Bernstorf, Bavaria; Mycenean Linear B in Bronze Age Germany

In this post we present information extracted from official publications on the archaeological site of Bernstorf in Bavaria, Germany. Some exciting findings have come to light, including two amber objects with incised Mycenean Linear B Writing.

bernstorf 24

Summary Fifteen years ago exceptional pieces of jewellery, made from sheet gold, had been discovered on the Bernstorfer Hill near Kranzberg in Upper Bavaria. Together with amber objects, engraved with images and characters and unearthed only two years later, they generated great astonishment in Bronze Age studies. Unfortunately, as with many of such extraordi- nary finds, some have erroneously considered them as for- gery. Their find spot lies within a fortified site, constructed in the middle Bronze Age around 1340 BC. The fortification and associated finds have thrown up many questions, which are being addressed step-by-step since 2010 in a joint project by the Goethe-University Frankfurt/Main and the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection Munich, funded by the Ger- man Research Foundation (DFG). Key aspects of the project are a review of the settlement history of the Bernstorfer Hill, an appraisal of its cultural integration within the regional settlement structure as well as an assessment of supra-regional relations via detailed analysis and discussion of all finds and findings; specifically, however, of the gold and amber finds.

bernstorf 19

Conclusion Contrary to the doubts of many authentic gold objects of the Middle Bronze Age, the gold sheets found in the large fortification on Bern-storfer Berg in 1998 represent no evidence of falsifications in terms of history and circumstances is. The discovery of the gold plates in August and September 1998 can be reconstructed on the basis of photos, video clips, recordings and, above all, the entry book of the Archaeological State Collection in Munich. The first results of the still ongoing complementary material analyzes (gold, amber, loam), the dating of various materials (wood-carbon, resin, organic residues) as well as the manufacturing-technical reconstructions already show that it is very pure gold with 99.7% gold dating back to the Bronze Age. Such pure gold in antiquity can only have been produced by chemical-thermal processes (cementation, purification), as known from the eastern Mediterranean and from Egypt. The origin of the gold and the templates for the Bernstorfer gold sheets is the subject of further investigations.

bernstorf 10

At this point we would like to discuss a comparable gold sheet found in Ostfriesland in 1910: the gold disk of Moordorf near Aurich (Wegner 1996, 414 f Fig. 111). The disk, 14.5 cm in diameter and also made of very thin sheet of gold (0.14 mm), was probably excavated in 1927, probably from a grave find. Noteworthy are the radially attached decorative zones, which are composed of diagonally-filled triangles and zones with humps and line bands. This is a great match with the decoration of the Bernstorfer Ble-che. The spectral analysis presented by A. Hartmann in 1982 also showed that Aurich’s disk was made from a very pure gold comparable to Bernstorfer Gold (Hartmann 1970, Au 1122). Hartmann interpreted it as purified, purified gold, and he put the few comparable analyzes in Europe later (Hartmann 1982, 35 f., Tab. 36) into the context of far-reaching connections between the eastern Mediterranean and northern Europe. He suspects the origin of the technical process of cleaning gold and the origin of these relevant gold objects in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. These conclusions, expressed with far-sightedness, are highly topical, because we can assume a comparable cultural-historical context for the Bernstorfer gold sheets as well as for the Gold disc from Moordorf.

Bernstorf 22

The Bernstorfer gold sheets were most likely in the second half of the 14th c. B.C. Buried in the course of the task of attachment and the fire of the wood-earth wall within the wall ring. For this purpose, the large sheets, such as the needle and the diadem, were carefully folded. At various gold plates and the amber seal were also in the up
still intact enclosures from sediment of the Bernstorfer Berg exist, which show that the individual objects were carefully treated and individually deposited. The task of fortification could have been a reason for this and the fire itself could be interpreted as a deliberately induced ritual act.

bernstorf 1

Finally, the question of the original determination of the gold sheets was taken up again and Gebhard’s first interpretation was deepened (Gebhard 1999, 17). The Bernstorfer Gold jewelry ensemble seems to have been made according to the model of Mycenaean gold sheets, as they are known for example from the shaft graves. The different components of the ensemble could have served as a garnishment of a statue, probably a statue of a god. Most sheets, for example, have perforations that allow to sew on fabric. Following this interpretation, the question of meaning and function arises in the context of a cult and religious utterances. Further investigations will therefore investigate the extent to which a (one-time?) Takeover of religious expressions and practices from the Eastern Mediterranean region and the Mycenaean culture in the Bronze Age Bernstorf can have taken place. Such an interpretation would also lift the Bernstorfer gold sheets above the hitherto known, as do the shapes and the origin of the gold itself.

