The king of Thun and his connections with Mycenae

The king of Thun and his connections with Mycenae
In the Early Bronze Age, the area around Lake Thun benefited from its location on important trade routes. Wealthy elites are buried with beautiful grave goods. They can be traced to connections as far away as Mycenae, Cyprus, Anatolia and the Gaza Strip.
Selina Stokar / Swiss National Museum

Around 1750 BC A powerful person is buried in Thun-Renzenbühl. Apparently a man, a kind of Homeric little king – although in other cases science has been wrong about the sex of those buried. He – let’s leave it at that – receives beautiful offerings to the grave, after all he should not lack anything in the afterlife.

Clothespins, belt hooks and a dagger adorn the dead man’s clothing. He is also equipped with six neck rings, a sign of his special wealth. A bit like being buried today with three Rolex watches on your wrist. More is more.

The Thun-Renzenbühl Canal Ensemble.

But that’s not all: the blade of a representative battle axe, decorated with inlaid gold pins, can also be found in the tomb of the king in the 19th century. A beautiful work that uses complex technology. An invention from the region around Lake Thun? No, works with decorations using the same technique are mainly known from the Aegean and ‘golden’ Mycenae, as Homer calls it. How come a minor king from Berne was buried almost 4,000 years ago with a prestigious object made using a technique from the Aegean Sea?

Ax knife from Thun-Renzenbühl.

And the “King of Thun” is not the only one around the lake in the Bernese Oberland in whose grave beautiful objects with distant references have been placed: at the same time in Hilterfingen a man receives a strange needle on his journey to the afterlife. The pieces most comparable to this needle from Hilterfingen come from Cyprus, Anatolia and the Gaza Strip.

At the same time, the elite in Spiez spend a lot on their (burial) equipment. Although there are no traces of distant connections, the elite graves certainly testify to wealth. A woman is buried with a huge pin and an elaborate headdress, a 13-year-old with an ax blade and a dagger, just like an adult.

In the settlement of Spiez-Bürg, located in a prominent spot on a hill, you can find the wheel of a Ferrari – sorry, the Bronze Age equivalent: a bridle for a horse. At that time, the horse was the newest and most beautiful model of locomotion: in the Bronze Age, people – that is, those who were able to do so – began to ride horses. The noble and expensive animals become a status symbol for the elite.

A sign of wealth: bridle gag from Spiez-Bürg.

So: why do particularly wealthy elites, some with contacts in remote areas, seem to have emerged around Lake Thun? The reason for this is probably the powerful material from which the Bronze Age (2200 to 800 BC) would get its name thousands of years later: bronze.

Bronze is an alloy (mixture) of copper and tin that has fundamentally changed human life due to its hardness and ability to serially produce objects. The recipe for making them – nine parts copper, one part tin – was probably developed 5,000 years ago in the Near East and then passed on to Europe.

Spread of metallurgical techniques in a period from 3800 BC.  BC to the Bronze Age (2200 to 800 BC).

However, copper and tin rarely occur together in one place; instead, they have to be imported from different areas over long distances. This was also the case in the Near East, where the advanced cultures of the time were located. To produce bronze in the Hittite Empire, Troy, Egypt, Babylon, Crete and Mycenae, long-term economic connections are necessary. Europe, with its copper and tin deposits, becomes a supplier of raw materials to the advanced civilizations of the Near East and moves to their periphery.

The elites on Lake Thun also benefit from this: their area of ​​influence is strategically located between Alpine crossings and water connections. Many trade routes for the transport of copper, tin or other coveted raw materials such as amber from the Baltic states probably pass through their centers of power. Copper has not yet had a long journey: it is mined in the Alps, in Austria, in Graubünden in Oberhalbstein and possibly also in the Bernese Oberland, for example in the Simmental. Very close to the elite of Lake Thun.

National Museum


Of course, not only goods travel along trade routes, but also people, ideas and knowledge. For example, the knowledge of the inlay technique from the Aegean Sea, which then helps produce the ax blade of the King of Thun.

Nearly 4,000 years ago, the collective hunger for resources connected Europe to Egypt, the Near East and the Aegean, economically and culturally, to a previously unknown extent. Thun, Hilterfingen and Spiez come into contact – albeit perhaps indirectly – with Babylon, Hattusa, Troy and Mycenae. A globalized Bronze Age world emerges, the largest pre-modern network not based on military conquest. Globalization, who invented it?

Selina Stokar / Swiss National Museum

Source: Blick



I am Ross William, a passionate and experienced news writer with more than four years of experience in the writing industry. I have been working as an author for 24 Instant News Reporters covering the Trending section. With a keen eye for detail, I am able to find stories that capture people's interest and help them stay informed.

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