Archive for October, 2021

Early Cycladic cist tomb found in Greece

Monday, October 11th, 2021

A  cist tomb from the Early Cycladic period (2700-2200 B.C.) has been unearthed during sewage treatment works in the village of Nea Styra on the Greek island of Euboea. The tomb was found just two feet below the surface of the road. It is six and a half feet long by one and a half feet wide and made of slabs of local brown slate. Previous road works had disturbed the tomb, removing part of the cover and the slabs of the short sides, but the find was not archaeologically excavated at that time. The long slabs on the south side and the other part of the cover were still in situ.

Three burials were found in successive layers inside the grave. Burial A is located 3.6 feet beneath the modern road. It includes the remains of an adult man in supine position with his left arm bent at the elbow, part of a glass vessel and a few ceramic pieces.

After archaeologists removed the bones of Burial A, they found skeletal remains from Burial B. This individual was also placed in supine position. Next to him was a bronze coin, and at his feet archaeologists unearthed a bronze basket, a bronze tray with decorative perforations around the edge and six glass vessels with conical and spherical bodies.

Burial C emerged under the remains of B, again in supine position. No grave goods were reported.

The grave goods are now being studied and conserved at the Archaeological Museum of Eretria. Archaeologists hope to be able to get a firmer date range from radiocarbon analysis. They will focus on the five glass vessels recovered, because as flukish luck would have it, they are all intact and form a typological unit. Also of particular interest is the bronze basket with its embossed body and loop handle with two pointed decorations crafted of a thin sheet of bronze at the terminal ends. It may shed new light on how copper was utilized to create highly decorated objects in the Early Cycladic Era.

When the artifacts have been researched thoroughly and stabilized, the Ephorate of Antiquities of Euboea plans to display the grave goods in the Archaeological Museum of Karystos, a small local museum with a fine collection of ancient Greek and Roman pottery and sculptures.


16th c. dish smashes maiolica sales record

Sunday, October 10th, 2021

A 16th century maiolica dish attributed to Nicola da Urbino sold for £1,236,000 ( $1.721 million, including buyer’s premium), which sets a new world record price for maiolica and far exceeds the pre-sale estimate of £80,000-£120,000 ($109,000-$163,000). Bidding was so brisk after opening below the low estimate offers jumped up in £50,000 increments.

The dish is 11 inches in diameter and is fully painted with a scene from the Biblical account of Samson and Delilah. It’s the moment after Delilah cuts Samson’s hair and armored Philistines capture him. All this is set against a Renaissance architectural background in one-point perspective.

Nicola di Gabriele Sbraghe, called Nicola da Urbino, was a master painter of tin-glazed earthenware (maiolica) active in Urbino between 1520 and his death in 1537/8. His specialty was the “istoriato” (meaning story painting) style in which ceramics were decorated with the same biblical, historical, and mythological subjects popular in Renaissance easel paintings. Plates and bowls were painted with the same sophisticated realism and perspective embraced by Renaissance Old Masters, and often copied or were heavily inspired by specific works. Nicola was so adept at the istoriato style he was dubbed the Raphael of Maiolica Painting.

He worked at the court of Francesco Maria I della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, and his wife Eleonora Gonzaga, who was the eldest child of Francesco II, Marquess of Mantua and his wife the marchioness Isabella d’Este, an influential patron of the arts. Her daughter’s court at Urbino mirrored her mother’s sophistication, and Eleonora was friend and patron to some of the greatest authors, poets and artists of the period. She commissioned an istoriato set from Nicola da Urbino for her mother with scenes from a well-known illustrated edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

It’s not clear who commissioned this plate. It is from his early period, the first of its kind to be sold at auction. It came to the current sellers by descent from Glaswegian merchant and antiquarian James Ewing who traveled in Italy in 1844-5 and bought several important artworks on the trip. His correspondence makes no specific reference to his acquisition of the plate on this trip, but a note in one of his letters to “China pieces of the 14th century” he’d bought in Genoa is believed to have been a less than accurate description of some of the maiolica he acquired in Italy.

The overall blueness, cool flesh tones and creative composition of the piece place it in the early oeuvre of Nicola da Urbino, before 1528. The Old Master print that inspired it is described in Volume XIII (1811) of Adam Bartsch’s compendium of engravings.

