Acta Archaeologica vol. 76, 2005, pp.

1–58 Copyright C 2005
Printed in Denmark ¡ All rights reserved
ACTA ARCHAEOLOGICA
ISSN 0065-101X
THE GUNDESTRUP CAULDRON
NewScientific and Technical Investigations
by
S\rxr Nirrsrx, J.x Horvr Axrrnsrx, Jorr A. B.krn, Cn.nrir Cnnis+rxsrx, Jrxs Gr.s+ntr, Pir+rn M. Gnoo+rs,
M.++ni.s Htrs, Anxr Jot++i¡\n\i, Enrixo Brxxrn L.nsrx, Hrror Bnixcn M.rsrx, K.+n.nix. Mtrrrn,
M.nir-Josr´r N.rr.t, S+rr.x Ronns, Hrikr S+ror, Zori. Axx. S+os, & Tor E. W.ion+
CONTENTS
Introduction Svend Nielsen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Previous Scientific Investigations Jan Holme Andersen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Technical Investigations – Work in Progress Erling Benner Larsen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Thickness of the Silver Parts Arne Jouttijärvi & Jan Holme Andersen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
Metallurgical Examinations Arne Jouttijärvi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Lead Isotope Analyses Joel A. Baker & Tod E. Waight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Lead Isotope Provenance Studies Zofia Anna Stos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
The Eyes of the Faces Stefan Röhrs, Heike Stege & Katharina Müller . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Flow of Raw Materials Jan Holme Andersen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
Investigation of the Iron Ring from the Rim Arne Jouttijärvi & Helge Brinch Madsen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Analyses of the ‘Black Substance’ Jens Glastrup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
The Accelerator Dating Pieter M. Grootes, Marie-Jose ´e Nadeau & Matthias Hüls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
Bog Geological Investigations in Rævemosen 2002 Charlie Christensen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
Concluding Remarks Svend Nielsen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
INTRODUCTION
Among the objects exhibited at the Danish National
Museum in Copenhagen the Gundestrup cauldron
has kept its outstanding position since it was found
more than a century ago. This no doubt has to do
with the fact that we are facing ancient imagery not
met elsewhere. Moreover, the cauldron is entangled
in questions, which have so far not been answered.
Accordingly, the literature dealing with the Gun-
destrup cauldron is impressive and steadily increasing.
Among Danish scholars who have dealt with the
Gundestrup cauldron, all of them several times,
should be mentioned S. Müller, O. Klindt-Jensen and
H. Norling-Christensen (Müller 1933; Klindt-Jensen
1950; Norling-Christensen 1966), and E. Benner Lar-
sen, who focused on the exiting history of the find
(Larsen 1995). F. Kaul attempted to identify and date
various attributes (Kaul 1995). He is also a strong ad-
vocate of the ‘Thracian link’, even suggesting histori-
cal contexts of manufacture. Among foreign scholars
who dealt with the Gundestrup cauldron within the
last generation, or so, could be mentioned R. Pittioni
2 Acta Archaeologica
and not least the important and thorough work by R.
Hachmann, not to forget the recent and inventive
study by F. Falkenstein (Pittioni 1984; Hachmann
1990; Falkenstein 2004). In addition, a good many
shorter papers are to consider.
Yet, even when dealing with this wealth of litera-
ture, it soon becomes evident that there are still many
topics that have not been studied, primarily due to
lacking investigations. In particular, I refer to up-to-
date scientific and technical research, whereas com-
mon topics such as iconography, religion, origin and
dating have been dealt with over and over again in
the literature – with highly divergent results. Today,
it is possible, thanks to employment of a variety of
advanced scientific methods, to illuminate many tech-
nical questions. In a modern archaeological hand-
book the possibilities presented are almost legion.
Certain comparative data, in particular when com-
piled over decades, constitute a most important field
of research. Thus, lead isotope analyses tell about the
geographical origins of metals, such as the silver and
tin used to make the Gundestrup cauldron. Likewise,
X-ray detecting techniques inform about the age and
type of the glass inlays used as eyes on the faces of
the outer plates. Furthermore, it is possible to identify
the small amounts of apparently organic material,
which is seen on the backsides of some of the plates,
for instance, by employment of gas chromatography-
mass spectrometry. Such identification has proved
successful, and the material is suitable for accelerator
dating, when available in sufficient amount.
Also to be considered are the very small remaining
quantities of soil on the backside of some of the plates.
Is this soil foreign, or deriving from the Rævemose
Bog where the cauldron was once found? Possibly,
pollen analyses or other kinds of investigations may
help to answer such and other questions. The pre-
served section of the iron ring inside the silver rim of
the cauldron should also be considered; this small
piece of iron has almost been ignored or simply for-
gotten in the discussion. Would it be possible to
undertake an accelerator dating of the small carbon
residues of this piece of iron, maybe even to settle
what kind of iron one is dealing with and thus illumi-
nate its origin?
To the abovementioned investigations should be
added various kinds of metallurgical ones, such as
Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), and not least
inquiries about how the Gundestrup cauldron was
produced departing from a technical angle. In short,
many topics cry out for consideration. Indeed the pos-
sibilities of employing such methods, as well as others,
which might turn up during a future phase of re-
search, were eagerly discussed for years among Erling
Benner Larsen, Helge Brinch Madsen, and the pres-
ent author.
Right from the beginning our position was clear:
not until much more was known about the Gunde-
strup cauldron itself and its material aspects, so to say,
would it be sensible to consider such intricate points
as age, origin(s) and cultural setting(s) of this unique
artefact. In our opinion, Danish scholars ought to in-
itiate such labour simply for practical reasons; but at
the same time we were well aware that expertise from
abroad would be needed, too.
Thanks to generous economic support from the
Velux Foundation and a very positive attitude from
the National Museum it became possible to undertake
the desired investigations of the Gundestrup cauldron
in 2002. These were carried out in a co-operation
between The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts,
School of Conservation, and the National Museum.
For around half of this year the cauldron was re-
moved from the exhibition and substituted by one of
the existing excellent replicas. The original was
brought to the Department of Conservation at the
National Museum, where a very thorough technical
investigation could take place, which was planned
and undertaken by E. Benner Larsen. The work was
facilitated by the fact that, from a conservator’s point
of view, not considering ancient damages and wears,
all parts of the cauldron remain astonishingly well
preserved.
Sampling of various materials from selected areas
made up a considerable part of the work, which had
to be undertaken. Thus, no less than 45, 11, and 10
samples of silver, gold (gilt) and tin, respectively, were
taken, employing a method which both excluded con-
tamination of the samples and reduced the physical
operations to an absolute minimum. Conservators
Claus Gottlieb and E. Benner Larsen undertook this
work. Two samples were taken from the iron core of
the rim; conservator Peter Henrichsen carried out this
work. For identification, geologist Ulrich Schnell took
3 The Gundestrup Cauldron
Fig. 1. X-radiograph of the inner plate C 6575 showing details of traces from working tools. X-radiograph and digitalisation: Birthe Gottlieb,
the National Museum.
four samples of the organic material mentioned
above, as well as 17 samples of the same material for
accelerator dating and further research.
The thin layer of soil on the back of some of the
plates, to be found in concavities of the figures cov-
ered with a thick layer of conservation lacquer, turned
out to contain charcoal particles, clay, diatoms, and
very fine-grained sand. In order to undertake further
analyses, these materials, quantitatively very small,
were carefully washed out using solvents. It is our
hope that results of forthcoming analyses of these ma-
terials will also prove successful.
Eventually, various samples were distributed to the
participating scholars for further treatment, some of
which took place in Denmark, whereas other studies
were undertaken by scholars abroad. The results of
these efforts are discussed in the respective sections
below. It goes without saying that many new ideas
turned up during the long period of investigation, not
least because several experts and colleagues were cur-
rently consulted, including some from foreign coun-
tries who were also invited to inspect the cauldron at
close quarters.
All parts of the cauldron were X-radiographed,
which resulted in clear and crisp pictures making it
possible, e.g., to trace the working tools involved (Fig.
1). The X-radiographing was carried out by conser-
vator Birthe Gottlieb at the Department of Conser-
vation, who also computer-scanned the X-radio-
graphs in full scale at ultra high resolution for further
study on a computer video screen.
A final point to be mentioned is an investigation,
which took place in August 2002 in the Rævemose,
northern Jutland, where the Gundestrup cauldron was
found during peat cutting on 28th May, 1891; also this
investigation is discussed below. The idea was to in-
spect the present conditions of the find spot, which is
protected, and to undertake geological investigations.
In addition, it was attempted to find missing parts of
the cauldron, i.e., one outer plate and the remaining
sections of the rim, using metal detectors.
The following reports are submitted by most of the
scholars who have participated in the work. Although
some of these reports remain preliminary, we believe
that they all will be of interest to the readers of Acta
Archaeologica.
4 Acta Archaeologica
PREVIOUS SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATIONS
The following survey of selected previous scientific
and technical investigations is given in order to bring
the new investigations into perspective. This implies
extracts of some early analyses, hitherto unpublished
in English.
THE WORK OF SOPHUS MU
¨
LLER
On arrival at the National Museum on the 2nd of
June 1891, the outstanding silver find was at once
interpreted as a dismantled cauldron with a double
sided upper part. Sophus Müller immediately set out
to scrutinize the find including a general description,
technical investigations, chemical analyses of the dif-
ferent materials, and botanical investigations at the
finding place in the bog, as well as an investigation of
the imagery in an attempt to place the cauldron into
an archaeological context. Impressively fast, S. Müller
was able to publish the resulting observations in his
publication on the Gundestrup cauldron (Müller
1892), which remains basic to anybody dealing seri-
ously with the subject. Unfortunately, he only in-
cluded a rather short re´sume´ in French in his book
so that foreign scholars have had a hard time getting
to know about his important results.
General description
On accession, the 17 parts of the find were assigned
Inv. nos. C 6562 through C 6576 (see also Fig. 5),
whereas Müller used the Roman numerals VI
through XIV in his book to designate the decorated
plates. Müller’s description of the parts can be sum-
marized as follows:
A voluminous bowl, 21 cm in depth and c. 69 cm
in diameter with a circumference of 216 cm at the
top. – Inv. no. C 6562.
A circular plate decorated with embossed and
chased motifs gilded all over on the front. The central
motif depicts a recumbent bull with the head raised
high. The diameter of the plate is c. 25 cm. – Inv. no.
C 6563 (Müller, plate XIV
2
).
Seven rectangular plates decorated with embossed
and chased motifs on their convex sides, partly gilded.
The central motif of each plate depicts either a male
or female half-length portrait with different human
and animal figures at their shoulders or raised arms.
The length of the plates at the bottom edge varies
from one plate of 24.5 cm, one of 24.75 cm, four each
of 25.5 cm to one plate of 26 cm. Their heights are
21 cm except one, C 6569, cut down to 18.5 cm. –
Inv. nos. C 6564–C 6570 (Müller, plates XIV
1
, XIII
1
,
XIII
2
, XII
2
, XI
2
, XI
1
& XII
1
).
Five longer plates without gilding and with the mo-
tifs on their concave sides. Different sceneries with
humans, animals and fabulous monsters etc. compose
their motifs. The length of the plates at the bottom
edge varies from two plates of 40 cm to ones of 41,
43 and 44 cm each. Their heights range from 20 to
21 cm. – Inv. nos. C 6571–C 6575 (Müller, plates IX,
X, VIII, VI & VII).
Two pieces of tubing curved to the same diameter
as the bowl. They are slit at the bottom, c. 2 cm in
cross-section and approximately of the same length as
one of the smaller plates. One of the tubes en-
compasses pieces of an curved iron rod. – Inv. no.
6576.
The parts are fully shaped by hammering and neat-
ly worked with a great deal of skill. The bowl is thinly
raised silverwork of uniform thickness. The rectangu-
lar plates are somewhat thicker than the bowl and the
circular plate even more so, especially at its edge. All
motifs on the plates are raised from the back and
chased from the front, and in the concavities on the
back there are small remains of a black substance.
The rather thick gilding on the front of the circular
plate and the smaller rectangular plates seems to have
been applied in a cold state as it is only rubbed or
pressed onto the silver. All plates and the bowl show
signs of soldering around the edges.
The cauldron was by no means new when it was
deposited in the bog, but showed signs of considerable
wear and damage, though not enough to make it use-
less. Many protruding areas are more or less worn,
especially on the outer plates where most of the gild-
ing is worn off leaving only remains in the concavities
and corners. The ears and horns of the bull on the
circular plate are missing. The bottom bowl is
scratched and scraped in several places both on the
outside and inside and it has an irregular broken hole,
8–10 cm with outspread fractures, in the bottom. All
in all, Müller states that the cauldron showed signs of
having been dismantled into its single parts by the use
of force and that especially the outer plates had be-
5 The Gundestrup Cauldron
come somewhat battered and pierced before the indi-
vidual pieces were placed in the bowl and carefully
deposited on the surface of the bog.
Chemical analyses
S. Müller at once had the metal analysed by the Coin
and City Assayer of Copenhagen, S. Groth, in order
to establish its value and calculate the reward to the
finders. The report of 3rd August 1891 by S. Groth
declared all parts to be of silver, 970‰ sterling worth,
and the overall weight to be 8,885 grams. The gold
content of the silver was set to c. 3‰, and together
with the gilding covering some of the plates the over-
all gold content was estimated to be 5‰. The metal
used as solder was determined as tin. (Report in the
archives of the National Museum; Müller 1892, 41;
Larsen 1995, 191).
Further samples were chemically analysed by V.
Stein’s Laboratory in Copenhagen and in their report
of 23rd April 1892 V. Stein gives some interesting
information (report in the archives of the National
Museum; Müller 1892, 41; Larsen 1995, 196f):
1) The solder was proven to be of 97.6% tin and
2.4% silver.
2) The brown material taken from the interior of one
of the silver tubes was proven to be iron oxide
(rust) covering a solid core of metallic iron.
3) The black substance from the concavities of the
back of the plates ‘‘... was of an organic nature
that burnt with a bright, strongly soothing flame
by combustion, leaving behind an almost negli-
gible inorganic residue. The substance was only
partly dissolvable in alcohol or ether, but very eas-
ily and completely in chloroform only leaving
some fine black particles (carbon) behind.’’ – The
conclusion being that the substance consisted of a
resin (maybe birch resin) and wax. However, it was
not possible to give the chemical composition pre-
cisely due to the small size of the samples.
In his publication, Müller commented on the resin
that the dark, hard substance apparently had been
applied in a soft or fluid form onto the backs of the
plates in several places where the motifs were strongly
raised in order to strengthen the plates while they
were worked over from the front. Further, he men-
tions that this technique of employing resin was
known in ancient North and Central Europe, but not
in the South, neither in the works of Prehistory nor
the Roman culture, though one example was known
from the Gallo-Roman area. Here the black sub-
stance taken from the back of bronze masks from
Compie`gne burned with a flame like that of resin
(Müller 1892, 42).
It can be stated that Müller has done what he could
to analyse the find by the means available at the time.
Since Müller, no one has questioned that the black
substance could be anything other than resin and it
is quoted as such in many publications. Today, much
more sophisticated techniques of analyses are at hand
and what Stein’s Laboratory in 1891 showed to be
resin, the new analyses of 2002 with the aid of gas
chromatography – mass spectrometry has proven to
be beeswax (see J. Glastrup’s section below).
Construction and form of the cauldron
Assuming the upper part of the cauldron to have been
assembled of inner and outer plates with pictures fa-
cing both inwards and outwards, the five concave
plates being placed on the inside and the seven con-
vex smaller plates placed on the outside with an
eighth plate missing, Müller went on to reconstruct
the cauldron. Comparison of measurements between
the upper circumference of the bowl and the overall
width of the five inner plates showed a gap of c. 2 cm
between each of the plates when distributed evenly
around the top of the bowl. Similarly, the seven outer
plates also left a gap of c. 2 cm between each of the
plates to match the circumference of the bowl as-
suming there had been an eighth plate of a similar
size as the other ones. This, together with the 1–2 cm
broad traces of tin soldering around all borders of the
outside of the square plates and on the top of the
bowl on both sides, indicated that the cauldron had
been assembled with soldered on and now missing
metal bands, 4–5 cm in width.
A further proof of the upper part of the cauldron
being double is four holes, assumed by Müller to have
served for rivets, which in two positions have been
driven through the sides of the cauldron. On the in-
ner plate C 6572 there had been inserted a rivet near
the upper edge to the left that had joined the outer
plate C 6570 near the upper edge, slightly to the right
of the central head. Likewise, a rivet had been driven
6 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 2. Pencil drawing of the Gundestrup cauldron by J. Magnus
Petersen on the basis of Sophus Müller’s reconstruction 1891.
Archives of the National Museum.
from the outside somewhat further down from the
upper edge through the hair on the central head of
the outer plate C 6567 and piercing the inner plate
C 6575 in front of the head of the middle bull. The
position of these holes, their edges and the in- and
outward curving of the metal clearly showed that
these plates had been placed back to back. According
to Müller (1892, 38 & 40) the two rivets, now lost,
may well have served to fasten two suspension rings
opposite each other like those known from similar
cauldrons of bronze or iron. Apart from the four rivet
holes only two other (very) small holes in the upper
right corners of the outer plates C 6568 and C 6566
can be seen. Müller attributed these to be part of
some ancient repair.
As for the rim of the cauldron the two slit silver
tubes fit the top edge of the plates. The enclosed
pieces of iron in one of the tubes must have been part
of a thick iron ring to strengthen the upper part of
the cauldron. Müller assumed eight such tubes to
have existed, each meeting the next one above the
central heads of the outer plates. Here the parts were
connected over the rim, front to back, on the outside
by metal bands of which traces of tin soldering clearly
can be seen at the top of the plates and on top of
some of the central heads together with other marks
on the ends of the silver tubes. Small expansions in
the middle of the slits in the bottom of the two tubes,
indicate room for the metal bands connecting the
plates vertically and further indicate that these bands
were flat.
