Golden hats and Copper Scrolls

Let's dust off our thinking hats and join in exploring two special objects surrounded by strange claims. First, we will spend time with four golden hats from the European Bronze Age. Some claim they functioned as priestly antennas, but how do they fit into the Bronze Age cult.

Then we will move on to the Copper Scrolls, one of the maybe more mysterious documents in the Dead Sea Scroll collection. It's a treasure map written on copper and hidden in a cave. That Indiana Jones, Nic Cage, or any other treasure movie franchise has not picked this story up yet is potentially one of our larger mysteries in this episode. Hold on to your hat, and let's set out to find some treasure.

In this episode:

The Golden Hats/Cones

The Copper Scroll

Sources, resources and further reading suggestions

Welcome to Digging Up Ancient Aliens. This is the podcast where we examine strange claims about alternative history and ancient aliens in popular media. Do their claims hold water to an archeologist, or are there better explanations out there?

We are now on episode 57, and I am Fredrik. Your humble guide into the realm of strange claims and pseudo-science. Let's dust off our thinking hats and join in exploring two objects brought up in the Ancient Alien episode "Relics" from Season 6, episode 8. First, we will spend time with four golden hats from the European Bronze Age. Some claim they functioned as priestly antennas, but how do they fit into the Bronze Age cult. Then we will move on to the Copper Scrolls, one of the maybe more mysterious scrolls in the Dead Sea Scroll collection. It's a treasure map written on copper and hidden in a cave. That Indiana Jones, Nic Cage, or any other treasure movie franchise has not picked this story up yet is potentially one of our larger mysteries in this episode. Hold on to your hat, and let's set out to find some treasure. 

As always, this episode's sources are available at the episode website on You can also find contact info there if you notice any mistakes or have additional information.

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Now that we have finished our preparations, let's dig into the episode.

The Golden Hats

We rarely discuss European history and archaeology on this show. So, I'm more than happy to present some artifacts related to the Scandinavian Bronze Age. While the artifacts are not Scandinavian, I'll soon get into why they are related. First of all, what are we even talking about? Hold on to your hats because four golden hats.

These are cone-shaped hats hammered into shape from one sheet of gold. Four known examples of these hats exist, and they most likely had some organic material on the inside to make them more comfortable to wear. Today, three of them are located in Germany: the Ezelsdorf-Buch hat, the Berlin hat, and the Hat of Schifferstadt. While the Ezelsdorf-Buch and Schifferstadt hats have a known provenance, the origin of the Berlin golden hat is unknown. Scholars believe it most likely originated in Switzerland. Then, we have the fourth example, the Avanton Gold Cone, found in France in 1844.

These cones or hats are 30 to 80 centimeters tall and weigh around a half kilo. They are richly decorated and were created during the European Bronze Age; interestingly, we can see influences from Nordic countries and Medetirrenian influences from Sardinia. But let's see what the Ancient Aliens say about these hats.

"The golden hats are kind of interesting, because if gold is something that actually enhances your connection with energies and higher-up celestial beings, then the wearing of a golden hat, especially in a conical shape, would tend to amplify the signal that you were getting from on high. So, it seems to me that ancient cultures logically would build them to get connected with the gods who had perhaps left them behind and gone back to their celestial birthplace."

– Michael Bara

I must tip my hat to Michael Bara, who has at least created an exciting narrative. The hats were antennas to strengthen the signal between the extraterrestrials and their spokespersons on Earth. I find this amusing and would do it for fun Sci-Fi or fantasy elements. However, they are trying to claim that these ideas are scientifically rooted in sound science. So, if all that it takes is a half-meter antenna to connect with the aliens, why haven't any of our humungous telescopes picked up a single beep. Except, of course, for the 1977 "Wow! signal" the Ohio State University Radio Observatory picked up. While we don't know precisely what the "Wow! signal" was or if it's even artificial, it might be one of the few cases where an extraterrestrial solution might be plausible. So I'm sorry, but if our largest telescope, the "Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope," and people complain that archaeologists don't have any fantasy regarding names, don't pick up alien signals. Why would a small gold cone do that? The radio telescope I mentioned is 500 meters in diameter and is located in China, also known as the "Heaven's Eye."

