The State Museum of Prehistory in Halle, Germany, (Landesmuseum fur Vorgeschichte) holds a collection of more than 11 million finds. The collection includes the Nebra Sky Disc, one of the most important archaeological finds of the past century.
The bronze disc is 32 centimetres in diameter and was made around 1600BC. The design shows various features of the sky at night and by day against the background of a starry sky. The image combines astronomical observations with mythical explanations. The stars are carefully arranged in a way that emphasises one particular constellation: the Pleiades. The crescent moon and the full moon or sun appear together. In addition, golden arcs on the horizons depict the sun’s course in the sky between spring and autumn. Between the horizons, a ship is making a nocturnal journey across the celestial ocean. This is the first time that this image occurs in Europe as a mythic symbol and it provides a glimpse into our ancestors’ knowledge of the universe and its religious interpretation 3,600 years ago.
History of the discovery
The Nebra Sky Disc is part of a bronze hoard that was illegally unearthed by metal detectorists near the summit of Mittelberg Hill in the Harz Mountains in the summer of 1999. The deposit contained other finds as well as the Sky Disc: two swords, two axe heads, a chisel and two spiral armbands. The swords are of exceptional quality
The hoard was sold and passed through the hands of various middlemen and dealers in the following years. In 2002 the finds were impounded by the Basle police in Switzerland, working closely with the authorities in Germany, and since then the originals have been among the treasures of the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle.
The complete story
The English-language website of the museum contains a wealth of fascinating information about the Nebra Sky Disc and other highlights of the entire museum collection.
State Museum of Prehistory
06114 Haale (Saale)
Text Alun Harvey