobs, so everything from smelting that copper, where you’ve got to be keeping your bellows
going for a very very long time to maintaining the furnace, keeping all of the charcoal ready and to hand and keeping your temperatures ready for working
objects like this. And doing all of that hammering to make very
very large quantities of very very standard wire, some of these are quite easy jobs, some are
very skilled jobs but all of them are jobs that would require
quite a large number of people to actually be able to produce several different
objects. The next step once you have a piece like this, you need to have two pieces and so the first thing to do then, is to bend
the ends of each one round in to a loop, by taking your thicker rod and hammering it
over something called a mandrel, which is a kind of conical piece that you
can hammer on to. So I’m just bending that round into two little
loops at the end and these are going to make the kind of loops
that we see on the finished torc terminal there. Ok, so we’ve more or less got one and another one that I made earlier, so you then take these, these are not particularly
well matched but hopefully you’ll get the idea. And the next step in making this is to clamp
together two of those opposing loops, so you can start to see how those are going
to become those there on a much larger scale. And the next thing to do would be to twist
this, and by twisting and twisting and twisting, those pair terminals there together, you gradually build up a twist which runs
all the way down the wires. So once you’ve put the twist in, the next thing to do is just very simply to
bend the torc round and you can see then that you end up with
something like this. We don’t know a huge amount about how they
were worn or who wore them because in Britain in particular we don’t
have very many graves from the Iron Age and so we don’t have burials with people wearing
torcs. When we do find torcs like this, they tend
to be found in hoards and this means that we just get a big group
of objects like this, perhaps pieces of ancient jewelry, pieces
of metal working waste and pieces of chopped up items like this deposited
together in a pit. And that’s where a lot of the material from
Snettisham in Norfolk where the torc that I based this one on comes
from. So that kind of information by itself and we can look at the objects and say that
they were worn, but we can’t say who wore them or whether
they were worn only for special occasions or whether even they were worn everyday. Some of the torcs that we have I think probably
were not for everyday wear. I’ve explained that I’ve based my replica
on the simplest torc that you can get, but I have another replica which I would like
to show you, which is a little bit more complex and not
one that I made. This is an electrotype of the Snettisham great
torc, so it’s from the same site. Rather than being made up as mine was of just two twisted together large thick wires, this is made up of sixty four strands of gold
alloy wire and that created this incredible neck ring. And at the ends here, what we call the terminals you can see these are incredibly complex, and they’ve been directly casted on to the
ends of the wire and in this particular one, as I’ve said it’s
an electrotype so here this ends have actually been soldered
on, but on the original, our scientists here at
the museum have studied it and they’ve realised that actually this part
of the terminal was cast directly on to the ends and this here being added as a little collar
to cover up that join. And the way that you would have to go about
casting something like that on, so if i wanted to cast on a more decorative
terminal to the one that I made, I would put something like a material like
wax which could be melted a way on to the terminals and I would mould it up and carve it into
the shape that I wanted the final terminal to take. And then around that wax I would pack clay
with little funnels into which I can pour metal as that’s going
to happen in a moment and a little hole for the wax to escape from, you then heat up that whole mould and the
wax drains out, it melts with the heat leaving a void where you want to have that
metal go in. You then have your molten metal in a crucible and you can pour that into the mould that
you have created, when you then break away the clay mould you will have on there the terminal that you
wanted to cast on. This is an incredibly complicated process
and it can go wrong quite easily, not necessarily because you done something
very wrong but just because its quite a tricky process
to get right. If you imagine trying to cast on something
as complicated as that terminal on to all of this incredibly
precious wire that would have been really daunting and quite
a daring thing to do. I used to be, when I first looked at this
object, I’ve always thought it was a brilliant object, it’s one of the real star pieces in our Iron
Age gallery, I always just used to look at the terminals
and I used to look at this decoration, this fabulous engraving that you can see on
here, and this is an example of what today we quite
often call Celtic art or La Tène art. But now that I’ve done some actual metal working, the thing that I really look at most now when
I see this object is all of this wire because for me it was so difficult, physically
taxing and very very difficult to get the very simple,
very thick wire that I made to be even and to look nice. The idea of creating this much wire, hammering
it all out by hand and making it so accurately refined and so
standerised across the entire length, to me that’s absolutely incredible and I think that its quite easy to look at
something like that now and it looks quite simple and quite rope like and we can forget all of the hours and hours
of work that must of gone into making it, so for me that was something really important
that I got from actually making things was realising what goes into this from first
principles and not just taking the finished object for
granted, but thinking about the people who made these
objects and what it must of meant for them to make them, and also to wear and to use them as well.

