Quality of ‘Polish Gothic’ jewellery found in graves as good as that of the Romans

The treasure trove of ancient jewellery from a 2,000-year-old Gothic cemetery in modern-day Poland is as good as that produced by the Romans. Dr Magdalena Natuniewicz-Sekuła

A treasure trove of ancient jewellery from a 2,000-year-old Gothic cemetery in modern-day Poland is as good as that produced by the Romans, says a leading archaeologist.

Dr Magdalena Natuniewicz-Sekuła from the Warsaw’s Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology at the Polish Academy of Sciences, analysed the ornaments and jewellery found during digs at an old burial ground in the village of Weklice, near Elbląg in northern Poland.

Examination of the artefacts shows that the metalsmiths who made them were familiar with advanced techniques.Dr Magdalena Natuniewicz-Sekuła

The site was used for the burial of Goths and Gepids, an eastern Germanic tribe, in the first to fourth centuries A.D. and is one of the best known cemeteries of its type in modern-day Poland. 

Excavations by the Polish Academy of Science’s Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology turned up a haul of over 3,500 items of metalwork and jewel-craft buried along with the dead, ranging from precious and semi-precious metals to amber, glass, clay and organic substances. 

Silverware recovered from the site turned out to be 92-97-percent pure. Dr Magdalena Natuniewicz-Sekuła

And while it used to be assumed that ‘Barbarian’ jewellery was of inferior quality to that of the Romans’, analysis has shown a high degree of expertise in the forging and crafting of metals.

Silverware recovered from the site turned out to be 92-97-percent pure. 

The site was used for the burial of Goths and Gepids, an eastern Germanic tribe, in the first to fourth centuries A.D. and is one of the best known cemeteries of its type in modern-day Poland. research gate.net

Dr Natuniewicz-Sekuła said that brooches and bracelets were made of ore more pure than modern jewellery, and the gold used was equally high-carat. 

Moreover, the craftsmanship involved in the items’ manufacture was skilfully done with intricacy on a par with their Roman peers. 

Dr Magdalena Natuniewicz-Sekuła from the Warsaw’s Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology at the Polish Academy of Sciences, analysed the ornaments and jewellery found.museum.olsztyn.pl

Examination of the artefacts shows that the metalsmiths who made them were familiar with techniques such as granulation — the agglomeration of fine particles into larger granules — as well as filigree — a form of intricate metal-working — and fire gilding.

She said: ”Bearing in mind the quality of the alloy and the methods used, it should be emphasized that currently jewellery is not made this way, because it would simply be too expensive.”

No full sets of the equipment necessary to refine the metals used have ever been found, leading archaeologists to speculate that bullion bars were brought to the area from the Roman Empire, despite a strict ban. 

Excavations revealed over 3,500 items of metalwork and jewel-craft buried along with the dead, ranging from precious and semi-precious metals to amber, glass, clay and organic substances. Dr Magdalena Natuniewicz-Sekuła

If bullion was unavailable to the metalsmiths, it is also possible that they refined the silver and other metals from coins and other items.

Dr Natuniewicz-Sekuła said: "We cannot rule out that the Goths knew the methods of refining and cupellation (the separation of noble metals from base ones under high temperature).

“In this way, they may have been able to ‘purify’ the silver obtained from coins, but this is only a guess.”