Last month a beet farmer in the Czech Republic removed a golden Bronze Age artifact. It was well preserved in the mud and an unknown farmer photographed this golden treasure and sent the photos to archaeologists at the Silesian Regional Museum in Opava, a town in the Moravian-Silesian Region.
The thin and wrinkled gold sheet is estimated to have been created 2,500 years ago.
Appearance of a Bronze Age gold artifact before preservation. ( Muzeum Bruntál )
Built With Supernatural Concepts In Mind
Dr. Jiří Juchelka is an archaeologist from Opava who heads the small archaeological collection of the Silesian Regional Museum. The researcher told Radio Prague International (RPI) that the gold piece measures “51 centimeters (20 inches) in length” and was found in “very good condition” with silver, copper, and iron. The museum expert said, “it is decorated with high concentric circles and topped with rose-shaped caps.”
According to Live Science, museum curator Tereza Alex Kilnar said that while no one can be sure, the gold artefact was likely “the front of the leather belt.” But this is no ordinary belt buckle, because 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 donor organization of the Moravian-Silesian Region that manages 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 solely on the artistic style, Kilnar suspects that the gold belt buckle dates from the middle to late Bronze Age, meaning the piece was worn around the 14th century BC. At this time small farming communities lived in wooden frame houses and had not yet begun to build the large agricultural settlements that occurred in the following centuries.
Researchers believe that the gold belt dates from the middle to late Bronze Age. ( Muzeum Bruntál )
Putting a Face to Discovery
Earlier this year a team of Czech archaeologists published a portrait of a Bronze Age woman that was reconstructed after DNA analysis. A woman was exhumed from a ‘special grave’ in Mikulovice, East Bohemia. According to Expat.cz, he had “fair skin, brown hair, wide-set brown eyes, prominent chin, small stature,” and died at the age of 35.
It is described as having “one of the richest [Bronze Age burials] ever found in Europe,” the woman was a native of Únětice, and was found wearing copper and gold jewelry, including a rare amber necklace. This group of early farmers lived in Central Europe from about 2300 to 1600 BC, and they lived at the same time as the Bronze Age gold belt culture.
Elite connection to the Otherworld
It cannot be determined which group made the golden belt, because at that time ( 2000 BC to 1200 BC ) Central Europe was a rich mix of different cultures. Small communities began to come together and form a trading network that traded livestock and crops such as wheat and barley.
This period saw new social divisions emerge. Those people who controlled the lands surrounding the emerging trading centers represented the origin of the elite of society. At that time silver and gold became symbols of the ruling economic class and Kilnar told the RPI that the gold object probably belonged to someone “of a high social position, because things of such value were rarely produced at that time.”
Professor Catherine Frieman of the Australian National University is an expert on European Bronze Age metalworking. He agreed, and told RPI that the owner of the gold belt was “a person of high quality, either socially or spiritually.”
The gold probably did not belong to someone “of high social status, because things of such value were rarely made at that time.” ( Muzeum Bruntál )
Making Cosmology in Bronze Age Gold
Live Science reports that during the Bronze Age gold objects, and hoards of gold, were often buried in “special, isolated sites that suggest some form of gift-giving between cultural elites 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 be centered around solar cycles.”
In 2013, Dr. Joachim Goldhahn of the University of Western Australia published a paper “Rethinking cosmology in the Bronze Age using a northern European perspective.” This researcher determined that the biology of the Bronze Age world was based on “ritual practices, which were continuously repeated and recreated from time to time and from time to time.”
Thus, the golden belt buckle probably represents the annual cycle of the sun. But it is more likely that it was an important element in a repeated ritual, and was worn at certain “times and times” of the year, for example, perhaps to mark important phases of the solar cycle, such as equinoxes and solstices.
Top Image: A Bronze Age gold artifact found at a bet site in the Czech Republic. Source: Muzeum Bruntál
Written by Ashley Cowie