View Full Version : The Disc of Nebra - Bronze Age Sky Disc Deciphered

Thursday, August 5th, 2004, 12:30 PM

Good article about the sky disc of Nebra:

Friday, October 15th, 2004, 09:04 AM

Mittelberg: a 252m hill in the Ziegelroda Forest 180km south-west of Berlin, Germany

Archaeologists are investigating a site atop the Mittelberg where a 32cm bronze-and-gold disc was found.

'The oldest concrete representation of the stars in the world'

The disc maps 32 stars, including the Pleiades, as they appear in reference to a local mountain on the horizon, the Brocken. Since the Mittelberg is near the German town of Nebra, the star map has been dubbed the "Nebra Disc."

The researchers suggest that the artifact, which was discovered within a pit inside a Bronze Age ringwall, is around 3600 years old and claim it to be the "oldest concrete representation of the stars in the world." Archaeologists assume that Mittelberg served as a type of observatory for the peoples of that time.

The disc 32cm in diameter shows a golden ship, Sun, Moon and stars as well as the constellation Pleiades just before the eclipse. Astronomers have confirmed that the sky map matches the latitude of the place where it was found.

As seen from the Mittelberg, the sun sets every June 22 behind the Brocken, the highest mountain in northern Germany. The Brocken is in a direct line of sight on a clear day, 85km to the north-west.

The archaeological dig has gone down about half a metre into the soil, leaving loose stone walls standing. The site was once surrounded by wooden palisades and a complex of defensive ditches.

Wolfhard Schlosser, an expert in ancient astronomy at the University of the Ruhr, states "The ringwall was built in such a way that the sun seemed to disappear every equinox behind the Brocken."

Experts believe the map and site formed an observatory, which was used to set the calendar for planting and harvesting crops.

The nearby forest contains perhaps 1000 barrows or princely graves from the period, but little else is known about the lost people, who are not mentioned in ancient Greek or other Mediterranean sources.
The culture of people from the Bronze Era was lost in the course of time and only material evidence of their existence is saved - the places where settlements, graves and treasure used to be. Scientists claim that it is impossible to assume which language they used.




Friday, October 15th, 2004, 09:18 AM
The Nebra Sky Disc

The Nebra Sky Disc is one of the most interesting archaeological finds in recent years. Dating from 1600 BC, it is a bronze disc about 32 centimetres in diameter with a diagram of the heavens embossed in gold onto it. The disc was found near the town of Nebra in eastern Germany (the state of Sachsen-Anhalt). The disc was made by Bronze Age people, the race that lived in Europe before the arrival of the Celts, and is said to be the oldest chart of the heavens in the world.

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.

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.

The finding of the disc

The disc was found by treasure hunters in 1999. They removed the disc from the site and attempted to sell it to local archaeologists. By the laws of the state in which it was found, it should belong to the state, so they discovered that they couldn't sell it legally. In 2003, they attempted to sell it to a collector in Switzerland, but the 'collector' turned out to be part of a 'sting' operation, working with the Swiss police. The disc was recovered and is now safely in the hands of the legal owner, the state of Sachsen-Anhalt. It is under examination in the Museum of Halle and will eventually go on display there.


It has long been known that so-called primitive people had advanced knowledge of the skies: the New Stone Age builders of Newgrange in Ireland aligned the monument with the rising sun at the Winter Solstice in about 3200 BC. Stonehenge, built in about 2000 BC, features many astronomical alignments. The Nebra Sky Disc is the earliest known portable guide to the heavens, and the first example of such knowledge in Central Europe. It shows that the knowledge of the skies was not restricted to one group in one location but existed throughout Europe in the second millennium BC.

Thursday, March 17th, 2005, 01:36 PM

Germany's Sky Disk seen as key for archaeoastronomy

This article can be found at Daniel Fischer'S COSMIC MIRROR website. Until a monography with all the results of the archaeological investigations comes out next spring, probably not much more will become public.

Much more has been learned about the mysterious bronze (age) disk unearthed in Germany, now that the actual context of the discovery has been revealed: The perpetrators of the illegal dig have surrendered themselves to the police in July, the exact site has been located and professional excavations have begun on August 20. And while only a small fraction of the extended site on a hill near the town Nebra in Saxony-Anhalt has been investigated so far, it is already being hailed as a German Stonehenge in some circles.

While much cannot be seen there by the untrained eye, the local archaeologists now describe a circular wall of about 200 meters diameters, surrounded by a complex system of trenches - a site which, according to some artefacts found so far, has been in use for a thousand years (i.e. from about 1600 to 700 BC). The only direct astronomical clue is the geographical location: From the hill (Mittelberg) the Sun sets at the summer solstice directly behind the important Brocken mountain 80 km away. And many names of landmarks in the area carry astronomical-sounding names.

On the Mittelberg site the Sky Disk (the new offical name being "early bronze age bronze disk with a representation of the sky from Nebra") had been buried for unknown reasons but with care. Thanks in part to the ongoing criminal investigation we even know its original orientation in the ground, which yields some clues for the interpretation of the celestial phenomena and geometrical figures put onto the disk (the authenticity of which is no longer in any doubt, thanks to several physical lab investigations):

There are two arcs, opposite to each other, of 82.7 each - exactly the distance between the northern- and southernmost points of sunset and sunrise from Saxony-Anhalt in the bronze age. Thus we have a mathematical clue as well that the disk belongs to the Nebra area.
The short arc in between the two big ones was on the bottom of the disk in the orientation it was found: This supports the interpretation as a "sun barge" travelling between sunset and sunrise. Another interpretation had been that we are dealing with a particularly bright section of the Milky Way.