100 thoughts on “How to make a Celtic torc| Curator’s Corner Season 1 Episode 7

  1. Now you know how to make a torc, you might be wondering how you would actually wear it? Never fear, Julia has that topic covered too: http://blog.britishmuseum.org/how-do-you-put-on-a-torc/

  2. I, too, was fascinated with the artistry and complexity of some of the jewelry when I saw the King Tut exhibit decades ago in Seattle. I was especially taken with a very small piece showing a man sitting with his knees up, feet flat and hands on his knees. The detail blew me away. Tiny fingernails and toenails. Then I went to the gift shop where there was a replica and it wasn't even close to the original. It made me realize how much time and effort someone spent making the figurine.

  3. Craftsmanship is something even time cannot overcome sometimes! Your work was nice for your first. As an artist I suggest anyone and everyone try some. Then consider the labor and love that went into something you've created the next time you try to buy hand crafted items and not haggle for a cheaper price. Keeping this in mind as well. An artists best work is created when there mind and heart are at their lightest and full of pure good energy and blessings for its new owner.

  4. okay, it's very big, but if it wasn't so big wouldn't it look like a bracelet?🤔🤔🤔 if you watch a lot of YouTube videos you see stuff about Giants back for the Iron Age. I'm just saying, that thing looks a whole lot like a bracelet.😐😑😐

  5. I love that Julia did some smithing. Nice work, she has my respect. You can really appreciate a craft and understand it intimately if you experience it first hand. Sadly there are too many historians who never try this and only read about a subject in question. Living history is far more exciting and engaging.

  6. Very informative, thanks so much! I would love to see a video on one of the many examples of trichinpoloy chain that are in the museum! 🙂

  7. The big one makes me think it was meant for ceremony more than accessory. That's a lot of material to be hanging around your neck, and represents a substantial portion of a given village's wealth.

  8. Am I'm too am bloody am idle to am make this am myself so I am use am modern tools am and then am going to am explain to am you the am EXACT methods that am I am am guessing that they am used. What a load of ,am crap. Am.

  9. OK I'm not going to apologise for my former comment , but this is exactly what is wrong with the modern myth of history. If people of modern times can't be bothered to make the effort to creat objects, then why would they have done them in past times?. Let this "so called" expert and her colleages explain to me (while making minimal physical effort), how the monumental blocks at Baalbek were put in place. They cannot- full stop. When these people loose their cowardice and admit that they have no idea what went on in the past, please wake me up.

  10. I would suggest the metal workers had "draw plates" to make wire.  Consider they had draw plates for Arrow shafts? Why not for uniform wire?

  11. She looks like she chews in rocks .. that lower jaw and mouth make the stone eater from Never Ending Story jealous.

  12. Just imagine if the Romans never conquard Britain then there wouldn't have been any British Romans inviting Saxon to help them fight the picts and Irish because they had warriors to do the fighting for them selves. So modern native brits welsh,cornish and bretons kings would be wearing the torc as there crowns not the traditional head crowns they were today..

  13. They're slave collars. Slip a rope through the ends and now your slave is leashed. Used by traders displaying their wares and to decorate your property.

  14. First time hearing of this item, in this manner. I have not looked into farther than this video yet,,,so this is a gut instinct in this one initial explanation… her statement of these torcs being found in rubbish pile, instantly I thought of animals,,,why is the use with animals not considered ?