According to Müller (1892, 39) only one order in
the arrangement of the inner plates was possible,
given the position of the traces of soldering from the
metal bands across the rim from the top of the inner
plates to the top centre on each of the outer plates
together with the position of the above mentioned
rivet holes opposite each other. The order being from
left to right: C 6574, C 6575, C 6573, C 6571 and C
6572, or, with Müller’s numerals, VI, VII, VIII, IX
and X, which is why he used this sequence of the
numbers in his book and plates of phototypies. Subse-
quently, the two outer plates C 6567 and C 6570 fell
into place as a consequence of the rivet holes being
opposite to each other. In this way, only the position
of the five remaining outer plates became uncertain.
Assuming the missing outer plate depicts a female
portrait, there would have been four female and four
male heads all together, probably placed alternating
female-male.
The cauldron was assembled by conservator V.F.
Steffensen using small clamps of silver and placed in
its own showcase in the fifth room of the exhibition
in the late summer of 1891 (Müller 1892, 36; Larsen
1995, 136f). So Müller must have worked very fast
during the summer, drawing all of his conclusions re-
garding the construction of the cauldron. After being
assembled, the cauldron was drawn by J. Magnus
Petersen in a pencil drawing later used as a model for
the chemotypie printed in Müller’s book (Fig. 2). Here
a part of the arrangement of the outer plates can be
seen as well as the placing of the silver tubes. Different
scholars have proposed several arrangements of the
order of the plates since then.
As exactly matching traces of soldering show, the
circular Bull plate has been soldered to the bottom of
the bowl. Later E. Benner Larsen has further proved
this, even that the plate was positioned slightly askew
from the middle, covering the irregular hole in the
bottom (Larsen 1987, 404 Figs. 24 & 25).
The pupils of all the eyes of the portraits on the
outer plates were cut out. Müller states that in five
cases an inlaid ball-like, reddish blue glass (flux) was
preserved, but this must be a misprint as only four
7 The Gundestrup Cauldron
can be seen on the phototypies in his book, and these
four still exist. For comparison, Müller mentions and
depicts two bronze heads from Compie`gne with cut-
out eyes, of which one had inlaid eyes of glass, and
one silver mask from Brissac with cut out pupils, all
resembling those on the cauldron in style (Müller
1892, 58). On page 54 in his book, Müller states that
the glass eyes were fastened with metal from behind,
but on page 41 he also mentions them in connection
with the analyses of the dark substance found on the
back of the plates. This must have led to some misun-
derstanding by certain readers, because O. Klindt-
Jensen (1961, 7, Fig. 3) and A. Villemos (1978, 80)
both state that the eyes are fastened with lumps of
resin, while the new investigations of 2002 has proven
these fastenings to be of tin covered with a layer of
corrosion.
The artisans
Sophus Müller brought special attention to the fact
that the cauldron was not the work of one single per-
son. The inner plates C 6574 and C 6571 together
with the outer plates C 6567 and C 6565 would be
the work of one person judging from the similarity of
stylistic details and differences from the other plates.
Müller’s stylistic arguments for this view shall not be
given here, except that on the working of patterns on
these plates a circular punch has been used, which is
not used on the other plates. Similarly, the outer plate
C 6569 is the sole work of another artisan who, judg-
ing from the details of the working, has only done this
one plate. The rest of the plates must have been the
work of one or possibly two more artisans. Müller
concludes that the cauldron was the collective work
of a group of artisans with similar skills and a mutual
direction of art, resembling a style that at a certain
time had flourished in a certain place.
RECONSERVATION OF THE CAULDRON
In connection with a reorganisation and refurbishing
of the prehistoric collections of the National Museum,
a considerable part of the collections was reconservat-
ed. Thus, in 1977, the Gundestrup cauldron was dis-
mantled and transferred to the Department of Con-
servation where the conservators Ann Villemos and
Claus Gottlieb undertook the conservation work.
A layer of lacquer applied to the surface of the
cauldron to protect the silver from the noxious influ-
ence of air had become brownish with age and was
obscuring the gilding, among other things. Unfortu-
nately, no information regarding the agents used in
the conservation of the cauldron in the course of time
can be found in the archives. Having carefully re-
moved the layer of lacquer using solvents, the single
parts of the cauldron were cleansed for oxidation with
a solution of Rochelle salt and rinsed with distilled
water. The plates were only treated from the front,
taking care not to damage the residues of organic ma-
terial still found on the back of the plates. A good
deal of ‘resin’ and ‘bog material’ was still present, in-
dicating that the plates have apparently never been
cleaned on the back (Villemos 1978).
After the cleaning, the silver now stood out quite
brightly and the details of the decoration showed
themselves, when subsequently each single part was
studied by microscopy. It was now possible to register
the extension of the gilding on the outer plates and
the Bull plate. On some areas, the gilding had flaked
off and it was obvious that where the gold once had
been applied, the surface of the silver was rough and
not smooth as on the surrounding bare areas. Also, it
was possible to see areas of the gilding, e.g., on plate
C 6570, where the borders of the gilding are hard to
recognise. On the other hand, silver salts have in time
covered some areas of the gilding, so this is hard to
see, e.g., on plate C 6564. However, attempts to re-
move this layer electrolytically with potassium cyan-
ide turned out to be impossible without loosening the
underlying gilding so the extension of the latter in this
case is not quite known. The extension of the gilding
resulting from these observations is shown accentu-
ated on Figs. 3–11 in Villemos’ publication of 1978.
After the reconservation, the parts of the cauldron
were relacquered with Incra laquer and reassembled
to be relocated in the exhibition in a new showcase.
THE WORK OF E. BENNER LARSEN
While the cauldron was still dismantled and simul-
taneously with the above-mentioned investigation,
Benner Larsen from the School of Conservation had
the opportunity to undertake documentation and
identification of toolmarks deriving from the manu-
8 Acta Archaeologica
facture of the cauldron. Especially pressmarks from
punches used to decorate detail patterns in the surface
of the embossed and chased motifs and their back-
grounds could be traced to act like fingerprints of the
individual tool. The results of this investigation turned
out to be a major pioneering work (Larsen 1985;
idem 1987).
Based on the distribution of toolmarks deriving
from punches Larsen was able to document 15 differ-
ent punches, that could be divided into three distinct
groups with no overlapping between the tools, plus a
fourth group consisting of two outer plates (C 6569
and C 6570), bearing no marks of punches. The first
group of toolmarks are found on two outer and two
inner plates, designated Toolset I, the second group
of toolmarks are found on three outer plates and three
inner plates, designated Toolset II, while the third
group of toolmarks are only found on the circular Bull
plate and is designated Toolset III.
Amazingly, or perhaps not surprisingly, there is a
high degree of accordance between Larsen’s techni-
cal investigations and the grouping resulting from
the stylistic studies by S. Müller, except for the two
Table 1. The result of E. Benner Larsen’s investigations of toolsets used to decorate the plates in relation to the stylistic and iconographical
results of different scholars. The table is based on the works of E. Benner Larsen and R. Falkenstein (Larsen 1985, 571 Table II; Falkenstein
2004, 77 Abb. 15).
outer plates C 6569 and C 6570 which do not bear
marks of punches. Also, Larsen could show similar
coincidence with the earlier stylistic studies of O.
Klindt-Jensen and G.S. Olmsted (Klindt-Jensen
1961; Olmsted 1979). Other scholars have later used
the important observations of Larsen in their own
stylistic and iconographical studies (e.g., Hachmann
1990; Kaul 1991; Olmsted 2001; Falkenstein 2004).
Table 1 summarizes the grouping of the plates by
each scholar.
Finally, another important work by Benner Larsen
to be mentioned is his publication from 1995 on the
Gundestrup cauldron. Based on well-documented
sources from many different archives and a wealth of
pictures, he tells the story of the find. Also, he presents
important information about the seven electroform
copper replicas of the cauldron made from 1892 to
1967 and the one replica. of the plates made of gyp-
sum in 1961. This is supplemented by information
about the scientific investigations and analyses carried
into effect by Müller that are quoted in this paper
too. Unfortunately this work has only been published
in Danish.
9 The Gundestrup Cauldron
FINAL REMARKS
One may wonder about the ‘crude’ way the metal
bands have been fastened to the plates and especially
onto the top of some of the central faces on the outer
plates. This might indicate that some other person
than the original artisans did this work at a later stage.
Still, the plates do originally allow room for some kind
of framing at their undecorated borders. Likewise,
one may wonder why the so-called rivet holes are
placed so that one of these has been driven through
the forehead of the figure on the outer plate C 6567.
And surprisingly, none of the above-mentioned
scholars have noticed that the three outer plates of
Müller’s artist 3 and Larsen’s Toolset II all have sur-
face gilding as a background around the central fig-
ure, a point that supports this grouping.
To conclude this survey, it may be appropriate to
point out that the important work of Sophus Müller
formed the foundation on which all later scholars
have built their work and further to quote the open-
ing part of his work on the Gundestrup cauldron
(1892, 36 my translation): ‘‘... Especially when facing
such a piece, there is good reason to stop and wait.
One cannot unpunished attempt to force the investi-
gation beyond the borders set by contemporary
knowledge, and equally, it would be erroneous by fu-
tile accumulation of material, which is not strictly rel-
evant, to hamper and burden future considerations.
When this strange find for the first time should be
introduced into literature it ought to happen in a way
that it will not once in the future be necessary first to
clear an obstructed position, in order to show the way
on the basis of larger knowledge and new finds to the
full and right understanding.’’
TECHNICAL INVESTIGATIONS –
WORK IN PROGRESS
PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION IN 1977
My preliminary investigations of toolmarks and sur-
face textures on the Gundestrup cauldron were
undertaken in 1977, when it was re-conserved at the
Department of Conservation at the National Mu-
seum. On that occasion, I had only limited time for
the work, but I had the opportunity to study the tool-
marks when the conservation lacquer, which had cov-
ered the parts for many years, had been removed.
Fig. 3. Silicone rubber mould from the inner plate C 6571. Tool-
marks have in this way been transferred from concavities in the
surface of the silver to convex impressions in the rubber surface.
The motif is a leaf ornament. To the right inside the contours of
the leaf a fine line shows the use of a scriber to lay out the design
before tracing the contour line. Characteristic marks from the
tracer are clearly seen in the curves. A dot punch has been used
for the background decoration. Photo: E. Benner Larsen.
As time was short, I confined my investigations to
selected areas where punches had left clear marks
during the final chasing of the repousse´ work. I made
moulds of areas of particular interest employing a
special silicone rubber (Fig. 3). The toolmarks re-
corded (in reverse) by the moulds were studied under
the microscope and selected areas of them were
photographed using a Scanning Electron Microscope
(SEM). In this way, the various punches, which had
made the marks were identified and documented, as
the individual micro geometry of the tools used was
clearly visible (Larsen 1985; idem 1987). Thus the
SEM photographs could be compared and marks of
fifteen different punches could be identified in three
groups, Toolsets I with punch marks A–F, Toolset II
with punch marks G–K, and Toolset III with punch
marks L–O, respectively (Fig. 4). Two outer plates, C
6569 and C 6570, could not immediately be associ-
ated with any of the three groups, because these two
plates did not bear any marks of punches.
Later analyses of other toolmarks like, for instance,
planishing punches and tracers to delineate the base
of high relief, which I carried out in 1991, led to a
new grouping of the individual parts, see Table 2 and
10 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 4. Diagram showing three different sets of punches used in the
decoration of the Gundestrup cauldron. The column on the left
gives the inventory of each panel. The rubric above with letters A
to O indicates the 15 different identified marks of the punches. E.
Benner Larsen del.
Fig. 5 for references to the parts of the cauldron.
Outer plate C 6570 could now be associated by marks
of planishing punches with Toolset II, whereas outer
plate C 6569 could not be linked with Toolsets I, II
or III. This plate is in many ways quite different from
all other plates not only from a stylistic point of view.
A scar in the face of a planishing hammer has left
marks in the surface of the silver. These scar marks
are not seen on any other plate. Outline punches used
to delineate areas at the base of high relief – especially
around the head, the arms and the beard of the god –
cannot be linked to any outlying punches used on
other plates. These specific tools make up Toolset IV.
The huge bowl C 6562, 69 cm in diameter, re-
mains a true masterpiece of ancient hammerwork
(Wilson 1978, 151ff) whose point of departure was an
ingot weighing c. 3.74 kg of very pure silver. The
making of the huge bowl and the silver tubes required
a number of different raising hammers and stakes of
different weights and shapes. Some of the hammers
used may even have been of organic material, e.g.
wood or horn mallets. A scar in the face of a plan-
ishing (steel) hammer can be traced over large areas
of the outside of the bowl and scraper marks are seen
as well on its inside. The remaining sections of the
rim of the cauldron, two curved silver tubes, represent
a very demanding task technically similar to the rais-
ing of the bowl. They also required a specially made
shaping block – probably made of wood – and nar-
row faced hammers (collet hammers) used in raising,
suited to form deep curves. The tools used when mak-
ing these parts are listed as Toolset V. Finally during
the forging of the iron core of the rim special ham-
mers, chisels, bottom swage and anvil were needed,
Toolset VI.
Table 2. The results of the analyses of tool marks show in the left
column the identification of three sets of individual tools used on
eleven of the decorated plates. Two plates, C 6569 and C 6570,
could not be linked to any of the three groups of toolsets since they
bear no marks of punches (Larsen 1985, 571; idem 1987, 401).
Later analyses in 1991 where other kinds of tool marks were
studied, e.g. planishing punches, led to a new grouping listed in the
column to the right. It is worth noting that the outer plate C 6569
is not linked to Toolset I, II, or III but forms a ‘‘new’’ Toolset IV.
Within Toolset V we are dealing with hammers and stakes of differ-
ent shapes and weights. Hammers of organic material may also
have been used when raising the huge bowl and the two tubes for
the rim. And finally forging tools like hammers, bottom swage,
chisels and anvil were used to make the iron core of the rim of the
cauldron, Toolset VI. All tool marks deriving from the forging pro-
cess have naturally disappeared due to heavy corrosion of the iron.
11 The Gundestrup Cauldron
Fig. 5. These drawings intend to remind the reader of the 17 parts
of the Gundestrup cauldron. Top the bowl; below to the left the
seven outer plates; to the right: the Bull and below it the five inner
plates. Under these are two tubes and a small fragment of the iron
core from the rim. To avoid confusion the various parts are referred
to using the original ‘C’ numbers of the National Museum. The
silver tubes and the iron fragment were earlier registered under
one number (C 6576); an A, B and C has been added. For an
equation of these numbers with other designations, see e.g. R.
Hachmann (Hachmann 1990, Abb. 14 and Abb. 15). Collage: E.
Benner Larsen del. Based on drawings by E. Rondahl 1893, after
Steenstrup 1895.
NEW TECHNOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS 2002
During the investigation of 2002, it was possible to
continue with my previous line of research. (Larsen
1985; idem 1987; idem 1995). Thus it became poss-
ible to undertake a thorough documentation includ-
ing exact weighing (see Table 3), measuring of thick-
ness, and drawing to full scale of the outline of all the
individual parts without the distortion of perspective
resulting from the curving of the plates and bowl,
which is present in all previous drawings and photo-
graphs. Subsequently, on these new drawings, tool-
marks, remains of tin solder, and marks of workman-
ship from the shaping of the plates were recorded as
well as a variety of other observations, for instance
the delicate design of the motifs before their chasing
was begun (Wilson 1978, 33 and 44; Oldeberg 1966,
167ff).
All the fronts and backs of the plates were exam-
ined under the microscope. Hundreds of photographs
were undertaken to document macro-details. Selected
areas were documented by silicon rubber moulds,
which will later be examined by SEM. The moulds
will also be used to document in three dimensions
and to produce electroform replicas. Several of the
technological investigations as well as researches into
craftsmanship were carried out along the lines de-
scribed by Lowery, Savage and Wilkins (Lowery et al.
1971).
The new observations and documentation of tool-
marks indicate that more silversmiths than has hith-
erto been thought may have been involved when
making the cauldron. Preliminary analysis of the new
research on the Bull plate (Fig. 6 & p. 58), for in-
stance, has revealed that at least three different sets
of punches were used. In the following, numerals in
12 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 6. The Bull plate C 6563, 25 cm in diameter, from the bottom
of the cauldron – a masterwork of repousse´ work originally gilt on
the whole surface. Recent studies of toolmarks show that different
tools probably in different hands have been involved in its making.
On the photo the inserted numerals 1 to 10 are used as references
in the text to observations of details. At last three different hands
have thus been involved – maybe even more. In the future work
we have to reconsider the grouping of tool marks and surface tex-
tures. For better study of details see the enlargement of the Bull
plate p. 58. Photo: E. Benner Larsen.
brackets are used for reference to areas of special in-
terest on Fig. 6. This impressive part of the cauldron,
with its outstanding execution of the bull figure in
high relief (1), stands out artistically in comparison
with other decorations on the cauldron. Is it the mas-
ter of the workshop himself who executed this very
demanding repousse´ work in an extraordinary high
relief? As to style and workmanship, there is a close
connection between the bull and the dog (2) lying flat
on the stomach under the bull with four outstretched
legs. The dog and the bull differ completely from all
other motifs on the Gundestrup cauldron. A different
hand made man with the sword (4) over the bull’s
back – was it done later? The sword fighter, dead
or alive, in attitude and technical execution is almost
identical with two other figures on two outer plates C
6564 and C 6570. Two other dogs (3 and 5) also
stand out from all other motifs on the cauldron.
