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Barbarians Get Sophisticated (Nebra "Sky Disk")
US News ^ | 11-16-2003 | Andrew Curry

Posted on 11/16/2003 11:25:46 AM PST by blam

Barbarians get sophisticated

By Andrew Curry

BERLIN--For something so small, the "sky disk" has made quite an impact here. Not even a foot across, the 5-pound bronze disk is embossed in gold leaf with intricate images of the sun, moon, and 32 stars. In the plate's center is a representation of the star cluster Pleiades, which appears in the sky around the autumnal equinox and signaled the arrival of harvest season.

What's most amazing is its age. More than 3,500 years old, the sky disk may well be the most important Bronze Age find in decades. Treasure hunters found it first in 2000 near the eastern German town of Nebra; police in Switzerland had to use an elaborate sting operation to get it safely into the hands of archaeologists. Its recovery was front-page news, and the find inspired headlines like "Culture of the Star Wizards" from the weekly Der Spiegel. "It's an absolutely key find--this is the first accurate picture of the cosmos in human history," says Harald Meller, head of the Halle Institute for Archaeological Research, where the object is being studied. "It's astonishing to people that this was found in Central Europe and not Egypt or Mesopotamia."

Nebra's sky disk isn't the only artifact that has people here buzzing. When Berlin's Museum for Pre- and Early History reopens fully next spring, its centerpiece will be an elaborately decorated gold "hat," 29 inches tall and made out of over a pound of thinly beaten gold. Museum director Wilfried Menghin says that the object, dating from around 1000 B.C. and acquired recently from a private collection, was worn by Bronze Age astronomer-priests and that the decorations are actually an extremely complex solar-lunar conversion calendar. Many scholars are skeptical: The artifact is almost unique, they say, and it's impossible to prove the theory conclusively. What's more, while experts suspect it's from the Nuremberg area, no one really knows its origins. But if true, the achievement would beat the Greek discovery of a similar mathematical system by more than five centuries.

Such debates are part of a mini-renaissance in how Central Europe's early cultures are viewed. For centuries, archaeologists and the public have focused on the people of the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia as the only ancient societies worth studying--a perception the ancient Greeks and Romans, who considered anything outside their culture contemptible, reinforced in their written histories.

Doing the math. But the sky disk and the gold "hat" are contributing to a dramatic rethinking of the Bronze Age, which lasted from about 2500 B.C. to 1000 B.C. Scholars say these discoveries show that far from being barbarians, Bronze Age Europeans had a sophisticated grasp of mathematics and astronomy. "We're developing a new paradigm in European archaeology now," says Berlin archaeologist Klaus Goldmann. "European civilization goes further back than most of us ever believed."

More important, people are starting to talk about the period again. The Nazi obsession with proving the superiority of early "Germans" made acknowledging the achievements of prehistoric Central Europeans taboo after the end of World War II. Hitler and his henchmen encouraged the abuse of archaeological evidence to claim a glorious prehistoric past--and justify invading their neighbors.

When the war ended, "there was almost an allergic reaction to the way archaeology had been manipulated between 1933 and 1945," says University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee archaeologist Bettina Arnold. She likens postwar research in the region to "stamp collecting": exhaustive cataloging and description that steered well clear of any politically sensitive interpretations.

In the past decade, German archaeology itself has undergone a sea change. The former East Germany is now open to aerial photography and surveying, which were banned under the Communist regime. Dozens of earth mounds and structures like the one in which the sky disk was found have been discovered, promising to keep archaeologists busy for years to come. And a younger generation of scholars, more willing to risk controversial analyses, has emerged. Says Menghin, whose theory on the gold "hat" may be the riskiest yet: "We have to go forward again to show Middle Europe wasn't as barbaric as people think."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: barbarians; get; godsgravesglyphs; sophisticated
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I think I have a picture of the "Sky Disk" somewhere. I'll see if I can find it.
1 posted on 11/16/2003 11:25:47 AM PST by blam
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To: farmfriend

Nebra Sky Disk

2 posted on 11/16/2003 11:28:19 AM PST by blam
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To: blam
"[A]n elaborately decorated gold "hat," 29 inches tall and made out of over a pound of thinly beaten gold....the object...was worn by Bronze Age astronomer-priests and that the decorations are actually an extremely complex solar-lunar conversion calendar."

Ancient origin of tin-foil hattery?
3 posted on 11/16/2003 11:34:52 AM PST by jocon307 (IMMIGRATION MORATORIUM NOW!)
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To: blam
Haaail, yew shur that's whut they say it is? Looks t'me lak a pimply smily-face geek, fer sher.
4 posted on 11/16/2003 11:36:06 AM PST by Ronly Bonly Jones
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To: blam
Impressive. Thanks for the post.
5 posted on 11/16/2003 11:36:14 AM PST by cake_crumb (UN Resolutions = Very Expensive, Very SCRATCHY Toilet Paper)
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To: Ronly Bonly Jones
lol!!!
6 posted on 11/16/2003 11:40:59 AM PST by miltonim (The Sinner's Guide)
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To: blam
this is the first accurate picture of the cosmos in human history

It's a very interesting find indeed, but I find this remark very silly. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look up at the sky and notice that there is a sun, a moon, and the stars, or to depict them as stylized images.

This doesn't disprove that the Bronze Age tribes in Germany did astronomy, in the sense of mathematical calculations, but it doesn't prove it, either.

Presumably, some degree of astronomical calculation is necessary for any society that needs to know when to plant crops. But the Sumerian astronomers were well beyond anything that can be proven from this object.

7 posted on 11/16/2003 11:46:48 AM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: Cicero
There you go thinking again.
8 posted on 11/16/2003 11:50:04 AM PST by Harmless Teddy Bear (No matter how subtle the wizard, a knife between the shoulder blades will seriously cramp his style)
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To: blam

More than coincidence?

9 posted on 11/16/2003 11:53:41 AM PST by pabianice
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To: blam
"Where the heck did I put that old sky disk?" - Homer
10 posted on 11/16/2003 12:06:23 PM PST by metesky ("Brethren, leave us go amongst them." Rev. Capt. Samuel Johnston Clayton - Ward Bond- The Searchers)
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To: blam
Thanks as always for the great post.
11 posted on 11/16/2003 12:11:56 PM PST by FreetheSouth! ("Those Rebel bastards couldn't hit an elephant at this dis..." Last words of Union General Sedgewick)
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To: blam
This hat?


12 posted on 11/16/2003 12:26:48 PM PST by per loin
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To: per loin
"This hat?"

Don't know. I looked around for a picture and couldn't find one.

This hat looks similar to the felt hats found with the Caucasian mummies found in the Tarim Basin in China.

13 posted on 11/16/2003 12:34:17 PM PST by blam
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To: per loin
Or this one?


14 posted on 11/16/2003 12:35:36 PM PST by per loin
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To: Thud
fyi...it looks like Steve Stirling's Nantucett books struck closer to home than he realized.
15 posted on 11/16/2003 12:47:45 PM PST by Dark Wing
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To: blam
Those pilfering Huns did a whole lot of sacking down Rome way, could have been a trophy from one of their raids.

But I do know the Huns were well advanced beyond certain Freepers who lurk here abouts. No tin foil hats for them Huns, they had gold ones. (:>)
16 posted on 11/16/2003 1:36:34 PM PST by Ursus arctos horribilis ("It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!" Emiliano Zapata 1879-1919)
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To: blam

17 posted on 11/16/2003 1:41:50 PM PST by Petronski (Everybody calm down . . . eat some fruit or something.)
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To: blam
blam's article sez:   "In the plate's center is a representation of the star cluster Pleiades..."


Pleiades

Oh yeah, blam, dead ringer for Pleiades, LOL! Looks more like someone's imagination has gotten the better of their common sense!

I don't get it, blam, this is not the first time you've posted this kind of Art (Bell) nouveau, astronomical pseudo-science. What's up with that?

--Boot Hill

18 posted on 11/16/2003 5:06:27 PM PST by Boot Hill
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To: blam
Presenting the oldest smiley face known to man...
19 posted on 11/16/2003 5:11:26 PM PST by Tuba-Dude (O pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth...)
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To: Boot Hill
"I don't get it, blam, this is not the first time you've posted this kind of Art (Bell) nouveau, astronomical pseudo-science. What's up with that? "

Lighten up a little. If you'll check page 34 of the December edition of Scientific American you'll find essentially the same article. Art Bell? Don't know. I post'em you decide.

20 posted on 11/16/2003 6:00:12 PM PST by blam
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