In 1808 or 1809 this massive silver chain was discovered while digging the Caledonian Canal on a gravelly ridge known as Tor a’ Bhean.
The chain was uncovered in the side of a large, flat cairn, around 0.6m below the surface. When it was found it consisted of sixteen pairs of interlocked circular links with a single slightly larger link terminating each end, and a penannular terminal ring which was broken in two during its discovery. A silver ball and bar may also have been found at the same time. It is thought to date to the 4th to 6th centuries.
One of the terminal links and the parts of the penannular terminal ring have since been lost, while the rest of the chain is now held in the National Museums of Scotland having been declared as treasure trove in 1837.
It is the heaviest Pictish chain found in Scotland, weighing some 2.88kg, and is around 46cm in length. Despite the weight its internal diameter is quite small and it’s thought that it was made for someone with a small neck, likely either an adolescent or a woman.
Alternative names for Torvean
Tor a' Bhean; Torvaine