Why the Nebra Sky Disc Dates to the Early Bronze Age. An Overview of the Interdisciplinary Results

Pernicka, E. and Adam, J. and Borg, G. and Brügmann, G. and Bunnefeld, J.-H. and Kainz, W. and Klamm, M. and Koiki, T. and Meller, H. and Schwarz, R. and Stöllner, T. and Wunderlich, C.-H. and Reichenberger, A.

Volume: 104 Pages: 89-122
Published: 2020

It is not unusual that archaeological finds come under renewed scrutiny. This is actually an important part in the progress of scientific research. All the more so when important and ground-breaking discoveries are involved, like the Nebra Sky Disc, which is listed among the UNESCO "Memory of the World". However, in most cases a new assessment is based on new data or insights. None of this is presented in a recently published article by Gebhard and Krause (2020). Instead, their argument is based on early published and unpublished material, which is used and cited selectively and ignores a substantial number of subsequent publications. Since the Nebra Sky Disc is a unique find that was not recovered during a controlled excavation, it can neither be dated by traditional typological methods nor prima facie by its appearance. Moreover, there is no scientific method yet available to date copper alloys exactly, so that the date suggested in the original publication was established by reconstructing the find context and by analysing the accompanying finds that are typologically and radiocarbon dated to around 1600 BC. The find location on the Mittelberg was excavated in great detail and a number of scientific analyses confirmed the testimony of the looters in a court trial that the Sky Disc had been buried there together with the accompanying finds. These analyses also disproved an earlier claim that the Sky Disc was a modern fake. This allegation is not repeated by Gebhard and Krause (2020) but they do use similar arguments for their claim that the Sky Disc was not found together with the hoard and may not even have been on the Mittelberg near Nebra. By contrast, they assert that the Sky Disc should be typologically dated to the Iron Age. It can be shown that their arguments are based on a distortion of the evidence derived both in the court trial and by scientific analyses. They combine their proposal with a superficial typological discussion of the image displayed on the Sky Disc. As this overview demonstrates, through interdisciplinary studies it is possible to determine the origin and composition of the Nebra hoard with the greatest possible certainty. This determination was based on results from sediment attachments, the chemical concentrations of gold and copper in the geological subsoil of the findspot, astronomical references, as well as an analysis of the traces left by the looters, police investigations, and a comprehensive confession by the offenders, which has confirmed the independently obtained archaeological and scientific observations. © 2020 Verlag der Oesterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. All rights reserved.

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