(Source: “The gold from Bernstorf – Authenticity and context in the European Middle Bronze Age”, by R. Gebhard, R. Krause, A. Röpke, V. Bähr, 2013)

bernstorf 23

Since the discovery of unusual gold sheets and ornamented Bern stones in the course of gravel quarrying, Bernstorfer Berg has become the focus of Bronze Age research. Already since the descriptions of the Freisinger high school professor Josef Wenzl from the years 1904/1905 it was known that on the Bernstorfer mountain a fortification should have been. In 1995, it has become generally known that the highest fortification of the Middle Bronze Age north of the Alps was located on the hill above the Ampertal. The two extraordinary find ensembles, the gold plates and the ornate amber, were under the direction of R. Gebhard examined in the Archaeological State Collection Munich and published the results.

bernstorf 2

Compared to the finder’s story and the other circumstances surrounding the Nebra sky and its accompanying findings, only modest criticism was made of the origin and authenticity of the Bernstorfer gold and amber finds. However, we have no doubt that the gold plates and ambers are authentic Piece treated and that they come from Bernstorf. All the more so as further parts of the gold find were recovered during a follow-up investigation by the Archeological State Collection and the decorated as well as some of the more than ten undecorated ambers during the excavations of the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation (‘BLfD’) in the year 2000 Days came. In addition, further unadorned raw amber stones were found in the area of ​​the site of the Middle Bronze Age fortification, which had not yet been destroyed by the decomposition of the gravel. As the progress of gravel mining could not be stopped, other sections of the Bronze Age fortification were archaeologically examined by the BLfD before they were destroyed by the gravel mining in the southeast of the site on the occasion of the gold and amber finds.

bernstorf 3

The excavation sections to the east and southeast have revealed that the former wood-earth construction of the fortification has been burned down, leaving significant traces of fire in the ground and heavily tarred clay packages. By recent investigations, we now know that the extension of the Bronze Age fortifications was larger than previously thought, and that within the Bronze Age fortification on the highest hilltop there was a small fortification of the Iron Age. Together with the well-preserved, in the aisle-shaped form of the Middle-Ages site, we still know three fortifications that have been built on the Bernstorfer Berg since the Bronze Age and which emphasize its outstanding topographic position on the eastern edge of the Ampertal.

bernstorf 4

The Bronze Age fortification of Bernstorf is especially known because of the 1998 and 2000 discovered singular gold and amber finds. The uniqueness of the finds, the materials and the idea of ​​a gold medal art ensemble (presumably) on the basis of a cult image inspired by the Mediterranean, suggest that Bernstorf was an important place in the Bronze Age. Bernstorf’s outstanding position is also confirmed by the size of the complex, which, with its 12.77 hectares, is the largest fortification of the 14th century in the later Middle Bronze Age north of the Alps. Despite these facts, hardly anything is known about the fortification Bernstorf So far all data on the temporal depth and the beginning of the Bronze Age settlement have been missing. Therefore, the research project and the new excavations should provide further clues that may explain the position and function of attachment in the immediate and wider radius. One important aspect is the question of the extent to which the inner surface of the fortification was populated and how far back the beginnings of the settlement of the Bernstorfer Berg were.

bernstorf 5

In order to be able to investigate these questions and uncover the structures of the settlement of the ancient Bronze Age, sections 5 to 7 of the excavation campaign 2011 were opened. However, as has already been shown, a great deal of Iron Age findings and discoveries have been discovered. Bronze Age finds are indeed present, but they were not born from settlement findings (pits) with one exception, but lay in a secondary position mixed with Iron Age ceramics in the upper finds. In the intersections, 0.5-0.6 m thick plots or colluvia were observed, which were probably leveled from the top of the hill to the flanks. However, a small bronze age marginal fragment was found in section 5 in a stratigraphically low – lying finding (ref. 203) approx 90 cm below the surface. Findings # 203 is a small, slightly recognizable round discoloration strongly interspersed with charcoal flats and small burnt clay pieces. A 14C dating on a charcoal piece from the finding gave a calibrated age of the older Middle Bronze Age (Cal BC 1610-1450). The adjacent findings nos. 199, 202 and 205, which also occurred at a depth of 90 cm, can be dated to the older Iron Age.

bernstorf 6

The distribution of the Bronze Age finds and the mix with recent finds, could also be observed in section 4 (excavation 2010). Here hardly any Bronze Age finds could be identified with certainty. An exception is a small highly rounded spar with dot-stitch decoration and two parallel score lines that date back to the late Early Bronze Age
and which can be placed in the line of ceramics that have already been found. This includes several T-edges of trays. Shells with T-edge, partly with perforation, occur after P. Honig from the stage BzA2c and especially in BzB [older]. From Freisinger Domberg there are several comparison finds, which M. Bankus also dates to the older Bronze Age.