So, if these golden cones were not intended to be used as a car antenna, what were they used for? If we look closer at the hats, especially the Berlin Gold hat, we can see a pattern of what seems to be suns and moons repeated in a distinct pattern. With this arrangement, we get a solar and lunar cycle stretching over 19 years; from this, you could calculate 228 solar months and 235 lunar months. So, if you were a king or a priest who could read this pattern, you could foresee lunar eclipses, calculate the shifts, and be able to set fixed events in the year. We see the same pattern and possibility within the other three cones.

Don't think about this as an outlier, though; we see astronomical representation and understanding in other artifacts from the European Bronze Age. Emilia Pasztor, for example, describes how sun dogs, halos, and round atmospheric phenomenons with four spokes are repeatedly represented in Bronze Age material. This shows that the sun and the moon were significant in Bronze Age societies. Then, we have several other artifacts with an astronomical connection, such as the German Nebra Sky Disc, the Danish Trundholm sun chariot, the Balåkra drum from Sweden, and the Kokino site. Kokino is an extinct volcano in North Macedonia that served as a Bronze Age observatory. 

Clearly, these cones or hats were connected to the sun cult dominating the European Bronze Age. While the finds seem to be in areas connected to the Urnfield culture, it's not sure it fits in. Looking at the hat, we see a connection to Scandinavia; for example, in the King's Grave in Kivik in Scania, we have petroglyphs that depict similar conic hats. We also have a set of figures found in Stockhult in, Sweden; these figures have conic hats with brims that remind one of the golden hats. A similar set of figures has also been found in Denmark. Looking at the Bronze Age petroglyphs in Sweden, it's pretty clear that they imported elements and gods from the continent. Elements from Cyprus, Minoan, and even Egypt can be found looking at the petroglyphs, especially in southern Sweden. 

While I do enjoy the image of a Bronze Age priest pulling up the gold cone like an old car antenna, it's simply fiction. These hats fit pretty well into the culture of the Bronze Age. That hats were used as a power symbol is still something that we have today; just look at most religions and royalty. From the beginning of stratified societies, humans have sought ways to make those in power more visible. 

From European hat fashion, we will venture to the Dead Sea for our next artifact.

Copper Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of old texts that I think many are familiar with. They were first found by Beduin shepherds in 1946 in the Qumran caves. Some 970 manuscripts have been found in twelve different caves. They are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. But we will focus on one manuscript today, and it stands apart for several reasons. One is that it was written on copper.

"All the Dead Sea Scrolls that have been found were written on either leather or papyrus. The Copper Scroll is the only one made of copper. You got to keep in mind, copper was valuable, and to hammer out a whole scroll would take a lot of time and a lot of technique, so it has to be very important." - John de Salvo.

An important question to settle before we move forward is when this document was written. Scholars like Ze'ev Safrai put the date somewhere in the middle of the first century CE. This is based on paleography, 

which is the study of ancient and historical handwriting. This discipline involves analyzing how letters and words were formed in manuscripts, enabling researchers to date and authenticate old texts, understand historical contexts, and decipher writings no longer in use. It can also be used to date a document based on the writing and its content. 

When it's called the copper scroll, this is quite a literal name. The creator has put a lot of effort into making the copper sheets look like the vellum or leather sheets and other documents stored in the Qumram caves. The plates were even rolled up when first discovered; two pages were rolled together, and a third page was rolled separately. Rivets were initially holding the pair scroll together; these have been lost to time. So it was important that this document looked and was treated like the other documents in the Dead Sea Scroll collection. You might wonder what was written in this scroll, and I'll have John de Salvo sum it up for us.

"The Copper Scroll lists 64 locations in Jerusalem and around that area that buried treasure is located. Maybe the key is, in the 64th location, it says there's another copper scroll that will help explain the rest of it. Because we haven't found the treasure yet. I somehow suspect there could be another code within this treasure map, a code within a code."

