Researchers have reconstructed the face of a petite, dark-haired woman who was one of the richest residents of Bronze Age Bohemia.
The woman was buried with five bronze bracelets, two gold earrings and a three-strand necklace made of more than 400 amber beads. Buried with her were three bronze sewing needles. She was part of the Únětice culture, a group of Early Bronze Age peoples in Central Europe known for their metal artifacts, including ax heads, daggers, bracelets, and necklaces made of twisted metal called torcs.
Although it is unclear who the woman was, she was very wealthy, said archaeologist Michal Ernée from the Institute of Archeology at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.
“It is perhaps the richest female grave from the entire Únětice cultural region,” Ernée told Live Science.
Related: The facial reconstruction shows the calm expression of a powerful Bronze Age woman and huge earrings
wealth and trade
The woman lived between 1880 BC, according to radiocarbon dating of the cemetery where her bones were found. and 1750 B.C. The cemetery is located near the village of Mikulovice in northern Czech Republic, near the Polish border. This area and surrounding regions are known as Bohemia because they formed a kingdom by that name before World War I. The 27 graves in the cemetery proved to be a remarkable treasure trove of artifacts, including some 900 amber objects.
“We have amber in 40% of all women’s graves,” said Ernée. In this single cemetery there is more amber than in all Úněti graves in Germany, he said.
“We have two neighboring regions of an archaeological culture, but the social system[s] probably weren’t the same,” he said.
This amber likely came from the Baltics, suggesting that the Úněticers were part of a far-reaching trade network in Europe at the time. The bronze objects made by contemporary Europeans also show the sophistication of Bronze Age trade, Ernée added: Bronze objects are found across the continent, but the raw materials for bronze, tin and copper came from only a few regions.
A wealthy woman
Of the skeletal remains found in the Mikulovice cemetery, the amber bearer had the best preserved skull. It’s a fortunate coincidence that the richest grave also has skeletal remains that could form the basis of a reconstruction, Ernée said.
Luckily, the bones were preserved enough to still contain parts of the woman DNS. These genetic sequences allowed the researchers to figure out that they Eyes and hair was brown and her skin was fair. Anthropologist Eva Vaníčková from the Moravian Museum in Brno and sculptor Ondřej Bílek collaborated to create the upper body model of the woman.
The recreated clothing and accessories of the woman were also based on scientific knowledge. Ludmila Barčáková from the Institute of Archeology of the Academy of Sciences made the amber necklace and gold earrings, metalworker Radek Lukůvka recreated the bronze bracelets and pins, and textile archaeologist Kristýna Urbanová made the women’s clothing.
Ancient DNA was salvaged from other bones in the cemetery, so researchers are now working to figure out how the people buried there were related, Ernée said. The cemetery could also provide new evidence of regional differences in Early Bronze Age Central Europe. In the bordering regions of Bohemia, Ernée said, the richest graves are those of men, while women are usually buried unadorned. It is unclear whether women in the region around modern-day Mikulovice have a different status, he said. It is possible that the women individually controlled more wealth than women in nearby regions, but it is also possible that they were buried with riches to show the wealth of their male relatives.