Among the findings of the 1995-2005 excavations are a pair of winged bronze spouted arrowheads, eight complete vessels and about fifty ceramic fragments (some of which belong together) which, due to their decoration, design or style, represent different phases of the Middle Bronze Age (degree Bz B [younger], Bz C1 and C2) can be assigned.

The situation outlined clearly shows that there are Bronze Age findings and findings from the late Early Bronze Age to the Middle Bronze Age. However, there is a strong overprint by Hallstatt settlement activity, so that older findings have probably been preserved only at lower strata levels or as secondarily deposited material. Therefore, veri fi cation of Bronze Age settlement traces will play an important role in the continuation of the excavations.

bernstorf 18

Findings of the Middle Bronze Age fortification

The large fortification has so far been the most important Bronze Age finding on the Bernstorfer Berg. It was recorded during the excavation campaigns from 1995 to 2005 and recognized as a Bronze Age fortification. Of great importance are the dendrochronological investigations on numerous large charcoals of the burned fortification, which were carried out by F. Herzig of the BLfD, Dendrolabor. In 2010, a supplementary dendrochronological study on the charred timber of the excavations 2000-2002 was completed and the previous date of the fell of the timber, which dates back to 1370/60 BC. was set, corrected. As a result, the date of felling and the construction period of the fortification date back to 1339 BC and 1326 BC, with a felling date closer to 1339 BC. more likely. Complementary 14C datings on some of the examined woods support this new result (between 1515-1330 BC). Thus, there is a revised new chronological starting point for the erection of the fortification.

bernstorf 17

Scientific investigations

Scientific investigations and material analyses are an integral part of the research project. The focus is particularly on the gold and amber analyzes, which are intended to create new foundations for the interpretation of these extraordinary groups of finds and, as it were, to eliminate allegations of forgery that are still subliminal. The focus of settlement-archaeological considerations is on vegetation history and archaeobotany studies in order to obtain data and clues for the reconstruction of the landscape and for the economic foundations.

bernstorf 16

Gold analyses

The analysis of the gold plates from Bernstorf represents an important aspect of our investigations, on the one hand to solve questions about the chemical composition of gold and thus of the possible origin of gold, and on the other hand to answer the question of whether it is ancient or modern Gold and thus deals with counterfeiting. In the Archaeological State Collection of Munich, of ten different gold sheets and of the gold remnant from the perforation of the Amber Seal, a total of 11 samples taken by S. Klein on 8. and 9.4.2011 at the Institute of Geosciences, Faculty of Mineralogy, the Goethe University in Frankfurt were examined on their chemical composition. The first information on the composition of Bernstorf’s gold was obtained in the year 1999 as part of the preliminary report by X-ray fluorescence analysis. Remarkable was the high purity content of the gold, for which a special refolding process was suspected. It was particularly striking that the A. Goldmann Stuttgart Gold Project has already discovered three medium-bronze-time objects of similar composition, including the similarly decorated gold disc from Moordorf-Aurich, to which there are alloy comparisons from Mycenae and Susa.

Since significant advances in provenance research have been made in the last decade by the trace element analysis method, it has been necessary to repeat the electron beam microprobe (EPMA) and laser ablation mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) studies. In order to get as good a result as possible and to exclude surface anomalies, the eleven samples were analyzed on the ground.

bernstorf 15

Result of the analysis and discussion

The samples are high purity gold at levels of 99.7 weight percent. There are neither copper nor silver as relics of the raw materials used or in the form of alloys.

The other elements to be detected (EPMA: silver, antimony, arsenic, tin, zinc, bismuth, lead, iron, sulfur, manganese, mercury, nickel, cobalt) are in the trace element range (ppm). Copper, vanadium, cadmium and the platinum group elements platinum, palladium, iridium, rhodium and ruthenium could only be determined with the high-resolution LA-ICP multicollector mass spectrometer (ppb). Chromium, manganese and zinc are also detectable with LA-ICP-MS but could not be measured accurately enough. Of the trace elements that could be characterized as characteristic in terms of the process of making the gold, antimony, bismuth, mercury and sulfur are mentioned.