[I]t relates to an acclaimed service or credenza encapsulating Nicola’s early poetical style made for an unknown client consisting of seventeen surviving pieces donated to the city of Venice by the patrician Teodoro Correr after his death in 1830. This is the largest surviving set of 16th Century ‘istoriato’ maiolica in the world in a single collection. The service, even quite recently, has been described as “one the loveliest achievements of all maiolica-painting”. There may be reasons on grounds of subject matter and style to speculate that this plate may originally have been part of this service.

In the 19th century the Correr maiolica service was thought by scholars to have been painted by the Urbino painter Timoteo Viti (1469-1523) and was seen as the jewel in the crown of the Correr collection. The painting style of Nicola’s early work that we have here seems to stylistically reference his work in the broadest sense. Viti, trained in the dynamic humanist artistic background of Bologna under Francesco Francia, is known to have worked with Raphael in the Chigi Chapel in Santa Maria della Pace in Rome circa 1511. As a friend of Raphael, Viti is reputed to have obtained or inherited the most important group of Raphael’s studio drawings and to have brought them back to Urbino after Raphael’s death. He himself died in 1523. Nicola’s knowledge of Raphael’s style of work may in part be due to links with Viti whose workshop in Urbino he may have frequented or where he may have even trained. Giovanni Antonio da Brescia copied and produced his own versions of the work of the Bolognese printmaker Marcantonio Raimondi (1480-before 1538). Raimondi had also trained under Francesco Francia and did more than anything to disseminate Raphael’s ideas in Italy and abroad from about 1510.

The dish was found unrecorded and unrecognized in a drawer at Lowood House, a country house near Melrose in the Scottish Borders overlooking the River Tweed where the hairs of James Ewing have lived since 1947. It was the meticulous research by specialists at auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull that revealed its identity.  This is the first time maiolica from Nicola’s early period to appear for sale on the market.


Tomb of Caecilia Metella reveals secrets of Roman concrete resilience

Saturday, October 9th, 2021

The tomb of Caecilia Metella, the turret-shaped funerary monument on the Via Appia Antica outside the ancient walls of Rome, was built out of concrete, brick and travertine between 30 and 10 B.C., a time when Roman architecture saw major advances in concrete construction. The circular concrete tomb was faced with blocks of travertine and built on a square foundation of concrete with volcanic stone aggregrate. Inside is a conical burial chamber with an oculus opening in the ceiling. The sepulchral corridor was constructed of brick-faced concrete that is one of the first examples in Rome, built to the highest possible standards of the time.

The tomb is located on the northern tip of the Capo di Bove lava flow; its lower chamber was dug through the tephra deposited hundreds and thousands of years ago in the eruption of the Alban Hills volcano. The same volcano also deposited tephra in a lava flow, the Pozzolane Rosse, less than a half mile away northwest of the tomb.

The builders of the Tomb of Caecilia Metella sourced their aggregate from both fields, using the Capo di Bove lava for the outer structure’s concrete, brick mortar and interior concrete. The sepulchral corridor (the wettest part of the tomb, exposed to rainwater falling through the oculus as well as ground water penetration) used the tephra from the Pozzolane Rosse flow, the same aggregate employed in the construction of the walls of the Markets of Trajan 120 years later. They too are still standing.

Roman concrete construction like this tomb, bridge piers and breakwaters has shown itself uniquely capable of withstanding thousands of years of water exposure, even submersion, whereas modern concrete, made with cement binders that Roman concrete does not have, cracks and crumbles comparatively speedily under pressure from water. Modern marine concrete has an expected lifespan of just 50 years.

A new study looks at mortar samples taken from the sepulchral corridor of the Tomb of Caecilia Metella to learn more about the mineral structure of the concrete hoping to shed light on its extraordinary longevity.

In previous analysis of the Markets of Trajan mortar, Jackson, Tamura and their colleagues explored the “glue” of the mortar, a building block called the C-A-S-H binding phase (calcium-aluminum-silicate-hydrate), along with a mineral called strätlingite. The strätlingite crystals block the propagation of microcracks in the mortar, preventing them from linking together and fracturing the concrete structure.

But the tephra the Romans used for the Caecilia Metella mortar was more abundant in potassium-rich leucite. Centuries of rainwater and groundwater percolating through the tomb’s walls dissolved the leucite and released the potassium into the mortar. In modern concrete, such a flood of potassium would create expansive gels that would cause microcracking and eventual spalling and deterioration of the structure.

