Last month, a beet grower in the Czech Republic unearthed an ornate gold artifact from the Bronze Age. It was well preserved in the mud and the anonymous farmer photographed the golden treasure and then sent the pictures to archaeologists at the Silesian Regional Museum in Opava, a town in the Moravian-Silesian region.
The wafer thin and curled gold plate is estimated to have been created around 2,500 years ago.
The appearance of the Bronze Age gold artefact before conservation. ( Bruntál Museum )
Crafted with supernatural concepts in mind
Dr. Jiří Juchelka is an Opava archaeologist who heads the archaeological sub-collection of the Silesian Regional Museum. The researcher told Radio Prague International (RPI) that the golden piece measured “51 centimeters (20 inches) long” and was found in “almost perfect condition” with silver, copper and iron inclusions. The museologist said: “It is decorated with raised concentric circles and topped with rose-shaped brackets at the end.”
According to Live Science, museum curator Tereza Alex Kilnar said that while no one can be sure, the golden artifact was most likely “the front of a leather belt.” But this is no ordinary belt buckle either, as archaeologists believe it was built with cosmological/supernatural concepts in mind.
3,500 years old and still shining
Dr. Kilnar is currently preserving and analyzing the belt buckle at the Bruntál Museum. According to the museum’s website, this is a member organization of the Moravian-Silesian region that manages important cultural heritage in Northern Moravia – Bruntál Chateau, Sovinec Castle, and the Scythe Maker’s House in Karlovice in Silesia.
Without having tested the gold, and based only on the artistic style, Kilnar suspects that the gold belt buckle dates to around the middle to late Bronze Age, meaning the piece was made around the 14th century. century BC At this time, small farming communities inhabited wooden frame houses and had not yet begun to form the larger agricultural settlements that occurred in the following centuries.
Researchers believe that the gold belt buckle dates from the middle to late Bronze Age. ( Bruntál Museum )
Put a face on a discovery
Earlier this year, a team of Czech archaeologists published the image of a Bronze Age woman reconstructed after DNA analysis. The woman was unearthed from an ‘elite grave’ in Mikulovice, in eastern Bohemia. According to a report in Expat.cz, she had “colored skin, brown hair, wide-set brown eyes, a prominent chin, a small figure,” and she died around 35 years old.
Described as “one of the richest [Bronze Age burials] ever discovered in Europe,” the woman was from the Únětice culture, and she was found wearing bronze and gold jewelry, including a rare amber necklace. This group of early farmers lived in Central Europe from about 2300 to 1600 BC.
Elite Connections to the Other World
It cannot be determined exactly which group made the gold cord, because at that time (2000 BC to 1200 BC) Central Europe was a rich fusion of different cultures. Smaller communities began to come together and form a trade network through which livestock and crops such as wheat and barley were exchanged.
This period gave rise to new social divisions. The people who controlled the countries around the emerging trade centers represented the origin of the social elites. At the time, silver and gold became hallmarks of the controlled economic class and Kilnar told the RPI that the gold item probably belonged to someone in “a high position in society, as items of such value were rarely produced at the time.”
Professor Catherine Frieman at the Australian National University is a specialist in European Bronze Age metalworking. She agreed, telling RPI that the owner of the gold belt buckle was “someone of high status, either socially or spiritually.”
The gold item likely belonged to someone “in a high position in society, as items of such value were rarely produced at the time.” ( Bruntál Museum )
Crafting Cosmology in Bronze Age Gold
Live Science reports that during the Bronze Age, gold objects, and gold hoards, were commonly buried “in special, isolated locations that suggest some kind of gift exchange between the cultural elite and the supernatural.” Frieman told LiveScience in an email that gold objects with circular designs are often associated with “Bronze Age cosmological systems believed to focus on solar cycles.”
In 2013, Dr. Joachim Goldhahn at the University of Western Australia published a paper “Rethinking Cosmology in the Bronze Age with a Northern European Perspective.” This researcher found that the cosmologies of the Bronze Age world were based on “pragmatic ritualized practices that were continually repeated and recreated at particular times and occasions.”
Thus, the gold belt fastener most likely represents the annual cycle of the sun. But more so it could have been a centerpiece in a repeated ritual, and worn at specific “times and occasions” in the year, for example, perhaps to mark symbolic key stages of the solar cycle, such as the equinoxes and solstices.
Top image: Bronze Age gold artefact found in a beet field in the Czech Republic. Source: Bruntál Museum
By Ashley Cowie