Archaeologists working in the district of Tübingen in southwest Germany have discovered the region's earliest gold object to date. It is a spiral ring of gold wire unearthed from the grave of an Early Bronze Age woman.
The woman's grave was located not far from a group of other Early Bronze Age burials and is apparently connected with the prehistoric hilltop settlement on the nearby Kirchberg.
Precious metal finds from this period are very rare in southwestern Germany. The gold probably originates from Cornwall in southwest Britain. The archaeologists say it is unusually early proof of the far-reaching trade in luxury objects of the people of that time. The discovery was published in the latest issue of the journal Praehistorische Zeitschrift.
The excavation was led by Professor Raiko Krauss from the Institute of Prehistory and Medieval Archaeology at the University of Tübingen, and Jörg Bofinger from the Baden-Württemberg State Office for Cultural Heritage Management, based in Esslingen, southern Germany.
During the excavation, the researchers found that the woman was buried in a fetal position. This type of burial is typical of the late Neolithic period in Central Europe. The only object found in the grave was the spiral roll made of gold wire. It may have been a hair ornament and indicates that the wearer was of high social status.
Radiocarbon dating of the bones puts the burial between about 1850 and 1700 BCE—the Early Bronze Age.
According to a report by the University of Tübingen, the gold contains about 20 percent silver, less than two percent copper, and has traces of platinum and tin. This composition points to a natural gold alloy typical of gold washed from rivers.
The report indicates that the pattern of trace elements resembles that of gold from deposits in Cornwall, specifically from the Carnon River area. The research team considers the gold find from the Tübingen district as evidence that western groups in central Europe had connections with the other regions in the first half of the second millennium BCE.