  15. The whole way through all I kept thinking was, yes but how did you manage to bend it so well and without it loosing its shape and becoming drawn out… then she pulls out the gold one and my brain blue-screened.

  16. I like to think it was used for a handshake alternative to symbolize some sort of consensus or for slaves that were really tough.

  17. im not sure when they were first used by smiths but there is a very simple tool called a draw plate that was used for wire sizing. It is purely a plate with an ever shrinking pattern of holes in it through which you pass or rather pull the wire. This action draws the diameter of the wire down and stretches it out slightly each time. It also leaves the wire uniform in shape so that can explain why in the last example all the wire looks exactly like the others. Its worth a search here on youtube to see this tool in action for illustration purposes. @alecsteele a good young english smith has a video on using one for the first time to draw out some gold to use as a wire wrapped inlay on a sword grip. If the celts knew of this tooling method then it could help you further understand the tooling process of making jewellery in that time period to present day.

  18. Hard to say but making even sized wire for hundreds of meters is pretty hard. Was it rolled or hammered to be ecual sized by eye? Lost wax method you would have to have gold of how much? 1 kilo? Maybe the Louhi made them in Finland.

  19. They must have had draw plates, imagine rolling all the wire for chainmail armor by hand i dont think all the thin wire would have been hammered out by hand

  20. Seems like it would be difficult to wear. Too big and it might fall off or too small and you would not be able to put it on (or take it off). Were they soft enough (gold/silver) that you could bend them when putting them on or taking them off?

  21. This girl is not worth whatever they’re paying her
    1) she only showed replicas… then talked about them like they were old!?!?
    2) lazy did a craft project, got lazy and didn’t finish it 🤯 then cheated to make something that doesn’t look like a real one 🤯 great job, you need to find a new profession because you suck at this one.
    3) could you possibly show us one of the things you’re actually a curator of!?!? Or is that asking too much!?!?🤯

    Somebody fire this jackass

  22. As usual, this was a great video. I had never heard of this kind of cup, but that would have been so funny. Thanks again.

  23. When you examine the thin gold wire does it show evidence of hammering? Is the gold work-hardened in the process? It looks so uniformly thin. Is it possible that in the final stages it was drawn through a bronze wire die? I suppose you'd have found some examples of wire dies by now. EDIT oops. I've just seen almost the same comment below.

  24. Its not just old crusty antiques in the British museum apparently, there's some very beautiful newer exhibits to look at.

  25. ..my wife went walking by and said is that another of your girlfriends.I was studying Minoans like a decade ago and watching a lot of Bettany Hughes. Now she hates every woman with a British accent. How does she know I have a thing for the British girls/accent.

  26. This shows you the time in those days wasn't as precious as it is today.. people obviously had time to work on things like that and make them perfect…. especially in this mass produce world we live in.. everyone wants things now.. truly amazing workmanship…

  27. Thank you for the vid. Having made one torc from copper, softer metal & yes, they are time consuming. I would hazard a guess that like blacksmiths the metal would be red hot. Cooled before pulling & twisting. The act of twisting would then, not only be easier, but also harden the metal.

  28. The apprentice/master relationship is responsible for much of the labor intensive work we see in ancient times. A young man would "sell" his labor for being taught a trade. This is still used in some areas of industry such as welding, which I myself was an apprentice.

  29. How many men helped her make the torc I wonder, after trying to lift a hammer and giggling she would have stood around sipping tea and checking her iPhone. Please stay in the kitchen ladies, you only embarass yourselves.

  30. I think that today, we are so far removed from the the everyday objects we use that we dont even stop to consider how it's made, what it's made of or even who made it. We just see that it is and that we use it.