De Salvo is correct in that this document seems to describe different locations with treasure. A treasure that's not been found today. To some extent, we have a real mystery, but before you grab a shovel and book a trip to Jerusalem, we should put this document in its historical context. I also want to give some examples from the recent reexamination of the document by Émile Puech. Puech suggests a new reading of the document and that the number of locations is not 64 but 60 based on this new translation. Lefkovits suggested that it would be 60 locations back in 2000. The translation of the Copper Scroll is tricky because it's written in older Hebrew. While ample documents and dictionaries cover old Hebrew, almost all are religious. Making the translations of secular texts like this a bit more challenging since not all words are defined in this context. Let's read the document to understand its structure and what it tells us a bit. This is from the first column, rows one to five, as translated by Puech.

"(1) In 'The Ruin' which is in the valley of Achor, under the steps leading

to the east (at) forty half-brick cubits: (there is) a chest of silver and

its vessels, a weight of seventeen talents. ΚΕΝ.

(2) In the sepulchral monument, in the third layer: 100 gold ingots.

(3) In the great cistern which is in the court of the peristyle, at the

side of its floor, sealed in the (circular) wall, opposite the upper opening:

nine hundred talents.

(4) In the mound of Koḥlit, (there are) tithe vessels consisting of

flasks, and ephods?: the total of the tithe and the store/treasury of the

sabbatical (year) and a second disqualified tithe. Its opening (is) on the

northern edge of the channel, six cubits in the direction of the frigidarium

of the bath.

(5) In the spiral staircase of Manos, in the descent/recess to the left,

at a height of three cubits from the bottom, silver: forty talents." - The Copper Scroll Revisited p.26.

Sounds almost like JRR Tolkien when he had that whole section about the dwarfs divvying up the treasure in Bilbo. Or add Nick Cage in a lather jacket, and you could have a National Treasure 6 movie without much more effort. As we hear, the document really sounds like a real-life treasure map. It's a little bit beyond me how this has not been turned into a movie yet. At the same time, you might start to wonder why people are not out there in their leather jackets and looking for the vast quantities of gold and silver the document talks about. Just to list a small part of the treasure, it supposedly contains 165 bars of gold, 19 bars of silver, and 362 gold talents (during the Second Temple Period, to which this text would date, one talent is about 34 kg or 74 pounds) and 1 672 talents of silver. What I counted up here is just a tiny portion of the stuff we have in the scrolls, but if we start to add up everything, it would be a lot of hidden riches. So where are the treasure hunters? People have spent unknown millions of dollars digging a hole on an island in Canada; why don't we see that effort here? Could it be made up?

There are some discussions about this among scholars; some argue that there never was a treasure, while others think the treasure is real. Then we have the middle way, which often might be our best route. The Copper Scroll is not the first or only document we have found describing a hidden hoard of treasure. Ze'ev Safrai describes another document in an anthology of collected documents called Aggadat Bereshit by R. Abraham. In the Tractate Kelim document, we encounter a text strangely similar to what we can read in the Copper Scroll. Safrai has identified four main similarities between the two texts. 

"(1) Tractate Kelim states the list was written by "Shimur the Levite and his colleagues on a copper plate."

(2) According to Tractate Kelim, the vessels of the Temple made by King Solomon were hidden away, as were gold and silver hoards. The Copper Scroll contains a detailed description of hidden gold and silver treasure hoards.

(3) Section 10 of Tractate Kelim states that some treasures were hidden in Kakhal Spring; in the Copper Scroll, "Kohlit" appears in a description of the hiding-places for five of the treasures.

(4) Tractate Kelim notes that in addition to the treasures listed in the composition itself there exist additional treasures, and another scroll, which "nobody knows where it was concealed." In the concluding section of the Copper Scroll we read that "an additional copy of the list," with greater detail than the Copper Scroll itself, was hidden in a water cistern in Yanoah." - Exploring the Dead Sea Scrolls p. 116

From the start, we learn that other texts are claimed to have been written on copper plates and contain similar information as the Dead Sea Scroll. This is interesting; it seems this scroll belongs to a specific genre: treasury lists. Honestly, it could already be its own section in the bookstore. How many books about treasure hunting aren't there out there? Dan Brown and James Rollin have made some monumental contributions to it. The difference might be that the list doesn't contain many secret passages and runs in catacombs.

What's more interesting is that these lists fit in with a tradition not in Israel but in Greece. Greek temples used to have lists of relics and treasure in their belongings written on stone tablets. We will return to this connection in a moment.

