A new approach for golden treasures

Innovative Analyses in Archaeometry

Map: M. Börner/OREA; Picture: W. P. Tolstikow, M. J. Trejster, Der Schatz aus Troja. Stuttgart – Zürich 1996, 1997, 182, Kat.-Nr. 239

Starting point for this innovative approach are the famous treasures of the Early Bronze Age settlements of Troy in Western Anatolia with a large number of golden objects. The majority of these finds can be associated with the phases of Troy II and III, dating to the Early Bronze Age 2–3. Remarkable is the enormous number of high quality gold objects like vessels, jewelry (earrings, necklaces, bracelets, needles, pendants and so-called ‘Lockenringe’). The high amounts of gold objects, especially jewelry with partially very filigree gold applications are striking and lead to the question of the people who have produced and worn these precious objects. Interestingly, the appearance of the practice to hoard prestige objects is not known in previous times in Western Anatolia. This phenomenon seems to be accompanied by the formation of hierarchical structures and the appearance of ‘proto-urban’ centers (i.e. Troy II, Liman Tepe V) in the developed Early Bronze Age 2 period. The influence of these centers can be hinted by astonishingly typological directly comparable jewelry (earrings, pendants and ‘Lockenringe’) from a golden treasure found in phase ‘giallo’ of the settlement Poliochni on Lemnos. This island is situated in front of the Western Anatolian coastline and not far away from Troy. Also a contemporaneous dating of this treasure to the Early Bronze Age 3 is assumed.

In context of the appearance of the accumulation of prestige objects, it is worthwhile to consider the development of ‘proto-urban’ societies rooted in the Late Chalcolithic Period (4th millennium BC) and continuing in the Early Bronze Age 1 (early 3rd millennium BC) in Western Anatolia. Gold finds dating to these periods are known from the sites Ege Gübre, Bakla Tepe, Liman Tepe, Çukuriçi Höyük, Beşiktepe close to the Western Anatolian coastline as well as one object assigned to the region of Sardis. In Ege Gübre a golden so-called ‘ring idol’ was found which was dated by radiocarbon to the first half of the 4th millennium BC and represents the earliest find of precious metal in Western Anatolia. Among the few gold objects three golden ‘ring idols’ are surprising. In general, the shape of the idols is typical Balkanic and well known in this region. On the basis of the ‘ring idols’, a link between the Balkans and Western Anatolia is favored by several scholars. Gold finds are also well known in the Balkans and attested by the rich burial gifts of the Varna cemetery dating to the 5th millennium BC and indicating a differentiated structure of the society. For revealing possible connections between the Balkans and Western Anatolia further gold artefacts found at Dubene in Bulgaria will be added. Beside the planned analyses of the golden treasures from Troy at the museum in İstanbul and the finds from Poliochni at the museum in Athens, the countless gold objects from Dubene at the national museum Sofia offer the best conditions.

An unsolved question requires an answer: if the early gold finds in Western Anatolia can be seen as indicators of a formation of hierarchical structures. In case of the gold finds, the provenance of the gold is important and still unknown. The innovative archaeometric method with an easily transportable device to take non-destructive gold samples for provenance analyses based on laser technology offers the opportunity to determine distinct objects of the golden treasures of Troy as well as selected pieces from other sites for providing us with information of the socio-cultural background of the treasures and to uncover regional and supra-regional contacts, which are essential for their understanding. Nevertheless, the occurrence of gold treasures can be seen as a marker for the emergence of social elites leading to the formation of complex societies, which are attested in Early Bronze Age Troy.



  • Ch. Schwall, Early Bronze Age Gold Finds in the Aegean and Anatolia: a Marker for Increasing Social Complexity and Connectivity? Charles University, Faculty of Arts, Institute of Classical Archaeology, Prag, Tschechien (31.10.2018).
  • Ch. Schwall – B. Horejs – M. Numrich – E. Pernicka, The Early Bronze Age Gold Treasures of Troy and Related Finds: Indicators for the Connectivity of Rising Elites? American Schools of Oriental Research Annual Meeting 2017, 15.‒18. November 2017, Boston (MA), USA (16.11.2017).
  • Ch. Schwall – B. Horejs – M. Numrich – E. Pernicka, The gold treasures of Troy. Indicators for the socio-cultural impact of gold and the connectivity of rising elites in the 3rd millennium BC. Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut Athen (11.10.2017)
  • Ch. Schwall – B. Horejs – M. Numrich – E. Pernicka, The Socio-cultural Impact of Gold in the 3rd Millennium BC: an Anatolian-Aegean Perspective into the Balkans. Searching for Gold: Resources and Networks in the Bronze Age of the Eastern Balkans, 8.-10. Juni 2017, OREA, ÖAW, Wien (08.06.2017).
  • Ch. Schwall, Das Gold Troias. Indikator für frühe Eliten in Anatolien und der Ägäis? Vortragsreihe während der Ausstellung „Das erste Gold. Ada Tepe: Das älteste Goldbergwerk Europas“, KHM Wien (14.3.2017).



  • M. Numrich – E. Pernicka – Ch. Schwall – B. Horejs, Untersuchungen zur Herunft bronzezeitlicher Goldobjekte mittels mobiler Laserablation und Massenspektrometrie. Archäometrie und Denkmalpflege 2018, 20.–24. März 2018, Hamburg.



  • M. Numrich – E. Pernicka – Ch. Schwall – B. Horejs, Untersuchungen zur Herkunft bronzezeitlicher Goldobjekte mittels mobiler Laserablation und Massenspektrometrie, in: L. Glaser (Hrsg.), Archäometrie und Denkmalpflege 2018. Jahrestagung am Deutschen Elektronen-Synchrotron Hamburg, 20.–24. März 2018 (Hamburg 2018) 99–102. doi:10.3204/DESY-PROC-2018-01