Multi-spiral gold bracelet

TG 13
1st Century
cold-hammering, punching, engraving
6,5 spirals; height: 9 cm; ends dimension (ext.): 10,5 – 11,5 cm; bar: 5,6 – 5,9 mm; total developed length: 2,51 m; weight: 933,4 g


    Texts: Dr. Ernest OBERLÄNDER-TÂRNOVEANU; Photo: Marius AMARIE

    Starting with the winter of 2007, our national patrimony and also that of the National History Museum of Romania, were enriched with the most spectacular dacians bracelets known until present days – the royal golden bracelets from Sarmisegetusa Regia. The last in the series recovered, so far, is the one with the number 13, brought back in the country in May 2011.  From the information gathered by the Prosecutor of the Appeal Court of Alba Iulia, the golden dacian bracelet number 13 belongs to a thesaurus of five similar pieces which had been discovered, at the end of May 2001, at Sarmizegetusa Regia, in a place called „at the tanks” (located in Căprăreața aria), by a organised band of archaeological poachers. Afterwards, the bracelets were illegally taken out of the country and were sold on the antiquities international market. The piece described here was purchased in Germany by a collector from a Balkan state. As a result of the investigation, which proved the Romanian origins of the bracelet and the illegal way in which was stolen and taken out of the country, the buyer in his truthfulness, agreed to return it to the Romanian state, in exchange for a fair compensation (based on the articles of the UNIDROIT International Convention). From the same thesaurus were retrieved other two bracelets (no. 10 and no. 11). 

    The Dacian golden royal bracelet is not only a great piece of work, but also a very massive one, weighting of 933,40 g, and a total length of 2,51 m. The bracelet is made of 6,5 spirals, the outside diameter, at the ends it measures 10,5 – 11,5 cm and a 5,6 -5,9 mm diameter ingot. 

    Multi-spiral Dacian royal golden bracelets are one of the most original creations of the dacians manufacturers that survived in time. The two terminals of bracelet no.13 depict a stylized winged dragon head, with a long muzzle. The eyes and the eyebrows are represented by three curved lines. The teeth, which come out from the mouth, are suggested by an arched lined carved on both sides of the head. The dragon’s closed wings are represented through rows of oblique lines, located on the edges of the plaque that continues the head. The middle part of the head and the dragon’s crest is marked by a row of pearls and oblique lines carved in a “fish bone” shape, symbolizing the back bone and the ribs. The rectangular plaque’s surface continues with seven stylized palmettes, richly incised using a punch. The edges of the palmettes are adorned by incisions with small oblique lines. The goldsmith technique, used for manufacturing all of these gold armlets, including bracelet 13, was the cold hammering of a rectangular-shaped gold ingot, followed by punching and engraving for their decorations. The tolls that were used are: wood and metal hammer, covered in leather, wood anvil, chisels and bronze punch.  The atomic tested conducted at the Institute of Physics and Nuclear Engineering “Horia Hulubei”, from Magurele, indicated that the royal Dacian gold bracelet no.13 was worked in a natural alloy of gold (84%), silver (14.06%) and cooper (1.253%) containing traces of tin (sign of the metal’s alluvial origin), antimony and tellurium, the last ones being specific to the Transylvanian gold from the Ore Mountains area.  The bracelet surface, although covered with a translucent patina, with a uniform colour, slightly brownish, which mitigates the natural glow of the mechanical worked gold, has no traces which might indicate the use of the object before it was buried. All the clues indicates that the golden bracelets were used as valuable offerings  during rituals, usually accompanied by large amounts of Greek and Dacian gold and silver coins. Besides this sacred role, it is obvious that these multi-spiralled bracelets also had a lay function, being a symbol of political and religious authority of the Dacian kings and of the great families’ members. The use of the royal golden bracelets as well as theirs silver or golden silver copies (very rare) was a short one, only a few decades which covers the existence of two or three generations of the royal family of Sarmizegetusa, between 100 and 40/30 a. Hr. These artefacts are also important historical documents that contributes to the enrichment of our knowledge about Dacian art, religion and civilisation. 

    The Operation “Dacian Gold”

    During the years 1996-2001, the entire area of Sarmizegetusa, the last capital of the Dacians` Kingdom (included on the list of the monuments of humanity in 1999), was the target of an organised crime group that practiced the archaeological poaching on a large scale. Numerous gold and silver thesaurus, containing thousands of pieces, golden, silver, bronze and iron objects, were stolen and illegally exported to several countries in Western Europe and USA. Among these are the 24 Dacian royal golden bracelets.  After several attempts of the police officers from Heritage, in 2005, the Prosecutor of the Alba Iulia’s Appeal Court started taking evidence of several criminal groups’ members from Hunedoara County, which had ties with archaeological rubbery and other criminal acts. In December 2009, the Deva Court sentenced several persons to custodial punishment totalling 100 years in prison. Currently the appeal have been litigate, meanwhile the investigation expended. 

    In parallel with the trial that have been taking place at Deva and then at Alba Iulia, the judiciary together with the Government of Romania and the Ministry of National Culture and Heritage, have taken several measures to detect and recover the stolen archaeological and numismatic goods illegally exported. These were conducted in cooperation with Interpol and the judicial institutions of France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Great Britain, Belgium, Serbia, Spain, Ireland and the USA. Other recovery operations were conducted in Romania. 

    On the 7th of January 2007, four Dacian golden bracelets were brought back to the country thanks to the persistent effort of the authorities. On 25th of January 2007 the fifth golden bracelet was recovered and repatriated thanks to the cooperation between judicial authorities from Romania and France. Then, on 12th of June, the sixth bracelet was recovered on the national land by the officers from the Custom Police, as a result of a undercover mission. On 3th of August 2007 other three bracelets were brought back thanks to the effort of the Romanian authorities in cooperation with the German ones. On 17th of Julie 2009, together with a wonderful bracelet, a beautiful necklace and two golden earrings, stolen from the Dacian site of Căpâlna, were repatriated. On 10th of May 2011 bracelet no.13 was brought back. We hope for the others to follow...