The results of the analyzes confirmed the high degree of purity of the gold as well as its very consistent composition. At the same time, the presence of trace elements excludes the use of modern fine gold, which is obtained by electrolysis. Thus, a modern counterfeiting of fine gold is clearly excluded. Among the trace elements are those that can be used as possible “fingerprints”, including antimony, bismuth, sulfur and mercury. The further investigations will focus on how and where it was possible to produce such high-purity gold in antiquity. The procedure is known for Sardinis and Egypt. It was therefore natural to start the investigations with the so-called Akhenaten coffin / KV, which, according to the investigations of D. Klemm, is considered to be the oldest evidence to date of gold filing. Six remaining samples were analyzed by S. Klein using the same methods. The gold of the coffin of KV is very pure, although it still contains distinct remnants of silver and copper. The comparison of the trace elements shows a surprisingly high agreement with the results of the gold from Bernstorf. Antimony, arsenic, bismuth, tin, sulfur, nickel, platinum and palladium occur in almost the same concentration, with some variation in individual elements (palladium) and differences as in mercury may also be due to the intensity of the refining process.

The new analyzes on the gold sheets of Bernstorf confirm and supplement the previous theories about the origin of the raw gold. The gold has an unusually high purity, which in this form does not occur in the case of gold from the Central European region, even in the case of heavily washed-out river gold. A corresponding retrofitting procedure is documented for the first millennium-sender in Sardis. Historical sources from later times, together with evidence of refined gold (“Akhenaten Coffin”), argue that Raf fi nishing technology in Egypt dates as far back as the 2nd millennium BC. is known. The observation that all parts were made of approximately 25 mm wide strips of gold foil suggests that the gold originally delivered to Bernstorf was originally negotiated in the form of “sheet rolls”. The close correspondence in the trace elements of the gold of Bernstorfer with the Egyptian gold indicates that in both cases the same or at least a very similar gold source exists. Here, more in-depth investigations are needed to provide an improved basis and a broader statistical basis.

bernstorf 14

Amber analysis

In Europe, the Baltic amber (succinite) has always dominated over other fossil resins in terms of size and distribution of its deposits. But also ambers from other European camps, z. For example, from southern Europe, have been known for a long time. About the barter ambers have been spread since long Neolithic over long distances. The ornate amber objects and raw amber stones discovered in Bernstorf are to be assigned to certain amber types by comparison with chemical-analytical fingerprints of amber stones of known origin. For this purpose, infrared spectroscopic methods are used, which allow non-destructive or low-destructive analyses. Since the two amber objects from Bernstorf indicate that they have an influence on the eastern Mediterranean, the question of whether these amber are of Baltic origin comes from local deposits or from southern European deposits.

Included in the investigations were the two ornate ambers and eleven undecorated and partly pierced ambers of Bernstorf. Furthermore, an amber pusher was analyzed by the Cradle Kadel near Koblach in Vorarlberg.

bernstorf 13

Discussion and results of the amber analyses

The actual task is to decorate the two extraordinary objects, the “Bernstein Seal” and the “Amber Mask”, nondestructively. Therefore, an NIR classification model is developed from fossil resin samples of known origin. This model is able to distinguish seven fossil resin types based on multivariate statistics.

If a spectrum is classified using the overall five-dimensional model, it is considered to belong to an amber type if it is within the tolerance range for that amber type. The undecorated amber nos. 1-11 from Bernstorf, the Koblach amber pusher, and the Bern stone with face representation are referenced NIR model all classified as succinite. The amber seal is first classified as succinite by means of NIR as golling amber and only after repeated measurement at another sample position.

From the spectra of all the amber samples (except the slider from Ko-blach, which was not sampled) useful spectra with characteristically pronounced Baltic shells result. Based on the ATR spectra, therefore, the Bernstorf samples can be classified as succinites.

bernstorf 12

Summary of the new research in Bernstorf 

The new investigations to the Bernstorfer mountain and the processing of the finds show impressively that we are allowed to start from a multi-layered settlement history, because meanwhile three fastenings are proven on the girders which project far into the Ampertal. First of all, there is the large fortification of the later Middle Bronze Age, in which a small, but fortified by two moats Hallstatt temporal fortification was created on the central hilltop in the Iron Age. Finally, on the western edge of the mountain above the Talaue of the Amper a still well-preserved fortification of Wall and graben was established, which is classified so far only on general considerations in an older phase of the Middle Ages. Also, the new excavations inside the area have yielded no further clues for their dating.