The delicate tracing of the bull’s body was carried
out with a C-punch, i.e. punch O, Toolset III. The
neck and mane of the bull was executed with a tracer
in a beautiful pattern, but it looks as if this fine chas-
ing stopped and was completed by another hand with
other tools. The right foreleg of the bull (9) was fin-
ished by chasing with a small, almost rectangular
punch, punch N of Toolset III, and not as might be
expected, with the C-punch which was used on the
rest of the bull’s body. The surface of the hide on the
left side of the bull’s head, was chased with the same
C-punch as that used on the bull’s body, see Fig. 7
(A) whereas quite another tool, a fine tracer used as
a punch, was used on the right side of the bull’s head,
Table 3. For the first time, all parts of the cauldron were weighed
correct to 0.1 g. Sophus Müller gives the total weight to 8,885 g
(Müller 1892, 41). The total weight today is 8,838.6 g including
the weight of the fragment of the iron core from the rim. This
difference of 46.4 g might make out the weight of a second piece
of iron core from the rim, which is now missing.
13 The Gundestrup Cauldron
Fig. 7. The bull’s head seen in profile. The neat chasing of the left side of the head (A) was carried out with the same C-punch as was used
on the body of the bull, see Fig. 7, punch O. On the right side of the bull’s head (B) a small tracer has been used as a punch instead of the
C-punch used on the left side of the head. For unknown reasons the chasing was left unfinished – until another hand using a quite different
tool completed the decoration. This peculiar change of tool is also seen on the right foreleg (Fig. 19, 9) where a small, almost rectangular
punch was used instead of the C-punch. Photo: Lennart Larsen.
see Fig. 7 (B). The same tracer was used on the fur
of the dog (3) above the shoulder of the bull.
The rolling or dead dog (5) shows the supreme skill
of the master in a light moment, Fig. 8. It is fascinat-
ing to see the virtuosity with which the C-punch, the
only punch used, danced over the surface of the silver,
creating this unique small masterpiece. Richard Sav-
age, having studied the little dog, made the following
comment (personal communication): ‘‘To me, the
small dog shows the actor offstage, out of makeup for
a moment, alone or among his peers, before he says
wearily ‘OK, here we go again. Let’s give the buggers
what they want’. Of course, once he gets back on
stage, whatever magic he has takes its old grip, and
he knows God working through him again; but in this
little dog we glimpse the vision which brought our
artist to a calling in which he may well have found
much of his work tedious, if materially rewarding, and
we remember the people and creatures who lurk and
play in the margins and initials of medieval manu-
scripts.’’ Maybe the little dog was added later – or is
it perhaps actually the ‘signature’ of the master him-
self? Or are we looking at the end of a bullfight or a
bull hunt, with the bull dying among his tormentors,
those whom he has killed or injured, and the survivors
triumphant?
The plant motifs on the bull plate are varied both
as to design and workmanship. It looks as if three
individual silversmiths each made his own part of the
plant ornaments. This is also the case when looking
at the working of the background of the plate, which
was begun on small areas at four different places after
which the process came to a halt and was left unfin-
ished. Around the tail of the bull (6) this background
ornament was carried out with the same C-punch as
was used on the body of the bull and between the
right foreleg and left backleg (10) the same C-punch
was used to start a background decoration. Between
the forelegs of the bull (7) it was carried out with the
same tool as was used on the right side of the bull’s
head. In front of the little dog (3) and between the
motifs with leaves, it was started using a small dot-
punch, punch M of Toolset III (8).
The recent investigations, in which the marks not
only of punches, but also of other tools, are studied
indicate that at least three, and perhaps five or six
persons, were involved in the making of the bull plate,
and it is probable that more silversmiths than has
hitherto been suggested were involved in the produc-
tion of the cauldron as a whole. Thus one may im-
agine that the various steps of production ranging
from the initial melting of silver into ingots, through
the manufacture of sheet silver, design, repousse´
work, chasing, the making of the bowl and gilding
etc. were divided between specialists. It is well docu-
mented that the craftsmen were not of equal skill.
What is clear, however, is that we are facing a well-
equipped and well-organized workshop with access to
a good many different tools. All work on the plates
may be termed technically sophisticated although the
14 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 8. Silicone rubber mould of the small crouching or dead (?)
dog under the back legs of the bull (see Fig. 19, 5) chased using
only the C-punch. The measure from ear to tail is 34 millimetres.
Photo: E. Benner Larsen.
style is sometimes naive. It may be argued that a mas-
ter led the workshop in which craftsmen with unequal
skills were employed.
ASSEMBLY OF THE CAULDRON
R. Hachmann (Hachmann 1990, 578) suggests that
the Gundestrup cauldron was assembled, and thus
soldered, twice. I have not found any evidence to sup-
port this, but it can be documented that the soldering
of two outer plates was adjusted. To the left on the
outer plate C 6565 two different significant traces of
soldering can be seen, c. 10 mm from each other (Fig.
9), and on the outer plate C 6568 there is yet another
adjustment of the soldering which covers the lower
edge and c. 5 cm up along the right side. These ad-
justments were probably undertaken to make the in-
ner and outer plates fit together back to back with the
bottom and the iron core at the rim of the cauldron.
The soldering together of the individual parts of
the cauldron was a Sisyphean task. The tin used
flowed out of control over large areas of all the parts
of the cauldron. Hence, there is a marked contrast
between the professional craftsmanship of the silver-
work and the clumsy tin soldering. This may be due
to the fact that the tin soldering that the silversmiths
used was a technique new to them. It should be noted
that other cauldrons with an iron ring from the time
Fig. 9. On two different outer plates the soldering were adjusted in
order to correspond with the circumference of the silver bowl.
Outer plate C 6565 shows to the right the outline of the two differ-
ent solderings. The inner line (A) c. 21 mm from the edge indicates
where the silver band was soldered. The distance between the two
solder lines is c. 10 mm at the lower right of the plate (B). Solder
mark C is refered to in Fig. 12. Photo: E. Benner Larsen.
about the birth of Christ were riveted together with
no use of solder.
Examination of the iron core of the rim shows that
there are considerable remains of tin solder on the
inside of the core, which is V-shaped in section. In
the traces of soldering on the bottom of the cauldron,
there are 5 small holes with a diameter of c. 1 mm,
15 The Gundestrup Cauldron
Fig. 10. Along the upper edge of the silver bowl five small holes (c.
one mm in diameter) are documented (A). These small holes have
been made with a mutual distance of c. 44 cm between the holes.
All the five holes are placed c. 5 mm from the edge of the bowl.
Through one hole I have passed a copper wire (B) to demonstrate
that the holes probably served as fix points where drawn wire might
have been fastened during the assembly of the cauldron prior to
soldering, see also Fig. 11. Photo: E. Benner Larsen.
evenly spread along the upper edge of the bottom,
see Fig. 10 (A). A similar number of small holes can
be seen on the upper edges of both outer and inner
plates. These small holes may have helped to fasten
the individual parts with a metal wire, which was pull-
ed through the holes, see Fig. 10 (B). This way of
temporary fastening prior to soldering is still generally
employed among present day silversmiths. The first
most safe and stable mounting of the outer and inner
plates could be achieved by placing all the individual
plates upside down in the V-shaped groove of the iron
core of the rim. Thus the plates could be fastened in
the position wanted with metal wire. In this way, it
would have been relatively simple to solder all the
plates together with tin in the groove (see Fig. 11).
The finishing of the soldering work was a long and
demanding labour. The craftsman tried to clean the
Fig. 11. A cross section shows how the outer and inner plates might
have been mounted – upside down, fixed in the groove in the iron
core and held in position with drawn wires twisted around the iron
core prior to soldering. E. Benner Larsen del.
16 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 12. The original positions of the inner and outer plates, based
on their measurements and the solder – and scraper – marks.
White arrows on either side of the stippled line indicate correspond-
ing solder marks on inner and outer plates marked with a square
(see also Fig. 9, C). The larger arrows A, B and C, D indicate the
rivet holes marked with a black dot which show the exact relative
positions of the plates C 6570 and C 6572 (A, B) respectively C
6567 and C 6575 (C, D). It is likely that two solid handles were
mounted there. A three-dimensional image of the interlinking of all decorated
plates is easily made from a photocopy of this illustration. Fold along the
stippled line and glue together front to back and then bend and glue together at
the ends to form a cylinder as shown in Fig. 13. E. Benner Larsen del.
Based on E. Rondahls drawings 1893.
flows of tin from all the individual parts of the caul-
dron. This was done mechanically using various
scrapers, which were used forcefully on large areas of
the delicate silverwork. The traces left, which are easy
to recognize, were made by scrapers of various widths
(Untracht 1975, 127), and are helpful in any attempt
to understand the construction of the cauldron.
Measuring and documentation of all traces of sol-
dering – amounting to 14.6 metres long – has con-
siderably helped our understanding of the mounting
of the individual plates. Four holes of c. 4 mm diam-
eter for rivets in two inner plates and two outer plates
respectively fit together two by two, inner plate
against outer plate. Thus, from rivet holes, and
measuring and documentation of soldering traces (see
also Fig. 9, C) and scraper marks, it is possible to
establish the individual position and connection of the
individual plates, see Figs. 12 and 13, which is essen-
tial to any study of the style and iconography of the
imagery of the Gundestrup cauldron.
The silver bands, which held the individual parts
of the cauldron together, are now all missing. Exami-
nation of traces of solder, however, show that the
bands were profiled, since impressions of the profiling
can still be seen in many traces of solder along the
edges of the plates. The silver bands were 4.2 cm
broad, with a total length of c. 7 m.
Of the eight curved silver tubes, which once cov-
ered the iron core of the rim, only two have survived.
Each of the tubes was made individually and subse-
quently sprung onto the iron core. Traces of soldering
and scraping also show that the junctions between the
tubes were masked with solid profiled tubular silver
covers of slightly larger diameter. Each junction
17 The Gundestrup Cauldron
Fig. 13. A three-dimensional model of the original position of inner
and outer plates shows how the silver panels interrelate. The larger
white arrows are pointing out the rivet holes C and B. These holes
are positioned exactly opposite to one another just under the rim
of the cauldron and two rings or handles were probably mounted
here. Model and photo: E. Benner Larsen, based on E. Rondahl’s
drawings 1893.
centred and soldered above the repousse´ heads of
outer plates. A point, which is significant in our
understanding of the planning of the cauldron’s uni-
fied architecture. The carrying rings were probably
fixed in two of these solid silver mountings and se-
cured with two solid rivets, Fig. 12 AB and CD.
WHAT THE BACK OF THE PLATES CAN TELL
Hardly any scholar has ever cared much for the
‘backs’ of the plates, which are most informative. For
instance, toolmarks tell a great deal about how the
sheet metal was produced. Besides, in the concavities
of the backs of all plates scattered remains of a dark
substance can be seen (Fig. 14), which has been iden-
tified as beeswax and is discussed in a separate section
below. No doubt this material acted as a substitute
for pitch, which is normally used on the back of a
sheet of metal before repousse´ work. The parts
brought into relief are worked from the back of the
silver with hammers and modelling punches as the
front is supported with a thick wax pad. The parts
that are concave or depressed are worked from the
Fig. 14. Residues of beeswax on the back of inner plate C 6573,
seen as dark scattered areas in the wheel. Photo: E. Benner Larsen.
front with the use of different punches while the back
is supported with wax (Untracht 1975, 93 &105; Wil-
son 1978, 44; Theophilus 1979, 97ff).
The presence of fine-grained sand, and the re-
corded impressions of such sand on the silver, is most
interesting. Probably it has to do with the chasing
where it was used as temper in the beeswax on the
back of the sheets. Macro-photographs from the back
of the plates under discussion very clearly show im-
pressions of fine sand grains in the surface of the sil-
ver. These impressions are restricted to areas chased
from the front of the plate towards its back, on to
which the beeswax pad, tempered with sand, was
mounted. Thus, the sand impressions record the fin-
ishing process of the repousse´ work. It should be
noted that such sand impressions in large numbers
occur on the back of the Bull plate, Fig. 15.
Quite different impressions can be seen on the
backs of the outer plates C 6565, C 6566, C 6568,
C 6569 and C 6570, in that distinct impressions of
plants have been recorded, which are as clear as
sharp photographs. These impressions, which are
caused by corrosion, have so far not been botanically
identified, but when this has been done they may help
to identify the vegetation in the bog when the caul-
dron was deposited.
THE SKETCHPAD OF A MASTER
Most astonishing, and as a precious gift from the past,
the close examination of the backs of the silver plates
18 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 15. Impressions of fine grained sand are clearly seen as small
black dots of different shape and size on this photograph from the
back of the back leg on the Bull plate C 6563. The sand im-
pressions are restricted to areas chased from the front of the Bull
plate and only in areas where the C-punch has been used, see Fig.
4 Toolset III punch O. The width of the photograph represents 16
mm. Photo: E. Benner Larsen.
has revealed the presence of six drawings, which have
been completely overlooked for more than a century.
Admittedly, we have to do with small drawings which
have been drawn lightly into the backs of the silver
plates with a scriber and which are almost invisible to
the naked eye. Some of these newfound drawings
might be characterized as preliminary sketches. They
are not simply graffiti, but may have served as an
element in discussions going on between two or more
silversmiths during the making of the ornament; if so,
the backs of the plates were used as a sketchpad.
The finest of these drawings was found on in the
lower right corner onthe back of the inner plate C
6572. It is a male figure, 4.4 cm high, seen in profile
and blowing a horn instrument (see Fig. 16). It is
worth noting that this instrument looks quite different
from the relatively much longer instruments played
by the three carnyx blowers depicted on the front of
inner plate C 6574. On the back of the inner plate C
6573, three drawings have been recorded: a male
head in profile near the right side at the middle (Fig.
17 left), much like the horn player mentioned and
perhaps the work of the same artist, and the head of
two cats, likewise in profile, one of which was found
over the male head near the upper corner (Fig. 17
right). Corrections in the drawings of the latter crea-
tures suggest that they were once the theme of a dis-
cussion of the anatomy of cats. Further, these cats are
depicted in a way, which could be characterized as
‘naturalistic’. Not a style one would generally associ-
ate with the imagery of the Gundestrup cauldron al-
though it could be said to be found in the rolling or
dead dog (Fig. 6, 5).
Finally, two new drawings have been found on the
front of the inner plate C 6575, but these have an-
other purpose than the drawings above in that they
must be considered drafts of motifs agreed and to be
executed. That is, they were intended as a first step
within the repousse´ technique previous to the contour
lines, which were made by tracers. However, contrary
to all other similar drawings on the front of the vari-
ous plates, these two were never carried out in re-
pousse´ but were left as testimony of a motif which
Fig. 16. I shall never forget the morning when I was studying the
back of the inner plate C 6572. I was using a fibre illumination
unit as a light source in an angle over the silver surface when a
small horn blower gradually grew out of the silver sheet. The horn
blower seen in profile is 44 mm high and is drawn upside down
with a sharp scriber in one corner of the silver sheet. When he was
first drawn, the scratched line, with the metal thrown up alongside
it would have caught the light brilliantly but he is now almost
invisible to the naked eye and was not easy to document. He had
been hiding for so long but a combination of silicone rubber
moulds, epoxy resin replicas, macro photography and digital im-
aging brought him back to the light. His horn is end-blown and
held in a horizontal position in his right hand. To judge from the
drawing the horn might be a combination of an animal horn on
to which a beautifully shaped metal bell has been attached. The
speaking end has been drawn twice – one under the other. It looks
as if the horn has been drawn first and then the man was added
afterwards. The fact that the bell at the outer end was drawn twice
suggests that the drawing may have served as an important element
in a discussion going on among two or more silversmiths about the
shape and construction of a specific kind of a musical instrument
in a corner of the workshop while making the Gundestrup caul-
dron. Thus the back of the silver sheet served as a sketchpad two
thousand years ago. Photo: E. Benner Larsen. Digital imaging: Jan-
nik Weylandt.
19 The Gundestrup Cauldron
20 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 17. To the left a sketch of a small head and back seen in profile is one of two found on the back of the inner plate C 6573. In style it is
very much like the horn blower, see Fig. 16. The peculiar shape and position of the eye is like the eye of the horn blower, and so are the
nose and the hair. The same hand that drew the horn blower probably drew this sketch. – To the right a small sketch of a cat seen in profile
was also found on the back of the inner plate C 6573. The cat is drawn with a scriber on the surface of the silver. The width of the
photographs represents 13 mm. Photo: E. Benner Larsen. Digital imaging: Jannik Weylandt.
was abandoned as the work went on. It is remarkable
that all the three plates with drawings are inner plates,
which belong to Toolset II.
CONCLUDING REMARKS
Finally, it should be noted that much work remains
to be done to show how the Gundestrup cauldron
was made step by step. The point of departure will
partly be the results of the scientific analyses, partly a
comprehensive study of the details of the cauldron’s
craftsmanship, including identification and docu-
mentation of the various tools employed. This re-
search will be supported by a new photographic docu-
mentation of microscopic detail, and not least the em-
ployment of silicone rubber moulds, as well as
electroform replicas of all the individual parts of the
cauldron. Using these facilities for documentation in
three dimensions, we can expect much new infor-
mation about the production of the Gundestrup caul-
dron.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I wish to thank the authorities at the National Mu-
seum at Copenhagen for permission to take metal
samples and silicone rubber moulds from selected
areas of the Gundestrup cauldron. I owe the English
archaeologist Richard D. Savage and his colleagues,
the silversmith Philip Lowery and the conservator
Peter T.H. Shorer cordial thanks for their never
wavering interest and rewarding discussion along the
work. Special thanks go to the jewellery historian Jack
Ogden, Heidelberg, as well as the corpus silversmith
Claus Bjerring, Copenhagen. Also thanks to Thomas
Poulsen and Violette Burka, both employees at the
silversmith’s workshop of Georg Jensen Silver in Cop-
enhagen. Discussions with these experts at the De-
partment of Conservation at the National Museum,
with the Gundestrup cauldron at hand, have been
very rewarding. Also thanks to conservators Claus
Gootlieb, Peter Henrichsen and geologist Ulrich
Schnell, all from the Department of Conservation at
the National Museum in Copenhagen.