In the tomb, however, the potassium dissolved and reconfigured the C-A-S-H binding phase. Seymour says that X-ray microdiffraction and Raman spectroscopy techniques allowed them to explore how the mortar had changed. “We saw C-A-S-H domains that were intact after 2,050 years and some that were splitting, wispy or otherwise different in morphology,” she says. X-ray microdiffraction, in particular, allowed an analysis of the wispy domains down to their atomic structure. “We see that the wispy domains are taking on a nano-crystalline nature,” she says.

The remodeled domains “evidently create robust components of cohesion in the concrete,” says Jackson. In these structures, unlike in the Markets of Trajan, there’s much less strätlingite formed. […]

Admir Masic, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT, says that the interface between the aggregates and the mortar of any concrete is fundamental to the structure’s durability. In modern concrete, he says, the alkali-silica reactions that form expansive gels may compromise the interfaces of even the most hardened concrete.

“It turns out that the interfacial zones in the ancient Roman concrete of the tomb of Caecilia Metella are constantly evolving through long-term remodeling,” he says. “These remodeling processes reinforce interfacial zones and potentially contribute to improved mechanical performance and resistance to failure of the ancient material.”

The study is part a U.S. Department of Energy  ARPA-e project that hopes to use ancient Roman know-how to create more durable and energy-efficient concrete. It has been published in the Journal of the American Ceramic Society and can be read in its entirety here.


3D model reveals Easter Island writing

Friday, October 8th, 2021

A 3D model of a wooden tablet from Easter Island has revealed engravings in the rongorongo writing system invisible to the naked eye. A new study of a tablet now in the collection of the Berlin Ethnographic Museum, employed photogrammetry to create a high-precision digital reconstruction of the wood surface

Researchers estimated that there are about 600 characters of rongorongo. Among them there are representations resembling human figures, characterized by supernaturally long arms, shown in various arrangements, as well as animals: birds, fish, sharks and rats. No other Polynesian peoples invented the script. Scientists are now making efforts to read the mysterious writing. Despite many question marks, researchers of the mysterious writing have established a few facts. First of all, it is known that it was used by the aristocracy living on the island – so it was not a commonly used script. Sentences were read in the inverted boustrophedon system – the object had to be rotated while reading.

Because the island of Rapa Nui is so remote its culture developed in total isolation from the Polynesian settlement in the 12th or 13th century until the arrival of Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen in 1722. The first westerner to encountered rongorongo was French missionary Eugène Eyraud who saw the symbols in islanders’ homes on his first mission to Rapa Nui in 1864. By then the system had rapidly fallen into disuse, believed to be a result of its writing elite being captured and enslaved in the Peruvian raids of the early 1860s. In a December 1864 letter to the Father Superior of his order in Paris, Eyraud wrote:

In all the homes there were wooden tablets covered with many types of hieroglyphic characters, which are symbols of animals that do not exist on the island and which the natives incise with a sharp stone. Each symbol has a name but the minimal fuss that the natives make of these tablets leads me to believe that these symbols, the remains of a primitive writing system, represent a custom that they continue to practice without trying to recall its meaning.

A piece of an engraved tablet was gifted to Bishop Tepano Jaussen of Tahiti in 1869, and he encouraged the collection of all other tablets with inscriptions still surviving on Rapa Nui. Ravaged by slave raids, deforestation, the invasive Polynesian rat and massive emigration, the population of the island collapsed in the 1870s.

Today only 23 rongorongo-engraved artifacts are known to exist, none of them on Rapa Nui. Rongorongo’s origins are unknown and the glyphs are as yet undeciphered, but if it is confirmed to be a writing system, it will be one of very few examples of an independently invented script in human history.

The Berlin Tablet was made from a large curved tree branch with the sides carved out to form flattened surfaces for incision. It is 3’4″ long and weighs 5.7 lbs, making it the heaviest rongorongo artifact surviving. It was one of three belonging to Chief Hangeto that were sold to Germany in 1882. It is in a poor state of preservation, heavily damaged on one side that is believed to have been facing the soil of a cave floor for years before it was collected. Woodlice, centipedes and woodworms also made a tasty meal of it.

The new study took tiny samples from the damaged side of the tablet for botanical identification and radiocarbon dating. The wood was identified as T. hespesia populnea, the Pacific rosewood which was one of the only naturally occurring tree species on Easter Island. Radiocarbon dating found that it was made between 1830 and 1870.

“On the other side of the tablet and on its edges, we managed to see invisible to the naked eye symbols that have so far eluded researchers, as well as grooves – similar ones are present on some other rongorongo tablets. They served as lines delimiting the text and were to facilitate writing”- specified [Dr Rafał Wieczorek]. On this basis, the researchers were able to estimate the size of the entire text on the plate at approx. symbols.

