A wealth of rings

Bern Historisches Museum – Celtic gold and silver objects study
(25th to 30th of August 2019)

View of Bern – photo M. Nordez


Finger rings from Münsingen, Spiez, Muri and earring from Worb-Richigen (left to right) © Bernisches Historisches Museum – photo B. Armbruster

We (Barbara Armbruster, Marilou Nordez & Sebastian Fürst) spent a week at the Bern Historisches Museum to study their wonderful gold and silver collections. In particular, this was an opportunity to examine and document precious metal artefacts from the Late Iron Age necropolises of Münsingen “Rain”, Muri “Mettlen”, Oberhofen “Schönörtli/Örtliboden” and Stettlen-Deisswil.


“Schaukelfingerringe” from Münsingen and Worb-Richigen © Bernisches Historisches Museum – photo B. Armbruster

We saw a large quantity of finger rings of very different morphologies and technologies, in particular a large quantity of gold and silver Schaukelfingerringe (saddle-shaped finger rings). Compared to other geographical areas, an astonishing amount of silver was used for the production of ornaments in this region of Switzerland.


Claudia (BHM) and Sebastian using the Keyence digital microscope – © photo M. Nordez

We were welcomed under excellent study conditions in order to carry out detailed recording in our database, the measurements, the photographic documentation and using a Keyence microscope. This is an excellent optical instrument for microscopic imaging that allows a high depth of field. We achieve high-resolution microphotographs and can realize precise measurements.

Some of the 70 objects studied during this research stay… – © photo M. Nordez



We would like to thank the Bern Historisches Museum, Sabine Bolliger, Claudia Wymann, Maike Piecuch & Jana Glur for their warm welcome!

Full house at the Glauberg

Although the temperatures were almost 40° C, the auditorium of the Keltenwelt am Glauberg museum was filled to capacity on the 25th of July, when our project coordinators Barbara Armbruster and Roland Schwab reported on “New research on the goldsmith-art of the Celts”.

In their one-hour lecture, Roland Schwab first explained the objectives and the methods of investigation of our project. He then illustrated the research potential of analysing the gold composition by showing first findings. In the second part of the lecture, Barbara Armbruster explained the technical skills of Celtic goldsmiths. In this context, she displayed the typological development and the spatial distribution of the Celtic torques, which played a pivotal role in Celtic society for about half a millennium.

Barbara Armbruster during her lecture at the Glauberg. – Photo: S. Fürst
Part of the audience at the Glauberg during the Celtic Gold lecture. – Photo: S. Fürst

If you want to read more about Celtic Gold, please have a look at the new August issue of “Spektrum der Wissenschaft” where you can find a nice article of the both about the “warriors with gold jewellery” (“Krieger mit Goldschmuck”).

© Spektrum der Wissenschaft 2019.

International symposium “AUREUS – The power of Gold” (Orléans, FR – 12 to 14/11/2018)

“The Power of Gold” is an international and  transdisciplinary symposium (History, Archaeometry, Physics, Chemistry, Classics, Numismatics) bringing together 50 scientists from France, Belgique, United Kingdom, Austria, Germany, Italy and United States, between 12th and 14th November 2018 in Orléans.

It aims to discuss  the economic, political, social and cultural uses of the gold coinage in the West, from the Hellenistic period to the end of the 1st century AD.

Object of the month October 2018

The bracelet from Bad Dürkheim – Eye to eye with strange creatures

© Roland Schwab/CEZA

One of the most interesting gold ornaments of the late 5th century BC surely is the bracelet from the elite burial of Bad Dürkheim. Although the tomb was already discovered in the 19th century under problematic circumstances (during construction of a railway track) and cannot be considered complete, the preserved finds testify an extremely rich grave of the early Latène culture.

From the technological point of view, the bracelet is rather ordinary: closed, but with one joint, shape slightly deformed; three pairs of masks of oppositely oriented heads, separated by double-conical elements and three knots; masks/heads and other decorative elements such as rows of pearls are modelled in wax. After casting it has been finished by chasing and polishing.