Particular attention is paid to the Bronze Age settlement history of the Bernstorfer Berg, which has so far been too one-sided, taking into account the ump. Built fortification as well as the gold and amber finds was considered. The new research has now shown that we can count on a longer settlement, which will last until the late early Bronze Age and the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age, ie the 17th / 16th century. Century BC, and thus provides a greater temporal depth for the arrangement and assignment of the different finds and events. This is especially true of ambers and gold plates, whose authenticity has been confirmed not only by the circumstances of their discovery and by the research carried out on the Bernstorfer Bergden workshops of the Archäologische Staatssammlung in Munich, but also by the new natural sciences Investigations and analyzes. In this respect, general critiques of find circumstances and the finders, especially with the reference to “what can not be, can not exist,” are unlikely to question these objects in the context of the Bronze Age history of the Bernstorfer Berg. In the process, special attention is paid to the gold sheets. Because even with these was very carefully handled before their landfill. The different parts were packed in clay; The large diadem was also carefully folded before. The question of when and where the gold and amber finds were made and how they came to Bernstorf, were eventually supplemented or changed locally, and at what time they were deposited on the Bernstorfer mountain, before the great fortification of 1340 BC, or in connection with the fire of the wood-earth fortification, remains reserved for further research. In any case, the temporal depth of the Bronze Age settlement of the Bernstorfer Berg opens up a number of different considerations, which certainly allow for a different age of gold sheets and ambers. Both groups have come to Bernstorf in different ways and with different backgrounds and have been changed there; however, both fund groups must also have been used at one time in Bernstorf. The fragment of a gold sheet or a gold wire from the hole of the amber seal, which was made of identical gold as the other gold sheets, impressively indicates this. The question of the context and function of the gold sheets in the sense of a gold ornate and possible occupation of a large still picture was discussed by R. Gebhard. At any rate, we understand the gold plates and the ornate and undecorated ambers in the context of the well-known large-scale communication and the exchange of goods and ideas between Northern and Central Europe with the Mediterranean region of the Middle East and especially with the Demiyanic culture.

bernstorf 7

The beginning of the settlement on the Bernstorfer Berg, which should have been based on current knowledge in the late Early Bronze Age or at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age, ie around 1600 BC. On the one hand, the beginning of the settlement on the Bernstorfer Berg coincides with the decline and the end of the settlement on the nearby Domberg of., On the one hand in a period of profound changes and other unusual finds and find circumstances such as the depot find on the Mittelberg near Nebra Freising. Here are interesting perspectives for the question of importance and functional change of these two hill settlements, for the question of (changed?) Communication routes from south to north as well as for the settlement history between the Amper and Isar valleys.

And finally, another puzzle remains to be clarified: the end and the fire of the great Bronze Age fortification. The findings of the excavations and the geomagnetic prospecting show impressively in the obtained parts that the wood-earth wall burned over its entire length of more than 1.6 km and thereby has a high heat development. There are hardly any meaningful indications about the date of the burn. We currently believe that this should not have taken place too long after the construction of the fortifications in the second half of the 14th century. At present, there are few noteworthy indications of an internal settlement at the time of fortification in the later Middle Bronze Age, but it can be ruled out that, as has often been said, it is a densely populated area with a population of 1000 people in the sense of a town-like settlement. It remains to be examined to what extent the Brandder attachment was a damage fire or an intentionally induced combustion of the attachment.

(Source: “Neue Forschungen zu den Befestigungen auf dem Bernstorfer Berg bei Kranzberg im Landkreis Freising (Oberbayern)”, by R. Gebhard, R. Krause et al., 2012)

bernstorf 21

The introduction to the present monograph on the Bernstorf gold finds and on the discussion about their genuineness focused on two issues: How much importance is to be attached to the credibility of those who discovered the objects? And what data can be identified and interpreted regardless of the issue of credibility? The conclusion will focus on the latter point, formulate the individual topics as questions, and sum up the results. A first complex of questions will once again summarize the arguments bolstering the thesis that the gold and amber finds are forgeries, and test the soundness of these arguments. Even though public mention has been made of a dozen or even 15 arguments allegedly supporting the forgery thesis, there are actually but four:

1) The chemical composition of the gold;

2) The 14C dating of organic materials;

3) An autopsy of the amber finds and their immediate connection with the gold find;

4) Doubts as to the credibility of the finders, and the trustworthiness of their version of the discovery of the finds.

These four issues have been outlined and discussed in detail in the present publication.

bernstorf 8

1) The chemical composition of the gold

The Bernstorf gold is of high purity. The analyses conducted agree in their essentials, but do not consistently reveal a 99.99% degree of purity. The silver content varies, its maximum being 0.2% or, in individual tests, even higher. The copper content is about 50 ppm and thus very low, but it varies as well, sometimes reaching 300 ppm. The distribution of the elements in the gold is inhomogeneous. As becomes apparent from experiments and comparative samples, gold of that purity could be made in antiquity using the procedure of cementation. The chemical composition does not permit any statement about the refinement technique used. The inhomogeneity may be due to a cementation procedure, but there is as yet not enough research to answer that question. In the written sources, there is ample evidence of widespread use of gold refinement during the entire second millennium BC. Given the current state of research, and contrary to Pernicka’s opinion, the metal analyses alone do not allow an assessment of the gold find’s genuineness or forgery.