“If the tablet had been preserved in its entirety, it would have been the longest Rongorongo script in the world. Currently, most signs are on the so-called the staff of Santiago. There are about 2.3 thousand of them there.” the scientist pointed out. The Berlin plate – according to the Polish researcher – probably contains a list of names and a descriptive part.

Only 387 glyphs are legible half of one side of the tablet today, but researchers estimated based on the geometry of the tablet that it originally covered with over 5000 signs, which is more than double the number of the next longest rongorongo inscription.

The new study has been published in the Journal of Island and Coastal Archeology and can be read in its entirety here.


Unique Scythian glass pendants found in Ukrain

Thursday, October 7th, 2021

Archaeologists have unearthed unique glass pendants near the town of Kotelva in the Poltavska oblast of central Ukraine. A team from the Institute of Archeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine were excavating a Scythian-era burial ground on Barvinkova Mountain when they discovered the three small pendants that date to around the 4th century B.C. Nothing like them has been found before in Ukraine.

There is almost no information about them yet, but they are so unusual and charming I’m posting them anyway. Archaeologists are calling them amphora-shaped, but they look more like provolones to me.

Scythian-era glass pendants, ca. 4th century B.C. Photo by Oksana Doroshenko. Scythian-era glass pendants, ca. 4th century B.C. Photo by Oksana Doroshenko. Scythian-era glass pendants, ca. 4th century B.C. Photo by Oksana Doroshenko. Scythian-era glass pendants, ca. 4th century B.C. Photo by Oksana Doroshenko.

After a thorough study at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, they will go on display in the museum of the Bilsk Historical and Cultural Reserve, site of the largest early Iron Age fortified settlement in Europe.


Pair of oldest ski found in Norway ice patch

Wednesday, October 6th, 2021

The second of a 1300-year-old pair of skis has been discovered in the Mount Digervarden ice patch in southern Norway. Together they form the best-preserved pair of ancient skis in the world, and the only ones with surviving bindings that provide essential information on how the skis were worn.

A team of glacier archaeologists discovered the first of the pair in the Digervarden ice patch in 2014. Complete with surviving birch bindings, it was an exceptional find, one of only two pre-Viking skis ever found with bindings. The team has kept an eye on the site ever since, monitoring the melting ice via satellite in case the receding ice might reveal the ski’s match.

This year they saw the ice had retreated significantly, so three weeks ago a team did a field check and discovered a second ski trapped in the ice 16 feet away from where the first ski was found. It was too firmly embedded in the ice to be removed on the spot, so a large, well-equipped team returned six days later to liberate the historic ski. After shoveling away snow and chipping through the thick ice with an axe, team members were able to uncover the entire ski. A little lukewarm water loosened it all the way and the ski was retrieved.

It was found upside down in the ice. When archaeologists turned it face-up, they saw that it too had surviving binding, and it was the exact same type of binding on the ski found in 2014. This was confirmation that they were a matched set.

They are not identical, however. The newly-found ski is in far better condition because it was 15 feet deeper down in the ice than the previous find. At 6’2″ long and seven inches wide, it is seven inches longer and .8 inches wider than the first ski. This is likely due to the 2014 ski having shrunk and warped from being more exposed than its partner.

There are other differences as well, which is to be expected with handmade objects that experienced all kinds of wear and tear in the mountains of Iron Age Finland.

Three twisted birch bindings, a leather strap and a wooden plug go through the hole in the foothold of the new ski. The ski found in 2014 only had one twisted birch binding and a leather strap through the hole. Both skis have a hole through the tip. There are subtle differences in the carvings at the front of the skis. The back end of the new ski is pointed, while the back end of 2014 ski is straight.

The foothold of the new ski shows repairs, so it was well used. A part of the back end of the ski is missing. The missing piece is presumably still inside the ice. Whether it broke when lost or while inside the ice may be possible to say at a later stage based on a careful study of the edge of the break.

Part of the leather strap of the heel binding of the new ski had come off but it lay on the ground close by. Both skis are missing the upper part of the toe binding of twisted birch. We found pieces of twisted birch close to the new ski and this may belong to the binding. We cannot to say for sure if the binding of twisted birch broke before the skis were left behind, or whether the ice caused it.

This video captures the excavation and recovery of the ski:


Bronze Age village found in Corsica

Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

The well-preserved remains of a Bronze Age settlement have been discovered in Sartène, Corsica. The site, located on a hillside overlooking the Rizzanesi river, was excavated in late 2019, early 2020 in advance of housing construction. State archaeologists unearthed the material remains of three dwellings that were part of a fortified village from the early Bronze Age (ca. 2000 B.C.).

