Gang chain

Manchester Museum-100/43

British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

This iron chain is mostly formed of two types of links, hour-glass shaped and plain. At each end are two moveable bars of iron bent to describe circles, 17.8 cm in diameter when fastened. At intervals of 81.3 cm other bars, each bent into semi-circles, terminate in links which pass through plain links in the chain; thus forming circles of the same diameter as those at each end. The other half of the circumference is formed of three hour glass-links. Altogether there are six 'iron collars'. The chain is 546 cm in full length.

Each ring on this gang chain fastened around a person’s neck. The rings were not locked, but each collar in the chain could only be released when the previous one had been undone. The chain comes from Bigbury Camp, a hillfort in Kent, and it seems likely that slave trading was common across south-eastern England during the late Iron Age (100 BC–AD 43). The apparent increase in demand for slaves may have been connected to the expansion of Roman power. Classical sources suggest that slaves were a key export from Britain around this time.


  • Title: Gang chain
  • Creator: Manchester Museum
  • Date Created: -100/43
  • Location Created: Findspot: Bigbury Camp, Kent, UK
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 546 cm; Diameter: 17.8 cm
  • External Link: Manchester Museum online catalogue

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