Excavations in Ammerbuch-Reusten, in the Tübingen district in south-west Germany, have uncovered the earliest gold object in the area: a spiral of gold wire dating back some 3,800 years.
Raiko Krauss from the University of Tübingen and Jörg Bofinger from the Baden-Württemberg State Office for Cultural Heritage Management made the discovery last autumn, when they excavated the grave of a woman buried facing south in a foetal position, typical of the Late Neolithic period in Central Europe. Radiocarbon dating of the woman’s remains shows that she was buried between about 1850 and 1700 BC. The recently discovered burial was not far from a group of Early Bronze Age graves, and may be associated with a nearby hilltop settlement.
Inside the grave was only one object: the small gold spiral, which was perhaps a hair ornament. The discovery of the gold object in an Early Bronze Age grave was unusual, as precious metals are rare in the region at this date.
Analysis of the gold has found that it contains about 20% silver, less than 2% copper, and traces of platinum and tin, a composition consistent with gold washed from rivers, specifically from the Carnon River area in Cornwall, south-west England. This probable Cornish origin is, according to the archaeologists, a departure from the usual south-eastern European origins of older gold finds in Europe and evidence of the long-distance trade of luxury goods at the time. The gold spiral, the team say, also points to the increasing influence western cultural groups had over Central Europe in the first half of the 2nd millennium BC.