“Supernatural” Bronze Age Gold Device Unearthed in Czech Republic

Last month, a beet farmer in the Czech Republic uprooted an ornate Bronze Age gold artifact. It was well-preserved in mud, and an anonymous farmer photographed the golden treasure and sent the pictures to archaeologists at the Silesian Regional Museum in Opava, Moravia-Silesia region.

The wafer-thin and crinkled gold sheet is believed to have been created around 2,500 years ago.

Pre-conservation appearance of Bronze Age gold artefacts.  (Museum Bruntal)

Pre-conservation appearance of Bronze Age gold artefacts. ( Brunthal Museum )

Designed with supernatural concepts in mind

Dr. Jiri Žučelka 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 measured “51 centimeters (20 inches) long” and was found in “perfect condition” with inclusions of silver, copper and iron. A museum researcher says: “It is decorated with raised concentric circles and is topped with rose-shaped hooks at the end.”

According to Live Science, museum curator Theresa Alex Kilnar said the gold artifact could be “the front of a leather belt,” although no one can be sure. But this is no ordinary belt either, as archaeologists believe it was built with cosmological/supernatural concepts in mind.

3500 years old and still shining

Dr. Kilnar is currently conserving and analyzing the belt buckle at the Brunthal Museum. According to the museum’s website, it is a contributing organization of the Moravian-Silesian region that manages important cultural heritage sites in northern Moravia – Bruntal Chateau, Sovinec Castle and the House of the Reaper in Karlovice, Silesia.

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Based on the artistic style alone, without testing the gold, Kilnar suspects the gold belt buckle dates to the middle to late Bronze Age, meaning the piece was worn in the 14th century BC. At this time, small communities of peasants lived in wooden houses and had not yet begun to form the large agricultural settlements that took place in later centuries.

Researchers believe that the gold belt buckle dates back to the middle to late Bronze Age.  (Museum Bruntal)

Researchers believe that the gold belt buckle dates back to the middle to late Bronze Age. ( Brunthal Museum )

Open the page

Earlier this year, a team of Czech archaeologists published an image of a Bronze Age woman recovered after DNA analysis. The woman was found in an “elite grave” in Mikulovice, Eastern Bohemia. According to a report on Expat.cz, she had “fair skin, brown hair, wide-set brown eyes, prominent chin, small figure” and died at around 35 years old.

Described as “one of the richest”. [Bronze Age burials] The woman was from the Únětice culture, and her bronze and gold ornaments, including a rare amber necklace, were found. This group of early agriculturalists lived in Central Europe between 2300 and 1600 BC, and they were contemporaneous with the Bronze Age gold belt buckle culture.

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Elite connections with the rest of the world

It is impossible to determine exactly which group made the gold weaving, because at that time (2000-1200 BC) Central Europe was a rich mix of different cultures. Smaller communities began to come together and form trade networks where livestock and crops such as wheat and barley were exchanged.

During this period, new social divisions appeared. The people who controlled the land around the emerging trading centers were the origins of social elites. At the time, silver and gold became symbols of the ruling economic class, and Kilnar told the RPI that the gold item “might have belonged to someone in a high position in society, as things of this value were rarely produced at the time”.

Professor Catherine Freeman of the Australian National University is an expert on metalworking in the Bronze Age of Europe. He agreed and told the RPI that the holder of the gold belt was “of high social or spiritual status”.

The gold item

The gold item “probably belonged to a high-ranking person in society, as such valuable items were rarely issued at that time.” ( Brunthal Museum )

Creating a Cosmology of Bronze Age Gold

Live Science reports that during the Bronze Age, gold items and gold hoards were usually buried in “unique, isolated sites that suggest a type of gift exchange between the cultural elite and the supernatural.” Gold objects with circular motifs are often associated with “Bronze Age cosmological systems that focus on solar cycles,” Freeman told LiveScience in an email.

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In 2013, Dr. Joachim Goldhan published a paper at the University of Western Australia entitled “Rethinking Bronze Age Cosmology Using a Northern European Perspective”. This researcher found that the cosmology of the Bronze Age world was based on “pragmatic ritualized practices that were constantly repeated and recreated at specific times and conditions.”

Thus, the golden belt fastener represents the annual cycle of the sun. Additionally, it can be the centerpiece of recurring rituals and worn to symbolically mark key stages of the solar cycle at certain “times and occasions” of the year, such as the equinoxes and solstices.

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

Written by Ashley Cowie


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