Last month, a beet farmer in the Czech Republic approached an ornate Bronze Age gold artifact. It was well preserved in the mud and the anonymous farmer photographed the golden treasure and sent the pictures to archaeologists at the Silesian Regional Museum in Opava, a town in the Moravian-Silesian region.
The wafer thin and crumpled sheet of gold is estimated to have been created around 2,500 years ago.
The appearance of the Bronze Age gold artifact before preservation. ( Muzeum Bruntál )
Created 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 is “51 cm (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 clasps at the end.”
According to Live Science, museum conservator Teresa Alex Kilnar said that while no one could be sure, the golden artifact was most likely “the front of a leather belt.” But this is no ordinary belt fastener 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 fastener at the Bruntál museum. According to the museum website, it is a contributory organization of the Moravian-Silesian Region that administers important cultural heritage sites in northern Moravia – Bruntál Chateau, Sovinec Castle, and the Scythe Maker’s House in Karlovice in Silesia.
Without testing the gold, and based only on the artistic style, Kilnar suspects the gold belt buckle dates around the middle to late Bronze Age, which means the piece was worn around the 14th century BC. At that time, small farmers lived in wooden houses and had not yet begun to form the large agricultural settlements that occurred in the following years. Century.
Researchers believe that the gold belt buckle dates around the middle to late Bronze Age. ( Muzeum Bruntál )
Put a face to a discovery
Earlier this year a team of Czech archaeologists published the image of a Bronze Age woman that was reconstructed after DNA analysis. The woman was discovered from an ‘elite grave’ in Mikulovich, in eastern Bohemia. According to a report in Expat.cz, she had “beautiful skin, brown hair, widely spaced brown eyes, a prominent chin, a petite 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 agriculturalists lived in central Europe from about 2300 to 1600 BC , and they are contemporary with the culture that crafted the Bronze Age gold belt fastener.
Elite connections with the other world
It cannot be determined exactly which group made the gold buckle, 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 formed a trade network, with which livestock and crops such as wheat and barley were exchanged.
During this time, new social divisions emerged. The people who controlled the lands around the emerging trading centers represented the origins of social elites. At the time, silver and gold became hallmarks of the controlling economic class and Kilnar told 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 Freeman 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 thing probably belonged to someone in “a high position in society, because things of such value were rarely created at that time.” ( Muzeum Bruntál )
Crafting Cosmology in Bronze Age Gold
Live Science reports that during the Bronze Age gold objects, and gold hoards, were generally buried “in special, isolated locations suggesting a kind of gift exchange between the cultural elite and the supernatural.” Frieman told LiveScience in an email that gold objects with circular motifs are often linked to “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 Using a Northern European Perspective.” The researcher stated that the cosmologies of the Bronze Age world were based on “pragmatic ritualized practices , which are constantly repeated and recreated at certain times and occasions.”
Thus, the gold belt fastener most likely represents the annual cycle of the sun. But more so, it can be a centerpiece in a repeated ritual, and worn at specific “times and occasions” in the year, for example, perhaps to symbolically mark key stages of the sun’s cycle, like the equinox and solstice.
Top image: The Bronze Age gold artifact found in a beet field in the Czech Republic. Source: Muzeum Bruntál
By Ashley Cowie