Home Artifacts ‘Supernatural’ Bronze Age gold device discovered in Czech Republic

‘Supernatural’ Bronze Age gold device discovered in Czech Republic

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Last month, a beet grower in the Czech Republic uprooted 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 images to archaeologists at the Silesian Regional Museum in Opava, a town in the Moravian-Silesian region.

The thin, crumpled gold leaf is estimated to have been created around 2,500 years ago.

The appearance of the Bronze Age gold artifact before its preservation. ( Bruntal Museum )

Made with supernatural concepts in mind

Dr. Jiří Juchelka is an archaeologist from Opava who heads the archaeological sub-collection of the Silesian Regional Museum. The researcher told Radio Prague International (RPI) that the gold piece is “51 centimeters (20 inches) long” and was found in “near perfect condition” with inclusions of silver, copper and iron. The museologist said: “it is decorated with concentric circles in relief and surmounted by clasps in the shape of a rose at its end”.

According to Live Science, museum curator Tereza Alex Kilnar said that while no one can be sure, the gold artifact was most likely “the front of a leather belt”. But it’s no ordinary belt clip either, as archaeologists believe it was built with cosmological/supernatural concepts in mind.

3,500 years old and still shining

Dr. Kilnar currently preserves and analyzes the belt clip at the Bruntál Museum. According to the museum’s website, it is a contributory organization of the Moravian-Silesian region which administers important cultural heritage sites in northern Moravia – Bruntál Castle, Sovinec Castle and the forgery maker’s house in Karlovice in Silesia.

Without having tested gold, and based solely on artistic style, Kilnar suspects that the gold belt buckle dates from the mid to late Bronze Age, meaning the piece was worn around the 14th century BC. At this time, small communities of farmers inhabited timber frame houses and had not yet begun to form the larger agricultural settlements that occurred in later centuries.

Scholars believe the gold belt buckle dates to the mid to late Bronze Age.  (Bruntal Museum)

Scholars believe the gold belt buckle dates to the mid to late Bronze Age. ( Bruntal Museum )

Putting a face to a discovery

Earlier this year, a team of Czech archaeologists released an image of a Bronze Age woman that was reconstructed after DNA analysis. The woman was unearthed from an “elite grave” in Mikulovice, Eastern Bohemia. According to a report on Expat.cz, she had “fair skin, brown hair, widely spaced brown eyes, a prominent chin, a small figure” and died around the age of 35.

Described as having “one of the richest [Bronze Age burials] never 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 around 2300 to 1600 BC. AD, and they were contemporaneous with the culture that made the Bronze Age gold belt clip.

Elite connections with the afterlife

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 amalgamation of different cultures. Smaller communities began to group together and formed a trade network through which livestock and crops such as wheat and barley were exchanged.

This period saw the emergence of new social divisions. The people who controlled the land around the emerging trading centers represented the origins of social elites. At this time, silver and gold became hallmarks of the dominant economic class and Kilnar told RPI that the gold object probably belonged to someone in “a high position in society, because objects of such value were rarely produced at the time”.

Professor Catherine Frieman of the Australian National University is an expert in European Bronze Age metalworking. She agreed and told RPI that the owner of the gold belt buckle “was someone of high status, social or spiritual.”

The golden object probably belonged to someone occupying

The gold object probably belonged to someone occupying “a high position in society, since objects of such value were rarely produced at the time”. ( Bruntal Museum )

Crafting Cosmology in Bronze Age Gold

Live Science reports that during the Bronze Age, gold objects and gold stores were commonly buried “in special, secluded places suggesting some sort of gift exchange between the cultural elite and the supernatural.” Frieman told LiveScience in an email that gold objects with circular patterns are often linked to “Bronze Age cosmological systems believed to focus on solar cycles.”

In 2013, Dr Joachim Goldhahn of the University of Western Australia published an article “Rethinking Bronze Age Cosmology Using a Northern European Perspective”. This researcher determined that the cosmologies of the Bronze Age world were based on “pragmatic ritualized practices, continually repeated and recreated at certain times and occasions”.

Thus, the gold belt clip most likely represents the annual cycle of the sun. But even more, it could have been a centerpiece of a repeated ritual, and worn at specific “times and occasions” of the year, for example, perhaps to symbolically mark key stages in the cycle of the sun, such as the equinoxes and the solstices.

Top image: The Bronze Age gold artifact found in a beet field in the Czech Republic. Source: Bruntal Museum

By Ashley Cowie