The meaning of the two largest objects is uncertain: the Sun and the Moon or rather the Full Moon and a lunar crescent? Astronomers favor the latter view: It would have been too big an act of abstract thinking for our bronze age artist to visualize the Sun in a sky full of stars.

Seven of those stars form a tight pattern, the only one on the whole disk. While this could equally well mean the Plejades and the Praesepe star cluster or the small constellation Delphinus, preference is given to the Pleiades: In contrast to the other interpretations this asterism plays a significant role in ancient texts.

The other stars are distributed on the disk in as random a fashion as possible when one actively tries to avoid the formation of any pattern - this has actually been demonstrated by experiments at Bochum University. A true random distribution with Poisson statistics would look much more clumpy.

What else do we know about the Star Disk? Its age is known to be 3600 years only because of other artefacts found in close proximity, esp. two swords - the design of which points to the Balkans or even ancient Greece. And we have evidence that the disk was reworked several times: Some original stars were removed when the horizon arcs were added some time later, and the rim of the disk was punched later still in an almost brutal fashion.

The use of the disk remains a mystery though. Were the horizon arcs applied for actual measurements? Was it a teaching tool for novices at the observatory? Was it purely a religious item? All which has been learned from the ongoing studies of the disk and the excavation will go into a book to be distributed widely next spring. And in 2004 an international conference will be held in nearby Halle to give the archaeologists and astronomers of the world an opportunity to voice their opinions.

(Based on an interview with Prof. W. Schlosser of Bochum Univ. on Oct. 4 and other sources) -- Daniel Fischer



Thursday, March 17th, 2005, 02:19 PM
... the authenticity of the disc has been challenged by one of the country's leading archaeologists, Peter Schauer of Regensburg University. He told a court in Halle that the artefact was nothing more than an amateurish forgery.
It looks like it could be a fake:

Thursday, March 17th, 2005, 10:47 PM
It looks like it could be a fake:

We'll have to wait and hear from more objective archaeologists...

Saturday, March 19th, 2005, 06:02 AM
all of the links offered here are keeping me so busy.

does any one have a link to the "German Stonehenge",

as you call it?

Monday, July 17th, 2006, 09:35 PM
"A group of German scientists has deciphered the meaning of one of the most spectacular archeological discoveries in recent years: The mystery-shrouded sky disc of Nebra was used as an advanced astronomical clock."

"...According to astronomer Wolfhard Schlosser of the Rurh University at Bochum, the Bronze Age sky gazers already knew what the Babylonians would describe only a thousand years later..."


Monday, July 17th, 2006, 10:46 PM
Good article. What is the current status of the Nebra Sky Disc? The last I hear was a few months ago stating that the "two previously convicted treasure looters" spoken of in the article claimed that it was a forgery, but that the claim may have been a ruse to get around ownership issues.

Sunday, November 26th, 2006, 08:06 AM
The oldest representation of the cosmos the sky disc of Nebra has gone on show in Basel's history museum.

Basel has a special place in the disc's history. It was here that police seized the disc after it was stolen from its place of origin in Germany.

The disc, which forms the centrepiece of an exhibition devoted to Bronze Age objects, has been hailed as one of the most important archaeological discoveries of recent times.

Made out of bronze with gold embossing, the 3,600-year-old object is an astronomical clock. It connects the sun and the moon calendars together, with the sun giving the day and year and the moon, the month.

Read Article (http://www.swissinfo.org/eng/feature/detail/Sky_disc_of_Nebra_shines_in_Basel.html?s iteSect=108&sid=7274584&cKey=1164196091000)

Friday, October 9th, 2009, 01:30 AM

When grave robbers ransacked a Bronze Age burial in Germany, they had no idea that they had unearthed the find of a lifetime. But they knew that it was worth selling. It was a small bronze disc of exquisite design. So they contacted the archaeologist Harald Meller, offering to sell it to him for 300,000.

Meller went deep into the criminal underworld and, after a police sting, he got his disc. It depicted the sun, the moon and the stars, in particular the constellation of Pleiades. This suggested an understanding of the heavens greater than that of any other civilisation of the time. Could it possibly be real?

After exhaustive tests, the disc was declared genuine. Then a team of crack scientists pieced together what it meant. What emerged is a true marvel.

This disc, it seems, combines an advanced understanding of the stars with some of the most sophisticated religious imagery of the age. In intellectual achievement and also age, it surpasses anything yet found in Egypt or Greece. It seems that civilisation had already dawned in North Central Europe.

Exciting BBC documentary about a revolutionary, chance discovery of an enigmatic object from the German Bronze Age, giving us an opportunity to have a closer look at the complex belief systems of the local populace at the time. Must see.






Friday, October 9th, 2009, 05:07 PM
What year was this dated? Do you all remember the article "found Europes Oldest Civilization" Somewhere around Austria and the Czech republic they found megalithic structures dating to around 4,000 B.C. which was roughly the time the Aryans came on the scene. It would appear to be a highly organized civilization predating Egypt, Sumeria etc. I wonder if this piece of work is associated with them. Of course the main reason Egypt and Sumeria left artifacts was because the desert preserved them. Most structures were made of wood, most objects would also rot. Stone Henge is from what? 8,000 B.C. or something? Something like that. Though for whateever reason none of these civilizations seemed to have been long lived or left any records.

Hauke Haien
Friday, October 9th, 2009, 05:13 PM
The swords it has been found with can be dated to c. 1600 BCE, but the Nebra Sky Disk may have already been ancient by the time people gave it a funeral.

Sunday, July 10th, 2011, 05:14 PM
Seems there are more and more pointers, that germanic culture is much older than the eqyptian.

Here a video:


Of course they have to mention that germanic lands were a primitive country, though they present proo to the direct opposite it.

Sunday, July 10th, 2011, 05:35 PM
I'm not surprised by this. Still, I'm glad to see this discovery made public.