2) 14C dating of a piece of charcoal, micro-traces on the gold, as well as organic remains from sediment samples associated with the gold finds yielded diverse results. A charred fragment of an oak-wood staff, which is associated with the gold find, was tested several times and consistently dated as Bronze Age. The micro-traces of organic substances (syringols and syringol derivates) on the surface of the gold did not yield any usable data. The organic remains from the sediment samples yielded more recent dates, which is in accordance with the fact that the finds were not buried deep in the soil. Hence, the more recent dates do not allow any inferences as to the actual age of the gold find. As manipulations can be ruled out, the Bronze-Age 14C dates, which clearly support the genuineness of the find, are relevant for the assessment of the gold find.

3) The amber finds are more difficult to analyze than the gold finds. The report by K. Verkoojen conveys the impression that the objects are forged. This is not supported by an examination using UV light. To the contrary: the engravings show clear evidence of weathering.

4) The suspicion of manipulation, cast on the volunteer finders due to the circumstances of the discovery of the gold finds and all amber objects, can be clearly refuted in some respects. The finders have repeatedly stressed the veracity of their account. In addition, they have publicly stated that veracity by means of a statutory declaration. As yet, there is no evidence whatsoever suggesting manipulation. Details of the setting of the find, such as the original position of the objects when found, can be clarified irrespective of the finders’ statements.

If we summarize the discussion of these four crucial issues, the accusations that have so far been publicly made lack any solid arguments supporting the forgery thesis.

bernstorf 11

Conclusion If we summarize all aspects discussed in the present volume, not a single sound argument can be identified supporting the assumption that we are dealing with forgery. It is possible to solve the supposed contradictions, both with regard to the gold alloy used and to 14C dates of materials from the site of discovery. With regard to the occurrence of some aspects, such as the sediments in which the objects were embedded, the explanations are still hypothetical. However, it was possible to adduce numerous factors, some of which were already known, as evidence of the authenticity of the objects under discussion. Hence, the gold and amber finds from Bernstorf are prominent – though not unusual – witnesses of the large-scale cultural development in Middle Europe in the 14th century BC, which was characterized by many connections and interrelations between the Scandinavian Nordic Bronze Age, Middle Europe, and the eastern Mediterranean. In that context, southern Germany obviously played a special role, being a hub in the transfer of ideas as well as of various objects and goods.

(Source: “Bernstorf – Archäologisch-naturwissenschaftliche Analysen der Gold- und Bernsteinfunde vom Bernstorfer Berg bei Kranzberg, Oberbayern”, by R. Gebhard, R. Krause, 2016)

bernstorf 20

This remarkable cache included six irregular centrally perforated lumps of amber, a wooden sceptre which partly survived in a carbonized state (at the labo-ratory in Oxford the charcoal received a calibrated 14C date of 1400–1100 BC with 95.4% probability) and had a spiralform gold wrapping, a gold belt with pierced triangular ends, a gold bracelet, a crown made of two layers of sheet gold with five attached vertical elements rising from its horizontal headband, a dress-pin of twisted gold with a flat triangular head, a gold diadem or cloak-fastener with pierced, pointed ends, and seven square gold pendants pierced at one corner for attachment; in total these weigh 103.4 g. The jewellery is made of sheet gold uniformly c.25 mm in thickness. Most of it was produced by a single workshop in repoussé by hammering the gold with punches made of bone or wood rather than of metal; the decoration is rows of concentric circles and of diagonally hatched triangles, with a square tooth-pattern along the edges. However, pointillé decoration is used on the sceptre and pin-head, which bears the wheel-pattern impressed in dots (there is no suggestion that this is writing). The projections on the crown were held in place with slots, as in Aegean crowns as early as that from Mochlos Grave VI. The hoard was at first dated to the 16th or 15th centuries BC, because the style of the goldwork was compared with that of the rich finds from the Shaft Grave Circle A at Mycenae. However, parallels with the gold of the Shaft Graves are weak, and an initial 14C calibrated date of the wood from the sceptre, obtained in the laboratory at Oxford, gave a result of 1390–1091 BC; three further 14C tests have given a tighter chronological range, with two yielding 1389–1216 ± 1 BC.

