Water Worker Stumbles Upon 2,500-Year-Old Gold Necklaces in Spain

The artifacts could shed new light on the Iron Age history of the region

Gold torc
The intact gold torc discovered last month in northwest Spain Archaeological Museum of Asturias

Before the Roman Empire came to rule over the Iberian peninsula, Celtic peoples lived in modern-day Spain, as well as other regions throughout Europe. The Celts were exquisite metalworkers who created ornate jewelry to indicate wealth and status. Today, their metallurgic skill can be seen in the artifacts they left behind—like the two gold necklaces uncovered in Spain last month.

Sergio Narciandi, who works for a water supply company in northwest Spain, discovered the first necklace on August 29. He was surveying land in Cavandi, Asturias, when he stumbled upon the jewelry, which was hidden among some rocks.

He immediately reported the find to Pablo Arias, an archaeologist at Spain’s University of Cantabria, who arrived at the site with two researchers from the Asturias Archaeological Museum. There, they started investigating.

At the site, the researchers unearthed a second necklace. Unlike the first, which was found intact, the second was broken into pieces.

These kinds of necklaces are often called “torcs,” which comes from the Latin word torqueo (meaning “to twist”), per Conelisa N. Hubilla of the Science Times. Dating to around 500 B.C.E., they may shed new light on the Iron Age of Iberia.

While other gold necklaces from the period have been found in Spain, most of them were discovered in the 18th and 19th centuries, when comprehensive information about their provenance wasn’t recorded, as Arias tells CNN’s Jack Guy. Now, researchers will be able to study the newly discovered necklaces with an improved understanding of their context.

“This discovery is very important because, for the first time, we know the exact origin of two of these valuable objects, the maximum symbol of prestige for pre-Roman communities, and the context in which they were deposited, which will allow us to solve many enigmas about which we were missing data,” the researchers tell Vicente G. Olaya of the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

The researchers don’t know whether the necklaces were worn by men or women. Because they both show signs of wear in areas that would have come into contact with skin or clothes, “we know that they were used,” Arias tells CNN. Additionally, such jewelry was typically worn by upper-class members of society, as “not everyone could afford one of these necklaces.”

The researchers think the necklaces were made by Celtic groups, known for crafting “items from central rods with wound gold spirals,” according to the Science Times. Arias says the necklaces were likely part of a larger hoard of valuable artifacts, which someone was trying to hide. They may have been buried in a wooden container that would have decayed long ago.

Narciandi may have found the necklaces because of a small landslide caused by fires in the region. Asturias officials commended him for quickly reporting the discovery, which they say is “a window to the study and knowledge of the most emblematic type of jewelry of Iron Age gold work,” per CNN.

The researchers are now conducting a “non-invasive metallurgic analysis and surface examination” of the necklaces, writes the History Blog. “This will shed new light on the manufacturing technology of Iron Age Spain, the mining of metal, the use of silver, gilding techniques and more.”

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