by Deutsche Welle
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
The purpose of the 3,600 year-old sky disc of Nebra, which caused a
world-wide sensation when it was brought to the attention of the
German public in 2002, is no longer a matter of speculation.
A group of German scholars who studied this archaeological gem has
discovered evidence which suggests that the disc was used as a
complex astronomical clock for the harmonization of solar and lunar
"This is a clear expansion of what we knew about the meaning and
function of the sky disc," said archeologist Harald Meller.
A thirteenth month?
Unlike the solar calendar, which indicates the position of the earth
as it revolves around the sun, the lunar calendar is based on the
phases of the moon. A lunar year is eleven days shorter than the
solar year because 12 synodic months, or 12 returns of the moon to
the new phase, take only 354 days.
The sky disc of Nebra was used to determine if and when a thirteenth
month - the so-called intercalary month - should be added to a
lunar year to keep the lunar calendar in sync with the seasons.
"The functioning of this clock was probably known to a very small
group of people," Meller said.
Bronze Age science
Artist's view of the 3600-year-old bronze disc inlaid with a
gold-leaf sun, moon and stars.
The 32-centimeter-wide (seven-inch) bronze disc with gold-leaf
appliqués representing the sun, the moon, and the stars is the
oldest visual representation of the cosmos known to date. A cluster
of seven dots has previously been interpreted as the Pleiades
constellation as it appeared 3,600 years ago.
The explanation of the disc's purpose sheds new light on the
astronomical knowledge and abilities of the Bronze Age people, who
used a combination of solar and lunar calendars as important
indicators for agricultural seasons and passage of time.
"The sensation lies in the fact that the Bronze Age people managed
to harmonize the solar and lunar years. We never thought they would
have managed that," Meller said.
The sky disc of Nebra was found near Europe's oldest observatory in
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.
"Whether this was a local discovery, or whether the knowledge came
from afar, is still not clear," Schlosser said.
Ever since the disc was discovered, archaeologists and astronomers
have been puzzled by the shape of the moon as it appears on the
"I wanted to explain the thickness of the crescent on the sky disc
of Nebra because it is not a new moon phase," said Hamburg
astronomer Ralph Hansen.
In his quest to explain why the Nebra astronomers created a sky map
with a four or five days old moon on it, Hansen consulted the "Mul-Apin"
collection of Babylonian documents from the 7th and 6th centuries
These cuneiform writings represent, according to Hansen, a
compendium of "astronomic knowledge from the earliest times." They
also contain a calculation rule for the crescent that looks
strikingly similar to the one from Nebra.
According to the ancient Babylonian rule, a thirteenth month should
only be added to the lunar calendar only when one sees the
constellation of the moon and
the Pleiades exactly as they appear on
the Nebra sky disc.
The Bronze Age astronomers would hold the Nebra clock against the
sky and observe the position of the celestial objects. The
intercalary month was inserted when what they saw in the sky
corresponded to the map on the disc they were holding in their
hands. This happened every two to three years.
But the German researchers also discovered that in the 400 years
that the disc was in use, its status had evolved. The perforations
on the edge of the object as well as a ship that was later added to
the map suggest that the knowledge about the lunar calendar's
shortage of days was lost along the way.
"That means, that in the end the disk became a cult object," Meller
The disc was found in 1999 by two previously convicted treasure
looters. It was seized by the authorities in 2002 along with other
Bronze Age objects in a police operation in Switzerland.
Bronze Age clock that told man it was spring
by Roger Boyes
Photo: The Sky Disc of Nebra at the state museum for prehistory in
The enigma of a priceless Bronze Age disc seems to have been solved
by a Hamburg scientist who has identified it as one of the world's
first astronomical clocks.
The 3,600-year-old Sky Disc of Nebra,
which surfaced four years ago when German grave robbers tried to
sell it on the international market, shows that Bronze Age man had a
sophisticated sense of time.
"We have been dramatically underestimating the prehistoric peoples,"
said Harald Meller, chief archaeologist of Saxony-Anhalt, where the
disc was found.
The bronze disc is about 30cm in diameter, has a blue-green patina
and is inlaid with a gold sun, moon and 32 stars. Robbers using
metal detectors found it in 1999 alongside a pile of bronze axes and
swords in a prehistoric enclosure on top of a hill in deep forest
112 miles (180km) southwest of Berlin.
The Nebra settlement is close to Europe's oldest observatory in Goseck. The site appears to have had deep spiritual significance in
the Bronze Age. From the hill it is possible to see the sun set at
every equinox behind the Brocken, the highest mountain peak of the
Harz range. And there are about 1,000 barrows, burial grounds for
warriors and princes, in the nearby forests.
Since police tracked down the thieves in Switzerland in 2002,
archaeologists and astronomers have been trying to puzzle out the
disc's function. Ralph Hansen, an astronomer in Hamburg, found that
the disc was an attempt to co-ordinate the solar and lunar
calendars. It was almost certainly a highly accurate timekeeper that
told Bronze Age Man when to plant seeds and when to make trades,
giving him an almost modern sense of time.