Before talking about the Greek connection, I want to discuss when the hiding of this gold and silver took place. Reading the Tractate Kelim, it becomes pretty clear the author is talking about the treasure from the First Temple. Mainly because the ark, menora, and the priest's breastplates are mentioned. These relics would not have been mentioned if the text had covered the Second Temple. So, does the Copper Scroll mention these items, too? Well, not really. While these plates mention "sacred vessels," they don't detail the vessels' contents. But it's not unlikely that these scrolls are built on an older source. If this list would describe the treasures of the Second Temple being hidden away, it must have been written after 70 CE. However, there are no signs of anyone visiting the Qumran caves after 68 CE. So, we hit a bit of a snag regarding whether the document is meant to detail the first or second temple. While authors like Safrai go into deep detail regarding the content of the copper scroll compared to the Tractate Kelim, we don't have any definitive evidence of the origin of the treasures. However, there could be another clue to this clue within the Greek connection I mentioned some moments ago. 

So, let's talk about the Greek Connection then. As I alluded to, a genre of treasure lists came from Greece and was connected to the temples. What I find interesting in particular is one example brought up by Weitzman. In Pausanias's book Description of Greece, 4.20.4, we learn that "For the Messenians possessed a secret thing. If it were destroyed, Messene would be overwhelmed and lost forever, but if it were kept, the oracles of Lycus the son of Pandion said that after lapse of time the Messenians would recover their country."

The Messenians were a region in South West Peloponnese in Ancient Greece. This region was invaded by the Spartans during the Classical period and forced into exile. While we never get to learn what these secrets are, there is quite an exciting connection further ahead when the future leader Epiteles rediscovered the secret things hidden away in the past. In passage 4.26.8, we're told, "He took it at once to Epaminondas, told him the dream and bade him remove the lid and see what was within. Epaminondas, after sacrifice and prayer to the vision that had appeared, opened the urn and having opened it found some tin foil, very thin, rolled like a book. On it were inscribed the mysteries of the Great Goddesses, and this was the pledge deposited by Aristomenes." 

In this case, it's written on tin, but again, we see this idea that the important secret was written on something durable so as not to be lost to time. Even if this still puts this claim firmly between the realm of fiction and reality, it's an interesting connection. Add to this the bronze plate found listing temple treasures of a Demotic temple in the Roman Era of ancient Egypt. It's quite clear that these metallic documents were not uncommon in the Greek and Roman eras. But they were written not only on metals but also on stone. One such example is a document found in a museum in Denmark, the Lindian Temple Chronicles. A 2,5 meter or 8 feet tall stone from the island of Rhodes dating back to 99 BCE.

As Weitzman points out, the narrative of the Lindian Chronicle is quite similar to that of 2 Maccabees. In addition to the story, this large stone slab contains an extensive list of temple inventory. This is not strange in itself for ancient Greece. We have treasury inventory lists going back to 400 BCE, especially from Athens, carefully describing what the treasury contains. At one point or another, a logistical issue started to become apparent. The temple had started collecting too many offerings and needed to devise an organized way to keep track of them. The solution, it seems, might have been to use their Greek alphabet as letter labels to keep track of this inventory. As I hope you remember, the Copper Scrolls had Greek letters on them, which potentially had a similar function. According to Weitzman, this way of using the Greek alphabet would explain its function in the Copper Scrolls.

Another thing in the Lindian Chronicle that might help us understand the Copper Scroll is that the items don't have to be present to be accounted for. Let's read a section from the stone. "since the temple of Athena Lindia is both most ancient and most honored [and] has been adorned with many beautiful offerings from the oldest times on account of the epiphany of the goddess, and [since] it happens that most of the offerings together with their inscriptions have been destroyed by time, with good fortune be it resolved by the Councilors and the Lindians."

See how the author of the records notes that the temple is old and that some things will have been destroyed or lost simply by time passing. Further down in the record, we also learn how it was damaged by a temple fire. But even if it's still not there, the temple custodians still felt the need for the items to be accounted for. As Weitzman points out, it was crucial during the time in the culture to be able to hold the officials accountable. Something that would have been equally important within the Jewish society. If we read the Old Testament, we have several instances where the main character of the text proceeds to take inventory of temple treasures or offerings presented to god. 

