Medieval gauntlet discovered

Medieval gauntlet discovered

This gauntlet discovered near Zurich dates back to the 14th century. © Canton Archeology Zurich

During excavations near Zurich, archaeologists made a spectacular discovery: They came across the remains of a cellar from the 14th century, in which, in addition to various metal objects, they also discovered a suit of armor. The well-preserved glove dates from the 14th century and is one of the oldest and best-preserved examples of such a piece of medieval armor in Switzerland.

Kyburg Castle near Zurich is considered a cultural asset of national importance in Switzerland. The oldest form of this castle was built around a thousand years ago, probably by Count Liutfried II of Winterthur. Later, in the 13th century, the Habsburgs took over the castle and expanded it to include a curtain wall and a large palace. Around 200 years later, further renovations and new buildings were carried out. In order to research the history of the castle and its surroundings, employees of Zurich Cantonal Archeology have been carrying out excavations around Kyburg for several years.

Armor parts
Only parts of the left glove remain, but the right one is complete. © Canton Archeology Zurich

Medieval armor gauntlet

During excavations southeast of Kyburg Castle, the archaeologists have now come across a particularly exciting find: They discovered a medieval weaving cellar that burned down in the 14th century, and there was apparently also a blacksmith’s workshop in the immediate vicinity. In addition to a mold, the team also found more than 50 extremely well-preserved metal objects, including hammers, tweezers, pliers, keys, knives, bullet points and others. But the most spectacular thing was another metal object that was hidden among these finds: the archaeologists discovered the completely preserved components of a gauntlet.

The gauntlet was once part of medieval armor and protected the wearer’s right hand. Parts of the left gauntlet were also recovered during the excavations. The special thing about it: The previously known gauntlets from museums and collections mostly come from the 15th century and are therefore significantly younger than the current find, as the archaeologists report. However, examples from the 14th century are extremely rare – so far only five other gauntlets from this period have been found in Switzerland. “None of them, however, is anywhere near as well preserved and shows as many details of the style and decoration as the Kyburg glove,” says a statement from the cantonal archeology department.

Artfully crafted

Specifically, the gauntlet is a four-fold finger glove on the right hand. The individual iron plates of the movable links are placed on top of each other like scales and connected to each other with side rivets. The individual components of the glove were attached to the inside with additional rivets on a leather or textile carrier material, which in turn was sewn onto a textile finger glove. However, it is still unknown who the armor and gauntlets once belonged to and whether there is a connection to Kyburg Castle.

From March 29, 2024, a copy of the sensational find will be on display in the permanent exhibition at Kyburg Castle – together with a reconstruction that shows what this important piece of armor originally looked like. The original gauntlet can also be admired at the Kyburg, but only for a short time: from September 7, 2024, European Heritage Day, it will be on loan there for three weeks.

Source: Cantonal Archeology Zurich

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