Gold Curls That May Have Topped Ancient Sun Hat Found in Denmark

Thousands of slender ringlets of pure gold, some as long as a car key and crafted 3,000 years ago, have been uncovered in a field in Denmark in what researchers described as a unique -- and perplexing -- find.

“Perhaps the spirals were fastened together with string to serve as fringe for a hat or umbrella, perhaps they were braided into the hair or were embroidered onto a costume,” Flemming Kaul, senior researcher at the National Museum, said in a statement Wednesday. “The fact is, we don’t know.”

Archaeologists found almost 2,000 of the golden tresses in a southwestern corner of the island of Sjaelland, on which Copenhagen is located. The site already had yielded in the 1800s golden rings weighing 3.5 kilograms (125 ounces), among the biggest gold caches in Northern Europe dating to the Bronze Age. That’s led officials to theorize the site served as a place of sun worship.

“The place had a very special meaning for Bronze Age peoples as they chose to sacrifice several kilos of gold,” Kirsten Christensen, a researcher with the Museum Vestsjaelland, said in the statement.

It was almost a fluke archaeologists discovered the ringlets. According to the National Museum, amateur archaeologists two years ago found gold bangles and other jewelry at the site and notified officials. An initial search turned up only a handful of the spirals. After a goldsmith identified the material as gold, not brass, researchers returned to the site to find the thousands of small curls within just a few square meters.

The ringlets have a combined weight of about 300 grams (10 ounces), making the gold worth about $10,000 at current market prices.

Archaeologists continue to search, convinced there’s probably more.

“The sun was among the holiest of symbols in the Bronze Age and gold was believed to have a special magic,” Kaul said.