Triangular ditch with remains of double stone wall. Photo © P. Druelle, Inrap.On the southern slope of the hill, the most exposed to an attack, archaeologists found evidence of three phases of defensive fortifications. In the first phase, wooden palisades were erected in several rows. In phase two, the village dismantled the palisades and dug a triangular ditch. Behind the ditch, an earthwork rampart was built and a single palisade erected at its peak. The ditch from this system was filled in around 1500 B.C. and a double dry stone wall filled with smaller stones was built on top of it.

Archaeologists estimate the village covered more than a hectare (2.4 acres) in area and contained an estimated dozen dwellings. The remains of the dwellings that have been excavated thus far include heretofore unknown details about life in Bronze Age Corsica.

The discovery of the roof rafter installation trenches as well as the discovery of the sand pits allow us to observe the structuring of the internal space of the houses. Divided into three rooms and bounded by a dry stone masonry base, these extend over an area of ​​approximately 50 m². The study also shows that some houses were built entirely of wood.

In addition, the archaeologists observed that the subsistence economy of the village was based on the cultivation of cereals in the surroundings, on the picking of acorns and on livestock. The meats were then smoked to be stored for several months. Silos and silage jars (buried in the earth) were used to store these commodities. Finally, craftsmanship is materialized by a discreet metallurgy and by the presence of stone ornaments and dishes.


Bronze Age sword found under lawn in Finland

Monday, October 4th, 2021

A Bronze Age sword broken in seven pieces has been discovered in the historic village of Panelia, southwestern Finland. Fewer than 200 bronze objects from the Bronze Age have been found in Finland, and out of those, only 25 of them are swords or daggers, so this is an extremely rare find.

The sword was found in late July by metal detectorist Matti Rintamaa who had bought his first metal detector just two weeks earlier. After scanning his own backyard, he moved on to the yard of his childhood home where his parents still live. First he found a few small pieces of metal a couple of inches long. Then he found a longer piece that had a noticeable texture on the surface.

He showed pictures of the piece to an experienced metal detecting friend and the friend said it looked like really old bronze, so Rintamaa called it in to Finland’s National Board of Antiquities. After viewing more pictures of the find, National Board of Antiquities experts confirmed that it was indeed old metal, 2,000 to 4,000 years old, no less.

An archaeologist was dispatched to the find site to investigate further. He found the sword’s hilt and a piece of the tip. All seven of the pieces recovered from Rintamaa’s parents’ yard were found at a shallow depth, the deepest just six inches under the lawn. Archaeologists believe this was not the original context of the sword. It was likely moved there in a load of topsoil during construction work years ago.

The current village of Panelia was founded in the Middle Ages, but before the Iron Age, a settlement thrived on what was then the shore of the Litorina Sea. When a marine transgression event caused sea levels to rise, what had been a coastal bay dried up and the settlement was abandoned.

The original context of the sword can only be guessed at, but possibly it was once sacrificed to the coastal waters of the ancient Gulf of Panelia. […]

During the Bronze Age, the area around the ancient Gulf of Panelia was densely populated, as evidenced by the area’s numerous burial mounds. Panelia also houses Finland’s largest known Bronze Age burial mound, Kuninkaanhauta (roughly translated as the Royal Tomb).

Bronze Age bronze sword found in Panelia, Finland. Photo by Sami Raninen, National Board of Antiquities.


Unique 6th c. ivory comb found in Bavaria

Sunday, October 3rd, 2021

Archaeologists in Bavaria have unearthed two exceptionally furnished graves from the 6th century each containing a find unique north of the Alps: an ivory comb decorated on both sides with animal scenes, and a red ceramic bowl made in what is now Tunisia.

The comb was found in the grave of an adult man about 40 to 50 years old at time of death. He was a warrior, buried with a full complement of weapons including a long sword, a lance, a shield and a battle axe. A bronze basin was also unearthed in the grave. In a pit next to the grave archaeologists found the skeletal remains of a horse, and the presence of a pair of spurs and the remnants of a bridle found inside the man’s grave indicate he was the rider of the horse buried in the grave next to him.

At the foot of the warrior was a bag made of an organic material. Most of it has decomposed, but there are some remains. That bag was the 6th century version of a toiletries bag, containing a pair of scissors and the ivory comb he would have used to groom his hair and beard. The comb had splintered apart over time, but conservators from the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation were able to piece it back together.

