Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ancient Transylvanians Rich in Gold, Treasure Shows

An ancient gold Dacian bracelet.Ancient Transylvanians likely controlled untold riches in gold, suggests a new study of a cache of priceless, snake-shaped bracelets.

Showing "no economy of gold at all," craftsmen shaped each spiral cuff from an entire ingot, study author Bogdan Constantinescu said.

Most of the 2,000-year-old accessories tip the scales at about 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) each, more than some laptops—a heft that materials scientist Paul Craddock found "surprising."

"Yes," Craddock concluded, "they did have a lot of gold."

"They" are the Dacian people, mysterious contemporaries of the ancient Romans. Ruling Transylvania centuries before Bram Stoker dreamed up Dracula, the Dacians left behind no writings but, the bracelets suggest, were apparently flush with treasure—as historians have long suspected, given the mineral wealth of the region's mountains and rivers.

Looters unearthed some two dozen of the bracelets—12 have now been recovered by authorities—about ten years ago at the Sarmizegetusa Regia archaeological site in Romania's Transylvania region (pictures).

Perhaps hoping to avoid stiff penalties for archaeological plunder, the men claimed that a now dead comrade had made the bracelets out of melted-down ancient Greek coins—leading many experts to doubt the cuffs' authenticity.

The new study, though, points out that Greek coins are made of purer gold than the Sarmizegetusa (SAHR-mee-sheh-jeh-TOO-sha) hoard.  ...

Furthermore, the bracelets were found to be at least 2,000 years old.

Among the evidence of their age are dark blotches indicative of many years underground, researchers say. Also, the bracelets were found with coins produced between roughly 100 B.C. and 70 B.C., which suggests the cuffs were buried—if not necessarily created—during that time frame. ...

via Ancient Transylvanians Rich in Gold, Treasure Shows.

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