Although this is the only gold crown possibly of Aegean type that has been found outside the Aegean, the treasure has been thought to derive from a local workshop under both Carpathian and Mycenaean influence, or to come from a local workshop using material imported from afar. The metal is too soft for the objects to have been used in ordinary life, and they were certainly ceremonial equipment; it has plausibly been proposed that they adorned a cult-statue or xoanon, but they could also have been used for mortuary purposes. The gold bears some traces of combustion. In its final use it was carefully folded and deposited as a hoard.

bernstorf 9

Amber Object A is a roughly triangular piece of dark brown amber, 3.21 cm wide by 3.05 cm high and 1.08 cm in thickness. It has on the ‘obverse’ a male face with eyebrows, nose, mouth, and ears shown by simple incised lines; incised circles represent the eyes, and a beard is indicated by a number of short oblique incisions (no moustache is shown). It was compared with the famous gold funeral mask of ‘Agamemnon’ found by Heinrich Schliemann in Shaft Grave V at Mycenae, but is actually very crude. The ‘reverse’ bears three incised linear signs that in general appearance re-semble the Linear B script. However, two of them are in fact very hard to identify in that script. Like the amber beads in the hoard, its edges and reverse display signs of melting and burning. However, where it is unburnt one can see that the surface of the reverse was smoothed or polished before the incisions were cut. Amber Object B might be held roughly to resemble a scarab in shape. It is made of bright yellow amber. It is 2.1 cm high, with a flat oval obverse measuring 2.4 by 3.1 cm and and a convex reverse. It has a conical hole 0.35–0.31 cm in diameter, drilled from one end only, along the longer dimension of the reverse. Its upper and lower surfaces were carefully smoothed and polished before the incisions were made. Two thin strips of sheet gold, of much the same thickness and composition as the gold of the treasure, were found by X-ray analysis deep within the hole. The object seems not to have been burnt. On the obverse it bears three incised linear signs. The ‘exergue’ below the signs on its obverse bears a horizontal line with five vertical elements rising from it; this has been interpreted as a reasonably accurate depiction of the gold crown seen in. Above this it has three signs, which were correctly read in Linear B as ‘pa-nwa-ti‘ in the editio princeps, where the inscription received the number BE Zg 2. This reading of the signs is opaque in meaning, but the presence of the sign “nwa” confirmed, in the eyes of both the experts who were consulted at the time, L. Godart and J.-P. Olivier, that we are dealing with Linear B rather than Linear A, in which script that sign does not occur.

Further excavations of the south-west sector of the ramparts followed in 2007 and 2010–11, together with a geomagnetic survey by the University of Frankfurt. These have showed that occupation at the site began in c.1600 BC, and that after its abandonment it was reoccu-pied to a lesser extent in Hallstatt and Medieval times. Although 14C dating has given two possible chronologi-cal ranges for the construction of the rampart, 1376–1326 or 1317–1267 BC, dendrochronological study shows that its logs were felled between 1339 and 1326 BC, more probably close to 1339. Local archaeologists believe that it was burned within one generation of its construction, since in their view such structures were never long-lived.

(NovoScriptorium: From the paper’s Chapter “A Fresh Approach“, of which we suggest a full read, we have selected only some key-points and conclusions)

Although microscopic examination shows that the lines were engraved from left to right, and left to right is the invariable direction in Linear B, we should be open to a sinistroverse reading, since the impression of the signs would inevitably be read in the normal direction from left to right. If we do reverse the sequence of signs, we obtain “ti-nwa-pa”. This reading is still obscure, but it reminded Olivier of the ethnic adjective “ti-nwa-si-jo” that is well known in the Pylos tablets.

As Ilievski showed, errors that depend on the confusion of sign-shapes do occur, and several other kinds of mistake, like the omission of a final syllable, are verifiably frequent in the corpus. In this case the intended inscription would have been “ti-nwa-to” rather than “ti-nwa-pa“, entailing the easy confusion between “pa” and “to“. Such errors are common in Linear B, and include “na” versus “to“, “pa” versus “ro“, and “pi” versus “ti“, although not so far as I know “pa” versus “to“.

In this case “to” seems to have been changed into “pa” rather than the reverse.

I conclude that the original reading was “ti-nwa-to“.

The sign-group “ti-nwa-to” is not directly attested in the Linear B tablets, but the adjectives “ti-nwa-si-jo” (masculine), ti-nwa-si-ja (feminine nominative plural) and “ti-nwa-ti-ja-o” (feminine genitive plural) appear in the archive from Pylos.

