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Archäologische Staatssammlung München


Among the almost 100 known so-called “Sanzeno keys”, the large key from Sonthofen im Allgäu is the most magnificent, given its unique handle decorated figuratively with a bull. The handle has an iron core that is overlaid with bronze and sits at the transition to the shank rather than a simple pivot to shove the key. Keys of this type, used to open and lock heavy doors with sliding bolt locks, are typical for the southern central Alps. In the provinces of Trent and Bolzano they belonged to the characteristic votive offerings during the fourth and third centuries BC and came from Raetian places of burnt offerings or sanctuaries. From Sanzeno (Trent) alone, over 40 such keys have been recorded. The exemplar from the Allgäu is one of the rare discoveries of such a key from a location north of the Alps. The key is completely preserved apart from a few parts of its sickle-shaped long iron shank and of its bit. It was found in 1987 during the excavation of a building pit at a special place: at the foot of the spur of a chain of hills protruding into the Iller valley. The key had originally been sunk as a votive offering below a spring at the escarpment of the “Schöne Bichl” (beautiful Bichl) in the river, in a backwater or in a pond.


Archäologische Staatssammlung München

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