Herr Hansen first tried to explain the thickness of the moon on the
"The crescent on the Sky Disc of Nebra seems to be equivalent
to a four-day moon," he said.
He consulted the 7th and 6th century BC
mul-apin collection of
Babylonian documents in the British Museum. It appears that the
users of the 3,600- year-old clock made similar calculations. The
disc was used to determine when a 13th month should be added to the
lunar year, which has shorter months than the solar year.
Herr Maller said:
"Probably only a very small group of people understood
But the knowledge was somehow lost, and scientists say that the
clock would have been used for only about 300 years.
"In the end, the disc became a cult object."
The oldest-known image of the cosmos
In these current times when mankind is investigating planet Mars up close, another equally amazing discovery made in the same
region that is the oldest known realistic representation of the
cosmos yet found.
It's the 3,600-year-old Nebra disk, a bronze
artifact with markings
in gold leaf that may have been used to time plantings and harvests.
The Nebra disk was created 2,400 years later than the Goseck site,
could possibly have been made at the site since it was found on a
hilltop just 25 kilometers away, in the wooded region of Nebra.
The 32-centimeter disc and weighs approximately 2 kilograms is
decorated with gold leaf symbols that clearly represent a crescent
moon, a circle that was probably the full moon and starts. A cluster
of seven dots has been interpreted as the Pleiades constellation as
it appeared 3,600 years ago, scattered other stars and three arcs,
all picked out in gold leaf from a background rendered violet-blue
- apparently by applying rotten eggs. The formations on the disc
are clearly based on previous astrological observations and that
astronomical knowledge was tied to a mythological-cosmological
worldview right from the beginning.
Although an earlier impression of the cosmos dating from 2400bc has
been found in Egypt, it was the invention of an artist and not an
accurate depiction of the night sky.
The painting was found in the
burial chamber in the pyramid of the Egyptian pharaoh Unas, which is
decorated with stars.
Stuff for legends
Nearby excavations of wood-and-clay houses have turned up a variety
of grains and evidence of domesticated goats, sheep, pigs and cows.
Farmers reached this part of the world some 500 years before they
built the solar observatory. Although these earliest Neolithic
agriculturists most likely measured only the sun's movements, over
millennia they came to quantify the lunar cycle and the positions of
The Nebra disk may have been a ritual object or, more likely a
calculation tool used with observations at Goseck or a similar
site to determine planting and harvest times. The arrival of the
stars in the night sky showed that it was time to start bringing in
The disc was originally smeared with rotten eggs. These would have
caused a chemical reaction on its bronze surface, which would have
turned the disc's background a deep violet color simulating a night
sky out of which the gold-embossed stars would have shone.
The third arc on the disk is also highly interesting. The ancients
did not understand how the sun could set in the west and end up in
the cast the next morning. Representations of a disk in a ship, from
Bronze Age Egypt and Scandinavia, reveal an age-old belief that a
ship carried the sun across the night sky.
The Nebra disk is the
first evidence of such a faith in central Europe.
Operation - Recover Nebra
The Nebra disk ended up with archaeologists rather unconventionally.
Equipped with a metal detector and basic household tools, the two
local looters stumbled upon one of the greatest archaeological finds
this century, along with two swords, two axes, chisels and armlets,
and then sold the heist to dealers.
Because German law dictates that such relics are state property, the
police mounted a sting operation.
The police set a trap for the group in February by luring its
members to meet what they believed to be a prospective buyer in the
basement of the Hilton hotel in Basel, Switzerland.
Archaeologist Harald Meller of the State Museum for Prehistory at
Halle posed as a buyer to recover the cache. One of the discoverers
was fined this past September, and another was sentenced to 250
hours of community service.
The Bronze Age artifacts received considerable damage during their
crude plunder. In unearthing the archaeological site, the thieves
hit the side of the disc with a hammer, causing the outer rim to
splinter. With the next blow, a star shot out from its astronomical
position and in their hurry to secure their booty, the thieves
managed to chip a large part from the main astronomical object.
The archaeologists had kept the discovery a secret to prevent
treasure hunters from searching the Nebra site. The disc is now
safely stored in the city of Halle, reports Frankfurter Allgemeine
Zeitung. Authorized archaeologists have been busy excavating the
site, and have already unearthed more than 100 treasures. Once the
excavation of the site has been completed, a visitor's centre will
be established near the area.
The forest where the site is located
is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in
Not a fake
Soon after being recovered in a Hollywood-style sting operation in
2002, the Nebra sky disk became an archaeological superstar,
featured on the cover of National Geographic and the focus of a
blockbuster museum exhibit in Germany. With its glittering array of
gold-leaf celestial illustrations, the 3 600-year-old bronze disk
was hailed as the earliest known diagram of the heavens and the most
important archaeological discovery of the twenty-first century
("Star-Crossed Find," News, January/February 2003).
But last year a
German archaeologist claimed that the dinner-plate-sized disk was a
fake, starting a shrill and often surreal battle over the artifact's
authenticity that has rocked Germany's archaeological establishment.
The disk's recent history dates to 1999, when two looters using
metal detectors discovered the artifact, along with several bronze
weapons and tools, in a wooded area near the German town of Nebra,
100 miles southwest of Berlin.
