Blair Drummond Hoard

The Amazing Blair Drummond Hoard

In September 2009, a novice metal detectorist was on his first treasure-hunting outing, using a basic detector.  He had previously decided that a location on the Blair Drummond Estate had potential, and obtained the land-owner’s permission.

He parked his car and before heading off, did a quick with the detector nearby.  Within a few steps he had a signal on the metal detector  Expecting large nails or other junk, David dug down and 15-20 cm below the surface he found four interesting looking curved objects, buried close together.  He took them home, washed them and went onto the Internet to investigate his find.

Suspecting that he had indeed found treasure, he completed a form on the Scottish Treasure Trove website and sent a photograph to the Scottish Treasure Trove Unit at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.  Dr Fraser Hunter at the museum said he “almost fell off his seat” when he first saw photographs of the discovery the next morning.  He confirmed that the four items were Iron Age gold torcs, dating from between 300 and 100 BC.

Within a few hours, museum staff were at the site for an initial look at the site  Subsequent archaeological investigations at the site exposed the remains of a prehistoric wooden roundhouse, where the torcs had been buried, but found no more artefacts. The building did not appear to have features such as a hearth, normally associated with a dwelling, so the team speculated that it may have had some form of religious significance, as hoard finds tend to be either offerings to the gods, or items of great value that were hidden in time of unrest or war.

BD Hoard X.2011.6.1 PF23270.

The treasure consists of a hoard of four Iron Age gold torcs, a type of necklace, all of which date to between 300 and 100 BC, and which appear to have been buried deliberately, close together.  Unusually, they are highly very varied in form and style which greatly adds to the significance of the find.

There are two twisted ribbon torcs, in perfect condition, elegant and relatively simple in design. They are fashioned from a flat strip of gold which has then been twisted, and represent a local style of jewellery, originating equally from Scotland and Ireland, and going back to the late Bronze Age. One of these has plain hooked terminals (ends), while the other has more decorative disc terminals.

The third torc is broken with only about half left. It is a tubular annular torc, which would have had a hinge and catch. It is of ornate design compared to the ribbon torcs, and experts have identified it as a type originating from southern France. It is the first of its kind to have been found in Britain.

The fourth torc is a looped terminal torc, in good condition, made from eight gold wires twisted together. It has intricately decorated terminals and a short length of safety chain. It has been described by Dr Fraser Hunter, Iron Age and Roman curator at the museum, as a remarkable hybrid of Mediterranean craftsmanship and more traditional Iron Age motifs.  This might have been made for a local chieftain by a craftsman who had learned his craft in the Mediterranean region, and along with the third torc suggests significant links between Scotland and Southern Europe.

Image © National Museums Scotland

The hoard has been described as the most significant discovery of Iron Age metalwork in Scotland and is said to be of international significance. The torcs were valued at £462,000, and after a public appeal were acquired for the National Museums of Scotland in 2011.

[According to Scottish Treasure Trove laws, the crown can claim any archaeological objects found in Scotland. Finders have no ownership rights and must report any objects to Scotland’s Treasure Trove Unit.  The finder is entitled to a reward equal to the value of the find.]  

Sources – Wikipedia and National Museum of Scotland.