Fifteen graves were uncovered during the excavation of an early medieval burial ground in the Kleinbasel neighborhood in Basel, Switzerland. A rare gold broach is among the latest finds at the site.
The existence of the burial ground has been known since the 19th century; the construction of new utility pipes, however, prompted a rescue excavation.
Of the tombs that were unearthed, the most notable discovery was a gold robe clasp belonging to a young woman who died in her twenties during the seventh century. While the woman’s skeleton was accidentally destroyed during construction work in the 20th century, the jewelry remained undetected at that time.
The rare circular gold brooch is made of a non-ferrous metal base plate overlaid with gold. Green garnet gemstones and blue glass are inlaid on the surface, which was further adorned with gold wire filigree. The brooch most likely would have clasped a now-lost scarf around her neck.
“This is an extraordinary piece,” said Basel canton archaeologist Guido Lassau at a press conference on Friday. He added that these kinds of finds are “rather singular” among early medieval graves.
She was also discovered wearing 160 pearls and Roman coins as jewelry. This, along with the gold broach, indicate that she was likely a woman of higher social status. Other valuables discovered during the excavation at the site included a girl’s grave containing a gold-tufted belt buckle and 380 pearls and a boy’s grave decorated with silver inlaid belt fittings. Earlier this year, archaeologists also recovered the 6th century grave of a young girl who was buried with a variety of roughly 160 colorful beads.
Records of the city’s earliest settlements date back to the middle Paleolithic approximately 130,000 years ago.