The inventory lists from Greece were displayed publicly in the temples, and a good case could be made that the Copper Plates were also initially in a more visible place. This way, the temples could disclose their offerings while at the same time giving an impression that everything was accounted for and in order. It was probably not that anyone appearing at the temples would be able to see the warehouse of gold and silver. But if suspicion arose, they could point toward the stone and show what they had, what was missing, and where it went. Even if the Copper Scroll or Tractate Kelim isn't referring to a vault, it gives the impression that its custodians knew where it was and what it contained down to the most minuscule fraction. Weitzman and others point out that the treasure is that way meant to be in a state between mythology and reality. Something Weitzman explains is also seen in the Greco-Roman world.

"/.../many temple treasures in the Greco-Roman period existed in an intermediate state, believed to be real but not available for inspection, not always where they were supposed to be or intact, and sometimes more fictive than existent as was the case with many of the treasures listed in the Lindian Chronicle. At certain moments, when the community felt it necessary to audit the temple inventory, the distinction might be clarified to the satisfaction of the community, but for much of a temple's history, the community would not have been in a position to directly confirm which items were actually in the temple and which were not, trusting that they were there but not knowing for certain until the next audit."

So, while the Ancient Alien crowd wants to claim this is part of some metallic space library—maybe belonging to the golden library invented by Father Crespi in Argentina—the real story of the scroll is a far more intriguing mystery. It was designed to be both elusive and give an impression of accountability. Authors like Safrai might suggest that this is a document written by a sect as a testament to the future and building of the ideal Temple. On the other hand, Joan Taylor suggests it was written to preserve the Temple cult during times of occupation. Weitzman might be summarizing it best by claiming, "it has been my argument that this was the purpose of the Copper Scroll as well: to confirm that a treasure that appeared to be missing was really there, absent but accounted for by those entrusted with its safekeeping."

Until next time, please spread the word by leaving a positive review on platforms like iTunes, Spotify, or even among your fellow trench dwellers. 

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Sandra Marteleur created the intro music, and our outro is by the band called Trallskruv, who sings their song "tin foil hat." Links to both these artists will be found in the show notes.

Until next time, keep shoveling that science!

Until next time, keep shoveling that science!

Sources, resources, and further reading suggestions

Burenhult, G. (2010). Arkeologi i Norden 2. 2nd ed. Stockholm: Natur & Kultur.

Callaway, P.R. (2011). The Dead Sea Scrolls for a New Millennium. Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Pasztor, E. (2015). Symbols of Atmospheric Phenomena in Bronze Age Depictions. [online] Hungarian Archaeology. Available at:

Pásztor, E. (2017). Prehistoric Light in the Air: Celestial Symbols of the Bronze Age. In: C. Papadopoulos and H. Moyes , eds., The Oxford Handbook of Light in Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.355–373.

Puech, E. (2015). The Copper Scroll Revisited. Brill.

Puech, É., Lacoudre, N., Mébarki, F. and Grenache, C. (2000). The Mysteries of the ‘Copper Scroll’. Near Eastern Archaeology, 63(3), pp.152–153. doi:

Safrai, Z. and Eshel, H. (2015). What Treasures Are Listed in the Copper Scroll. In: Exploring the Dead Sea Scrolls: Archaeology and Literature of the Qumran Caves. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Sperber, L. (2003). Gold Und Kult Der Bronzezeit. Nuremberg: Germanisches Nationalmuseum.

Taylor, J.E. (2023). The Copper Scroll: the Medium, the Context and the Archaeology. In: T.B. Williams, C. Keith and L. Stuckenbruck, eds., The Dead Sea Scrolls in Ancient Media Culture. Brill, pp.293–334. doi:

Toreld, A. and Andersson, T. (2015). Ny Dokumentation Av Kiviksgravens Hällbilder. Fornvännen, 110(1), pp.10–26.

Weitzman, S. (2015). Absent but Accounted for: A New Approach to the ‘Copper Scroll’. The Harvard Theological Review, [online] 108(3), pp.423–447. Available at:

Weitzman, S.P. (2004). Myth, History, and Mystery in the Copper Scroll. In: H. Najman and J. Newman, eds., BRILL eBooks. Brill, pp.239–255. doi:


“Folie hatt” by Trallskruv

Lily of the woods by Sandra Marteleur