The special appeal of this piece emanates more from the strange heads. At first glance they appear like ordinary human heads. But as the ears clearly indicate, they are rather satyrs. Their gaze, with their spaced eyes and the suggestive smile, seems somehow enigmatic. In the half-light of the scanning electron microscope, the heads appear even more captivating, almost mysterious.

A similar bracelet had been found in the second burial of Schwarzenbach (Lkr. Sankt Wendel), but unfortunately it is lost. But, according to the photos, the faces seem a little more stout. The Bad Dürkheim faces also have a slight resemblence with the one depicted on the torc from Reinheim (Saarpfalz-Kreis). Satyrs are rather common in Celtic art like on the beaked-flagons of the “Kleinaspergle” near Asperg or from the Glauberg, “princely grave” 1.

For further information see:

  • Bardelli 2017a: G. Bardelli (Hrsg.), Das Prunkgrab von Bad Dürkheim 150 Jahre nach der Entdeckung. Monogr. RGZM 137 (Mainz 2017).
  • Bardelli 2017b: G. Bardelli, Die wahre italische Faszination : die Funde aus dem keltischen Grab von Bad Dürkheim und ihre Geschichten. Mosaiksteine 14 (Mainz 2017).

08.10.2018, Glauberger Werkstattgespräche – A first presentation of preliminary results

On the occasion of the publication of the third volume of the “Glauberg Studies” (July 2018), a colloquium in the Glauberg museum took place with many interesting contributions to the investigations of the extraordinary grave finds and to the statue of the so-called “Celtic prince” of the Glauberg.

Welcome speech by Axel Posluschny and Angelika Ulbrich. – Photo: Dr. Beate Leinthaler, Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Hessen, hessenARCHÄOLOGIE

Together with the conservation and restoration workshop of the department hessenARCHÄOLOGIE at the Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Hessen, the Research Centre of the Keltenwelt am Glauberg organized this lecture in which about 40 people attended.

Besides several lectures by members of the hessenARCHÄOLOGIE on aspects of the latest research and perspectives around the topic “Glauberg”, our CELTIC GOLD project was also invited to present our first results. Roland Schwab and Nicole Lockhoff presented our first results and put the Glauberg finds in context with the other gold objects of the early Latène period in terms of their production technique and composition.

Nicole Lockhoff and Roland Schwab (right) of the CELTIC GOLD project together with the other speakers and the hosts of the colloquium. – Photo: Dr. Beate Leinthaler, Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Hessen, hessenARCHÄOLOGIE

EAA 2018 in Barcelona

It was in February 2018, when we started to promote our Session “Precious materials and fine metal work in the European Iron Age – function, aesthetic, and technology” at the EAA 2018 in Barcelona.

Fortunately, many colleagues joined us with exciting topics:

  • Karina Grömer (Natural History Museum Vienna, Prehistoric Department): Textiles as prestige goods in Central Europe 800-400 BC.
  • Joёlle Rolland (UMR 8215 Trajectoires; UMR 5060 IRAMat/Ceb): The glitter of glass: using production systems to approach the value of goods.
  • Moa Råhlander (Stockholm University): Value of Beads. Synthetic Jewels, Trinkets or Talismans?
  • Joseph Kovacik (Eveha etudes archeologiques) / Sabrina Save (Amelie SARL) / Anne Filippini / Antoine Mamie / Marion Bernard (Eveha etudes archeologiques): Looking good dead. PXRF analysis at the assemblage level and the ephemeral nature of some copper alloy burial goods.
  • Xose-Lois Armada / Oscar Garcia-Vuelta (Institute of Heritage Sciences, Spanish National Research Council, Incipit – CSIC) / Simona Scrivano (Departamento de Fisica Atomica Molecular y Nuclear, University of Seville; Centro Nacional de Aceleradores – CNA): New perspectives on the technology and function of Iron Age goldwork: the Recouso treasure (NW Iberian peninsula).

And of course some colleagues of our project participated as well, talking not only about gold:

  • Barbara Armbruster: Technological studies of iron age gold work decoration.
  • Marilou Nordez: La Tène gold torcs (Vth – Ist c. BC). Evolution of morphology, representation and ways of wearing.
  • Roland Schwab / Andrea Babbi (RGZM) / Ernst Pernicka, (CEZA): The coming of silver to the Iron Age: first archaeometallurgical impressions from italy.
  • Sebastian Fürst: Luxury for the Masses – Red corals as an indicator for intercultural connections and social dynamics.
© Universitat de Barcelona


We would like to take this opportunity to thank the speakers for their exciting insights into their research , and the numerous listeners for their interest and the lively discussions. It was a very nice and instructive morning.