21 The Gundestrup Cauldron
Fig. 18. Measurements of the thickness of the bowl, C 6562.
THICKNESS OF THE SILVER PARTS
E. Benner Larsen and the present authors did the
measurements of thickness using a Digital Thickness
Gauge. At each spot of measurement three readings
were taken and their average value used in the follow-
ing calculations. In all 2886 readings were made on
the 16 silver parts of the cauldron and for each part
one overall value of thickness has been ranked into
one of groups aΩ0.45–0.55 mm, bΩ0.60–0.65 mm,
cΩ0.66–0.70 mm and dΩc. 0.80 mm.
THE BOWL
Readings were made across the outside of the bowl,
C 6562, in lines of 40 cm length from the edge to-
wards the centre at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock positions
for each cm, and an average value of each of these
four sets of measurements was calculated as can be
seen from Fig. 18. The average thickness of the
bowl can be estimated to c. 0.65 mm (group c). The
bowl distinguishes itself by having four zones around
it of remarkable even thickness. The bottom is dis-
turbed by an irregular hole, but the readings show
stabilization to c. 0.70 mm in thickness 40–37 cm
from the rim. Here the first zone starts as a stable
band with a thickness of c. 0.70 mm that runs up to
32 cm from the rim. After this the second zone
shows an even thinning of the silver down to 0.53
mm at 27 cm followed by a thickening up to c. 0.65
mm at 18 cm from the rim. This remarkable even
thin band around the bowl must partly be due to
the smithing technique used for raising the silver.
The third zone consists of a broad stable band be-
tween 18 and 4 cm from the rim with an even
thickness of c. 0.65 mm. The fourth and last zone
flattens towards the edge of the rim down to a thick-
ness of c. 0.34 mm. All in all the even and sym-
metrical structure of the bowl proves it to be an im-
pressive masterpiece of silver smithing that would be
very difficult to replicate today.
THE TUBES
Measurements were taken for each cm lengthwise on
the two pieces of tubing from the rim, C 6576 A &
B, except for some places where the slit in the bottom
of each tube was too narrow for the feeler of the
gauge to pass through. The readings indicate that the
tubes were made from plates having an approximate
thickness of c. 0.8 mm (group d), though they are flat-
22 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 19. Horizontal measurements of the thickness of outer plate C 6565. The actual width of the plate is 25 cm, but the readings go to 30
cm because of the embossed motifs. The left edge is drawn and upset and the right edge is upset to a thickness larger than the original.
tening to 0.4–0.5 mm on the ends. In addition, meas-
urements were taken per 0.5 cm around the tubes 2.5
cm from their ends. They show a thickness of c. 0.7
mm decreasing to 0.4–0.2 mm at the edges of the
slits.
THE RECTANGULAR PLATES
On each outer and inner plate thickness was meas-
ured with a spacing of 1 cm along a vertical and a
horizontal centred line, except where holes or sharp
curves made it impossible to get a reliable reading.
The thickness showed a considerable variation both
within each plate and among the individual plates. As
expected, the silver was much thinner or thicker in
the heavily worked areas (0.19–0.90 mm) than in the
more or less undecorated ‘background’ areas (0.45–
0.70 mm). Readings of lesser or larger thickness might
be due to the fact that they were taken in areas where
there has been a drawing or upsetting of the metal,
e.g. between punch marks.
Measurements from undecorated areas gave an im-
pression of the original thickness of the plates, and it
was seen that most of the plates before chasing had
been somewhat thicker in the middle and thinner at
the edges. This indicates that the plates were drawn
both horizontal and vertical to their final shape by
hammering. The edge itself has often been straighten-
ed and upset by hammering though, so it has become
thicker than the metal right inside or even thicker
than the original thickness of the plate (Figs. 19 & 20).
One interesting thing about the original thickness
of the plates is that there is a grouping of the plates
that were decorated by different toolsets (Larsen
1985, 571). Plates worked up by Toolset II seem to
be a little thinner (0.45–0.55 mm, group a) than plates
worked up by Toolset I (0.60–0.65 mm, group b) ex-
cept C 6574 having a thickness of c. 0.50 mm (group
a), which will be dealt with in the section ‘Flow of raw
materials’. A more pronounced difference, however,
exists as to the two plates not belonging to these tool-
sets, C 6569 & C 6570. These plates both have a
larger thickness of 0.65–0.70 mm (group c).
Table 4 summarizes the measured values according
to toolsets of the estimated original, the minimum and
maximum thickness together with the thickness of the
edges of each rectangular plate. Further, entries have
been done regarding as to which of five categories the
48 values of the edges belong having either been
drawn and/or upset to a thickness lesser, within or
larger than the original thickness. This categorical
grouping was done by comparing the estimated orig-
inal thickness with the thickness of the edge and the
measured values 1–2 cm inside the edge.
23 The Gundestrup Cauldron
Fig. 20. Vertical measurements of the thickness of outer plate C 6565. The height of the plate is actually 21 cm, but the readings go to 25
cm because of the embossed motifs. The top and bottom edges are both drawn to a thickness lesser than the original.
Table 4. Measured values of thickness in mm of the rectangular plates according to toolsets together with the thickness of the edges of each
plate and whether the edges are drawn and/or upset to a thickness lesser, within or larger than the original thickness.
24 Acta Archaeologica
The first and largest group of 25 edges have all
been drawn to a thickness lesser than the estimated
original thickness of the plate and eight of these edges
are also upset. The bottom edge of inner plate C 6574
shows the lowest reading of all at 0.16 mm. Most
dominant in this group are the outer plates C 6569
and C 6570 with 7 of their 8 edges, while 11 of the
16 edges worked up by Toolset I and only half of the
edges worked up by Toolset II belong here too.
The second group consists only of five edges that
have been both drawn and upset within the original
thickness of the plate. They are all found on three
plates worked up by Toolset II.
As for the last of the three groups, consisting of 18
edges with a thickness larger than the original thick-
ness, all have either been upset or both drawn and
upset, nine of each. Here the outer plates stand out
with 15 edges, especially six ones being only upset on
plates decorated by Toolset II and of these plate C
6566 on all four edges. On outer plate C 6565 decor-
ated by Toolset I, the right side has the largest reading
of all at 0.89 mm. Also one edge on C 6570 belongs
to this group, while the last three are found on inner
plates decorated by Toolset II. Further, it is evident
that 14 of the 18 edges in this group are left or right
edges while only four are top or bottom edges.
To conclude, the five inner plates together with the
two outer plates with no punch marks are dominated
by edges of group one, while the outer plates decor-
ated by Toolsets I and II are dominated by the third
group of edges. Also the plates decorated by Toolset
I seem to be worked more down than the relative
thicker edges of the plates decorated by Toolset II.
THE BULL PLATE
As for the circular Bull plate (C 6563) worked up by
Toolset III, measurements were taken with a spacing
of 1 cm along the diameter together with measure-
ments at 58 selected spots. The Bull plate is thicker
than the rest of the plates with an estimated original
thickness of c. 0.8 mm (group d). The embossed and
chased motifs have a thickness ranging from 0.31 mm
to 0.94 mm deriving from the working on the plate
as explained above. This also applies to the skilfully
worked raised head of the bull (0.33–0.60 mm). The
thickened bead along the edge of the plate has a
thickness of 1.9–2.0 mm. Right inside this, a uniform
thinning has been done in a c. 1.5 cm broad zone all
around the plate where the thickness decreases to c.
0.4 mm. This could imply that the metal for the bead
was drawn from this area. As a consequence of this
thinning the bead appear heavier since it is raised c.
1.5 mm above the adjacent surface, even if it is just
c. 1 mm thicker than the plate itself.
CONCLUSION
All the parts of the cauldron show in one way or an-
other that they have been drawn and/or upset to get
their final shape. It seems that the plates worked up
by Toolset II had an original thickness of 0.45–0.55
mm (group a), whereas the plates worked up by Tool-
set I had a thickness of 0.60–0.65 mm (group b), ex-
cept C 6574 with a thickness of 0.50 mm (group a).
The two plates with no punch marks were the thickest
of the rectangular plates, 0.65–0.70 mm (group c),
and likewise the bowl shows a thickness of c. 0.65 mm
though it is worked up in another way, while the two
tubes and the Bull plate show an original thickness of
0.8 mm (group d).
METALLURGICAL EXAMINATIONS
Small samples of silver, gilding and tin from the Gun-
destrup cauldron have been investigated. The
samples were embedded in epoxy resin, grinded and
polished. The transverse sections of the chips were
studied by optical and electron microscopy. The
metal analyses were carried out employing scanning
electron microscopy (SEM) in combination with a
wavelength dispersive spectrometer (EDS).
COPPER CONTENT OF THE SILVER
Small samples (2–4 mg) were taken from the edge of
each of the 16 silver parts of the cauldron, plus one
extra from plate C 6565 and two more from the bowl,
C 6562, 19 samples in all. The metal analyses show
the silver to be relatively pure (87.48–97.15%). Table
5 summarizes the contents of metals present within
the limits of detection (∂0.1%).
All silver parts contained copper. As is normally
the case in hardened melts, the copper was present as
25 The Gundestrup Cauldron
inclusions in the silver. The inclusions were flattened
due to heavy deformation by smithing and chasing of
the plates. It could be seen that copper inclusions
were not present in an approximately 100 mm broad
zone at the surfaces of the plates. This must be due
to a depletion of copper caused by successive heating
and pickling of the plates during forming. To avoid
erroneous results due to surface depletion, analyses
were made in the centre of the transverse sections.
The copper and tin contents of each part are plot-
ted against each other in Fig. 21. However, the tin
content should be read with some caution as the sol-
der can have contaminated it, but anyhow, the pur-
pose of the diagram is to show the copper content.
From Fig. 21 as well as Table 5 it is seen that the
silver parts can be ranked into four groups according
to their copper content and that this grouping almost
corresponds to the grouping according to toolsets as
regards the decorated plates.
The parts from the first analytical group ‘A’ are
made of rather pure silver with a low copper content
between 1.4% and 2.1%. This group consists of five
out of the six plates worked up by Toolset II (C 6564,
C 6566, C 6572, C 6573 & C 6575), together with
the Bull plate (C 6563) decorated by Toolset III, and
one of the four plates decorated by Toolset I, C
6567 – the symbol of which in Fig. 21 is partly hidden
by the symbol of C 6575. Group ‘B’, with a medium
copper content of 3.1–5.2%, consists of the other
three plates decorated by Toolset I (C 6565 – two
samples, C 6571 & C 6574) and the last plate decor-
ated by Toolset I (C 6568), together with the three
samples from the bowl, C 6562. The third group ‘C’
has a larger copper content of 6.3–6.4% and consists
of the decorated outer plate C 6570 with no punch
marks together with the rim tube C 6576 B. The
companions to these latter parts, rim tube C 6576 A
and the decorated outer plate C 6569 with no punch
marks, comprises the fourth and last group ‘D’ with
the largest copper content of all, 7.8–8.2%.
One might expect the alloy of each part to be uni-
form so that several samples taken from the same part
would show nearly the same copper content. Con-
sidering the difference between the values of the two
samples from C 6565 of 0.35% and the similar one
of 0.68% between the lowest and highest values of
the three samples from C 6562, it can be concluded
that their alloys at least show a divergence in the dis-
tribution of copper content of c. ∫5% and 7%. This
margin does not, however, disturb the overall picture
of groups A, B, C and D.
Generally, the metallographic analyses seem to be
in agreement with the groupings made on basis of
toolmarks on the plates. The plates decorated by
Toolsets I and II seem to be relatively uniform in sil-
ver alloy, respectively, with the two plates C 6567 and
C 6568 being the only exceptions as the silver alloy
of these plates fall in an opposite group with respect
to toolmarks (see Fig. 21). This could indicate that the
silversmiths making the two groups of plates somehow
got two of the plates or ingots mixed up. When com-
pared with the measurements of thickness (see the
previous section) it appears that the mixing up hap-
pened before the ingots were hammered out, since
they have the same thickness as the other ones within
their respective toolsets. This will be further dealt with
in the section ‘Flow of Raw Materials’.
Table 5. Metal contents in samples from the silver parts of the
cauldron. See also Fig. 21.
26 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 21. The copper and tin contents in the silver samples. The analyses group almost according to the Toolsets I and II.
Fig. 22. Interdependence between the thickness of the gold layers and their contents of copper. The gold on the plates decorated by Toolset
I have a higher copper content and thickness than the gold on the plates decorated by Toolset II. On the plates C 6563 and C 6569 the
gilding has apparently been repaired, resulting in a less adherent outer gold layer of greater thickness and larger copper content than the
original gilding.
27 The Gundestrup Cauldron
Fig. 23. A sample of poorly adhering gold foil from the Bull plate,
C 6563, consisting of two layers with the inner one folded. SEM-
photo: Arne Jouttijärvi, Heimdal-archaeometry.
GILDING OF THE PLATES
The gilding on six of the seven outer plates and on the
Bull plate was examined. Of the nine samples three
consisted of loose gold foil and six of gold adhering
to the silver plate. In some places the gold stuck firmly
to the plates, at other places, the gilding was only
adhering slightly to the silver, and at yet other places
again, the gold was peeling off. The thickness of the
gold layers varies from 0.7–0.1 mm to 0.25–0.30 mm.
From the Bull plate C 6563 was taken both a piece
of adherent gold foil and a loose piece with the latter
having the highest copper content. The sample of ad-
hering gold foil from the Bull plate consists of two
layers (Fig. 23) of which the outer layer is the thickest,
while a loose piece from C 6566 consists of three
layers with the middle layer being the thickest and
the inner layer having a none traceable copper con-
tent but a high silver content. From plate C 6569 was
taken both a piece of adherent gold foil and a loose
piece. The adherent piece consists of nearly pure
gold, while the loose piece has a higher silver and
copper content. The loose piece can derive from a
later repair.
The gold can be sorted into two groups, of which
one consists of pure gold with low contents of silver
Fig. 24. A sample of adhering gold foil from plate C 6569 with
signs of diffusion of silver into the gold. SEM-photo: Arne Jout-
tijärvi, Heimdal-archaeometry.
and copper. To this group belong the samples from
plates C 6564, C 6566 and C 6568 decorated by
Toolset II. The other group has a higher content of
silver and copper. Plates C 6565 and C 6567 of Tool-
set I belong to this group. Fig. 22 shows that the thick-
ness of the gold is correlated to its pureness. The
purer the gold is, the thinner the foil.
The adherence of the gold to the silver generally
seems to be quite poor, cf. Fig. 23. The silver contents
of the gold foils may be due to diffusion from the
underlying silver (diffusion bonding), see Fig. 24.
None of the gold analyses showed any sign of mer-
cury. Thus, fire-gilding technique was not used on the
Gundestrup cauldron. The overall impression is that
gilding was not made by deliberate diffusion bonding,
but primarily by mechanical means. The closely
spaced punch marks in many of the gilded areas
could have served to fix the gold to the silver surface.
TIN
A total of five tin samples were analysed. Three of
these come from soldering, whereas the remaining
two come from tin fillings behind the eyes of the faces
of the outer plates (Fig. 25). In all cases, the tin is very
28 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 25. Tin fillings behind the glass eyes of plate C 6567. Photo:
E. Benner Larsen.
pure; there is nothing to indicate that we are dealing
with an alloy. As appears from Table 6, the results of
all analyses are very homogeneous, yet with a ten-
dency to the tin behind the glass eyes having a lower
content of silver, copper, and gold. Among these three
metals, only silver is present in an amount allowing
safe identification. Thus, copper and gold make out
less than 0.1%, making the analyses very uncertain in
this respect. The variation as to silver content may be
explained as a result of some dissolution of silver from
the plates. However, the thickness of tin behind the
glass eyes is large. Therefore, it is unlikely that dissol-
ution of metal from the plates can be recorded here.
LEAD ISOTOPE ANALYSES
Pb isotopic analyses presented in this study were de-
termined using a new technique described in detail
(Baker, Stos & Waight in press) and only a brief over-
Table 6. Metal contents in tin samples from the soldering and the
fastening of the glass eyes on the cauldron.
view is given here. Samples were prepared by placing
small fragments of metal (0.5–2.5 mg) sampled using
either a jeweller’s saw or a small round nose engraver
chisel into a pre-cleaned 1.5 ml polypropylene centri-
fuge tube. Ten microlitres of concentrated distilled ni-
tric acid was then added to the metal chips to bring
them rapidly into solution. One millilitre of 0.2% ni-
tric acid was then added to the sample, as well as
a small amount of Thallium to allow for mass bias
correction (see below). As these solutions commonly
contained significantly higher concentrations of Pb
than needed for an analysis, the solutions were centri-
fuged to remove undissolved solids and then a small
aliquot was removed from the parent solution to
create a 1:100 dilution. No further dissolution or
chemical separation of Pb was performed on the
sample as our tests have shown excellent agreement
between duplicate analyses performed by MC-
ICPMS using the above dissolution techniques on
samples chemically processed to concentrate Pb
(Baker, Stos & Waight in press).
Analyses were performed on a double focusing
multiple collector inductively coupled plasma mass
spectrometer (MC-ICPMS housed at the Danish
Lithosphere Centre, Copenhagen). Analyses are
ionised in an argon plasma following uptake through
an Aridus desolvating nebuliser. The instrument util-
izes an electrostatic analyzer to narrow ion energies
and has one fixed and eight movable Faraday collec-
tors allowing static measurement of all isotopes
(
200
Hg,
201
Hg,
202
Hg,
203
Tl,
204
HgπPb,
205
Tl,
206
Pb,
207
Pb,
208
Pb) necessary to measure Pb, account for
instrumental mass bias and isobaric interferences
from Hg. More details on instrument set-up and op-
erating conditions are given in Baker, Stos & Waight
(in press).
