Nebra Sky Disc

The Nebra Sky Disc is one of the most fascinating, and some would say controversial, archaeological finds of recent years. Dated to 1600 B.C., this bronze disc has a diameter of 32 cm and weighs around 4 pounds. It is patinated blue-green and embossed with gold leaf symbols, which appear to represent a crescent moon, the sun (or perhaps a full moon), stars, a curved gold band on the edge of the disc (which probably represent one of the horizons) These are interpreted generally as a sun or full moon, a lunar crescent, and stars (including a cluster interpreted as the Pleiades). Two golden arcs along the sides, marking the angle between the solstices, were added later. A final addition was another arc at the bottom surrounded with multiple strokes (of uncertain meaning, variously interpreted as a Solar Barge with numerous oars, as the Milky Way or as a rainbow). Another gold band on the opposite side is missing.

The disk is attributed to a site near Nebra, Saxony-Anhalt in Germany. It has been associated with the Bronze Age Unetice culture. The disk is unlike any known artistic style from the period, and had initially been suspected of being a forgery, but is now widely accepted as authentic.

Other Associated Finds : Chisel, Axeheads and Bracelets

The Swords Found With The Disc

The disc was found in a cache of bronze goods, including axes and daggers, in a Bronze Age site at the top of a mountain, the Mittelberg. It is thought that the site would originally have had a good view of the skies and the horizon all around, and might have been used as an observatory. The astronomical information on the disc is particular to the latitude of the location where it was found, so it is likely that the disc was made for and used in the site where it was finally hidden.

Description and Interpretation of the Symbols on the Disc

At one edge of the disc is an arc which looks like a boat sailing on the sea. The tiny indentations along each side of the arc may represent the oars of the ship.

Many ancient peoples imagined the sun as travelling from Western to Eastern horizon after it set in a special ship. This may be a depiction of the Ship of the Sun. If so, it means that the disc should be held in a vertical plane, with this 'boat' at the bottom. In this orientation, the rest of the symbols in the centre of the disc fall into place as a picture of the heavens. On the left and right sides are two long arcs. These span about 80 degrees each. The difference between sunrise on the summer solstice and on the winter solstice is 82.7 degrees at this latitude, as is the difference between the sunsets on the two solstices.

The two arcs are said to represent the portions of the horizon where the sun rises during the year. (The gold coating on the left arc, representing sunset, has fallen off and is lost). Between the two arcs are a full circle and a crescent. The crescent obviously represents a crescent moon, while the large circle may be the sun or a full moon. (The gold on the sun/full moon circle is damaged). In the background are 23 stars dotted in an apparently random pattern, and one group of seven stars which is said to represent the Pleiades star cluster (the Seven Sisters or M45). X-Rays indicate that under the gold of the right arc are two more stars, so it is likely that the two arcs were added some time after the other features.

Intrigued by the possibility of the Nebra Disc as an astronomical device, Professor Wolfhard Schloesser of the University of Bochum measured the angle between the pair of arcs on either side of the disc, and found that it was 82 degrees. Fascinatingly, at Mittelberg hill, between the high mid-summer sunset and the lo mid-summer sunset, the sun appears to travel around 82 degrees along the horizon. This angle would vary from place to place. Schloesser concluded that the pair of arcs along the circumference of the Nebra Disc did indeed depict the sun solstices accurately for its location. This would suggest that the Bronze Age agricultural societies of central Europe made sophisticated celestial measurements far earlier than has been suspected.

It is an astronomical fact that when the crescent moon appears in a particular orientation to the Pleiades, there is an eclipse seven days later. Is the picture on the disc intended to portray this? We'll never know for sure, as there is not enough detail in the picture. Around the outside of the disc is a ring of crude holes punched through the metal. It is thought that these are for attaching the disc to something, rather than forming part of the astronomical diagram. Perhaps the disc was stitched to a piece of heavy cloth?

What was the Purpose of the Disc?
If the disc was intended as an astronomical tool, the only thing on it that is accurate is the pair of arcs. With the disc in a horizontal plane, these could be used to examine the position of sunrise and sunset; the cache site was on the top of a hill, a good place for looking at the sun. The site was surrounded by an artificial low bank, which could be used for measuring the position of the sun on the horizon. The position of the sun at sunrise and sunset is a good indication of the time of year and can be used to predict times for planting and harvesting crops; the Bronze Age people were an agricultural society. Alternatively, the disc might have been a teaching tool, explaining the mysteries of the night sky to students.

In late 2004, the Nebra Disc became enmeshed in controversy. German archaeologist Professor Peter Schauer, of Regensbury University, claimed that the disc was a modern fake, and any idea that it was a Bronze Age map of the heavens was “a piece of fantasy.” Professor Schauer stated that the supposedly Bronze Age patina on the artefact had been artificially created in a workshop “using acid, urine, and a blowtorch” and was not ancient at all. The holes around the edge of the disc, he insisted, were too perfect to be ancient, and must have been made by a relatively modern machine.

His own conclusion was that the object was a 19th century Siberian Shaman’s drum. However, it later emerged that Schauer had never studied the artefact himself prior to making his claim, nor did he publish any of his theories in a peer-reviewed journal. But Shcauer’s objections still shocked the German archaeological community and raised some important questions about the authenticity of the disc. The first was that, because of the circumstances of its discovery, the Nebra Disc had no secure archaeological context. Thus, it was extremely difficult to date accurately, especially as there was nothing similar with which to compare it.

The dating was done on the object depended upon the typological dating of the Bronze Age weapons that had been offerd for sale with it, and were supposed to be from the same site. These axes and swords were dated to the middle of the second millennium B.C. Solid evidence for the antiquity of the disc was provided by the Halle institute for Archaeological research in Germany. The Institute submitted the artifact to an exhaustive series of tests that confirm its authenticity. For example, the copper used on the disc has been traced to a Bronze Age mine in the Austrian Alps.

Tests also discovered that a practically unique mixture of hard crystal malachite covers the artifact. In addition to this, microphotography of the corrosion on the disc has also produced images that proved that it was a genuinely ancient artifact, and could not be have been produced as a fake.

The latest examinations of the disc, by a group of German scholars in early 2006, came to the conclusion that it was indeed genuine, and had functioned as a complex astronomical clock for the synchronization of solar and lunar calendars. The Nebra Sky Disc is thus the earliest known guide to the heavens, and certainly, along with the site, the first examples of the detailed astronomical knowledge in Europe. But perhaps that is not the end of the stories. Wolfhard Schlosser believes intriguingly, that the disc (currently valued at $11.2 million) was one of a pair, and that the other is still out there waiting to be found.

(Taken from many sources)


imelda said...

hello how are you?

Anonymous said...

(Imelda) hi,i'm fine thank u ^_^

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