University of Tübingen: Oldest gold find from Baden-Württemberg

The oldest definitely dated precious metal find to date in southwest Germany was discovered in autumn 2020 when an early Bronze Age woman’s grave was excavated near Ammerbuch-Reusten, in the Tübingen district. According to the analyzes, the small spiral made of gold wire is around 3,800 years old. Precious metal finds from this period are very rare in southwest Germany. The gold of the spiral roll is very likely to come from Cornwall in the south-west of England. As an unusually early testimony to the extensive contacts made by the people of that time for such luxury objects, the excavating research team attached great importance to the find from a cultural and historical point of view. The excavators were led by Professor Raiko Krauß from the Institute for Prehistory and Early History and Archeology of the Middle Ages at the University of Tübingen and Dr.

Early Bronze Age women’s burial
Early Bronze Age women’s burial in the find location. The green measuring nail at the top roughly marks the location of the gold spiral.
During the excavation, the researchers found that the woman was buried in a sideways crouched position with her face facing south. They place this type of burial in a tradition of the late Neolithic in Central Europe. The only addition found in the grave to the left behind the buried woman, around waist height, was the spiral scroll made of gold wire. It could have been used as a hair ornament and indicates a high social status of the wearer. The burial was determined by the research team by radiocarbon dating of the bones to the period between the middle of the 19th and the end of the 17th century BC. So it was able to limit the burial to the early Bronze Age.

Students uncover the grave
Students from the Institute for Prehistory and Protohistory at the University of Tübingen uncovering the grave in autumn 2020.
Evidence of origin from northwestern Europe
The gold contains around 20 percent silver, less than two percent copper and traces of platinum and tin. This composition refers to a natural gold alloy, which is typical for gold washed from rivers. The pattern of the trace elements is similar to that of gold from deposits in Cornwall in south-west England, especially from the catchment area of ​​the River Carnon, reports the research team. The clear reference to northwestern Europe is remarkable. The previously known older gold and precious metal finds in Europe, on the other hand, came almost exclusively from deposits in Southeastern Europe. There is evidence there that gold jewelry was made from the fifth millennium before our time.

Formwork of the grave for the block recovery
Formwork of the grave for the block recovery: Christoph Kühnbach from the State Office for Monument Preservation and Hannah Huber and Raiko Krauss from the University of Tübingen (from left to right).
The research team evaluates the new gold find from Ammerbuch-Reusten as evidence that Western cultural groups gained growing influence on Central Europe in the first half of the second millennium before our time. The women’s grave was not far from a group of other burials from the Early Bronze Age and is evidently related to the well-known hilltop settlement on the nearby Reustener Kirchberg.