One of the Best-Preserved 14th Century Pieces of Armor Found Near a Swiss Castle

By: Beth Moreton | Published: Feb 29, 2024

Archaeologists have recently discovered a “sensational” piece of medieval armor near a castle based in Switzerland.

The piece of armor is said to be from the 14th century and has been dubbed as one of the best preserved pieces of its kind.

The Armored Gauntlet Is "Well-Preserved"

Given that the piece of armor is over 600 years old, archaeologists have stated that it has been incredibly preserved, as quoted in Smithsonian Magazine.

The gauntlet after being put back together. It is made from metal and has some rust throughout the glove.

Source: Battlefield Archaeology Research Team/Facebook

It is believed to have been worn by a medieval soldier or knight and despite needing a bit of reconstruction, most of the pieces were still fully intact.

The Artifact Was Found Near Kyburg Castle

The pieces of the glove were found in the southeastern grounds of Kyburg Castle, which is a short 26-minute journey from Switzerland’s capital, Zurich.

An outside view of Kyburg Castle. Grass, trees, and sunflowers surround the castle.

Source: Givanni-P/Wikimedia Commons

The castle is located right next to the Swiss-German border, with the gauntlet remains in a medieval weaving cellar. Kyburg towers over the Töss River and is home to Switzerland’s oldest castle museum.

Kyburg Castle Is a Significant Area for Archaeologists

Kyburg Castle was previously known as Chuigeburch during the medieval period and is one of the most wide-ranging medieval castles in Switzerland.

A view of Kyburg Castle in Switzerland overlooking the village of Kyburg. There are plenty of trees surrounding both the castle and the village.

Source: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike/Wikimedia Commons

Due to the size of the area and its defensive walls that loom over Kyburg, The Jerusalem Post reports this makes it very significant to archaeologists. This is why any planned construction causes an emergency archaeological excavation.

Kyburg Castle Dates Back to the 10th Century

Kyburg Castle is believed to have first been mentioned in 1027 when it was known as Chuigeburch, with the name suggesting it was used to house livestock, according to Arstechnica.

A medieval drawing of Kyburg Castle and the surrounding grounds. There are loads of trees and the village can be seen in the background. There is a field with a horse in the foreground.

Sounce: Adrian Michael/Wikimedia Commons

The castle was destroyed by the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II between 1028 and 1030, with it later being rebuilt. It was then partly destroyed in 1079 during the conflict between Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV, but has managed to survive ever since then.

The Weaving Cellar Had Previously Burned Down

What makes this find even more special is that in the 14th century, the weaving cellar had burned down, yet the gauntlet was still pretty intact when found by archaeologists.

An example of some medieval knives held in a museum

Source: Reptonix free Creative Commons licensed photos/Wikimedia Commons

It is believed by researchers that a blacksmith may have been forging metal prior to the fire, as archaeologists were also able to find various metal objects, such as tweezers, keys, and knives.


The Gauntlet Is the First of Its Kind

With the gauntlet being almost perfectly preserved, having stood the tests of time and fire, many may think nothing else could make it more special. However, there is one more feature that makes it even more unique.

A Facebook post from Kanton Zürich where a woman is wearing gloves, holding a piece of the gauntlet, with the other pieces laid out on the table in front of her

Source: Kanton Zürich/Facebook

In a Facebook video made by the canton, viewers are told that it is the first of its kind to appear in Switzerland, as it is well-preserved and complete.


Very Few Gauntlets of this Age Have Been Found

Not only is the preservation and location of the gauntlet special, but according to CBS News, finding one that was made prior to the 15th century is rare.

A 15th century gauntlet. It is placed on a stand and the gauntlet is silver with gold where the knuckles of the hand would be.

Source: Lorenz Helmschmied/Wikimedia Commons

Gauntlets, which were armored gloves used by European soldiers and knights, first started being used in the 11th century, so to have found one from this time period was a pretty special discovery for the archaeologists and everyone else involved.


Metal Objects of this Age Are Believed to Have Been Melted Down

Amongst many other reasons as to why this gauntlet is such a rare find, one possibility is that metal objects from this time were melted down and recycled, instead of being preserved.

Range dunnage is loaded into the metal furnace to be melted down at the Range Sustainment Branch at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center

Source: U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Corporal Kelsey J Green/Wikimedia Commons

However, this is just one of many theories as to why this gauntlet was preserved as well as it has been, whereas others weren’t. Unless other gauntlets from the same era are found, nothing is conclusive, as those may hold the answers researchers are looking for.


The Gauntlet Has Been Pieced Back Together

Due to the preservation of the gauntlet, those who discovered it have been able to piece it back together and have concluded that it is a four-fold finger glove that was worn on the right hand.

A side-by-side comparison of the gauntlet from the left hand vs the right hand. There are only a few pieces from the left hand, whereas the right hand has all the pieces available. There is a ruler on the right to measure the length of the gauntlets.

Source: Battlefield Archaeology Research Team/Facebook

It is made of iron and each metal plate is stacked on top of each other, which helped protect the knight or soldier’s fingers, whilst still providing them with a range of movement. It is also believed to have likely been worn for wielding swords.


There Are still Many Unanswered Questions

Despite the gauntlet being in near-perfect condition, officials who have been involved in the process have stated that there are unanswered questions regarding the typological development and who it would have belonged to.

Two women sat at a table doing research. There are notepads and books in front of them and they are both holding pens.

Source: Tirachard Kumtanom/Pexels

However, what is known is that individual components of the glove have been attached to the inside and that there were individual rivets sewn onto a textile finger glove. The unanswered questions may be discovered during further research into the gauntlet.


Only Five Similarly Aged Gauntlets Have Been Found

Whilst the discovery of this particular gauntlet is quite rare, there are five others that have also been discovered in Switzerland.

Pieces of a gauntlet that is not fully complete. There is a ruler along the bottom to measure the lengths of these pieces.

Source: Suffolk County Council, Dr Anna Booth/Wikimedia Commons

What sets this gauntlet apart from the other five is how well-preserved it is, along with its design and decoration. A few pieces of the left-handed glove have even been found by archaeologists, so there’s the possibility that both will able to be reconstructed in some way.


The Gauntlet Will Go on Display

In late March 2024, a copy of the gauntlet is said to become a permanent exhibit at Kyburg Castle, where the original was found.

A gauntlet on display in a museum. To the right of the gauntlet is a card with details about it.

Source: Daderot/Wikimedia Commons

This copy will go on display alongside the researchers’ reconstruction of the glove, showcasing what it would have looked like in the 14th century. Meanwhile, the original is also set to go on display for a few weeks in the fall of 2024.