Prior to sample uptake, background signals were
measured on mass for 1 min. in a solution of the exact
same molarity as that which samples are dissolved to
account for small signals from Hg (present in the Ar
gas) and residual and stable Pb memory (Ͻ0.2 milli-
volts on mass 208). These Pb backgrounds reflect a
residual memory from previous analyses, yet have a
constant size and composition over periods consider-
ably longer than individual analyses and are therefore
easily accounted for by the on-peak zeroes routine.
Following measurement of backgrounds, the sample
29 The Gundestrup Cauldron
solution was aspirated and, once a steady signal was
attained, data collection began. Data were acquired
as 100¿1 s. measurements and baseline values were
subsequently subtracted from raw count rates, and
any variations in Hg signal size during the analysis
were accounted for by using measured signals on
either
200
Hg,
201
Hg or
202
Hg to correct for the iso-
baric interferences of
204
Hg on
204
Pb. The three dif-
ferent Hg isotopes are monitored to monitor possible
erroneous isobaric interference corrections due to
other isobaric interferences on masses 200–202.
Using MC-ICPMS it is possible to more accurately
account for mass bias due to the similar ionization of
elements of similar mass in the Ar plasma. The ratio
of
205
Tl/
203
Tl added to the sample is measured simul-
taneously with the Pb isotopes and the divergence of
this ratio from a natural ratio of 2.3889 yields a mass
fractionation factor that is subsequently used to cor-
rect for mass bias on the measured Pb isotopic ratios
using the exponential mass fractionation law. Typical
mass bias for the instrument is 0.8–1.0% per a.m.u.
Replicate analyses (nΩ13) of the SRM981 standard
yielded values of
206
Pb/
204
PbΩ16.948∫9,
207
Pb/
204
PbΩ15.508∫11,
208
Pb/
204
PbΩ36.751∫37,
207
Pb/
206
PbΩ0.91502∫21,
208
Pb/
206
PbΩ2.1686∫11 (2 s.d.)
which are in good agreement with previous studies
(Baker, Stos & Waight in press). The results of the
lead isotope analyses of 34 samples from the Gun-
destrup cauldron are shown in Table 7 in the next
section.
LEAD ISOTOPE PROVENANCE STUDIES
THE METHODOLOGY OF LEAD ISOTOPE
PROVENANCE STUDIES OF ANCIENT RAW MATERIALS
Since the last quarter of the previous century lead
isotope provenance studies have been often success-
fully applied in research concerned with identification
of sources of raw materials used in Antiquity, in fact
copper and lead-silver (Gale and Stos-Gale 2000).
The principle of this technique is based on isotope
geology, providing scientific evidence of the varied
lead isotope compositions of terrestrial rocks and min-
erals. Due to factors related to the formation of the
Earth and subsequent chemistry of formation of min-
erals, in principle, each mineral deposit on Earth
have a distinctively different pattern of lead isotope
compositions. In turn, all ancient materials made
from minerals, including metals and pigments, will
have lead isotope compositions identical with the
minerals from the copper and lead-silver mines they
come from.
The variations of lead isotope abundances in all
ore deposits are in the first instance related to the
period of formation of the mineralisation. This re-
lationship is, however, not the only factor deciding
the lead isotope compositions of minerals from vari-
ous ore deposits. Therefore, it is not possible to pre-
dict accurately enough for the provenance studies the
lead isotope ratios of lead in various ancient mines.
For comparisons of lead isotope ratios of ancient
artefacts with those of minerals it is necessary to ac-
cumulate an extensive database of lead isotope com-
positions of ore deposits that have been, or might
have been, exploited in various periods of the past.
Additional information necessary for the evaluation
of lead isotope data is the chronology of exploitation
of the ore deposits and evaluation of the smelting sites
associated with the mines.
During the past 20 years there have been several
research programmes in the UK and Germany in
particular, where a survey of ancient mining districts
and reconstruction of the history of their exploitation
was combined with lead isotope characterisation of
the ores (see for example: Stos-Gale et al. 1998; Wagn-
er et al. 1986 and 1989). Systematic analytical work
in the Isotrace Laboratory at Oxford during that time
contributed several thousands lead isotope samples of
ores from ancient European copper, lead and silver
mines. The majority of these have been published in
Archaeometry in the years 1995–1998. Many lead iso-
tope samples have been also published in geological
publications relating to geochronological studies of
various ore deposits. These data can also be used for
provenance studies.
All the lead isotope data mentioned here for com-
parisons with the Gundustrup cauldron samples, have
been obtained using Thermal Ionisation Mass Spec-
trometry (TIMS), a technique that is very accurate
(overall error of analysis for each lead isotope ratio is
∫0.1%) and fully comparable and reproducible be-
tween the TIMS laboratories. With due care, all lead
isotope analyses performed on the MC-ICPMS are
also fully comparable with TIMS data.
30 Acta Archaeologica
Table 7. Lead isotope analyses of silver parts of the Gundestrup cauldron sorted according to batch of silver and the relationship between
207
Pb and
206
Pb.
31 The Gundestrup Cauldron
SILVER ORE DEPOSITS: POSSIBLE SOURCES OF
SILVER FOR THE GUNDESTRUP CAULDRON
Silver has been a highly valued metal in Europe and
the Near and Middle East since the 4th millennium
BC. In contrast with gold, silver was not mined or
collected as metal in its native state, but has been
extracted from lead-silver bearing ores by the process
of cupellation since at least the 3rd millennium BC
(Gale and Stos-Gale 1981a & b; Stos-Gale and Gale
1980, and 1982). Amongst ancient Egyptian artefacts
are also white metal containing varied amounts of sil-
ver and gold, from over 90% to less than 50% of
silver, indicating that some of the native metallic al-
luvial gold used in Egypt contained very high concen-
trations of silver (Gale and Stos-Gale 1981c). How-
ever, in the first millennium BC the process of cemen-
tation, that is separation of silver from gold started to
be applied in the Near East and the great majority of
ancient silver from the Old World contains gold only
in quantities below 1% plus any amount of copper,
that was deliberately added to the alloy.
The elemental analyses of the Gundestrup caul-
dron plates provided by Jouttijärvi show compositions
typical of silver obtained through cupellation of lead/
silver ores with some copper added. The gold content
is typical of unrefined silver used for Greek coins and
Arabic dirhems alike (see for example: Gale et al.
1980; Stos et al. 1977). The tin content is higher in
the samples taken from C 6569 and C 6570 than
would be expected (0.7% and 1% respectively), but
that might be rather due to the contamination from
the solder, rather than, for example, from using
bronze for alloying (rather than copper), because
there is no correlation between copper and tin con-
tents in the plates. The lead content is quite within
the range of concentrations expected from cupelled
silver (0.1–0.7%). Copper metal extracted from the
copper ores in the Antiquity rarely contained more
than 1–2% lead. Since all plates of the cauldron con-
tain less than 10% copper, lead originating from the
copper in this alloy would contribute only a very
small fraction to the lead in the silver. In a case of
1% lead in the silver and 1% lead in the copper, the
alloy would contain nearly ten times more lead from
the silver than from the copper, so the lead isotope
composition of the alloy would be basically the same
as that of lead in silver.
Due to the high market value of silver, the silver de-
posits in the Old World have been well known and ex-
ploited more or less continuously since the Bronze Age.
In the Middle East the most important silver deposits
are in central and northern Iran (Bariand et al. 1965).
In Turkey the principal silver mines are in the Taurus
Mountains and in the North-West (Yener 1986; Ryan
1960). Some silver can be found in the Rhodope
Mountains on both Greek and Bulgarian sides. In
Greece are also the famous mines in Laurion in Attika
and in the Chalkidiki peninsula. In Central Europe the
major silver deposits are in the Bohemian Massif, in-
cluding Erzgebirge (Czech Republic and Saxony), in
the Harz Mountains, and in the Eastern Alps (southern
Austria and eastern Switzerland). In France, silver was
mined in Britanny and in the Massif Central. In pres-
ent day Italy, the major silver deposits are on the island
of Sardinia. Spain was famous for its silver in the Ro-
man period (the Rio Tinto mines in the southwest and
mines on the north coast of the Iberian Peninsula). The
large lead deposits of the British Isles also yielded some
silver but this metal was never of major importance
there. Silver mining has never been of much import-
ance in Scandinavia either (Dunning et al. 1986).
The lead isotope characterisation of the silver de-
posits of the Old World is not by all means complete,
but there are at least a few sets of data for most of
the major silver mining regions. The Oxford Isotrace
Laboratory Lead Isotope Database (OXALID) also
contains several hundreds analyses of Mediterranean
silver artefacts from 3rd–1st millennium BC, includ-
ing Bronze Age artefacts, Greek coinage and Hacksilb-
er from the Near Eastern hoards. We have also ana-
lysed over 100 samples of Sassanian silverware dated
to 3rd–7th century AD, sampled by Meyers (Harper
and Meyers 1978). These two large groups of ancient
artefacts give a good idea of the lead isotope charac-
teristics of silver used in the Eastern Mediterranean
and the Middle East. For the Western Mediterranean
there is a good database of ores from Sardinia and
Spain (Stos-Gale et al. 1995); additionally, OXALID
contains data measured on nearly 100 samples from
Phoenician silver production sites in S-W Spain (un-
published data, analyst B. Rohl, samples from Uni-
versity College London).
Central European silver is far less well character-
ised. There are some data for the ores in the Bohem-
32 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 26. Lead isotope ratios of Eastern Mediterranean silver ores and silver hoards, and the Gundestrup cauldron.
33 The Gundestrup Cauldron
Fig. 27. Lead isotope ratios of Sassanian silver and Iranian ores, Celtic silver coins and the Gundestrup cauldron.
34 Acta Archaeologica
ian Massif (Czech Republic and Saxony), the Erzge-
birge, the Harz Mountains, western Germany, Aus-
tria (Eastern Alps), and France, but these analyses
have been mostly carried out for the purpose of geo-
chronological studies of the ore formations and there
are no particular emphases on the ancient silver min-
es. Therefore, it is only possible to assess the general
range and trends of the lead isotope characteristics of
the latter. It is not possible to know exactly the group-
ings of lead isotope ratios for each mine. Lead isotope
analyses of ancient silver artefacts from Central and
northern Europe are very scarce.
LEAD ISOTOPE COMPOSITIONS OF THE GUNDESTRUP
CAULDRON AND THE ORIGIN OF ITS SILVER
The samples of the Gundestrup Caldron have been
analysed in the Danish Lithosphere Centre Labora-
tory using a new generation mass spectrometer called
Multicollector Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass
Spectrometer (MC-ICPMS), as explained in the pre-
vious section by Drs. J. Baker and T. Waight. The
instruments of this type are capable of much more
accurate measurements than TIMS and the pro-
cedure is much simpler. It has been confirmed that
the data is fully comparable with the TIMS analyses.
The lead isotope ratios measured for the cauldron
are listed in Table 7. The lead isotope data can be
presented as x, y, z parameters of points in three-di-
mensional space using the ratios xΩ
207
Pb/
206
Pb, yΩ
208
Pb/
206
Pb and zΩ
206
Pb/
204
Pb. For metal made
from ores of a given ore deposit the x, y, z parameters
for at least one sample of ore from the deposit and
the metal artefact should be identical within the range
of analytical error. Comparisons of large numbers of
data are made using a simple software calculating Eu-
clidean distances between the data-points. A visual
comparison between a limited number of samples can
be presented using two mirror diagrams of the projec-
tions of the data points on the x-y and x-z planes.
The Euclidean distance from each of the lead iso-
tope data points obtained for the silver samples of the
Gundestrup cauldron has been calculated for some
3,000 lead isotope ratios of ores from Europe and the
Near and Middle East. The lead isotope character-
istics of the silver used for the cauldron are distinctly
different from all Eastern Mediterranean, Anatolian,
British, and Scandinavian silver ores. They are also
quite different from the great majority of the western
Mediterranean and Central European silver ores.
Fig. 26 is a mirror diagram of lead isotope ratios
of a large group of silver artefacts from the Eastern
Mediterranean dated to 3rd–1st millennium BC com-
pared with groups of known silver ores from Turkey
and Greece. As could be expected, the lead isotope
ratios of artefacts are broadly identical to the silver
ores in this region. Not all deposits were exploited in
each different period, but the picture of silver from
this region is also valid if silver hoards were re-melted
and re-used. Lead isotope compositions of new
batches of silver obtained from melting, say, silver
from Laurion (Attica) and Northern Greece, or, Lau-
rion and the Taurus Mountains, would lie along the
hypothetical ‘isotopic mixing lines’ drawn on the
figure.
The plot in Fig. 26 also includes all data points
for the Gundestrup cauldron. The analytical error for
these data is much smaller than the TIMS overall
error of 0.1%. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to as-
sume that the differences in isotopic compositions of
different plates are real, resulting in a spread of the
data for the cauldron about 0.5% for all three ratios.
The comparison presented on Fig. 26 shows clearly
that the lead isotope data for the Gundestrup caul-
dron samples are not identical with any of the East
Mediterranean ores and silver artefacts. Neither do
they fall on any of the ‘isotopic mixing lines’. In par-
ticular, all the y values (
208
Pb/
206
Pb) for the cauldron
samples are higher than measured for the silver ores
in any of the Eastern Mediterranean ore deposits.
This visual comparison clearly shows that the
plates of the cauldron are not made of silver from one
smelted (or melted) batch. All the data elements form
a relatively compact group, the x range (
207
Pb/
206
Pb)
being less than 0.6%. This might reflect a range of
lead isotope compositions from one ore deposit, as
demonstrated on Fig. 26 by the ores from Laurion.
However, these data points could also represent silver
from more than one mine, or silver produced by re-
melting silver metal of more varied isotopic compo-
sition in small in small quantities, batch by batch.
From all silver-related lead isotope data on the
OXALID database the closest comparisons for the
Gundestrup cauldron are amongst some of the objects
35 The Gundestrup Cauldron
of Sasanian silver and the Celtic coinage from France
and Germany. On Fig. 27 these two groups of
artefacts are compared with the data for the plates of
the cauldron.
While some of the plates seem to be isotopically
very similar to some of the Sassanian silver, it is clear
from this plot that the general line of distribution of
data of the eastern artefacts is not the same as the
line of lead isotope ratios of the plates of the cauldron.
The cauldron plates, fall between two groups of Celtic
silver coins: the quinars of the Oppida of Dünsburg
and Heideränktal on the banks of the Rhine near the
Taunus Mountains (Zwicker et al. 1989), and the Co-
riosolite coins (1st Century B.B.) from Brittany (Gruel
and Gale 1981). The few lead isotope data for some
of the Iranian lead/silver ores fall temptingly close to
the Celtic coins. However, it is nearly certain that the
large portion of Sassanian silver was made of silver
from Iranian mines (and, especially, Afghan), and
there are many more analyses of this metal than of
the ores. We have to wait for much more comprehen-
sive lead isotope studies of the silver ores from Iran
and Afghanistan, combined with evidence of the
chronology of their exploitation. For the moment, it
is nearly certain that the isotopic similarities between
the Iranian ores and the west European Celtic silver
are deceptive.
On the other hand, there are lead isotope analyses
of some silver ores from the Eastern Alps (Austria),
which are identical with some of the cauldron plates
and the Celtic coins. Their data are plotted on Fig.
28. For comparison, also plotted, are data from the
largely Phoenician silver smelting debris (litharge and
ore samples) of Monte Romero and Rio Tinto in
Spain. Notably, these data do not conform with the
group of cauldron Plates, nor with the Celtic coins.
In conclusion, therefore, it seems that the most
probable origin of the silver used for the manufacture
of the cauldron was from the ‘pool’ of silver used in
Celtic northern France and western Germany.
LEAD ISOTOPES AND THE PROCESS OF
MANUFACTURE OF THE CAULDRON
Different plates of the cauldron have been identified
by their toolmarks and art-historical features as being
produced by three or more artists (Larsen 1985). On
Fig. 29, the lead isotope data for the cauldron plates
are plotted according to the identified toolsets, see
Fig. 4 for reference.
Each of the plates have been sampled in at least
two spots; the lead isotope data for two samples from
the same plate are in nearly all cases identical within
0.02% of the ratio of each. The identical results for
multiple samples from all plates of the cauldron show
that the MC-ICPMS analyses of lead isotope ratios of
this silver are highly accurate. It therefore seems poss-
ible to suggest that the isotopic differences between
the plates represent real differences between the
batches of silver.
For lack of lead isotope data from one ore deposit
that would span the whole range of lead isotope com-
positions measured on the cauldron, it can be sug-
gested that the silver for making the plates was pre-
pared by re-melting ingots or scrap silver (or both) in
quantities sufficient for making several plates from
one batch. This hypothesis does not preclude the
possibility that somewhere is a silver mine with this
particular range of lead isotope composition. How-
ever, at present, the hypothesis of the silver used for
the cauldron being re-cycled metal seems more prob-
able. It also seems most likely that most, if not all of
the plates, including the bowl, the bull plate, and the
rim, have been made in the same workshop and at
the same time. The overall range of lead isotope ra-
tios and their alignment seem to imply that silver
from only two sources, melted together in somewhat
different proportions, was used. Further evidence sup-
porting this hypothesis is in the fact that different
plates made by the same artist originate from different
batches of alloy.
The assumption is that the first batch of molted
silver mostly contained material from the same source
as the one used for the quinars, namely from the silver
rich Taunus Mountains. The next batches mostly in-
cluded the same silver as used in northern France for
the Coriosolite coins. If so, the resulting lead isotope
compositions of the cauldron plates would be just as
seen on Fig. 29.