September 2018

Torc from Lasgraïsses (Tarn)

The complex closing system of the torc from Lasgraïsses (video M. Nordez)

A complex closing system

This torc with “efflorescences” comes from Lasgraïsses (Tarn), in South-Western France. With a gold armlet, they were deposited in hoard during the third century BC. Discovered in April 1885 during farm work, fragments of burnt animal bones, ceramic and charcoal were maybe associated.
A very complex closing system is visible here, combining 3 main features:
– A mobile annular terminal with mortise (keyhole shape), rotating around a pin
– An interlocking system with pin and slide
– A dowel pin.

New publication about Iron Age Gold!

SCHWAB R. et al. 2018 – Early Iron Age Gold in Celtic Europe: Society, Technology and Archaeometry

SCHWAB R., MILCENT P.-Y., ARMBRUSTER A., PERNICKA E. (eds) – Early Iron Age Gold in Celtic Europe: Society, Technology and Archaeometry, Proceedings of the International Congress held in Toulouse, France, 11-14 March 2015, Forschungen zur Archäometrie und Altertumswissenschaft, 6, 1, Rahden/Westf.: Leidorf, 2018, 445 p.

We are glad to announce the brand new publication of the work from the previous WEST HALLSTATT GOLD project and the international conference “Early Iron Age Gold in Celtic Europe. Society, Technology and Archaeometry”, held in Toulouse in March 2015.

These conference proceedings contain a foreword with an introduction and 19 papers. The contributions deal with 150 years of research, the gold of the Hallstatt Culture, gold finds in the National Museum at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, material sciences applied to West Hallstatt gold, typology, technology, and analyses of Hallstatt gold in France and Western Switzerland, technology and material analyses of Hallstatt gold from South-West Germany, annular gold ornaments and their decoration, the jewellery from Lazenay, Early La Tène art and Mediterranean iconography, golden rings and earrings from Alsace, gold from Western Swiss graves such as Payerne, technology, chronology, and social meaning of Iron Age gold in North-Western Iberia, Iron Age gold workshops in South-West Iberia, e. g. at Vaiamonte, Iron Age gold on the Eastern Iberian Peninsula, the hoard of gold discs from Fortios in Portugal, Iron Age gold in Belgium and the Southern Netherlands as well as in Britain, the hoard of gold torques from Blair Drummond and its significance for regional styles and international connections in the Later Iron Age, and with Villanovan fibulae in bronze, gold, bone and amber.

To buy it : https://www.vml.de/e/detail.php?ISBN=978-3-89646-876-5


30.07.-03.08.2018, a small but hot project meeting in Mainz

Sometimes a heated head is not caused by a heated discussion or some difficult tasks, but simply by the so-called “summer of the century”. And it was exactly during this heat wave that Barbara Armbruster’s visit to the RGZM took place, which we used for a small team meeting with all colleagues on the German side.

In addition to the fine-tuning of the database, the first project presentations, such as at the Glauberg Werkstattgespräche or at the Colloque international AVREVS, were discussed. Also the second complete team meeting, which should take place this time in Orléans, was planned (see report above) as well as the next analysis series in Mannheim at the end of 2018, which would be dedicated to the small ring ornament (see “Studies” section).

Of course, apart from all these organizational things, which also included the planning of the upcoming session at the EAA in Barcelona, there was still time to present and discuss the latest research results.

Furthermore, we met Univ.-Prof. Dr. Sabine Hornung of the Department of Pre- and Protohistory and Near Eastern Archaeology at the Saarland University to discuss and plan a cooperation concerning ancient fine metalwork.

