In April 1961 the goatherd Domingo Sánchez of fourteen years of age was passing with his flock through the estate of Los Machos, about three kilometres from Berzocana. In the distance he made out something shining on the hillside debris of the sierra near the so-called Castro de El Terrero. It was a metallic vessel containing two necklaces of solid gold (three according to some accounts). He had just discovered what would be known as the Treasure of Berzocana. The young goatherd was unaware of how his find would contribute to the annals of the history of the Iberian Peninsula as one of the most emblematic and important archaeological records of the Bronze Age in Extremadura.

The ensemble consists of two decorated torcs (necklaces in the form of a circular horseshoe) of 24-carat solid gold and the patera (shallow vessel) of bronze which appears to have contained them. The maximum diameter of the torcs is 15 centimetres and they weigh 951 grams. Their circular section is thicker in the centre than on the edges and they have rivets in the form of buttons. They are decorated with geometrical motifs made with a burin on their central third and in the areas near to both rivets. There is sufficient evidence to suppose that there was a smaller third torque, which was sold clandestinely to a silversmith in Navalmoral de la Mata and ended up as rings, items of jewellery, and dental prostheses.

After it was found the ensemble was handed over to the Justices’ Court of the nearby village of Navezuelas and subsequently passed to the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Cáceres. In 1964 it was transferred to the National Archaeological Museum where it is currently exhibited. Its dating has undergone several modifications. Initially the objects were considered to be part of the ‘Lusitanian gold articles’ of the late Bronze Age/Iron Age and of the Mediterranean sphere of influence, albeit related to the Atlantic metal-bearing basins, and dated as being of the 7th to 6th centuries B.C.

Subsequently its age was revised and established as being from about the 8th century B.C., it was linked to Central European cultural trends. Despite this, in the National Archaeological Museum it is labelled as being from the 10th century B.C. The bronze patera which contained the torcs is considered to be of east Mediterranean origin, to be precise from Egypt. The solid base and the wide mouth are the characteristics which link the example to the gold articles of that country.

Examples similar to the torcs of Berzocana were used by Gauls, Celts, Germans, and Persians. Initially it was usual for representations of Celtic deities to wear one of these jewels on their necks. Subsequently they became a typical complement to women’s attire and were later considered as a symbol of nobility and a war decoration. As their great weight and limited ductility suggest that these jewels were not of common use but were reserved for ceremonial occasions, it has been proposed that their main function was as a dowry of women of high rank. On occasion it has been suggested that they were used as necklaces, although their opening of less than seven centimetres would make it impossible for an adult to wear them. Their great weight also makes it unlikely that they were intended to be used by children, as has been suggested. Their use as currency has also been put forward and this theory is supported by the fact that they weigh 41 shekels, a measurement of weight and form of currency used in the Near East and Mesopotamia in antiquity.

But their value was not merely material. As in other cases of emblems made in bronze of this historical period, such as swords or falcatas, these valuable objects were considered to be of much greater spiritual or mystical value than material value. Their use may have been part of a system of beliefs which placed these objects in the context of the journey to the next world of their bearer.

The importance of this ensemble is clear from the fact that together with the double of the treasure of Sagrajas (Badajoz) the torcs of Berzocana give their name to one of the characteristic types of gold articles of the late Bronze Age in the west of the Iberian Peninsula. Although the ensemble is exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum, replicas of these torcs can be seen in the Archaeology Interpretation Centre of Berzocana.