The first batch of silver was used for making plate C
6570, with no punch marks. The bowl (C 6562) and
the two tubes from the rim (C 6576 A & B) were
made from the same sheet of silver of very similar
isotopic composition (and therefore origin). Further,
36 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 28. Lead isotope ratios of Sassanian silver, Celtic silver coins, silver ores from Central Europe and Spain, and the Gundestrup cauldron.
37 The Gundestrup Cauldron
Fig. 29. Lead isotope ratios of the plates of the Gundestrup cauldron and Celtic silver coins.
38 Acta Archaeologica
C 6572 (Toolset II), C 6565, C 6571 and C 6574 (all
three Toolset I) were made of the same silver.
The Bull Plate (Toolset III) stands separate from
this group and might have been made from a crucible
melt, the second batch. One way of making this plate
would be to melt a small amount of scrap silver in a
crucible, after which the silver collected at the bottom
was hammered on a mould with the bull pattern.
The third batch of silver was used to make C 6566,
C 6573 and 6568 (all Toolset II).
The fourth batch of silver was used to make C 6575
(Toolset II) and C 6567 (Toolset I).
The fifth batch of silver was used for C 6569, with
no punch marks. The sixth batch of silver was used to
make C 6564 (Toolset II).
This evidence shows that Toolset I used two
batches of silver, while Toolset II relied on four
batches of silver used in the Celtic Rhinelands and
Northern France. Plate C 6569, with no punchmarks,
seems to be from melted silver scrap identical to the
material used in Northern France for Coriosolite
coins of the 1st Century BC.
LEAD ISOTOPE ANALYSIS OF TIN SAMPLES FROM THE
GUNDESTRUP CAULDRON
Five samples of tin from the cauldron were analysed
for their lead isotope composition by Tod Waight and
Joel Baker. The results are given in Table 8. Lead
isotope analyses of ancient tin ingots and cassiterites
from various locations have been carried out in the
Isotrace Laboratory, Oxford, by Noel Gale and
Robin Clayton within the framework of the Leverhul-
me funded research project into sources of ancient
tin. Some of the data have been published in the Pro-
Table 8. Lead isotope analyses of tin samples from the Gundestrup
cauldron.
ceedings of the Archaeometry Symposium held in Budap-
est in 1999. The results of this work have confirmed
that the lead isotope compositions of tin ores (cassiter-
ites) in one deposit are far more varied than in copper
and iron mineralisations. Therefore, provenance
studies of tin are far more complicated to carry out
and less reliable than those of copper, iron, lead, and
silver.
Nevertheless, comparison of the lead isotope com-
positions of the tin from the Gundestrup cauldron
with the data collected by Gale and Clayton on cas-
siterites from Erzgebirge, Spain, Cornwall and the
Asia show that only amongst the cassiterites from
Cornwall there are samples with a lead isotope com-
position identical to the Gundestrup samples.
In the OXALID database is found Noel Gale’s
analyses of lead in seven ancient tin ingots found in
Cornwall (the samples were given to us by the late
Ronnie Tylecote). The dates of these ingots are very
tentative, but three are described as 3rd–6th century
AD, two as ‘Prehistoric’, one perhaps medieval, and
one Iron Age. As can be seen from Fig. 30, the tin
from the Gundestrup cauldron plots exactly on the
mixing line of these ores and ingots, with one sample
(C 6566, eye) being identical isotopically with the in-
gots from Penwithic (Prehistoric?) and Carnanten (3–
4th century AD), and at least one sample of Cas-
siterite.
CONCLUSIONS
The interpretation of lead isotope data obtained for
the silver of Gundestrup cauldron presented here
does not necessary prove that this object is of Celtic
origin. Also, lead isotope analyses can never provide
a scientific date of an object. The interpretation of
the origin of the silver has to be viewed with caution
at present, being based on very few analyses of Celtic
silver coins.
However, it seems like more than a coincidence
that the only lead isotope data, out of a reasonably
extensive database related to ancient silver, falling
with the silver of the cauldron are the Celtic coins
from North-west Europe. This result strongly suggest
that the Gundestrup cauldron has been made of silver
that was circulating in North West continental Eur-
ope in the pre-Roman period. The use of Cornish tin
39 The Gundestrup Cauldron
Fig. 30. Comparison of lead isotope compositions of ancient tin ingots found in Cornwall, Cornish tin ores and tin from the Gundestrup
cauldron.
40 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 31. The four preserved glass eyes of the faces on the outer
plates. From the top: Both eyes of C 6567, left eye of C 6566 and
right eye of C 6570. Photo: E. Benner Larsen.
in the eye sockets of the figures is quite in keeping
with this hypothesis.
The discussion presented here is the best answer
possible in view of the available evidence. It is likely
that in the future, if and when a much more extensive
database of the Central and North-Western European
silver became available, these data can be re-exam-
ined and re-evaluated.
THE EYES OF THE FACES
When the cauldron was found, archaeologists sup-
posed the four surviving inlays of the eyes of the faces
on the outer plates to have been made of dark-col-
oured glass (Fig. 31). Only modern analytical tech-
niques allow the investigation of these in situ. If, dur-
ing examination, the inlays would turn out to be
made of glass and not of precious or semi-precious
stones, it was hoped to gain insight into the prov-
enance and technology of the specific glass type, and,
possibly also to draw conclusions on the date of the
cauldron’s making.
METHOD
X-ray detecting techniques, such as X-ray fluor-
escence (XRF) spectrometry or ion beam techniques
provide an efficient instrument for non-destructive,
multi-elemental and sensitive analyses of glass objects.
For the cauldron’s examination, a mobile Micro
XRFset-up (ArtTAX
A
, intax Berlin, Germany) was
applied (Bronk et al. 2001). This spectrometer is
equipped with an air-cooled low-power X-ray tube
combined with polycapillary optics to generate a
high-intensity beam of c. 0.1 mm spot diameter, a
silicon drift chamber detector, helium purging and
various light diodes for positioning and lighting of the
object’s surface. Within acquisition times of about 5
to 10 min a characteristic fluorescence spectrum of
elements from sodium to uranium can be measured.
The principle of XRF shall be briefly explained: A
primary X-ray beam penetrates the sample surface –
in siliceous materials to a depth of a few hundred
micrometer maximum – and interacts with the atoms
of the various elements. The primary beam causes
losses of inner-shell electrons (i.e., electrons in orbitals
near the atomic nucleus). The electronic gaps are
filled by transitions of electrons from higher orbitals,
and the energy difference is emitted as so-called X-
ray fluorescence radiation. This fluorescence radi-
41 The Gundestrup Cauldron
ation has distinct energy values for each element, and
its specific intensity in the spectrum is used for quanti-
tative calculations of the elemental composition, e.g.
by calibration with similar reference standards. Al-
though the technique itself does not require taking a
sample, certain preparation of the measured area is
inevitable. First, an organic coating from a past con-
servation had to be removed using toluene. Second,
polishing with a diamond paste aimed to remove the
first micrometers of the glass surface, which has an
altered composition due to the long burial in the bog,
was employed.
RESULTS AND DATA INTERPRETATION
The four inlays (plates C 6566, C 6567 with two in-
lays, and C 6570) are all of a round, slightly lens-
shaped form; the visible width of the inlays on C 6566
and C 6570 is c. 4 mm, see Fig. 31. Under the micro-
scope they all appeared to be of a dark purple colour.
One piece revealed a small streak of opaque white
glass, which could be investigated separately.
The analyses confirmed that all inlays are indeed
made of glass, each of a very similar soda-lime type
composition. As principal elements, the transparent
purple glasses contain, in average, 67% SiO
2
, 16%
Na
2
O and 8% CaO, with only little variation. Low
potassium and magnesium contents (below 1% of the
oxides) allow to conclude the following on the fluxing
material: mineral soda (trona), a mixture of sodium
carbonates, sulphates and chlorides, which forms as
an evaporation product in salt lakes like, e.g., the
Wadi Natrun in Egypt.
Glasses basically made from calcareous sand and
mineral soda are typical for the Mediterranean region
and especially for the glass production in Hellenistic
and Roman times. As far as is known today, the use of
mineral soda in the production of vessel glass started
around 650 BC and continued far into the first mil-
lennium AD (Wedepohl 1998, 36ff). Production cen-
tres for raw glass of this type were located at the East
coast of the Mediterranean (today Israel, Palestine
and Syria). Archaeological excavations of Roman
glass-melting tanks have brought glass blocks of sev-
eral tons’ weight to light, which in an impressive way
gives evidence for the high technical level of glass
making at this time.
It is generally assumed today that raw glass was
traded in lumps over long distances, re-melted and
worked into perfume bottles, bowls and drinking
glasses, lamps, window panels, tesserae (cubes for mo-
saics), sculptures and enamelled jewellery by crafts-
men in other places. In comparison to Hellenistic and
Roman style, the range in Celtic glass finds is much
more limited: only jewellery, such as bracelets and
rings, is known (see, e.g., Gebhard 1989). Often trans-
parent coloured glass is decorated with trails of
opaque white or yellow glass. Material analyses of
Celtic glass have revealed soda-lime glasses, which
allow us to suggest a production in the Mediterranean
region.
Not only the fluxing material of the cauldron’s
glass, but also the metal oxides for colouring and
opacification deserve specific consideration: A high
manganese content of around 1.8% MnO lends the
glass eyes their intense purple tint. The earliest finds
of such purple glass in Celtic settlements in Germany
and Austria were dated by archaeologists to the
Middle and Late Late`ne period (LT C2/D1) around
125 BC (Gebhard et al. 1989; Karwowski et al. sub-
mitted).
The single white streak in one of the inlays con-
tains small crystals of a calcium antimonate com-
pound (either Ca
2
Sb
2
O
7
or Ca
2
Sb
2
O
6
), which scat-
ter the light and render the glass opaque. Interest-
ingly, the white glass contains at least 8% PbO,
whereas the lead oxide content of the purple glass is
only between 0.05 and 0.26% PbO. The opac-
ification most likely happened during the melting
after addition of an antimony mineral, such as stibn-
ite (Sb
2
S
3
), to the batch. The presence of lead is not
essential for the formation of calcium antimonate
crystals but may have helped to decrease the work-
ing temperature of the glass. A prominent Roman
example with white cameo glass decoration of simi-
lar lead-rich composition is the famous Portland cameo
vase (c. 25 BC to 25 AD) now at the British Museum
London (Freestone 1990). Such lead-rich opaque
white glass was also found in Celtic excavations
from Austria between 250 and 50 BC (P. Wobraus-
chek personal communication 2002). A survey of
numerous analyses of Roman glass clearly shows
that this type of white glass with high lead content
completely disappeared after 100 AD, and was re-
42 Acta Archaeologica
placed by opaque white glass with no or only minor
lead addition.
CONCLUSION
To conclude, the analyses of the glass inlays of the
Gundestrup silver cauldron rather unexpectedly
allowed narrowing down the production time of the
glass between the second century BC and the first
century AD. However, it should be kept in mind that
the making of the cauldron may still have been done
after this period: The small glass eyes could have been
cut from a fragment of a vessel, bracelet or any other
used object. The primary glass was produced on the
coast of the Mediterranean and probably re-worked
after having been traded to the north. Finally, the
Table 9. The silver parts of the Gundestrup cauldron grouped ac-
cording to toolset, batch of silver, copper content and original
thickness in order to show the anomalies between them. The table
is based on data from Tables 3, 4, 5 and 7.
application of glass onto a silver object of such high
value and meaning as the Gundestrup cauldron
clearly reflects how highly esteemed glass was in An-
tiquity.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors would like to thank the colleagues in
Copenhagen for making this project possible. We are
grateful to Ian C. Freestone, Rupert Gebhard, Maciej
Karwowski, Christoph Jokubionis and Peter Wobrau-
schek for fruitful discussions on the data interpreta-
tion.
FLOW OF RAW MATERIALS
By comparing the copper content, thickness and
weight of each part of the Gundestrup cauldron ac-
cording to the batches of silver and the toolsets used
in the process of manufacturing an attempt can be
made to determine the logistics of the workflow from
raw materials to intermediate plates. The relevant re-
sults of E. Benner Larsen, A. Jouttijärvi and Z.A. Stos
from Tables 3, 4, 5 and 7 have been summarized in
Table 9 to clarify the connection between their obser-
vations, and most of all anomalies of these.
The workflow of the manufacturing process can
briefly be described as follows. The batches of silver
were divided and melted in crucibles with some cop-
per added to make the alloy subtler. From these cru-
cible melts probably flat ingots were cast and ham-
mered out to intermediate plates that could be further
worked up to the final shape of the parts.
WEIGHT OF THE BATCHES OF SILVER
As Z.A. Stos pointed out in the previous section, six
batches of silver have been used in the manufacturing
of the parts, as determined from Pb-isotope contents.
Of these six batches, the first one consists of three
subgroups. Table 9 shows that batches 1, 2, 5 and 6
have only been used for one part each, whereas sev-
eral parts have been made from each of batches 1a,
1b, 3, and 4.
Adding the weight of the individual parts the
weight of each batch of silver can be calculated as
listed in Table 10, though the weight of the other
43 The Gundestrup Cauldron
added materials are included in these data too. The
weight of the batches differs considerable from batch
1a of 3,963.4 g to the 298.5 g of batch 6, so the cru-
cible for melting the alloy to the ingot of 3,736 g for
the bowl, C 6562, must have been rather large com-
pared to that for plate C 6569 made of batch 6. This
span in volume leads to the question if the batches
used for several parts were melted in one piece or
divided before melting. Looking at the very uniform
Cu-contents of plates C 6567 and C 6575 made out
of batch 4 (1.84% and 1.82%, see Table 5), it seems
possible that their ingots could come from the same
crucible melt, whereas other parts show different Cu-
contents in between the same batch. So, the question
remains open whether or not the batches of silver
were divided before their melting.
ANOMALIES IN RELATION TO BATCHES AND COPPER
CONTENT
In A. Jouttijärvi’s section on metallurgy it was con-
cluded that the Cu-contents of the ingots for plates C
6567 and C 6568 maybe were switched between the
work groups of Toolsets I and II, before the plates
were hammered out. Apparently, this is not a simple
problem, when comparing with the results of Z.A.
Stos shown in Table 9, from which it also can be seen
that some of the parts made from batches 1a, 1b and
3 show a different Cu-content than other parts made
from the same batch. Likewise, Z.A. Stos concluded
that parts of batches 1b and 4 have been divided be-
tween Toolsets I and II, then, how and why? To cla-
rify this matter the following observations have been
made, and to support this Fig. 32 depicts the Cu-
contents against the lead isotope ratio of
207
Pb/
206
Pb.
Also, use Fig. 21 for reference.
The three parts made from batch 1a differentiates
from each other in having different copper contents.
So this batch must have been divided in three before
the copper was added to each crucible melt. Here the
bowl C 6562 shows the same copper content of group
‘B’ as the plates worked up from batch 1b by Toolset
I, suggesting that the same work group melted all of
the alloys used for these parts. The two tubes differen-
tiate in C 6576 B having the same Cu-content of
group ‘C’ as outer plate C 6570, and the other tube
C 6576 A the same of group ‘D’ as outer plate C
6569. After casting, the ingots were switched two by
two to be hammered out into the tubes of thickness
‘d’ and the outer plates of thickness ‘c’.
The inner plate C 6572 made from batch 1b and
worked up by Toolset II has a Cu-content of group
‘A’, not ‘B’ as the other three plates made from batch
1b worked up by Toolset I (see Table 9, Fig. 21 &
Fig. 32). This Cu-content of group ‘A’ is consistent
with four of the other plates worked up by Toolset II.
So, a possible explanation to this could be that the
work group of Toolset II has received some raw silver
of batch 1b from the work group of Toolset I, and
has then added copper to the melt so that the Cu-
content became ‘A’ in the ingot hammered out to
plate C 6572 of thickness ‘a’, consistent with the rest
of the plates worked up by Toolset II.
Something different applies to the three plates
made from batch 3 and worked up by Toolset II.
Here it is the Cu-content of outer plate C 6568 that
has been switched from group ‘A’, dominant for Tool-
set II, to ‘B’ else significant for Toolset I (see Table 9,
Table 10. The weight of the individual batches of silver: 8,778.5 g
in all. Based on data from Tables 3 and 7.
44 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 32. Correlation of copper content and lead isotope ratio in the parts of the cauldron.
Fig. 21 & Fig. 32). The original thickness ‘a’ of C
6568 is consistent with the other plates worked up by
Toolset II, so the switch must have been done before
the ingot was hammered out to a plate. Perhaps a bit
complicated, it is imagined that the work group of
Toolset II gave the piece of silver from batch 3 used
for C 6568 to the work group of Toolset I, who then
added copper to the melt, so that the Cu-content
would become ‘B’, before the cast ingot was given
back to the work group of Toolset II, who then ham-
mered it out to thickness ‘a’.
ANOMALIES IN RELATION TO THICKNESS AND
WEIGHT
As for outer plate C 6567 and inner plate C 6575,
made out of batch 4, the problem is simpler. Both
plates have a Cu-content of ‘A’, indicating that their
ingots were cast by the work group of Toolset II, who
kept the one for C 6575, while the one for C 6567
was given to the work group of Toolset I, before the
ingots were hammered out to a thickness consistent
with the rest of the plates in the two groups.