  31. There's no such thing as a celtic torc, it's a British torc

    Everyone living in Britain is British so its everyones torc

  32. Once you get the wire down to a 1/2'" or so, you start pulling thru a piece of metal that has succeedingly smaller holes drilled in it, and you pull wire thru that. You don't hammer it all the way. Then on her way out she virtue signals.

  33. Is there more information on the actual way the makers of these torcs produced wire? They must have had a more efficient method, right?

  34. Hmm. Having watched a few of these terrific videos, being a history buff, it is apparent that there are few men curators at the museum. Since these women are very young, I can infer that the men were either let go, or no men were hired to fill vacancies as they came open.
    Feminism uber alis.

  35. Atleast she''s honest, if she had claimed she managed to hand make that i'd have called BS. Hard to imagine how strong an old world blacksmith was.

  36. You think you gave up in the end. I see at least one lie in that sentence. You gave up on a task a bronze age man could do with his 👁‍🗨 👁‍🗨 🧘‍♂️ closed! History is all wrong and only truth will reveal its secrets! Let's be more honest with each other England! My history was wiped and looted by you! Your history is a horrible replacement that makes little sense to my kin!

  37. Very interesting. Torcs come in various styles, and from various Celtic tribes. Their purpose has been controversial, but I believe they provided the wearer protection against a weapon attack upon their neck. The weapon, generally a sword would have to be parallel to the torc to pierce the neck, otherwise the torc would block the striking weapon . The torc would also provide protection against an animal attack upon the neck, but this would be a less important use, although the Roman's used attack dogs in some battles. I purchased some ancient bronze torcs at major European auctions about 25 years ago, and there is significant variance amongst them.

  38. lol – many Brits tend to put an "r" on Idea – i.e. Sounds like Idear
    Cracks me up – akin to Southern USA Country dialects.

  39. Isn’t it funny how we put so much effort into items that we only wear on occasion, and we wear super easy to make items far more often.

  40. Believe me when I say this is fascinating to me. And you captured my interest by saying you "made this". But, but I need to physically see you in a shop doing this stuff, not simply talking about it. YES I am sure your employer or the production team dictated the format…but something else is needed. Show & tell, not just tell.( unless I missed something) I fast- forwarded it after the first speaky- bits!

  41. A torc is not a piece of jewellery, you silly British Museum woman, you. If you want to get an inkling of what a torc is, and what it was used for, consult :The Gundestrup Cauldron.

  42. Can you do a video for kids and teens telling the best way to go about it if you want to become a museum curator one day?

  43. Some months ago, i bought a bag of used jewelry to resale, in it there was something like that, but it had swirls and large glass beads. The wire is so think it makes me wonder how it was shaped and hammered.

  44. As an American, every time she said "torc" with her British accent, I thought she was saying "talk" with a British accent.

  45. To me, there is an undeniable similarity between torcs and slave neck-shackles. If you look at some of the "irons" used to shackle slaves in the past (eg. http://stuppid.com/hiring-african-american-slaves/), the basic format of both torcs and shackles are indistinguishable; they both consist of a large metallic ring, intended to be worn around the neck, with perforated lobe like terminals to both ends. The perforated lobes (in the case of slave shackles) permit the insertion of a chain or pin through the perforated lobes, in order to secure the shackle onto the wearer, thereby permanently "shackling" the wearer (until released by the slave "owner"). Shackles have not only been a symbol of slavery throughout history, but have also been codified into symbolic form; that of the MANILLA, which took the form of a stylised slave shackle. Manillas are well attested to being linked to the slave trade, especially in West Africa. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manilla_(money). As torcs bear the almost undeniable shape of slave shackles, but are made of high quality and precious metals, I would assert that essentially torcs were an ancient form of "Manilla" currency or wealth. Both physically (being made of precious metals) but also symbolically.
    If this is the case, it would not have mattered so much symbolically, how the torcs were fabricated and what methods were used in their manufacture. Their value would have been in A) the intrinsic "scrap" value of the metals used in their manufacture and B) the symbolism of the shape of the torc, formed into the stylised form of a slave neck-shackle.

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