Archaeologists Have Discovered a Hoard of Bronze Age Artifacts That Was Buried More Than 3,000 Years Ago in the Swiss Alps

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During the excavation of a known Roman battle site in the Swiss Alps, archaeologists chanced upon a hoard of 80 artifacts dating to the late Bronze Age. Some of the stand-out objects include sickles, axes, part of a saw and fragments of jewelry, among many chunks of raw copper.

Experts believe these artifacts may have been intentionally buried as an offering, since the pieces were intentionally damaged and bent out of shape before being wrapped in leather and placed in a wooden box. They date from around 1200 to 1000 B.C.E., a time when the selective destruction and dumping of metal valuables was a widespread cultural practice.

“The comprehensive scientific investigation that will now follow this find, which is unique in our area, will certainly provide far-reaching insights into late Bronze Age cultural, economic, and landscape history,” said archaeologist Thomas Reitmaier.

80 objects from the Bronze Age discovered at a Roman battle site Salouf-Vostga in the Swiss Alps. Photo: Archaeological Service of Graubünden.

The dig, which took place in October 2022, was part of a wider research project by the regional Archaeological Service of Graubünden into the site of a known conflict between the Romans and the local Suanetestribe around 15 B.C.E. This ongoing project is taking place at Salouf-Vostga in the Swiss valley of Oberhalbstein, which is about 160 kilometers southeast of Zürich.

The Bronze Age artifacts were found in a field just south of the prehistoric settlement of Motta Vallac, right by one of the main transalpine transport routes. This area was not originally part of the intended excavation site, but became known to the team thanks to an alert from a volunteer metal detectorist who had been taking part in a large-scale survey of the local landscape.

In 2008, a military camp was been discovered in the area, which has been a rich source of ancient weaponry and other war equipment, most notably over 100 sling bullets and a beautifully decorated dagger. This latest research project into the Roman campaign in the Alps, named “CVMBAT,” was initiated in 2020 and is ongoing. An exhibition and publication presenting the archaeologists’ findings is expected in 2026.

 

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