Thus the place-name  “Ti-nwa-to” should be interpreted as /Tinwanthos/ or /Thinwanthos/, and the corresponding adjective as /T(h)inwansios/ or /T(h)inwanthios/.

The concentration of place-names in –ανθός in the Western Peloponnese suggests that  “Ti-nwa-to” was located there.

The socio-economic status of “Ti-nwa-to” and its inhabitants within the kingdom of Pylos has not been investigated, but turns out to have been peculiar. “Ti-nwa-to” was not among the sixteen major towns of the kingdom; only its ethnic attests its existence. At least two men identified by the ethnic “Ti-nwa-si-jo” were members of the Pylian élite.

Secondly, a holding of land belonging to “Ti-nwa-si- jo“, which means ‘man’ or ‘men’ of  “Ti-nwa-to“, is recorded in tablet Ea 810.

Thirdly, “Ti-nwa-to” had a local ‘governor’ (ko-re-te), whose name was “Te-po-se-u (Jo 438.21). That a place which was not among the sixteen tax districts should have a ‘governor’ is not unparalleled; tablet Nn 831 mentions a “ko-re-te” who was probably in charge of the town of Korinthos. “Te-po-se-u” appears twice.

Chadwick plausibly interpreted “Te-po-se-u” as /Thelphōseus/, comparing the toponym Τέλφουσα or Θέλπουσα; more precisely, Te-po-se-u would have been /Thelphonseus/  in Mycenaean Greek. This name certainly comes from the toponym Thelpousa or Telphousa.

In the kingdom of Knossos women from a place called “Ti-wa-to” are listed among over a thousand female workers in the textile industry who were dependent on the palace.

No later toponym in the Peloponnese, or indeed any-where in Greece, corresponds to or resembles “Ti-nwa-to”, whether in ancient, Medieval or modern times. Even were one attested, this would not in itself establish where “Ti-nwa-to” was. Place-names often changed their location over time, above all the case of Pylos itself, which formerly lay under Mount Aigaleon (Mycenaean/Aigolaion/) at Ano Englianos, as the tablets prove, then in classical times at Coryphasium on the north side of the bay of Navarino, and now on its SE side, not to mention the traditions about other places further north in Triphylia that were also called Pylos.

Tritsch held that “Ti-nwa-to” lay in the Further Province, probably on the Messenian Gulf rather than inland on the Laconian border. Chadwick supposed that it was not fully part of the Pylian state, but ‘a distant possession (colony or island?) which was administratively attached to the Further Province’. He later rejected the idea that it was an island: ‘it must have been of some size, since its assessment for gold on Jo 438 is one of the higher ones on the list.

The sequence of entries in the tablets provides several clues to the location of “Ti-nwa-to“.

This seems the best clue to the location of “Ti-nwa-to“. It lay inland, on or over the northern borders of the Further Province, close to Helos.

If the amber from Bernstorf was incised with Linear B in the western Peloponnese, how did it reach Upper Bavaria, and why? Even in the Middle Bronze Age, valuable artifacts could travel vast distances. One can only offer hypotheses, since it is not clear on what basis we could decide between them, but at least only a limited number of them are available; considering them will shed light on several aspects of Mycenaean long-distance relations.

Vianello proposed that the amber objects from Bernstorf were tokens sent from Greece along the trade-route for amber to ask for ‘more of the same’, and that the signs (which he does not interpret) signify ‘some commercial agreement’. Indeed, names on the inscriptions could perhaps have functioned as guides to illiterate merchants or travellers; once they went back to Greece, they could have shown the inscriptions to literate officials in order to find the place or the person that they were seeking. We simply do not know how Mycenaean trade with such remote regions operated.

The piece of gold wire found deep within the suspension-hole of Object B, which links it with the gold treasure, suggests that this item was at some point worn by a member of the Mycenaean élite, presumably around the wrist like the seal seen in the fresco from the shrine of the Citadel House at Mycenae. A young man buried in a wooden coffin in a chamber-tomb in the agora at Athens in LH IIIA1 wore an amygdaloid amber bead and a seal around his wrist. Could the gold and amber have been insignia of office, carried by rulers or lesser officials like the “ko-re-te-re” to enhance their authority? We are not certain what Mycenaean symbols of royal authority looked like, but it is easy to suppose that the crown and scep-tre in the Shaft Graves were such regalia.

The whole story may never be known, but the discovery of Linear B in Upper Bavaria opens a surprising new window onto the Mycenaeans and their far-flung connections.

(Source: “Amber inscribed in Linear B from Bernstorf in Bavaria”, by Richard Janko, Ann Arbor, 2015)


Research-Selection for NovoScriptorium: Philaretus Homerides


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: