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The oldest depiction of the universe

This is one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th Century and the oldest depiction of the universe so far. Called the Nebra sky disc, named for the town where it was found in 1999, the artifact has been dated back to 1600 BC. It was buried about 3,600 years ago but could be much older. It has been associated with the European Bronze Age Unetice culture.

When it was first crafted, it would have been golden brown because the disc itself is made from bronze. Over time, the it corroded to green. Fortunately, the symbols are made of gold and thanks to them we know it was possibly an astronomical instrument.
There’s Sun, a central to northern European Bronze Age religion and the crescent moon (in ancient times, the moon was used to represent time). The clump between the sun and moon are thought to be the Pleiades constellation, which was an imporant constellation for Bronze Age farmers because it appeared and disappeared in important farming times. So the Nebra disc could have told people the right time to plant and harvest.

What’s more, astronomer Wolfhard Schlosser, at the University of Hamburg, found that if you draw a line from the center of the disc to the top and bottom end of the right arc, the angle between the two ends measures exactly 82 degrees. And it’s the same value for the left golden arc. This number is very important for only a small group of people who live at the same latitude as the current German town of Nebra since it’s the angle between where the sun sets on the horizon in mid-winter and mid-summer.

The bronze disc combines an extraordinary comprehension of astronomical phenomena enabling to peak into the early knowledge of the heavens. It’s   shocking it was almost lost to the black market.

Iron helmet from a Vendel era (550-793 AD) boat grave in Vendel, Uppland, Sweden, Museum of History in Stockholm. (orig. photo in color - via: wiki user: Thuresson - Flickr user: Mararie - creative commons)


“In Swedish prehistory, the Vendel era (550-793) is the name given to a part of the Germanic Iron Age (or, more generally, the Migration Period)” (text via: spottinghistory.com)