Small project meeting in Toulouse, 19.-21.02.2018

Although modern means of communication facilitate our everyday working life a lot, at some point, it still is necessary to meet in person. Especially, since we are collecting more and more gold objects and the need for discussing typological issues increases. After intense discussions in Mainz and Mannheim on the German side, and in Toulouse on the French side, we took the opportunity to have a small meeting with Barbara Armbruster, Pierre-Yves Milcent, Marilou Nordez, and Sebastian Fürst to talk about the database and the typological ranking of the objects.

As Barbara Armbruster has stressed in her 2011 article (see literature section), it is necessary to apply both, an inner and an outer typology for a comprehensive understanding of archaeological artefacts. This is why we have chosen to use two rather separated, but complementary, typological approaches within our database and thus in our project. Whereas the inner typology is based on an investigation of the technological information inherent in the material (like forming, decoration, joining or finishing techniques), the outer typology focuses more on the phenotype of an object rather than on its genotype. But this is not just l’art pour l’art. These two typologies are likely to reflect different social spheres: groups of objects with close parallels in terms of technical features are more closely linked to the producers, the artisans and craftsmen, whereas objects with a close optical similarity tell us more about the consumers and their shared aesthetic believes or social affiliation.

For example, if we compare one of the torcs from Fenouillet (dép. Haute-Garonne) with the one from Montans (dép. Tarn), at first glance they appear to be very similar in appearance. However, as Barbara Armbruster has proven, they differ in their manufacturing techniques.

Fenouillet torc 1

Torc 1 from Fenouillet (dép. Haute-Garonne), © B. Armbruster.

Torc from Montans (dép. Tarn),               © B. Armbruster







In this case, it is an analogous similarity: the two torcs have a similar appearance (outer typology), but they differ in terms of their construction (inner typology). Analogue similarities are likely to indicate related consumer groups, whereas homologous similarities (resemblances in construction, but different appearance) rather indicate similar production groups or workshops.

EAA session #263 – Precious materials and fine metal work in the European Iron Age – Function, aesthetic, and technology

Luxury objects are an important part of European Iron Age material culture. This is reflected in personal ornaments, decorated weapons, vessels, wagons and furniture, etc. This session deals with materials such as gold, silver, bronze, enamel, and glass as well as organic materials, such as ivory, coral, amber, and jet. These luxury materials played an important role in social, religious, economic and artistic terms that we would like to discuss.

Our session offers the opportunity to compare the trade and exchange systems of different precious materials in diverse parts of Europe. As different as the materials are, as unequal is their value. Hence, different raw materials have been accessible for different social groups; this is why the distribution patterns of different raw materials allow us to establish a more detailed reconstruction of the economic systems during a certain period and to trace the chronological dynamics in this context.  Moreover, since raw materials are always closely interrelated with networks of production and consumption, their distribution patterns and dynamics enable profound insights into the circulation of the ideas and people behind the materials.

Our aim is to bring together research dealing with different aspects of these prestigious materials and objects combining social anthropology, archaeological context, style, arts and crafts, technology and archaeometry. Therefore, we invite contributions concerned with interdisciplinary approaches to precious materials and fine metal work.

We kindly invite you to submit your abstract for the session at https://eaa.klinkhamergroup.com/eaa2018/ before February 15th.

First meeting


Our first meeting took place in the Musée d’Archéologie Nationale (Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France) from 21 to 22 September 2017, with almost all project members (see photo below).

1st meeting CELTIC GOLD – Musée d’Archéologie Nationale (Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France) – Picture M. Nordez. From left to right : Maryse Blet-Lemarquand, Nicole Lockoff, Roland Schwab, Laurent Olivier, Susanne Sievers, Pierre-Yves Milcent, Sebastian Fürst, Martin Schönfelder, Barbara Armbruster. (missing: Sylvia Nieto-Pelletier, Marilou Nordez).

Celtic gold

The CELTIC GOLD project aims to renew the perception of Western La Tène culture (half Vth to Ist century BC) from the study of production and consumption of golden objects. This concerns a wide geographic area, namely France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg and Netherlands, and involves many aspects as economic, social, technological and artistic development.

By this blog, we want to highlight our researches, both methodological approaches (conduct of fin metal work objects, experimentations) and main results o

f this Franco-German program in Social and Human Sciences (FRAL), supported by both ANR (Agence nationale de la recherche) and DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft).

We hope that you could find every information that you are looking for about these topics.