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Scientists decipher mysterious Nebra disc

Posted on Friday, March 3rd, 2006 at 12:11 am CET

The purpose of the mysterious 3,600-year-old Bronze Age 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. German scientists have discovered that the disc was used as an advanced astronomical clock.

The Nebra sky disk, which showed up at an international antiques fair in 2001, is named after the town in Saxony-Anhalt in Germany where it was found. It is a bronze disk of around 30cm diameter, patinated blue-green and inlaid with gold symbols interpreted by some as a sun or full moon, stars (including a cluster interpreted as the Pleiades) and a crescent with multiple strokes, interpreted as a sun boat with many oars. It has been associated with the Bronze Age Unetice culture.

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 calendars.

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The object is not without controversy; many scientists have thought that it was a fake. The disk had appeared as if from nowhere on the international antiquities market in 2001. Its seller claimed that it had been looted by illegal treasure hunters with a metal detector in 1999.

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