Bronze Age Golden Hat

The Mystery of the Four Golden Hats of the Bronze Age

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The relics and artifacts uncovered throughout the centuries have provided an immense knowledge base about how our ancient ancestors lived, what they believed in, and what skills they had. Occasionally, an astonishing find challenges our understanding of ancient societies and cultures and provides surprising new information about civilizations of the past. One such find, was the discovery of four cone-shaped golden hats from the Bronze Age.

Discovered in different locations and at different times, the four gold hats share many similarities in size, shape, design, and construction.  Their conical design mimics the well-known image of a witch’s or wizard’s hat, leading to speculation that the hats were worn by individuals who held such a position. The hats are engraved with symbols that may have been used to make agricultural and/or astronomical predictions, possibly raising the wearer to divine status.

The Four Gold Hats. From Left to Right: Vienne, France (1844); Southern Germany or Switzerland (1996); Schifferstadt, Germany (1835)

The Four Gold Hats. From Left to Right: Vienne, France (1844); Southern Germany or Switzerland (1996); Schifferstadt, Germany (1835); Ezelsdorf, Germany (1953). Public Domain

The four gold hats are rare archaeological finds dating back to the Bronze Age, which lasted from 3300 – 700 BC. The hats all appear to have been created sometime around the middle of this period, ranging from 1400 – 800 BC. They were each discovered separately, over the course of 160 years, in different locations, three of them in Germany and one in France.  There is, of course, the possibility that more gold hats will be uncovered in the future.

The golden relics are constructed of sheets of gold, with intricate astronomical designs and demonstrate superb craftsmanship. While the four hats bear striking similarities, they are also somewhat unique in their specific features.

The first hat was discovered in 1835 at Schifferstadt, Germany. It is called the Golden Hat of Schifferstadt. The Golden Hat of Schifferstadt was uncovered by a farmer, and appeared to have been intentionally buried. It is the shortest of the four hats, standing at 29.6 cm high. It is divided into bands that run the full length of the hat, with each band decorated with one of several designs including circles, disc shapes, and eye-like shapes. The Golden Hat of Schifferstadt is believed to have been manufactured sometime between 1400–1300 BC.

The Golden Hat of Schifferstadt

The Golden Hat of Schifferstadt ( Wikimedia Commons )

The second hat discovered is the Avanton Gold Cone, discovered in Avanton, France in 1844. The Avanton hat is believed to have been created between 1000-900 BC, and is the only once missing a brim. However, signs of damage indicate that the Avanton hat did have a brim at one point. The cone stands at 55 cm. The Avanton hat is also banded, with repeated circle symbols.

The Avanton Gold Cone

The Avanton Gold Cone ( Wikimedia Commons )

The third hat discovered is the Golden Cone of Ezelsdorf-Buch, discovered near Ezelsdorf, Germany in 1953. The Golden Cone of Ezelsdorf-Buck stands as the tallest of the four hats, at 88 cm tall, and contains the same banded design with repeated circles, discs, and eye-like shapes. It is believed to have originated between 1000-900 BC.

Close-ups of the Golden Cone of Ezelsdorf-Buch, showing the intricate designs carved into the gold sheeting

Close-ups of the Golden Cone of Ezelsdorf-Buch, showing the intricate designs carved into the gold sheeting ( Wikimedia Commons )

The provenance of the fourth gold hat is less clear but is believed to have been found in either southern Germany or Switzerland – it was noticed in the international arts trade in 1995. The hat originates from 1000-800 BC, and is known as the Berlin Gold Hat because it was purchased by the Berlin Museum. It stands at 75 cm tall, with the same banded pattern as the others.

Detail of the Berlin Gold Hat

Detail of the Berlin Gold Hat ( Wikimedia Commons )

The purpose of the gold hats is unknown. While they were each found in different areas, speculations have evolved around the hats as a group, under the assumption that they were all used for similar purposes. For some time, the hats were believed to be symbols of fertility, perhaps due to their phallic shape. Researchers once believed that the hats were part of an ancient suit of armor, or that they were used as ceremonial vases. Later, the hats were believed to have been placed upon stakes at sites of worship, to serve as decorative caps. It has also been speculated that the four hats once belonged to ancient wizards, due to their resemblance to wizard-style hats.

As of recently, German archaeologists and historians believe that the hats were, in fact, used by individuals who would have been viewed as ‘wizards’ during the Bronze Age. According to these recent theories, the astrological symbols were used to track the stars and the sun, which allowed for agricultural predictions, namely when to plant and harvest. The figures who wore the hats were referred to as “king-priests.” Because they were able to make predictions and were therefore believed to have supernatural powers. While predictions of time and weather are commonplace today due to modern knowledge and technology, the ability to predict climate conditions during the Bronze Age was seen as a divine power.

Comments

Speaking as a metalworker, I would love to know the *number* and *repeats* of the design ... having done that type of work before, and surmising that the 'hat' was raised from a disc of gold, while the 'hats' may be symbolic of status, unless you can point to the exact number and repeats having significance they are purely decorative and the ridges designed to provide strength and support to the cone. Spiffy, but not some whacked mystical woo. [or as my goddaughter commented - damn, look at those blingalicious hats, bet they would give the wearer a headache!]

As to the woo-licious aspect, unless the number of moons [rounds] can be tied to any specific cycle [13 moons to a year] and the various shapes tied to lunar phases [a bronze age lunar cycle calendar http://farm1.static.flickr.com/150/340810053_0e21c8480b_o.jpg ] I hardly see it has having the woo going on - looking at them, we have circles, eyes and lines. IF and I repeat big IF it were woo, then it would not be rounds and eyes but circles half circles blank circles and crescents. Great, now I am imagining the support frame suggested above as also having a spinning indicator to point at which moon and line are today like one of those eternal flip calendars. [http://i.ebayimg.com/images/i/271626073768-0-1/s-l1000.jpg ]

Like most gold object from early periods, these appear to be of very thin, hammered gold, so the weight would not have been much more than say... a tin hat. The designs are obviously early Celtic with some other early Western European influence... I doubt very much whether the symbols have any mathematical astronomic significance, but the hats themselves are most likely symbols of office, like many hats were that were unusual or expensive to make. They remind me somewhat of the Egyptian hats of office for the Pharaohs or the hats assigned to Cardinals and Popes. There seems to be some historical connection with these types. The whole "Wizard" or witch thing is unlikely...

Exactly - a hat of state, as it were - license to be blingalicious, fancy and something you wouldn't wear around the house for comfort. As I said, hollow work needs ridges and structures for added support, and the rows and figures serve to provide strengthening support. It is entirely also possible that the long slender pointy bits inside could have added support in the form of formed raw hide cones, conical forms made of thin bark strips or even felt [giving rise to the conical felt hats of witches] and 'witches/wizard' deal is a way early Christians frequently dealt with the non-Christian 'clergy'.

Being well, heavy. What is their weight ? Without a strap harness, they would fall off and too havy to wear. Bet they went on a stone figures head. That would not move and could handle their weight. Would like to see close up pics to see better detail.

Great points. It is obvious that they are not practical as hats.

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