Combs are more frequently seen in funerary contexts from later in the medieval period, but they are typically carved from wood, animal bone or antler. Ivory carvings of any kind were exceedingly rare in the 6th century, and the few surviving ivory combs believed to date from this period are either plain, or carved with Christian or Biblical motifs. This one is also unusually long at more than 5.5 inches, one of the largest combs of any material found in an early medieval funerary context.

The carving on this comb is of extremely high quality. It features a hunting scene of animals non-native to Europe, antelope-like prey leaping away from the predators chasing them. As there are no comparable examples to this one known, archaeologists have not been able to pin down exactly which animals are represented on the scene, if they were meant to be African animals specifically.

The second grave contained the remains of an adult woman who was around 30 to 40 years old when she died. She was buried with jewelry, food offerings, including eggs, and a weaving batten, a tool used to beat the weft on upright looms. Pottery of local manufacture was also found in the grave. To the left of her left elbow was a bowl buried upside-down, but it was not local. On the contrary, it had traveled far to accompany this woman to the afterlife.

Cleanly broken in two pieces but complete, the bowl is an example of high-quality African red slip ware, pottery characterized by a thick ochre/red slip that coats in the interior, and often the exterior, of many forms of vessels. African red slip ware was in active production in what is now Tunisia from the 1st to the 7th century A.D. and was highly sought-after all over the territory (and later former territory) of the Roman Empire. It was traded throughout the Mediterranean as far as Constantinople until production ceased, but this is the first example in such complete condition found in Germany.

The inside of the bowl is stamped in the center with a square cross, a design struck during production of the ceramic. After market, some loops and what look like sixes were scratched around the rim of the bowl. They could have been random doodles, or they may have had linguistic or religious meaning, an unknown form of runic script, for example.

The burials were discovered during an excavation at the site of a new municipal development in the town of Deiningen which is located in the Nördlinger Ries meteorite impact crater of western Bavaria. At the time the graves were dug, the area was populated by Alemanni tribes but under the suzerainty of the Frankish kings of the Merovingian dynasty.

The excavation of the site has unearthed more than 75 graves, including one double grave of a young man and a young woman about 20 years of age who were buried holding hands. They were found just a few feet away from the warrior’s burial. The presence of 6th century graves, especially those of elite individuals, in an organized burial ground rewrites the history of Deiningen which was previously believed to have been settled in the 8th century.


3,000-year-old gold bowl found in Austria

Saturday, October 2nd, 2021

An extremely rare gold bowl decorated with a sun motif that dates back at least 3,000 years has been discovered at the site of a prehistoric settlement in Ebreichsdorf, Austria. There are only about 30 of these finely worked Bronze Age gold bowls known in Europe, and this is the first of its kind discovered in Austria; the second east of the Alps. Most of them come from northern Germany and Scandinavia, with single examples found in Spain, France and Switzerland.

The bowl is two inches high and eight inches in diameter. It is made of a thin sheet of gold finely decorated in repoussé technique (hammered on the back of the sheet to form a raised design on the front). The side of the bowl has rows of concentric circles, lozenges and dots. The bottom of the bowl is decorated with a radiating sun. It contained four other precious objects: two bracelets of spiral wire and two clumps of organic material wrapped in gold wire. The material was either leather or fabric stitched with gold.

The site has been excavated since September 2019 to salvage archaeological material before construction of a railway station. The digs revealed a Late Bronze Age settlement of the Urnfield culture (named for their practice of burying urns containing the cinerary remains of the dead in fields). Occupied between around 1300 and 1000 B.C., the settlement consisted of several pile dwellings built around a large central building. It covered an estimated area of about 25 acres and was home to a community of about 100-150 people. The bowl was found buried against the side of one of the pile dwellings.

The bowl and its contents may have been a votive deposit. The southern edge of the settlement was bounded by a seasonal waterway, a stream or swamp, and archaeologists found almost 500 bronze objects including pins, knives complete with handles, and daggers in the watercourse layer. They also found animal bones and ceramics. There is almost no damage to the finds, so they weren’t thrown out as trash, and the watercourse was too shallow to be navigable so they weren’t accidental losses. The density and distribution of the finds indicate they were deliberately deposited over time.  Archaeologists believe this was a site of ritual importance where objects and animals were thrown in the water for religious purposes.

The bowl is being cleaned and conserved and will go on display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Meanwhile, it has been digitally scanned and a 3D model created:





October 2021


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