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Precious relic of the Bronze Age to go on permanent display in Ely

The torc is the largest ever discovered Credit: Ely Museum

An "extraordinarily rare, precious and beautiful" Bronze Age gold torc found in a ploughed field in Cambridgeshire has been saved for the nation.

The item of treasure is the largest torc, a type of metal neck band, ever discovered in England and is considered to be the best found in the country for more than a century.

It weighs 730 grams (1lb 10oz), is made of almost pure gold and dates from around 1300 to 1100 BC.

The torc, which was discovered by metal detectorists, has a circumference of 126.5cm (4ft 2in).<

Neil Wilkin, curator of Bronze Age Europe at the British Museum, said it was made with "astonishing" workmanship.<

"There has been much speculation about its use as it is so large...Perhaps it was worn over thick clothing, used to ornament a sacrificial animal or statue or even worn by pregnant women as a form of protection."

– Neil Wilkin, British Museum

Ely Museum has secured the torc with the help of #138,6000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), and it will go on display at the museum to help tell the story of Bronze Age society in the Fens.

The fund was set up to save the most outstanding pieces of the country's heritage, from the Mary Rose to a collection of the work of wartime codebreaker Alan Turing, in memory of those who have given their lives for the UK.

The money will form a reward to be split between the metal detectorists who found the torc and the owner of the land in East Cambridgeshire.

Without funding from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, there is a risk the torc could have ended up in private hands and been lost from public view.

"Thankfully this extraordinarily rare, precious and beautiful piece of history will now be on permanent display at Ely Museum, helping to tell the story of Bronze Age civilisation in and around the fens more than 3,000 years ago."<

– Ros Kerslake, chief executive of NHMF

The torc will go on display at the museum from Saturday October 7.