While performing excavations near the city of Biharia, Romania, archaeologists working for the Tarii Crisurilor Museum in Oradea unearthed a prehistoric grave that dates far back into antiquity, museum officials announced . The burial was of a woman from the ancient Copper Age Tiszapolgár culture, which occupied the lands of Romania and southeastern Europe between 4,500 and 4,000 BC.
The discovery of the Tiszapolgár woman’s grave was remarkable enough. But what made this particular find unprecedented was the incredible collection of gold rings that was buried with her. In total there were 169 gold rings retrieved from the woman’s gravesite, which was uncovered during excavations taking place along the route of a planned roadway that will connect Oradea with the A3 superhighway.
This Elite Tiszapolgar Grave Had The Most Gold Ever!
Never before has so much gold been found in a single burial from this age. Not just in Romania but anywhere in Europe.
“It is a phenomenal discovery. Such a treasure no longer exists in Central and Eastern Europe,” Tarii Crisurilor Museum director Gabriel Moisa told the Romanian news service Agerpres. “It is a very strange matter because gold had just been discovered, in the Eneolithic [Copper Age].”
Moisa noted that the woman in the grave was clearly wealthy, and her coveting of gold shows just how long and how widely this precious metal has been valued in human society. Her impressive height and the good condition of her teeth provided more evidence to suggest she’d enjoyed elite status .
The gold rings were small and light (all the rings in total weigh about 200 grams) and designed to be worn in the woman’s hair. In addition to the rings the archaeologists also found two golden beads, a copper bracelet bent into a spiral shape, and approximately 800 polished beads made from bone (which have been referred to as mother-of-pearl beads).
The Tiszapolgár culture burial site of the woman revealed an immense number of small golden rings around her head. ( Tarii Crisurilor Museum )
But the rings were undoubtedly the prize discovery. These ultra-rare ancient golden items were displayed via video screen during a museum press conference announcing the exciting find. The hoard will be presented to the public at the museum later on, after radiocarbon dating tests are performed and a DNA analysis of the woman’s skeletal remains is completed.
Archaeologist Dr. Călin Ghemiş, who coordinated the dig that unearthed the ancient burial and its treasure, believes this is the most significant gold hoard ever found at a Copper Age site. He describes the inventory of gold and other precious items as” extremely rich for the Copper Age period.” He estimates that the burial may date back as much as 6,500 years.
“The gold hoard is a sensational find for the period, considering that all the gold pieces from the Carpathian Basin total around 150 pieces,” Dr. Ghemis marveled. “Well, here there are over 160 in just one inventory.”
The Tarii Crisurilor Museum poster for their exhibition of the Tiszapolgár culture woman’s burial artifacts. ( Tarii Crisurilor Museum )
The gold rings have been transferred to a museum laboratory for cleaning and processing. Dr. Ghemis identified the metal used as alluvial gold, meaning it was obtained by the washing and sifting of sand and not from underground mining.
Traveling the Archaeologist’s Highway
The Tarii Crisurilor Museum collaborated with several other Romanian cultural and educational institutions to support the excavations that discovered the Tiszapolgá culture burial. The excavations associated with this ambitious project, which covered parts of the still-under-construction Oradea-to-A3 corridor, produced finds from multiple cultures and time periods.
Various discoveries were linked to Romania’s Neolithic, Bronze Age , Roman Age, medieval, and 18th century cultures. In digs near the village of Sântandrei just west of Oradea the same team that found the Copper Age burial also unearthed the ruins of two houses that contained ceramic pottery from the second century BC up to the second century AD. They also unearthed a third or fourth century Sarmatian settlement near Biharia, along with the remains of a woman’s skeleton and several pieces of jewelry that were buried with her.
A selection of rare Tiszapolgar ceramics in the Copper Age display area of the Zrenjanin National Museum in Serbia. (Jozefsu / CC BY-SA 4.0 )
The diversity of the team’s discoveries highlights the rich cultural heritage that Romanian archaeologists have been able to reveal through their exploratory digs along the pathway of the ongoing A3 highway project. The exciting and groundbreaking finds made possible by this project rival those of British archaeologists, who’ve been given the same kind of access to the countryside in England in connection with the more well-known HS2 high-speed rail project .
Rediscovering the Long-Lost Culture of Tiszapolgár
The finds linked to the Tiszapolgár culture are especially notable, since its people lived more than 6,000 years ago and artifacts and ruins that might shed light on Tiszapolgár cultural beliefs and practices have been hard to come by.
The Tiszapolgár people dominated a large swath of geographical area during the Eneolithic or Copper Age. Their territory extended over the Great Hungarian Plain, the Banat, Transylvania, Eastern Slovakia, and parts of Ukraine in central and southeastern Europe. What little is known about this culture comes from excavations of Tiszapolgár burials, and those explorations do suggest the culture was somewhat warlike, given the fact that weapons were frequently buried in the tombs of males.
The Tiszapolgá’s fascination with gold revealed by this latest discovery adds valuable data points to an accumulating storehouse of information. As the A3 project continues Romanian archaeologists are hopeful of uncovering more archaeological treasures associated with these enigmatic people, whose exploits and accomplishments mostly remain hidden by the extreme passage of time.
Top image: An unusual Tiszapolgár culture grave filled with gold rings and beads is shedding new light on this Late Neolithic (Copper Age) culture of the Romanian region. Source: Tarii Crisurilor Museum
By Nathan Falde