A metal detectorist sweeping a freshly plowed carrot field in northeast Switzerland stumbled upon a bold fashion statement from the Middle Bronze Age, which dates back 3,500 years.
Franz Zahn realized he was onto something special when several spiked bronze discs emerged from the soil in Güttingen, a town in the canton of Thurgau.
Zahn immediately reported his historic find to officials at the local office of archeology, who sent a team of investigators to the site. Instead of setting up shop at the farm, the archaeologists asked the landowner for permission to extract a 20-inch cube of material that could be scrutinized in a lab in nearby Frauenfeld.
As the researchers meticulously brushed away layer upon layer of soil, more and more artifacts started to appear. In the end, the block of soil yielded 14 bronze discs, two double-spiral finger rings, more than 100 tiny amber beads and gold wire spirals. Also in the cache were a bronze arrowhead, a beaver tooth, a perforated bear tooth, a fossilized shark tooth, a small ammonite, rock crystal and several lumps of polished ore.
Researchers believe the jewelry and artifacts were owned by a rich woman with a passion for collecting.
But the prize of the collection is a bold necklace glistening with bronze discs, each with three ribs and a "thorn" in the middle. On one side of each disc is a narrow grommet through which a thread or leather strap could be pulled. Spirals strung between each disc served as spacers.
This type of item would have been considered "costume jewelry" during the Middle Bronze Age, according to the researchers.
The archaeologists are convinced that there was no grave at the site and the jewelry was likely buried in a jewelry box or other organic container that disintegrated over time. They also wondered if the jewelry was worn for more than personal adornment. Perhaps they served as a protective amulet.
Restoration experts are currently cleaning and repairing the newly discovered items so they can go on display at the Museum of Archaeology in Frauenfeld next year.
Credit: Image courtesy of Canton of Thurgau.