If you've arrived at this page expecting it be completely silly and a lot of nonsense then prepare to be amazed!

There is not only history, but great mystery surrounding four German hats, made of gold.

So, Let us explore the 4 Golden Hats...

Golden (Goldhüte) hats are a very specific and rare type of archaeological artefact from Bronze Age Central Europe.

So far, four such objects ("cone-shaped gold hats of the Schifferstadt type") are known.

The objects are made of thin sheet gold and were attached externally to long conical and brimmed headdresses which were probably made of some organic material and served to stabilise the external gold leaf.

The following Golden Hats are known at present:

Golden Hat of Schifferstadt, found in 1835 at Schifferstadt near Speyer, circa 1,400-1,300 BC.

Avanton Gold Cone, incomplete, found at Avanton near Poitiers in 1844, circa 1,000-900 BC.

Golden Cone of Ezelsdorf-Buch, found near Ezelsdorf near Nuremberg in 1953, circa 1,000-900 BC; circa 90 cm.

Berlin Gold Hat, found probably in Swabia or Switzerland, circa 1,000-800 BC.

The Schifferstadt Hat (left) is a 350 g gold cone, subdivided into horizontal ornamental bands, applied in the repoussé technique. It has a blunt, undecorated tip. The shaft is short and squat, with a distinguidhed widening and wide brim at the bottom. The hat is 29.6 cm high and has a bottom diameter of circa 18 cm. The brim is 4.5 cm wide.

At the bottom, the gold sheet was wound around a copper wire (now lost) for extra stability. Along its whole length, the hat is subdivided and decorated by rows of horizontal symbols and bands. Five different stamps and a chisel or liner were used to create the horizontal bands of repeated stamped symbols, according to a systematic scheme.

The optical separation of the individual ornamental bands was achieved by ring ribs or bands around the whole external face of the hat. The symbols in the bands are mostly disk and circle motifs, usually with an internal disk or buckle, surrounded by up to six concentric circles.

Striking are two bands with eye-like motifs, resembling similar symbols on the hats of Ezelsdorf and Berlin.

Unlike the other known examples, the cone's top is not decorated with a star but left entirely unembellished.

The pieces hammered from a gold alloy of 86.37% Au, 13% Ag, 0.56% Cu and 0.07% Sn. It is made of a single piece. Its average thickness is 0.2 to 0.25 cm(mm?), except the brim, which is far thinner, at 0.08 to 0-13 mm. The latter may suggest that it had been re-worked at some stage.

If the amount of gold used for the hat would be moulded into a square bar, it would only measure 2.5 cm square. Such a bar or lump was hammered to the thickess of a modern sheet of printing paper during its production.

Because of the tribological characteristics of the material, it tends to harden with increasing deformation (see ductility), increasing its potential to crack. To avoid cracking, an extremely even deformation was necessary. Additionally, the material had to be softened by repeatedly heating it to a temperature of at least 750 °C.

Since gold alloy has a relatively low melting point of circa 960 °C, a very careful temperature control and an isothermal heating process were required, so as to avoid melting any of the surface. For this, the Bronze Age artisans used a charcoal fire or oven similar to those used for pottery. The temperature could only be controlled through the addition if oxygen, using a bellows.

In the course of its further manufacture, the hat was embellished with rows of radial ornamental bands, chased into the metal. To make this possible, it were filled with a putty or pitch based on tree resin and wax, traces of which have survived. The thin gold leaf was structured by chasing: stamp-like tools or moulds depicting the individual symbols were repeatedly pressed into (or rolled along) the exterior of the gold.



Avanton Gold Cone

Berlin Golden Hat


Golden Cone of Ezelsdorf-Buch

Modern scholarship has revelead that ornaments of the gold leaf cones of the Schifferstadt type, to which the Berlin example belongs, represent systematic sequences in terms of number and types of ornaments per band.

A detailed study of the Berlin example, which is the only fully preserved one, revealed that the symbols probably represent a lunisolar calendar. The object would have permitted the determination of dates or periods in both lunar and solar calendars.

Since an exact knowledge of the solar year was of special interest for the determination of religiously important events such as the summer and winter solstices, the astronomical knowledge depicted on the Golden Hats was of high value to Bronze Age society. Whether the hats themselves were indeed used for determining such dates, or whether they simply represented such knowledge, remains unknown.

The functions discovered so far would permit the counting of temporal units of up 57 months. A simple multiplication of such values would also permit the calculation of longer periods, eg. metonic cycles.

Each symbol, or each ring of a symbol, representes a single day. Apart from ornament bands incorporating differing numbers of rings there are special symbols and zones in intercalary areas, which would have had to be added to or subtracted from the periods in question.

The system of this mathematical function incorporated into the artistic ornamentation has not been fully deciphered so far, but a schematic understanding of the Berlin Golden Hat and the periods it delimits has been achieved.

In principle, starting with zone Z_i, a sum is achieved by adding a relevant contiguous number of neighbouring sections: Z_i..Z_i+n.

To reach the equivalent lunar or solar value, from this initial sum must be subtracted the sum of symbols from the intercalary zone(s) within the area counted.

The illustration depicts the solar representation on the left and the lunar one on the right. The red or blue fields in zones 5, 7, 16 and 17 are intercalary zones.

The values in the individual fields are reached by mutiplying the number of symbols per zone with the number of rings or circles incorporated in each predominant symbol. The special symbols in zone 5 are assigned the value of "38", as indicated by their number.

Example:

Zone 12 is dominated by 20 repetitions of punched symbol No. 14, a circular disc symbol surrounded by 5 concentric circles.
Thus, the symbol has the value of 20 x 5 = 100.
The smaller ring symbols placed between the larger repetitions of No. 14 are considered as mere ornaments and thus not counted.


Through this system, the Hats can be used to calculate a lunisolar calendrical system, i.e. a direct reading in either lunar or solar dates, as well as the conversion between them.

The table can be used in the same way as the original Golden Hats. To determine the number of days in a specific time period (yellow fields), the values of the coloured fields above are added, reaching an intermediate sum. If any of the red intercalary zones are included, their sum has to be subtracted. This allows the calculation of 12, 24, 36, 48, 54 and 57 synodic months in the lunar system and of 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, 54 and 57 sun months (ie. twelfths of a tropical year).

Example

To determine a 54 month cycle in the lunar system, the numerical values of the green or blue zones 3 to 21 are added, reaching a sum of 1,739 days. From this, the values of the red intercalary fields 5, 16 and 17 are subtracted, The result is 1739-142=1597 days, exactly 54 synodic months of 29.5305 days each.

The overall discrepancy of 2 days to the astronomically accurate value is probably the result of a slight imprecision in the Bronze Age observation of synodic and solar month.

The gold hats were first brought together for comparison and set in the broader context of the culture of Bronze Age Europe in a 1999 exhibition in Bonn, Gods and heroes of the Bronze Age: Europe in the time of Odysseus.

Normally they reside in separate museums, at Berlin (Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte), Speyer (Historisches Museum der Pfalz, the Schifferstadt specimen), Nuremberg (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, the Ezelsdorf one), and Saint-Germain-en-Laye (Musée d'Archéologie Nationale).