Nebra Skydisc


There are those things which just niggle at you until you sort them out. The Nebra Skydisc is just such a thing. Found in the hills near Halle in Germany by treasure hunters with metal detectors shortly after the Berlin Wall fell and East Germany became open to the west, the Nebra disc, named after the small town of Nebra nearest to which it was found, represents and early bronze age circular disk about 35 cm in diameter made of bronze and decorated with gold.

It has long been thought that the decorations on the disc represent the sun or full moon, a crescent moon, the pleiades (or seven sisters) stars and a number of various other yet unrecognisable stars, in addition to a sun boat and two (one is now missing) arcs to represent the rising and setting sun in from the summer solstice to the winter solstice.

The two later added arcs to the right and the left of the disc do indeed form an arc of 82° which is exactly the arc the sun makes during these periods at Nebra, where the disc was found. However, these arcs were added some time after the disc had been made and the gold of which they are made is from a different part of Europe.

Scientists have come up with the solution of the pleiades being the group of seven gold dots in the upper right centre and have little clue as to the remaining dots. It has been assumed that the disc represents a dating device which calibrates they year from the winter solstice on December 21st and that this calibration had been calculated from Nebra, where the disc was found.

However, if we consider that although the copper in the bronze of the disc is from eastern areas of central Europe we might consider carefully the fact that both the tin and the gold of the original older gold smithing were both from around Cornwall in England. Accepting the date given to the find as some time before 1600 BCE given the dating of the style of the bronze swords found in the same hoard as the disc, we might perhaps re-evaluate a number of matters.

Let us presume for a moment then that the disc did originate in England where both the tin and older gold originated, near Cornwall. Perhaps we can even, for the sake of romanticism, assume the disc was built at Salisbury, the closest large town to Stonehenge. But let us then also revise the calibration period from the winter solstice to the autumn equinox which in 1700 BCE (let’s add a century for the disc to have arrived at, and been buried at Nebra) was on October 7th. Looking at the night sky extrapolated back using the programme “Stellarium” we do indeed come up with some very compelling similarities.

Here we see the sky from Salisbury on October 7th 1700 BCE at exactly midnight and directing our view towards the point more or less of the rising sun in the south east.

Bildschirmfoto 2016-01-04 um 00.38.46


Applying a filter to simulate atmospheric interference we get a clearer image:

Bildschirmfoto 2016-01-04 um 01.04.31


And with some ligatures and labels to clarify what’s going on up there:

Configured Nebra.png


And a little enlarged in the action area:

Bildschirmfoto 2016-01-04 um 00.30.43.png


The constellation at the tip of Cassiopeia which most seem to think is Pleiades, is more probably Kepheus joined with the uppermost star of Cassiopeia and with HD 2905 added to the grouping.


If we then compare it with the Nebra Skydisc and add to the Nebra disc the same ligatures and labels we end up with something like this:



By overlying the two images into one side by side image the result looks something like this:

Nebra Compartive.png


It seems quite clear then that a number of star constellations or groupings can be seen to be in common with both the Nebra skydisc and the Salisbury night sky for the autumn equinox in 1700 BCE. These groupings appear to have been depicted on the Nebra disc somewhat crushed in and hence their actual placements in the night sky have been compromised slightly only to enable them all to fit onto the disc.

The later added arcs to the left and right of the disc, representing the sun’s travel through the sky and its setting and rising points between the two solstices, are known to be later additions to the disc as is the so-called sun boat at the bottom centre of the disc. I have no clear thoughts as to what the sun boat really does represent but I am very dubious as to its being a sun boat at all.

Of course, there are a great number of stars in the night sky and joining dots to make nice lines is a very dangerous task if one is to hope of getting close to any kind of truth. However, I believe it is fair to say that we could well argue for the disc to have represented not the winter solstice with pleiades in Nebra in 1600 BCE but perhaps more likely to have represented a depiction of the night sky in Salisbury at midnight on the autumn equinox of October 7th about one hundred years previous, in 1700 BCE.

Dominic Eckersley

Berlin January 3rd, 2016


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