Tuesday, December 30, 2014


An international collaboration between Moesgaard Museum in Aarhus, the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, and Institut de Recherche sur les Archéomatériaux (IRAMAT) at Orléans, France, has resulted in a striking discovery about the trade routes between Denmark and the ancient civilizations in Egypt and Mesopotamia in the Bronze Age 3,400 years ago. The discovery also gives us new knowledge about the sun cult in the Nordic Bronze Age.

Archeologists Jeanette Varberg from Moesgaard Museum and Flemming Kaul from the National Museum, and Bernard Gratuze, director of IRAMAT, analyzed the composition of some blue glass beads found on buried Bronze Age women in Denmark. The analyses revealed that the glass originated from the same glass workshops in Egypt that supplied the glass that the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun took with him to his grave in 1323 BCE.

Twenty-three glass beads from Denmark were analyzed using plasma-spectrometry. Without destroying the fragile beads, this technique makes it possible to compare the chemical composition of trace elements in the beads with reference material from Amarna in Egypt and Nippur in Mesopotamia, about 50 km south east of Baghdad in Iraq. The comparison showed that the chemical composition of the two sets of trace elements match.

The archaeologists can now also substantiate that there is a connection between the amber beads and the glass beads. It has been known for a long time that amber was exported in the Bronze Age from Nordic latitudes and southwards. Several Egyptian pharaohs had large amber chains in boxes in their burial chambers. It appears that glass and amber beads have been found together on sites from the Middle East, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Germany to the Nordic latitudes.

Now the researchers are linking amber and glass together in an unexpected way. One property that both glass and amber have is that sunlight penetrates their surface. The archaeologists believe this could be proof of a link between the Egyptian sun cult and the Nordic sun cult. The old amber route to the countries in the Mediterranean thus now has a counterpart: the glass route to the North. So far, the researchers have shown that there was a trade connection to Egypt and Mesopotamia in the years 1400-1100 BCE. Finding out whether the route continued in the later Bronze Age is a future task for the Danish-French research team.

Edited from Science Nordic (8 December 2014)
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