The inner plate C 6574 of Toolset I is the only
plate of the 12 inner and outer plates whose thickness
diverges from the others in the groups as it is an ‘a’
while the rest of the group has thickness ‘b’ as men-
tioned above in the section ‘Thickness of the silver
parts’. At the same time, it is the widest of all plates,
measuring 44 cm, and drawn on all four sides though
two of its edges are also upset (see Table 4). Further-
more, the weight of the plate of 383.2 g falls between
the weight of the other inner plates (402.1–438.7 g)
and the outer plates (298.5–350.2 g). All these factors
make the plate quite a puzzle, but maybe it was the
last plate to be made so all five inner plates could fit
the circumference of the bowl? Batch 1b was divided
into four parts, of which plate C 6565 is the heaviest
outer plate of all weighing 350.2 g, while C 6574 is
the lightest inner plate of all. If batch 1b had been
divided so that the ingot for C 6565 had become 20
g less and the one for C 6574 had become 20 g heav-
ier, they would have had the same weight as the aver-
age weight of the outer plates of c. 330 g and the
inner plates of c. 415 g. So maybe the answer to the
anomaly of C 6574 is to be found in this dividing.
45 The Gundestrup Cauldron
CONCLUSION
The uniform distribution of the batches of silver, Cu-
content and thickness of the plates may indicate that
the working up of the plates with Toolsets I and II
has indeed been done by two work groups each con-
sisting of one or more silversmiths, who had their own
batches of raw silver at hand and understood by heart
to mix copper in the silver so that a certain percen-
tage could be obtained in the alloy, and further, to
hammer out the cast ingots to plates of a certain uni-
form thickness.
The anomalies of the three plates C 6567, C 6568
and C 6572 may be explained by an exchange of
goods and labour as follows. Straight forward the
work group of Toolset II has delivered the ingot for
C 6567 to the work group of Toolset I, who has then
hammered it out. This ingot consists, in goods and
labour, of both the raw silver and copper for the alloy,
the melting of this and the casting of the ingot itself.
Instead of the work group of Toolset I simply re-
turning an ingot, for some reason or another, it has
returned goods and labour equal to an ingot to make
ends meet. This include the raw silver from batch 1b
used by the work group of Toolset II for plate C 6572
together with adding the copper, melting the alloy
and casting the ingot for plate C 6568, for which the
work group of Toolset II itself had delivered the raw
silver from batch 3. To conclude, we do not know if
perhaps the exchange was done the other way around
or why the exchange was done at all. However, we
can say that this exchange is a proof of an interweav-
ing of work procedures, which strongly indicate the
idea of contemporary actions and close collaboration
of several craftsmen in the making of the cauldron.
INVESTIGATION OF THE IRON RING FROM
THE RIM
As mentioned in the introduction, a slightly curved
piece of iron from the rim of the cauldron has been
preserved. Its length is now 9.5 cm, the weight is 60.1
g, indicating that a good deal of metallic iron still
remains (Fig. 33). When found the iron core was sur-
rounded by a silver tube, i.e., a fragment of the rim.
This iron core once made out a very important part
of the cauldron, in that the upper edges of the plates
were inserted into a notch in the iron. Without this
Fig. 33. Cross section of the iron core indicating that it may once
have been shaped as a curved tube, not massively forged. Photo:
Arne Jouttijärvi, Heimdal-archaeometry.
iron reinforcement the cauldron with its thin plates
would simply have been damaged or deformed, for
instance, when filled with liquid. Moreover, the re-
inforcement was necessary when making the suspen-
sion.
The piece of iron is in several respects informative.
A photo of a section of the iron core (Fig. 33) shows
that less than 10% is corroded. Considering that the
ring was placed inside the silver rim with which it
would make up a voltaic cell accelerating corrosion,
in particular in moist surroundings rich in oxygen,
most of the iron core would have been converted into
rust if the cauldron was deposited on the surface, as
usually suggested. If, in contrast, the cauldron was
dug into the bog, as now suggested (see the section by
Charlie Christensen), the anaerobic conditions with
practically no oxygen would slow down corrosion
very much.
Metallurgical investigations showed that the iron
had a carbon content varying between c. 0,7–0,8%,
i.e. was steel. Chemical analyses of 28 slag inclusions
showed a very low content of phosphorus, less than
0,1%. This is an important point excluding that the
iron core was made of bog iron from an area embrac-
ing present day Denmark, because all iron slag from
this area, which so far have been analysed are charac-
terised by a high content of phosphorus.
Lead isotope analyses of the iron core undertaken
by Thomas Kokfeldt, Danish Lithosphere Centre,
46 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 34. Chromatogram of organic material from the back of plate
C 6571. The chromatogram shows, besides palmitic acid (P) and
stearic acid (S), long chain fatty acids: tetra-, hexa- and octacosano-
ic acid, together with the C25 – C 31 alkenes. This is characteristic
of beeswax.
University of Copenhagen, correspond nicely to those
obtained from the Gundestrup cauldron silver. How-
ever, it has been suggested that a diffusion of lead
might have taken place from the silver tube to the
iron rod (personal comm. Z.A. Stos). If this is the
case, lead isotope measurements from the iron rod
cannot be used to determine the region of origin of
the iron. As for the accelerator dating of the iron core
see the corresponding section below.
ANALYSES OF THE ‘BLACK SUBSTANCE’
Four samples were taken from the pitch-like material
on the reverse of the plates of the Gundestrup caul-
dron (C 6571, C 6572, C 6573, and C 6574). As the
analyses, employing GC/MS (Gas chromatography –
mass spectrometry) gave the same result, they will be
described together departing from the sample from
the plate C 6571 (Fig. 34).
Using gas chromatography, volatile components
are separated. The mass spectrometer connected to
the gas chromatograph is used as a sensitive detector
and analyser of components found. To make compo-
nents volatile it is often necessary to derivative these.
In this case, this was done by using basic hydrolysis
overnight at room temperature, acidifying the result-
ing solution, and, finally, extracting material with di-
ethyl ether. The ether extract was then methylated
using diazomethane, and analysed.
The material mainly contains palmitic acids (Fig.
34 peak P) and stearic acids (Fig. 34 peak S), together
with long chain fatty acids and alkenes. The latter are
collected together under ‘Long chain fatty acids and
alkenes’ on Fig. 34. All components, as well as the
proportions between them, are characteristic for bees-
wax, which is therefore the content of all four
samples. Besides, all four samples were thoroughly
examined for the presence of tar or resin components.
These were not found in any of the samples.
THE ACCELERATOR DATING
Considering that the archaeological dating of the
Gundestrup cauldron remains disputable, a crucial
point of the new investigations were attempts one way
or another, to obtain a more exact date, employing
natural scientific methods. A common choice for ar-
chaeological dating is the radiocarbon method, which
determines the age of organic materials from the
gradual disappearance of the radioactive isotope car-
bon-14 (
14
C) by radioactive decay.
14
C is produced
continuously by the interaction of cosmic radiation
with nitrogen in the atmosphere, and it is present in
more or less constant concentrations in the atmos-
phere and in carbon reservoirs, such as the biosphere
and the oceans, in open exchange with the atmos-
phere. After this exchange stops, the concentration of
14
C decreases by radioactive decay with a half-life of
5730 years, the time period at which this began to
happen can be determined.
In accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS), a high ac-
celerating voltage – in the million volt range instead
of the kilo volts of regular mass spectrometry – pro-
vides the energy needed to eliminate unwanted ions
having the same mass as
14
C and thus allows the ac-
curate measurement of
14
C abundances in the natural
range of 10
ª12
to 10
ª15
, i.e., 1
14
C atom per 10
12
to
10
15
carbon atoms. This mass spectrometric measure-
ment offers a roughly 10,000-fold increase in sensi-
tivity over conventional
14
C dating, as it directly de-
tects all
14
C atoms instead of only those that decay
during the measurement (roughly 1
14
C atom out of
1 million decays in a 3-day measuring period). Thus
samples in the sub-milligram range can still be ana-
lysed.
The problem that radiocarbon dating of the Gun-
47 The Gundestrup Cauldron
destrup cauldron requires carbon was solved by the
small amounts of organic material to be found in con-
cavities on the back of all plates. This idea became
even more attractive when the analyses by J. Gla-
strup, see above section, had proved that the material
in question was beeswax, which, most conveniently,
has a very low age of its own and thus would provide
excellent material for radiocarbon dating. As the or-
ganic traces remaining on the plates of the cauldron
were in the sub-milligram range, only accelerator
mass spectrometry (AMS) could be used for dating.
Also, it was decided to try and date a sample of iron
from the rim (see above) by measuring the residues of
carbon in the iron.
PURIFICATION OF THE BEESWAX SAMPLES
As described earlier, conservation lacquer had been
applied to the plates, possibly more than once. Thus
sampling the plates for radiocarbon dating not only
involved collecting enough beeswax for an AMS
measurement, but also making sure that this wax did
not incorporate traces of conservation lacquer. The
samples were taken to the Department of Conser-
vation at the National Museum of Denmark and puri-
fied by Ulrich Schnell, but at first each sample was
split into two as a security precaution. Consequently,
the measuring uncertainty for very small samples
would become greater. A part of the contaminant of
the beeswax was seen in the microscope as black par-
ticles thought to be remnants of soot from the process
of melting the beeswax out from the back of the plates
Table 11. Samples of beeswax and samples of beeswax residues
with varnish particles selected for AMS
14
C dating.
over a hearth after finishing the repousse´ work. This
soot could give an older age of the beeswax as a result
of an older age of the wood used in the fire. For puri-
fication, the beeswax with lacquer particles was melt-
ed under a nitrogen atmosphere, distilled and allowed
to separate in clean, pre-baked fused Vitrex capillary
tubes, which yielded clean beeswax in one end and
remnants of beeswax with lacquer particles in the
other end of the capillary tubes. Subsequently the
tubes were broken at the visual parting line of the two
to give a set of clean beeswax samples plus a second
set with remnants of beeswax and lacquer particles
(called residues in the following).
AMS
14
C DATING OF THE BEESWAX
A set of four sample pairs from four plates showing
signs of two different toolsets was sent to the Leibniz
Labor für Altersbestimmung und Isotopenforschung,
Christian-Albrechts-Universität in Kiel (Table 11).
Because of the very small amount of available sample
material the samples have been combined in pairs
(see Table 12). The wax and residue samples were
sealed in their glass capillaries – without pretreat-
ment – into closed quartz tubes together with CuO
and silver wool and combusted at 900æC. The CO
2
of all samples were reduced with hydrogen over iron
powder as catalyst, and the resulting carbon/iron
mixture were pressed into pellets in the target holders.
As was expected, samples KIA19707, 19708,
19713, and 19714 gave very small amounts of carbon
(∂0.1 mg C–0.26 mg C, calculated from CO
2
press-
Table 12. Combined toolset samples of Table 11 selected for AMS
14
C dating.
48 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 35. Conversion of radiocarbon age into calibrated age of
KIA19713, beeswax from plates C 6571 and C 6574. The cali-
brated age is according to CALIB rev 4.3, Data set 2 (Stuiver et
al. 1998).
ure). They were reduced on 1 mg Fe, instead of the
usual 2 mg, to obtain a better C:Fe ratio. Still, the
targets produced substandard ion beams during the
AMS-measurement (20% to 45% max [KIA19713]
of the average ion beam of a normal 1 mg carbon
sample). The
14
C concentration of the samples was
measured by comparing the simultaneously collected
14
C,
13
C, and
12
C beams of each sample with those
of Oxalic Acid standard CO
2
and coal background
material (Nadeau et al. 1997). After appropriate beam
intensity corrections, the d
13
C values are in the nor-
mal range.
Conventional
14
C ages were calculated according
to Stuiver and Polach (1977) with a d
13
C correction
for isotopic fractionation based on the
13
C/
12
C ratio
measured by our AMS-system simultaneously with
the
14
C/
12
C ratio (note: This d
13
C includes the effects
of fractionation during graphitization and in the
AMS-system and, therefore, cannot be compared
with d
13
C values obtained per mass spectrometer on
CO
2
). For the determination of our measuring uncer-
tainty (standard deviation s) we observe both the
counting statistics of the
14
C measurement and the
variability of the interval results that, together, make
up one measurement. The larger of the two is
adopted as measuring uncertainty. To this we add the
uncertainty connected with the subtraction of our
‘blank’. The quoted 1s uncertainty is thus our best
estimate for the full measurement and not just our
counting statistics. ‘Calibrated’ or calendar ages were
calculated using ‘CALIB rev 4.3’, Data set 2, 1998
decadal atmospheric data (Stuiver et al. 1998).
The measured and calculated values of the samples
are summarized in Table 13. Figs. 35 shows the trans-
lation of the measured
14
C age for sample KIA19713,
with its symmetrical gaussian probability distribution
for the ‘true’
14
C age, into calibrated age (BC/AD)
with an irregular probability distribution for ‘true’
calendar age, due to the irregular tree ring calibration
curve. The probability distributions of the calibrated
‘true’ ages of all samples are graphically summarized
in Fig. 36.
In view of the small amount of carbon, the beeswax
results should be interpreted with great care and are
not easy to interpret. They give a grouping of the
wax of Toolkit II with two residue dates, which are
consistent, but younger than the single ‘outlier’, i.e.,
the wax date for Toolkit I, which is significantly older
than the others. This single sample is the largest (0.26
mg C, about twice the amount of Toolkit II wax) and
gave a significantly larger ion beam (45% instead of
the 32% of a ‘normal’-sized sample obtained for
Toolkit II, or 20% for the residues). There is thus
reason to believe this date is better than the others.
The younger ages obtained for the other wax samples
might then be attributed to their very small size and
ion current and/or to contaminants.
AMS
14
C DATING OF THE IRON
A sample (KIA25400) from the iron rim of the caul-
dron (Inv. No. C 6576 C) was, in a still experimental
procedure, also subjected to
14
C AMS. The iron
sample was cleaned mechanically from rust and con-
servation material and subjected to a soxhlet type
serial extraction to remove non-polar organic con-
taminants (Bruhn et al. 2001). In sequence, the con-
taminants were extracted three times each with boil-
49 The Gundestrup Cauldron
Fig. 36. Range of calibrated AMS
14
C dated samples from the Gundestrup cauldron. KIA19713 is considered the most reliable beeswax
sample at present. Calibrated age against CALIB rev 4.3, Data set 2 (Stuiver et al. 1998).
ing tetrahydrofurane (THF), chloroform, petroleum-
taminants (Bruhn et al. 2001). In sequence, the conde-
mineralised water. To further clean the surface from
traces of metal sampling tools, the sample was etched
with 1% HCl in an ultrasonic bath, washed in demin-
eralised water and acetone and finally dried. The car-
bon in the cleaned sample was combusted to CO
2
in
a closed quartz tube together with CuO at 1000æC
for 24 h. To remove sulphur from the sample gas, the
CO
2
gas was trapped and sealed again with CuO and
silver wool and combusted at 900æC. The CO
2
of the
sample was reduced with hydrogen over iron powder
Table 13. Measured and calibrated values of the AMS
14
C dated samples.
as catalyst, and the resulting carbon/iron mixture was
pressed into a pellet in the target holder.
Sample KIA25400 gave more than the 1 mg of
carbon recommended for a precise measurement and
produced sufficient ion beam. The d
13
C value is in
the normal range and insofar the result is reliable.
The conventional
14
C age and calibrated age for
KIA25400 were calculated in the same way as those
of the beeswax and the measured and calculated
values are shown in Table 13. The the resulting curve
of the translation into calibrated age is shown in the
summarizing Fig. 36.
50 Acta Archaeologica
The iron date is significantly older than any of the
other samples (∂BC 380–200). It should be noted,
that the extraction of carbon from iron and its
14
C-
AMS measurement is not yet a routine method in
the Leibniz-Laboratory and the radiocarbon date of
sample KIA25400 should therefore be interpreted
with care. The main problem is that the carbon ex-
tracted from the iron may come from different
sources and may be re-melted older iron. The iron
may thus contain not only contemporaneous charcoal
carbon from the smelting process, but also carbon
from flux material (e.g. carbonate, lime), which most
likely is older and will complicate the interpretation.
Contamination of an iron sample during cutting or
milling with traces of modern steel, containing fossil
carbon, cannot be excluded. To minimize this latter
contamination, we used the sample supplied as a
whole, without further cutting, and leached it with
HCl to remove the surface layer with its possible
traces of contaminant. Parallel pretreatment of an
iron sample with a known age, which was cut to
about the same sample size, and subsequent AMS ra-
diocarbon measurement gave no indication of sig-
nificant contamination. Although these results are
promising, they do not yet provide sufficient proof
that the
14
C ages obtained on iron are as reliable as
ages obtained on normal dating materials. The older
age of the iron is not inconsistent with the other dates,
but may be seen as evidence for the use of older wood
and/or flux, or, of older iron to construct the rim, or
as a trace of modern tool-iron with fossil carbon.
BOG GEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION IN
RÆVEMOSEN 2002
One month after finding of the Gundestrup cauldron,
local people supervised by the vicar and on request
from the National Museum, cut out a section of intact
peat only c. 0.60 m from the finding place of the caul-
dron. The section measured c. 1.2 m from the surface
down to c. 0.3 m below the cauldron, the parts of
which had been found dismantled c. 0.6 m below the
surface (Larsen 1995, 98 f). The section was carefully
packed and forwarded to Emil Rostrup, Reader at the
University of Copenhagen, and one of the leading
botanists of his time.
Rostrup’s analyses of the plant remains, quoted by
Müller (1892, 37), indicated that in the Iron Age the
cauldron had been deposited on a firm bog surface
which could be plied, vegetated with Sedge (Carex),
Deergrass (Scirpus caespitotus), Sphagnum, Clubmoss (Ly-
copodium), as well as bushes, i.e., Birch (Betula) and Ju-
niper (Juniperus). Remains of water plants were not
found, and the composition of the vegetation thus
characteristic of what is met in a common heath bog.
Juniperus does not grow on bog soil, for which reason
the twigs/branches found fromthis species, and maybe
from Betula too, could have been placed in connection
with the deposition of the cauldron. The twigs/
branches were exclusively found in the same level as
the cauldron, and such an accumulation of twigs/
branches, whether representing a man-made event,
thrown into a peat pit, or a natural bush stage in the
development of the bog would likely be found during a
renewed investigation in the bog. If the stratigraphical
position of the cauldron could be established in this
way,
14
C dating of plant remains from the layers, for
instance, sprigs fromJuniper, might contribute to fix the
time of the deposition of the cauldron. It should be
mentioned that the section taken out in 1891 has been
searched in vain at the University.