Amateur archaeologists Reinhold Stieber and
Hildegard Burri-Bayer tried to hawk the disk for $400
000 - and were seized by police officers in the basement bar of a
touristy Swiss hotel. After a short trial, the duo, along with the
looters, were found guilty of illegally trafficking in cultural
artifacts. While the plunderers were given suspended sentences and
put on probation, Stieber and Burri-Bayer appealed. And at that
point in September 2003, no one disputed the disk's authenticity.
A year later, Regensburg University archaeologist Peter Schauer
wrote a letter to a German newspaper, claiming that the artifact was
a fake and that the ancient-looking green patina had been created by
a modern mixture of acid and urine. Newspapers as far away as Taipei
played up his assertions with headlines of "fraud" and "fake," and
Stieber and Burri-Bayer's defense lawyers called on Schauer to
testify in the appeals trial, reasoning that if the disk was a fake,
then the pair couldn't be guilty of trafficking in valuable cultural
But Schauer's appearance in the witness stand ended up putting the
field of archaeology on trial largely because his research practices
were so unorthodox.
He had never examined the artifact before making
his claim, nor did he ever publish his findings in a peer-reviewed
"There were over 30 archaeologists sitting in the audience,
and they didn't know if they should laugh or cry at the things Schauer said," says Anja Stadelbacher, spokeswoman for the Halle
Institute for Archaeological Research in Germany, where the disk is
currently located and where it underwent an exhaustive battery of
tests that appear to support the artifact's authenticity.
gold inlays can be traced to a Bronze Age mine in Austria, and a
nearly inimitable mixture of hard crystal malachite covers the
artifact. Saxon Anhalt state archaeochemist Christian Wunderlich has
also tested Schauer's urine and acid theory, and his research can
show that it is unlikely to have created the disk's slow-growth
Nonetheless, archaeologists faced an uphill battle in disputing
Schauer's claims, because the German legal system allows defendants
to appeal almost every factual statement - and there were nearly a
hundred hearings debating the disk's find-spot.
"The court must
listen to every story, no matter how strange," says Harald Meller,
director of the Halle Institute. "Remember the [O.J.] Simpson
process? It is like that. Everyone was convinced that [Simpson] was
guilty - like we all believe this disk is real."
Still, Schauer stands by his claims, arguing that the faked
corrosion is visible in photos of the disk. He also insists that he
has support within the archaeological community. Schauer says that
he will publish his findings next year in the German journal
"Then I hope my hidden
colleagues will come out of the bushes," he says.
Yet Schauer might not be the most unusual figure in the case. Since
2003, defendant Burri-Bayer has been publishing Ursula LeGuin - like
fantasy novels that revolve around a magical sky disk. In fact,
while her lawyers argue that the disk is a fake, her website
presents the artifact as authentic, detailing how she once handled
"the sky disk, the archaeological sensation of Germany."
At the time Archaeology went to press, both sides had rested in the
case, but no verdict had been reached. But most German
archaeologists believe that the public relations damage to their
field - and the disk - has already been done.
"We look like we are a
bunch of crazies and don't know what we are talking about," says Wunderlich.
In the future, Wunderlich believes archaeologists should rely more
on material science to examine artifacts.
"We need to show how much
science is behind what we do," he says.
photographs of the scientific testing performed on the Nebra sky
disk are available, in German, on the Halle Institute's website.)
Even so, he adds,
"I know a few people will never
believe that the disk is real. It will be like the people who
think the moon landing was a fake. It's impossible to change
A recently discovered bronze disc shows celestial images including
Nibiru indicating it was seen in the heavens around 1600 B.C.E. Many
authorities attribute Noah's flood to a Nibiru near-earth fly-by
Answers.com, in 1556 B.C.E.
(approximately 3,564 years ago) Nibiru's solar orbit is noted as
Cecrops rebuilt Athens following a great flood that
ended a Golden Age before the rule of Zeus. The name 'Cecrops' in
the original Greek means 'face with a tail'. His upper body is
represented like a man and his lower half was in serpent or
fish-tail form (accounting for the "mermaid/merman" legends).
He was the first king and founder of
Athens, Greece and ruled from 1556-1506 B.C.E.
Cecrops was a
"cultural hero" and taught the Athenians marriage, reading and
writing, and ceremonial burial. In the Deucalion flood myth, Zeus
released a deluge, the rivers ran in torrents and the sea encroached
rapidly on the coastal plain, engulfing the foothills with spray and
washing everything clean.
In this Greek flood, no animals were
rescued and the waters receded after nine days. No such deluge or
flood myth can be found since this most recent one. Assuming this
deluge (like the biblical flood) was also caused by a near-earth
encounter with Nibiru, it had to have occurred a short time before
Cecrops began his reign.
Nibiru should therefore visibly return
soon - possibly by
The state of Attica in Greece was once
called Cecropia after Cecrops. The account of a contest between
Athena and Poseidon for possession of Attica took place in his
reign, and in some accounts he was the judge, awarding the land to
The Last Return of Nibiru