Oldest gold artifact in southwest Germany found

Gold spiral may have been used as a hair ornament.

This gold artifact, which may have been used as a hair ornament, was found buried with a woman who died around 3,800 years ago.
(Image credit: Yvonne Mühleis, LAD Esslingen)

Archaeologists have uncovered the 3,800 year-old burial of a woman who was around 20 years old when she died in what is now Tübingen, Germany. Inside her tomb, archaeologists found just one grave good — a spiral gold wire that may have been used as a hair ornament.

It’s considered the oldest gold artifact found in southwest Germany. “The gold contains about 20% silver, less than 2% copper, and has traces of platinumand tin. This composition points to a natural gold alloy typical of gold washed from rivers,” a chemical composition that suggests it came from the Carnon River area in Cornwall, England, the researchers said in a statement.

“Precious metal finds from this period are very rare in southwestern Germany,” the researchers said in the statement. “The gold find from the Tübingen district [is] evidence that western cultural groups [such as from Britain and France] gained increasing influence over central Europe in the first half of the second millennium [B.C.],” researchers said.

The woman was buried in a fetal position facing south, not far from a prehistoric hilltop settlement where other graves have been found.

The researchers found no evidence of any injuries or disease, so they have no idea what she died from, Raiko Krauss, a professor in the Institute of Prehistory and Medieval Archaeology at the University of Tübingen, told Live Science. Krauss and Jörg Bofinger, a conservator with the Baden-Württemberg State Office for Cultural Heritage Management, led the excavation of the grave.

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