In 2002, an investigation aiming at illuminating the
above-mentioned issues was carried out in the
Rævemose by the National Museum, assisted by the
local Vesthimmerlands Museum. The finding place of the
cauldron was established as precisely as possible using
all existing information about its position, i.e., c. 12.5
m north of the erected memorial stone of the find of
the cauldron. 15 borings were made along a line run-
ning east – west, departing from firm ground and 25
m into the bog. The finding place was situated 18 m
from firm ground on this line. In a line running north
from the finding place, borings were undertaken 1, 3,
5 and 7 m from the place. South of the finding place
borings were not undertaken, since a sketch from
1891 clearly indicates that this area had been dug
away before the cauldron was found. The augers em-
ployed were of a kind securing undisturbed samples.
It was assumed that around the finding place the
peat would have been completely removed until be-
low the position of the cauldron, but that some dis-
tance away one could hope to reach still intact layers.
This did not happen, however, and there were no
significant stratigraphical differences in any of the
51 The Gundestrup Cauldron
borings as far as the upper 1.5 m is concerned. Nei-
ther could contours of peat pits or balks in between
these be recognized, whether as a difference in level
or the vegetation of the bog. Admittedly, a distinction
between more wet areas vegetated with Bog-myrtle
(Myrcia gale), Sphagnum and more dry ones dominated
by Hare’s-tail (Eriophorum vaginatum) could be seen, but
when boring, there were no stratigraphical differences
between the two types of vegetation, just as their bor-
derlines were not rectilinear.
On an aerial-photo from 1954 the bog surface ap-
pears with numerous traces after peat pits. Since that
time the balks between the peat pits must have disap-
peared through a long period of destruction and col-
lapse, when the water level in the bog is known to
have been low. The present high water level further
helps to blur previous peat digging.
So far, further pollen analyses of the boring
samples have not been undertaken. After the new
field investigation it can only be concluded, that all
over the bog up to two meters of peat have been dug
away, or destructed by drying up and humification,
and that the level of the finding place is now situated
above the present bog surface. (Considering the treas-
ure trove paid to the finders of the cauldron, the moti-
vation to increase peat digging was certainly aug-
mented).
A little more than a month after the cauldron was
found First Lieutenant Daniel Bruun, who since then
had acted on behalf of the National Museum, re-
ported to this institution about the find and the find
circumstances. After information from the peat dig-
gers, Bruun, in his report, wrote that the depth of the
bog varies from a few inches to c. three metres, yet
with considerable variation (Larsen 1995, 65ff; Müller
1892, 37).
However, the borings in 2002 showed that below
the peat layers a Post-glacial gyttja layer from a lake-
stadium is encountered, and even Late-glacial layers
have been demonstrated. On the finding place, the
bottom is not met until 3 m below present surface.
The border between the gyttja and the superimposed
peat, i.e., the shift from lake to bog according to the
borings undertaken, is situated around 1.2 m below
the surface. The shift in question, through a prelimi-
nary pollen analysis, can be placed in the Atlantic
period, between 6.000 and 4.000 BC.
Bruun further wrote that around the finding place
many trunks were observed, often charred or with
strokes from axes. Actually, by borings in 2002, a pine
trunk was found at the bottom of the peat. Trunks
with strokes from axes may indicate Prehistoric peat
digging in the bog. It has several times been observed
that in the Pre-Roman Iron Age that soft trunks were
cut if they hindered peat digging.
Since Rostrup’s investigation it has always been as-
sumed that the cauldron was placed on a dry surface
in the bog, one on which man could walk. This, how-
ever, is disputable, since a new estimation of the ex-
tent of Iron Age peat digging and the frequency of
use of small and large peat pits as later offerings/
depositions has recently been presented (Christen-
sen & Fiedel 2003, 85ff). A sketch by Bruun made on
the basis of information from the finders (Fig. 37)
shows a strange looking, loose area, almost a hollow,
in the peat immediately above the cauldron. It is dif-
ficult to explain the presence of such a hollow by later
peat formation on the surface of the bog.
If, in fact, the cauldron was placed in a pit in the
bog, the formation of the hollow may be explained in
two ways. When growing over of a water- filled pit,
Sphagnum would spread across the sheet of water, re-
sulting in formation of a very loose peat in the lower-
most parts of the pit. Alternatively, after the depo-
sition of the cauldron the upper part of the sides of
the pit would eventually collapse and fall toward the
centre; a combination of the two is imaginable too.
Such naturally overgrown pits can in many cases
be difficult to recognize by non-experts. Hence, it is
not improbable that the Gundestrup cauldron, like
the bog corpses and numerous other depositions,
were placed in an old peat pit, or one especially dug
for the purpose of the cauldron. If so, the section of
peat dug out in 1891 must have been removed from
outside the pit since it only contained peat created on
a rather dry soil.
In the 2002-investigation of the bog, the employ-
ment of metal detectors was also undertaken in the
hope that missing parts of the cauldron might turn
up, although the acidity of the bog borders on what
iron would tolerate. In the very wet bog detecting was
carried out from plates of heavy plywood; an area up
to 10–20 m from the determined finding place was
very thoroughly examined. A magnetometer was
52 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 37. In his report to the National Museum from the beginning
of June 1891 Daniel Bruun had made this sketchy section N-S of
the finding place. The figures to the left indicate alen (one alen is
0.627 m). The hollow, i.e. the area of looser peat above the bowl
of the cauldron is marked with an ‘‘a’’.
used, which can record iron down to a depth of 1.5
metres, depending on the size of a given object.
Moreover, also a common metal detector was em-
ployed, which records metals down to 30–40 cm.
Nothing was found, however, which was neither to
be expected if the above interpretation is correct: that
the layers in which possible remaining objects may be
found are simply no longer present in the bog.
CONCLUDING REMARKS
Scientists representing no less than seven different na-
tionalities have, in one way or another, been involved
in the work briefly discussed above. This international
co-operation, being as cosmopolitan as the Gunde-
strup cauldron itself, has been most stimulating, and
scientifically very rewarding. No doubt, the results ob-
tained will contribute much to our understanding of
the Gundestrup cauldron. When all the new results
obtained have been considered, as well as research
still in progress, it is time for further reflections on the
essence of this remarkable object.
If possible, the ultimate aim of the efforts ought to
be the publication of a monograph where all scholars
involved are invited to contribute, allowing for a thor-
ough documentation of the studies carried out as well
as comments on the implications of recent research.
Consequently, this is not the place to commence a
general discussion of the many aspects, which em-
brace this research. Nor is it convenient yet to deal
with the purely archaeological, i.e., cultural and
chronological issues, beyond a few comments on re-
search that needs to be undertaken. This has to do
with the fact that the issues in question remain most
intriguing and far-reaching. Anyhow, in this conclus-
ive section it may at least be appropriate to sketch out
which research remains to be undertaken, or is al-
ready in progress.
First of all, more accelerator datings are needed,
and such datings are actually under way from the
Leibniz Labor in Kiel. Without safe scientific datings,
discussions about the age of the cauldron may never
cease. Since it has been proved that the dark, organic
material on the backside of some of the plates is actu-
ally beeswax, it would be logical also to attempt to
undertake a DNA analysis of this material.
A considerable number of lead isotope analyses of
silver from the cauldron are now at disposal, but more
reference material is needed in order to discuss the
origin of the Gundestrup silver on a sound basis. Such
data should consist of lead isotope analyses of se-
lected, relevant silver objects of the period. Even
more interesting would be lead isotope analyses from
various silver sources which were mined in Barbarian
Europe in the centuries around the birth of Christ; for
a short recent survey of these sources and associated
problems, e.g., see P.T. Craddock (Craddock 1995,
211ff). In order to get up to date information about
this complicated field of research, it is obvious to in-
itiate such a project in France and Germany and
other countries in collaboration with local experts.
According to Z.A. Stos findings above, it is probably
from within these geographical areas that the Gun-
destrup silver derives. Anyhow, lead isotope analyses
of the silver from all individual parts of the Gundestr-
up cauldron is now at disposal to our colleagues
abroad. Maybe the analyses can already be of some
use.
Strictly archaeologically, much remains also to be
done, including thorough, modern, iconographic and
art historical analyses of the imagery of the cauldron,
among other things in order to grasp the bewildering
medley of styles, ranging from primitive and ‘bar-
barian’ to sophisticated and even naturalistic. One
would also have to reflect on why the cauldron was
53 The Gundestrup Cauldron
produced and on the person(s) behind this remarkable
initiative. This leads on to the questions of the exist-
ence of a possible workshop and how this may have
been organized, including how the craftsmen of it
were operating. Employing the results of the new
scientific research can illuminate this last point,
among others. Questions associated with the work-
shop may also be answered in a more general way by
consulting certain written sources. Indeed, a precari-
ous labour lies ahead, inevitably embracing most of
the sticking points, which have been debated for ages,
including the question of the ‘origin’ of the Gunde-
strup cauldron.
This question makes an excellent opportunity to
state that putting wrong questions leads to wrong
answers, as I have previously argued in the case of the
cauldron (Nielsen 1999, 186), departing from other,
similarly intriguing, questions of origin within Prehis-
tory. In the case of the Gundestrup cauldron, one
might ask: The origins of what? Is it the silver itself,
the tin used when soldering the different parts to-
gether, the gold (gilt), or the glass eyes of the outer
plates? Or, is it the ‘cultural’ backgrounds of the indi-
vidual artists who apparently were involved in the
making of the cauldron, which is under discussion?
As will be understood, there is no simple answer to
the question of origin.
This leads on to a discussion whether it is at all
expedient to associate the Gundestrup cauldron with
a certain ethnicity, be it Celtic, Thracian, both, or
something else, as has so often been done in the
course of time. I would much prefer to restrict notions
like Celtic and Thracian to the realms of history and
linguistics, or to such archaeological topics where they
can be meaningfully discussed. Apparently, this is not
possible in the case of the Gundestrup cauldron,
where such designations are inoperable, as it will be
briefly argued in the following.
It should be understood that ethnicity in Europe at
the time of the Gundestrup cauldron, i.e., cautiously
the centuries around the birth of Christ, constitutes a
complex and most bewildering picture. This was, as
will be remembered, an era where large-scale mi-
grations of Celts, Germanic and other people affected
considerable parts of the Continent. Neither should
the Roman expansion and numerous associated cam-
paigns be forgotten, nor the subsequent Romaniza-
tion. Moreover, in the case of campaigns, foreign aux-
illaries often participated. These historical events,
where people of different ethnic background, influ-
enced the attitudes of the societies involved, not least
in art, is probably what one encounters in the images
on the Gundestrup cauldron.
Finally, the traditional, archaeological dating of the
Gundestrup cauldron versus the accelerator datings
should be briefly discussed. Traditional surveys deal-
ing with archaeological datings of the cauldron by
various scholars range from ca. 200 BC. to ca. 300
AD (for the most recent discussion, see Falkenstein
2004, Abb. 2, with further references). It is almost
superfluous to mention that this remarkable, chrono-
logical disagreement among scholars has to do with
the sad fact that none of the various objects depicted,
torques, helmets, shields, swords, lances, spurs,
phalerae, carnyxes etc. can be sufficiently exactly dat-
ed. This also embraces the widely different motifs on
the cauldron, all hard to deal with chronologically.
Turning to the accelerator datings, the problems
with the one consisting of carbon residue from the
iron core of the rim has been discussed in the respect-
ive section above. This dating will not be dealt with
any further since it is probably archaeologically un-
tenable.
Looking at the accelerator datings of beeswax from
the backs of the plates, four in number (Fig. 36), these
all place the Gundestrup cauldron in the Roman Iron
Age, i.e., 1 AD–400 AD, with only a possible limited
overrun to neighbouring periods. At present, it is in
particular sample KIA19713, which should be con-
sidered being the most reliable one.
In fact, accelerator datings of the Roman Iron Age
are not that surprising since a similar date has been
suggested by several scholars in the course of time
(Falkenstein loc.cit.). For instance, Sophus Müller
(Müller 1933, 44f), when discussing the Gundestrup
cauldron for the last time, convincingly argued that
the Gundestrup cauldron ‘‘should be understood as a
work from the earliest Roman period’’, my trans-
lation. In the context, this means after the birth of
Christ, i.e., 1st century AD. Among other things,
Müller states ‘‘this is art of barbarian character, not
an initial development, but with basis in the classical’’,
my translation. Furthermore, he points to inspiration
from Roman art. Previously, Müller did not even ex-
54 Acta Archaeologica
clude a date of the Gundestrup cauldron to the 2nd
century AD (1897, 574). That the cauldron could
possibly be dated even later, ‘‘in einer Zeit die der
jüngeren römische Kaiserzeit entspricht’’ was sug-
gested by H. Norling-Christensen (1966, 406).
In conclusion, the present writer suggests a dating
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56 Acta Archaeologica
Author’s addresses
Jan Holme Andersen, Conservator
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts
School of Conservation
Esplanaden 34
DK-1263 Copenhagen K
Denmark
jha/kons.dk
Joel A. Baker, PhD
Danish Lithosphere Centre
Øster Voldgade 10
1350 Copenhagen K
Denmark
– and
School of Earth Sciences
Victoria University of Wellington
P.O. Box 600
Wellington
New Zealand
Charlie Christensen, Cand. Scient.
National Museum of Denmark
Ny Vestergade 11
DK-1471 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Charlie.Christensen/natmus.dk
Jens Glastrup, Cand. Scient.
National Museum of Denmark
Department of Conservation, Laboratory
P.O. Box 260
DK-2800 Kgs. Lyngby
Denmark
jens.glastrup/natmus.dk
Pieter M. Grootes, Dr.
Leibniz Labor
Christian-Albrechts-Universität
Max-Eyth Strasse 11
24118 Kiel
Germany
pgrootes/leibniz.uni-kiel.de
Matthias Hüls, Dr.
Leibniz Labor
Christian-Albrechts-Universität
Max-Eyth Strasse 11
24118 Kiel
Germany
Arne Jouttijärvi, MSC in Engineering
Heimdal-archaeometry
Skovledet 30
DK-2830, Virum
Denmark
heimdal/archaeometry.dk
Erling Benner Larsen, Conservator
Brandstrupvej 10
DK-4293 Dianalund
Denmark
bennerlarsen/mail.dk
Helge Brinch Madsen, Conservator, Cand. Phil.
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts
School of Conservation
Esplanaden 34
DK-1263 Copenhagen K
Denmark
hbm/kons.dk
Katharina Müller, Dipl.-Chem.
Technische Universität Berlin
Institut für Chemie
Strasse des 17. Juni 135
10623 Berlin
Germany
Marie-Jose´e Nadeau, Dr.
Leibniz Labor
Christian-Albrechts-Universität
Max-Eyth Strasse 11
24118 Kiel
Germany
mnadeau/leibniz.uni-kiel.de
Svend Nielsen, MA & Dr.phil.
National Museum of Denmark
Frederiksholms Kanal 12
DK-1220 Copenhagen K
Denmark
svankaer/stofanet.dk
Stefan Röhrs, Dipl.-Chem.
Technische Universität Berlin
Institut für Chemie
Strasse des 17. Juni 135
10623 Berlin
Germany
57 The Gundestrup Cauldron
Heike Stege, Dr.
Doerner-Institut
Bayrische Staatsgemäldesammlungen
Barer Strasse 29
80799 Munich
Germany
stege/doernerinstitut.dk
Zofia Anna Stos, Dr.
Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art
University of Oxford
6 Keble Road
Oxford OX1 3QJ
– and
UniSdirect
University of Surrey
Senate House, Guildford
Surrey GU2 7XH
United Kingdom
S.Stos/surrey.ac.uk
NOTE IN PRESS
The final accelerator dates of beeswax (larger samples
than previously) from the Gundestrup cauldron have
been received from Leibniz Labor für Altersbestim-
mung und Isotopenforschung, Christian-Albrechts-
Universität, Kiel.
KIA 27547 gives BP 2448∫21, calibrated BC 536,
533, 519.
KIA 27548 gives BP 2267∫36, calibrated BC 379.
Professor P.M. Grootes of the laboratory states
(Oct. 5, 2005): ‘‘The new measurements produced
unexpected results, significantly older than the pre-
vious wax ones. At the moment, I see no way to rec-
oncile the results. In my opinion, the earlier measure-
Tod E. Waight, PhD
Danish Lithosphere Center
Geological Institute
University of Copenhagen
Øster Voldgade 10 L
DK-1350 Copenhagen K
Denmark
todw/geol.ku.dk
ments are valid, although the small sample size re-
sulted in enlarged uncertainty. Those measurements
did not give indication of a large age-difference be-
tween possible contaminants in the residue and the
wax. The younger age of the residue [KIA 27548,
editorial addition], as compared to the wax [KIA
27547, editorial addition], argues against contami-
nation by petrochemical, old varnish particles.’’
It should be noted that the two results for residue,
KIA 25400 (earlier date, see main text with Table
13 & Fig. 36) and KIA 27548 (date in press) – both
relatively large samples – are nearly identical (fourth-
third century BC) [editorial note].
58 Acta Archaeologica
Cf. Fig. 6. The Bull plate C 6563, 25 cm in diameter, from the bottom of the cauldron – a masterwork of repousse´ work originally gilt on
the whole surface. Recent studies of toolmarks show that different tools probably in different hands have been involved in its making. On
the photo the inserted numerals 1 to 10 are used as references in the text to observations of details. At last three different hands have thus
been involved – maybe even more. In the future work we have to reconsider the grouping of tool marks and surface textures.

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